Sunday, August 25, 2013

Queen of Desire by Sam Toperoff



This “movie of your life” style novel consists of a series of scenes from the life of Marilyn Monroe.

 We first see her in 1935 as a little girl sick in bed with a cold being molested by her mother’s current boyfriend after he sends Gladys out for ice cream. She next appears as a young bride working in an aircraft factory and doing some modeling on the side while her husband is away at war. She accompanies her friend Mickey, whose real name, Marilyn, she will later to take, to have an illegal abortion. She tries her hand at singing the blues as Marilyn Darvey and gets some advice from jazz man Billy Bam. Agent Johnny Hyde takes the starlet Marilyn to visit a famous plastic surgeon to make some minor improvements. Then we see Marilyn Monroe, a full blown, world famous star, in her most demanding role as Mrs. Joe DiMaggio. Soon, longing to be taken seriously as an actress, she is playing a scene from Anna Christie before Lee Strasberg at his famous Actors’s Studio in New York. He aspires to cast her in the role Jeanne Eagels made famous in Rain. Then Marilyn and her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller, are consulting famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. And problems on the set of the Misfits leads director John Huston to invite the cast and crew—Marilyn, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, etc.—to a poker game. Marilyn and Simon Signoret are enthralled by the life and legend of Jean Harlow while having their hair bleached by the Platinum Blonde’s former hairdresser. Next she meets the lusty President of Indonesia but Bob Hope and a tall tale about Veronica Lake of the Peek-a-boo Hair help her escape. She sings Happy Birthday to President Kennedy in a nearly nude dress. Then, on the last night of her life, Marilyn, forever the insomniac, calls a late night talk radio show and discusses where human creativity comes from and suicide as a form of freedom of choice with atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair.


Although many of these episodes are more fictitious than fact, sometimes based merely on a kernel of fact, they feed our enduring fascination with the enigmatic Marilyn Monroe. If you’re one of those readers who tends to read a novel hunting for inaccuracies and then feels disappointed or angry about how many you found, or because the author’s vision of a historical figure differs from your own, you probably won’t enjoy this book, but if you’re open to just reading it as what it is—fiction—I think this one is worth a try. I recently reviewed a similar novel about Marilyn Monroe, Misfit by Adam Braver, and I found this one to be the more enjoyable of the two, it moves at a faster pace, and I felt Sam Toperoff’s version of Marilyn was less remote and each scene offered some insight into this complex and troubled star.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Twilight Of Innocence The Disappearance Of Beverly Potts by James Jessen Badal


On the evening of August 24, 1951 two ten-year-old girls left their homes in a quiet, respectable Cleveland neighborhood to walk to Halloran Park, five minutes away, to attend a free performance of the traveling Showagon, a troupe of dancers, singers, and magicians. Patricia Swing would come safely home, but sweet, shy Beverly Potts, who had recently had her long pigtails cropped into a stylish bob, would never be seen again.


The author chronicles the police investigation and extensive media coverage, which left no stone unturned in a diligent and dedicated effort to find Beverly Potts, every clue was meticulously followed, including the numerous false hopes and cruel hoaxes that inevitably accompany such well-publicized disappearances. The police never gave up on finding Beverly, but to this date no trace of her has ever been found. In July 2000 an anonymous letter in cramped handwriting, claiming to have been written by an 82 year old man who claimed to have molested and unintentionally murdered Beverly was sent to a local newspaper, the author said he wanted to confess before he died, but the police were never able to identify the author or determine if it was authentic or a hoax. This is a very detailed and well-written account of the tragic disappearance and probable murder of an innocent child. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Boleyn Bride Cover Art and Back Cover Copy



From carefree young woman to disillusioned bride, the dazzling lady who would become mother and grandmother to two of history's most infamous queens, has a fascinating story all her own...

At sixteen, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne--while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne...

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances--and catches the lusty king's eye. But those who enjoy Henry's fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband's machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one--and the Boleyn family's fortune may be turning...


Available February 25, 2014

This novel is available for pre-order from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

From Amazon:
 http://www.amazon.com/The-Boleyn-Bride-Brandy-Purdy/dp/0758273363 

From Barnes & Noble:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Misfit by Adam Braver



This book consists of a series of vignettes from the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe, framed by the last weekend of her life, which she spends at Frank Sinatra’s Cal Neva lodge in Lake Tahoe.

There are episodes from her childhood, where she is sexually molested then beaten and accused of lying by her religious fanatic foster mother, scenes from her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, and her days studying at the Actors Studio under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg. We see her as a young bride, working at the Radioplane factory while her husband is away at war, being snapped by a photographer from Yank Magazine, the first step on the road to stardom, and, at the end, keeping the crew and the ailing movie legend Clark Gable waiting for hours on the set of her last completed movie, The Misfits, and swimming nude on the set of the incomplete Something’s Got To Give, before the final strip, on the mortician’s table.

If you are hoping this novel will bring you fresh insight and a better understanding of the enigmatic Marilyn, I’m afraid to say you are probably in for a disappointment. I really wanted to like this book, and I’m not saying the scenes from Marilyn’s life depicted here weren't interesting or well-written, just that, for this reader at least, the magic just wasn't there, for me the whole thing was as flat and lifeless as Marilyn’s corpse in the final chapter. I learned that on the day Marilyn married Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio the grandson of Albert Einstein pled guilty to vandalizing a Coke machine and stealing $1.10 in change from it and Duncan Hines unveiled a new mix promising homemade quality without the work of actually making a real homemade cake, but Marilyn herself remains the elusive and insecure woman most people already know she was.  And for those particularly interested in the mysteries surrounding her death, this book skips her last night entirely and goes straight to the morgue and the mortician’s despair over the autopsy’s destruction of Marilyn’s famous bosom.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

First Look at The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy



From carefree young woman to disillusioned bride, the dazzling lady who would become mother and grandmother to two of history's most infamous queens, has a fascinating story all her own...

At sixteen, Elizabeth Howard envisions a glorious life for herself as lady-in-waiting to the future queen, Catherine of Aragon. But when she is forced to marry Thomas Boleyn, a wealthy commoner, Elizabeth is left to stagnate in the countryside while her detested husband pursues his ambitions. There, she raises golden girl Mary, moody George, and ugly duckling Anne--while staving off boredom with a string of admirers. Until Henry VIII takes the throne...

When Thomas finally brings his highborn wife to London, Elizabeth indulges in lavish diversions and dalliances--and catches the lusty king's eye. But those who enjoy Henry's fickle favor must also guard against his wrath. For while her husband's machinations bring Elizabeth and her children to the pinnacle of power, the distance to the scaffold is but a short one--and the Boleyn family's fortune may be turning...


Available February 25, 2014

This novel is available for pre-order from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

From Amazon:
 http://www.amazon.com/The-Boleyn-Bride-Brandy-Purdy/dp/0758273363 

From Barnes & Noble:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Memoir of Marilyn Monroe by Sandi Gelles-Cole




“They say only the good die young and I guess it’s true because I’m still here. Today is my eighty-fifth birthday. During these years I have lived three lives: Before Marilyn, Being Marilyn, and After.” So begins this tantalizing fictional memoir, speculating on what might have happened if Marilyn Monroe had survived that controversy shrouded August night in 1962 and faded into obscurity.

With the help of the Dimaggios—famous Joe and his son Joe Jr.—Marilyn survives the lethal enema and spends the rest of her life trying to escape her creation—Marilyn Monroe.

While the world mourns and speculates over her supposed suicide, her nude body found in a welter of white sheets with a phone clutched in her hand, Marilyn is taken to a safehouse, to detox, and begins the lifelong battle, to get, and remain, clean and sober.

She takes the name Cherie, from the character she played in Bus Stop, lets her bleached hair grow out, leaves off the makeup, and puts on a bra (Marilyn was famous for going braless and without panties too) and opts for a simple, no fuss wardrobe, and speaks in a normal voice instead of the famous breathy whisper. She begins learning to be a human being again instead of a movie star.

After Joe Dimaggio beats her up, because she won’t marry him again, Marilyn/Cherie starts moving. Her journey takes her from Northern Hollywood, to Florida, Cuba, New York, Rome, Spain, and ultimately back to her Hollywood roots again. There are AA meetings in church basements and a succession of lovers along the way, even a brief, experimental lesbian dalliance with a Dutch waitress/torch singer. Through it all, she never stops hoping her Prince Charming will come along and save her. She falls off the wagon and stays drunk for two years, returns to the platinum hair, glamour garb, and stiletto heels and the champagne and cocaine never stop. But a day finally comes when she hits rock bottom. An unkempt, unwashed bleached blonde with body odor is sitting in a bar, drinking whiskey and being chatted up by the man beside her, when on the TV screen above the bar shots ring out—JFK has just been assassinated in Dallas. For Marilyn/Cherie it’s a wakeup call. She never takes a drink or uses drugs again.

She gets herself together. Moves to New York, takes classes in Russian literature, and goes to AA meetings and movies alone or with people from the meetings who won’t put her in the way of temptation.

Middle age finds her back in California, not regretting disappearing from a life where people would have always expected her to be young, beautiful, and glamorous, she wears her hair in a honey blonde bob and does the Jane Fonda workout, and works for an animal shelter with a few forays back into show business as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator or singing in a cafe. 

At 74, when she least expects it, Prince Charming finally arrives, in the form of a retired lawyer and widower, with an adorable redheaded granddaughter, and Marilyn/Cherie becomes a prosperous Southern California wife dressed in tasteful but expensive designer clothes in neutral shades and kitten heels with a huge diamond on her now arthritic hand. But as Orson Welles once said, if you want a happy ending, it depends on where you end your story.

I won’t spoil the rest for you. But if you are a Marilyn Monroe fan or curious about what might have been if Marilyn had somehow managed to save herself, this is a good book to spend some time with.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli





As a longtime fan of Marilyn Monroe I've found that almost every new biography claims to be THE ONE to reveal the REAL truth about her, to reveal the heretofore undisclosed and to blast the lies and secrets away like bursting bombshells. That said, Mr. Taraborrelli's book did indeed contain some unexpected surprises. Instead of giving in to sensationalism and conspiracy theories as the title might reasonably lead readers to suspect, he instead paints a portrait of a sad and lonely woman grappling with the demons of her own mind, a borderline paranoid schizophrenic, terrified that, like her mother and grandmother before her, she would end up institutionalized.

The life of Marilyn Monroe is a fascinating study in contradictions. She was the woman every man wanted and every woman wanted to be, but that was just a beautiful illusion. The real Marilyn, despite her breathtaking beauty and genuine talent, was a bedeviling blend of insecurity and fear barely glued together by drugs and alcohol which made her behavior and mental state even more erratic. She was a woman who used sex to affirm her desirability and usually chose badly, either to boost her career or stave off loneliness, when it came to the men in her life. She also had a distressing tendency to surrender herself to the power of strong, Svengali-like personalities, such as her acting coaches Natasha Lytess and Lee and Paula Strasberg, and her last psychologist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, a man often cast as the villain in the saga of Marilyn Monroe, because of the control he exerted over all aspects of her life and the unorthodox and unprofessional choices he made in her treatment.

To my surprise, Mr. Taraborrelli, while admitting anything is possible, largely debunks the web of conspiracy, sex, and murder that has been spun around Marilyn and her relationships with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert "Bobby" Kennedy. He maintains that Marilyn was basically a weekend fling, just another conquest--bedding the ultimate Hollywood blonde--to JFK, and that poor deluded, drug-addled Marilyn became obsessed with him, doggedly pursuing the President and pestering him by phone, wanting their relationship to be more than it actually was or could ever be, maybe even going so far as to imagine herself as First Lady someday. When Marilyn refused to face the facts, Bobby Kennedy was dispatched to tell her to back off and stop calling. Though many believe this confrontation evolved into a love affair, the evidence presented by Mr. Taraborrelli fails to support this, and one is left with the feeling that while they make fascinating reading the conspiracy theories that abound about Marilyn and the Kennedy brothers are more fiction than fact.

Although a genuine air of mystery enshrouds Marilyn's death, and there are questions that remain unanswered and probably always will, in Mr. Taraborrelli's account suicide seems more likely than murder. For many years, I was a devout believer in the murder conspiracy, but as I have gotten older my mind has given greater consideration to the suicide theory. I used to be one of those who believed that Marilyn would never have intentionally taken her own life, she had too much to live for; things were looking up, she had a bright future ahead of her and some great projects in the works. But I know now that having talent that suggests a bright future lies ahead is not always enough to chase the darkness of the soul away. Attaining success, or even stardom, is not a cure, and these things bring their own share of problems that can compound pre-existing ones. Admiration, adoration, and accolades aren't enough, they are not chicken soup for the soul. In the end, Marilyn Monroe couldn't escape the encroaching darkness, she was a woman fighting a losing battle with her own mind and inner demons; she could not save herself and no one else could or would either.

Whatever the truth about Marilyn Monroe's last night on earth, and whether she departed via malice, accident, or intent, Marilyn Monroe didn't die that night, sad, lonely, frightened, lost little girl Norma Jeane died, her glittering platinum and diamond creation, with the breathy little girl voice and marshmallow-soft but oh so fragile heart and soul, the legendary Marilyn Monroe lives on.

I found Mr. Taraborrelli's book to be a refreshing, down to earth, unsensationalized look at the life of Marilyn Monroe, the woman and the movie star. The only issue I had with it was that he omitted to mention either the cosmetic surgery or abortions that form an oft-repeated part of the Marilyn Monroe story and appear in numerous books about her. To me, the book would have felt more complete if he had explored these issues, regardless of whether it was to affirm or disprove them. That said, I would still recommend this book to any casual reader or devoted Marilyn fan.