Jack Chesley

Created by Sean Carswell

It’s 1946 Los Angeles and hard-drinking, hard-boiled ex-cop JOHN WALTER “JACK” CHESLEY, JR. is finally home from the war. But it’s not such a great homecoming after all. His wife Wilma is dead―and her twin sister Gertie insists she was murdered. The cops aren’t convinced — they claim it was an accident, that she slipped in the tub. But Jack knows how that goes. He was reported dead himself, supposedly shot down somewhere over Germany, when in fact he’d been captured and spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp. But as his sister-in-law and Jack start to investigate, it turns out his wife did a whole lot of living before she died — a whole lot of living that Jack had no clue about.

If it sounds like some old film noir that’s going to show up sooner or later on TCM’s Noir Alley, well, I think that’s the point. The book even starts with Carswell visiting his own grave — is that noir enough for ya?

But Carswell has more than that boiling in this big pot of noir gumbo: not just returned vets, twin sisters and LA itself, but he’s also got big, juicy chunks of grimy dive bars, mental hospitals, crooked cops, seedy motels, blackmailers, loads of violence, slimy movie stars, pornographers, Hollywood scandals, the wisecracks, the snappy patter,  and, naturally, murder floating around as well. And then Carswell adds a few secret ingredients of his own, including a surprising sympathy for the women who have to had to endure the genre’s tired misogyny for decades now.

Everybody duck and cover.


  • “Come for your hardboiled comforts––the violence, the corruption, and the mood are all there, as are the sharp prose and snappy dialogue. Stay for Carswell’s fresh, intelligent point of view.”
    — Steph Cha
  • “Like a deadly cross between The Day of the Locust and L.A. Confidential, Dead Extra is a stunning exploration of Hollywood’s postwar history: dark, dream-like, and very dangerous. I loved it.”
    —  Phoef Sutton
  • “…what’s really striking is the extent to which the story is largely driven by women―not your typical femme fatales, but smart, flawed, determined women with their own dreams, traumas, and stories. Carswell’s women live in a time that limits their ambitions and routinely victimizes them, but they push back in spite of the consequences, finding both tragedies and triumphs.”
    — Lisa Brackmann


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply