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Retro Novella is a journey back in time to the summer of 1963 in West Los Angeles. It is a "hybrid" book, since it is part mystery, partly a coming of age saga, and partly satirical. It is also planned as the first of three novellas, which trace the adolescence, early adulthood and maturity of the protagonist, Jay Walling.
It's late June, two months before Jay's senior year in high school. He is frustrated by having to work as a doorman at an exclusive apartment complex overlooking Santa Monica Beach Club, where his wealthy peers spend their days swimming, playing volleyball and generally enjoying time together. Jay soon learns, however, that the Pacific Crest Apartment's tenants include a couple of middle aged adults who sexually prey on a young street hustler by the name of Troy Carpenter.
One of these is Hillary Stamp, a retired movie actress, who is soon found dead in her living room from a blow to the head with an antique vase. The other is Gil Graham, a World War II veteran and friend of his father's, who happened to get Jay his job. Graham is also found dead shortly after the murder from an overdose of his blood pressure medication. Carpenter is targeted by the police in the Stamp killing, mainly because of his "profession," and is eventually arrested and tried for it.
Jay's co-worker, Stan Albright, is a failed student with an unfortunate childhood. It turns out, he had also been involved with Hillary Stamp, but Jay initially conceals this fact from the police, primarily out of loyalty to his friend. Jay comes to believe, however, during a detailed but incompetent investigation by the police, that Stan may be at least as suspect as Troy Carpenter, and eventually tells the investigating officers about his friend's affair with the deceased actress. This leads to a dramatic confrontation between the two doormen.
A parallel story in Retro Novella concerns Jay's romantic relationships. His girlfriend, Julie Kramer, returns his St. Christopher early in the book because her father insists that Jay is beneath her station in life. Deeply offended, he begins seeing Vicki Stoltzman, a lovely if somewhat promiscuous girl, with whom he eventually has his first sexual experience. They become involved emotionally, as well, as the dawn of their senior year in high school approaches.