Book Review: Hollywood in Monterey: Chronicles of a Cop

Bill Cassara is best known for his thorough, insightful books on such film buff icons as Edgar Kennedy, Vernon Dent, Henry Brandon, and Ted Healy. However, Bill was also in law enforcement for 30 years, and in that job, he encountered quite a few noted movie icons from his own time.

Unless the person writing the book is quite famous, memoirs usually don’t resonate much beyond the writer’s family and friends. But such is not the case with Cassara’s book. Bill’s life and work is relatable to vintage film fans, especially once he starts rubbing elbows with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Doris Day, and baseball great Willie Mays.

What is most fascinating about Bill’s experiences is that he dealt with these stars as people moreso than as professionals. He recalls such interesting tidbits as Merv Griffin and friends firing rifles at his property, resulting in a number of complaints, and Paul Anka’s bodyguard being less than professional. Sometimes the stories are sad, such as when Bill had to investigate a fraudulent nurse caring for an incapacitated Allen Funt, who’d suffered a debilitating stroke requiring round-the-clock care.

However, while Bill’s book is most interesting for his celebrity encounters, it also includes some non-celebrity experiences regarding murder cases and other such activities that is just part of the job for the police. While we all realize the dangers that law enforcement encounters every day, Bill’s first-hand experiences really emphasize the courage necessary for the job. And, because he is an experienced writer, he conveys this without a shred of ego.

It is because of his California location that Bill Cassara had to deal with such things as Joan Fontaine complaining about harassment along with the dangerous and the mundane. That might be the hook for initially connecting with this book, but one soon finds that it is interesting, enlightening, and entertaining throughout.

The book is available here: Hollywood in Monterey

James L. Neibaur