William L. DeAndrea Essay - Critical Essays


Although William L. DeAndrea wrote with a keen eye for comic effect, clever puns, and tongue-in-cheek allusions to Golden Age detective classics, at the center of his fiction is a profound concern for the search for objective truth and his deep faith that, despite the moral chaos of a modern world, truth can still be found. Enthralled early on by television, DeAndrea brought to his fiction not only a gift for storytelling honed by his familiarity with the electronic medium but also a sensibility sharpened by a visual medium that so freely manipulates truth. Also, DeAndrea was raised under pre-Vatican II Catholicism and was versed in the absolutes of the Baltimore Catechism, which explained the dark heart of humanity as part of the Roman Catholic Church’s vision of humanity as good people living in a fallen world. Further, as a child of the Cold War, DeAndrea grew up tuned into the deep paranoia of the era, which shaped world events into the tidy logic of an accessible truth. Finally DeAndrea’s interest in the shattering intrusion of violent death into ordinary people’s lives and in the intricate work of puzzling through a situation to achieve a satisfying closure was shaped by his generation’s struggle with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the authorities’ failure to deduce any satisfying truth about the killing despite significant gathered evidence.

DeAndrea’s fiction is a search for truth. He is most interested in empowering readers to assemble the puzzle that he constructs. With his signature style of reportorial accessibility (disciplined by his apprenticeship in journalism), his pitch-perfect ear for dialogue (honed by his passion for television), his keen sense of breakneck pacing and narrative momentum, and his fondness for twists and the apparently insignificant clue that comes to crack the case, DeAndrea found a natural rapport with his readers. However, far more than just engaging the readers, he sought to share with them the complex joy that comes from wrestling a slender but viable truth in a world otherwise rank with deceit and illusions and peopled by the shadowy and the mercenary.

Killed in the Ratings

Killed in the Ratings introduced master of spin Matt Cobb, who must deal with cutthroat television executives who rig industry ratings to achieve selfish career objectives. An ambitious network executive’s wife pays a computer specialist, who has a large gambling debt, to rig the ratings for a promising show, a revolutionary genre-bending drama, so that it is canceled. The woman is trying to achieve career success for her executive husband by catapulting him over another executive who had pinned his career hopes on the new show’s success. Eventually this intrigue involves the network’s respected chief executive officer, the father of the ambitious wife. As Cobb investigates, he unearths a crime syndicate that has been manipulating ratings to extort money from hapless television executives whose careers live—and die—by the ratings their shows receive. Given DeAndrea’s unapologetic love of television, such chicanery at the expense of quality programming is an unforgivable betrayal. As the conspiracy is finally revealed in a board-room variation of the drawing-room revelation, it becomes evident that love motivated the mayhem: the love of a wife for a middling success of a husband, the doting love of an aging father convinced...

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