cover image Always Six O'Clock

Always Six O'Clock

Phoef Sutton. Putnam Publishing Group, $23.95 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14317-5

Successful TV sitcom writer Carl Rooney, the hero of this light first novel of comic suspense, has been stranded by his unsatisfying single life in the home where he grew up in the L.A. neighborhood of Glendale (aka Glendull). Then his high-school girlfriend, Jesse, shows up suddenly in his backyard, throwing pebbles against his bedroom windows in the middle of the night the way she did when they were teenagers. It seems Jesse believes that they are still living in the 1970s: with the help of his writing partner, Kit, Carl learns that she was declared dead after a recent boating accident and is suffering an odd form of amnesia. Emmy winner Sutton spent nine years as a staff writer for Cheers--and it shows in his glib, easy style. His characters and dialogue are better suited to TV sitcoms, in which clever one-liners compensate for sparse character development. Sutton is at his best creating the repartee between Carl and Kit and bringing the reader behind the scenes in the TV biz. The mildly entertaining plot quickly devolves into a run-of-the-mill thriller, throwing suspicion for the boating disaster onto Martin, Jesse's husband, while the grownup-stuck-in-retro-youth concept (most recently seen in Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma) never turns into more than a one-liner. (May)