Posts Tagged Hollywood

book review: A Touch of Stardust

touch of stardust

A Touch of Stardust By Kate Alcott.
Doubleday|February 2015.|296 pages|$25.00|ISBN: 978-0-385-53904-3

Rating: *****/5*

Kate Alcott writes spectacularly strong feminist female characters in historical fiction. Women who want to have careers and love. Women who juggle and manage both. Or learn from their decisions. They’re smart protagonists and Alcott has quickly become a must-read favorite author for me. She intermingles her fictional characters in real-life historical settings and it works.

Last year Alcott’s The Daring Ladies of Lowell – a superb story about the Lowell mill girls based on actual events–made my 12 Best Fiction Books of 2014 list. A Touch of Stardust finds Midwesterner Julie Crawford on the set of Gone with the Wind. It’s 1938 and the young woman dreams of being a screenwriter like Frances Marion who wrote scripts for the legendary Mary Pickwick. Crawford works in the publicity office of producer David O. Selznick like her rooming house mate Rose, who dreams of being an actress like many young women who venture to Los Angeles.

This is the perfect historical fiction novel to dip into before the Academy Awards. It’s an ideal way to spend a winter weekend day. Hollywood. Old glamour. Vintage dreams. The era when stars and screenwriters contracted with specific studios. Alcott writes about the filming of Gone with the Wind and its many difficulties as well as the romance between leading man Clark Gable [Rhett Butler] and free-spirited Carole Lombard, known for her slapstick comedies. At the beginning it’s scandalous because Gable’s still married and Lombard doesn’t keep the relationship a secret. She’s bold and delightful. You’ll want to read much more about this short-lived romance and marriage. Meticulously researched, Alcott includes wonderful details about the Gone with the Wind set and filming as well as the relationship between Lombard and Gable

Alcott describes the film set: “Each morning, she pulled herself from bed and joined the cleaning ladies and plumbers and other sleepy travelers on the 5:00 a.m. bus to get to the studio early. That way, she could step onto the back lot alone and be in the old South and feel the magical world of Gone with the Wind come to life. In front of Tara, the trees that had been fashioned over telephone poles looked real, and if she hadn’t known the dogwood blossoms were made of white paper, the illusion would have been complete.”

Plucky, determined Julie Crawford bumps into Lombard on set and the Smith College graduate impresses Lombard who asks her to work as her personal assistant. Crawford soon becomes part of Lombard and Gable’s rather glamorous lifestyle. Through a few introductions, she works her way to screenwriting. Lombard becomes a dear friend, confidant, older sister and advisor. By year’s end she’s rewriting scripts and quite content in her new profession and new city. In the meantime she becomes involved with an older associate producer, Andy Weinstein. They start slow but soon fall for each other. Complications arise due to the age difference, his being Jewish and their varied careers. As WWII intensifies Weinstein, who has family in Germany and France, feels compelled to enlist in the American Red Cross. Until then he’s working diligently on Gone with the Wind and supports his new girlfriend’s screenwriting endeavors.

Kate Alcott’s father-in-law Herman Mankiewicz won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Orson Welles for Citizen Kane. He also wrote Cleopatra and All About Eve. This is one area in which she has some insider insight. And it’s fantastic.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Doubleday.

purchase at Amazon: A Touch of Stardust: A Novel

Gone with the Wind

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Fallen Angels: book review

Fallen Angels by Connie Dial. Publisher: The Permanent Press (April 15, 2012). Mystery/thriller. Hardcover. 296 pages. 978-1-57962-274-9.

“By the time she wrapped up business at Avanti’s, it was too late to make the last couple of clubs. Josie was grateful. She was tired and out of condition for the grind of real police work. There was a time when she could stay up all night booking suspects, change her clothes and go to court the next morning. She still could if she didn’t have to run the whole damn division, but that was another life.”

I thoroughly enjoyed and more importantly appreciated the first two mysteries [Internal Affairs and The Broken Blue Line] written by Connie Dial. As with past novels, Connie Dial exposes corrupt police officers, shady dealings and poor police work. Her vast experience in narcotics, undercover surveillance and Internal Affairs surveillance glows through the pages. It makes the novel much stronger, deeper. Dial knows L.A. and police work rather intimately and it shows throughout this mystery. As soon as I got confused along came a sentence or paragraph to bring things back into focus.

“It was unheard of in the LAPD’s modern era for an area captain to be involved hands-on in a homicide investigation. She knew that but it didn’t matter. At the moment, Behan was the only subordinate except Marge she completely trusted.”

The case is that of a young starlet found dead in a notorious party house in the Hollywood hills. As detectives begin to work the case connections to the department grow increasingly questionable and compelling. Off-duty officers working closely with the deceased? Drugs, shattered dreams and gritty Los Angeles street life seamlessly mingle.

Dial focuses on a woman as main character, Captain Josie Corsino. Extremely disciplined despite disorder in her personal life, Josie puts all her effort and time into her work. Josie’s son is a not-so-far-successful musician and her husband, a former prosecutor, left to pursue private practice and personal space from their marriage. Many television shows revolve around the concept of accomplished professional women with disastrous personal lives [Ally McBeal, Damages]. Not new but should continue to be addressed, analyzed, discussed and written about. Interestingly Josie doesn’t know who major celebrities are/ doesn’t watch films yet she’s the police captain in Hollywood.

Behind the scenes of a police officer’s life never gets old. Thus mystery/thriller remains a popular genre– Law and Order and CSI remain highly watched television programs not to mention 48 Hours. Dial hits on after-hours, cops’ marriages, working off-duty, office politics and daily minutiae. Fallen Angels unravels in a slow, steady spiral.

–Amy Steele

Fallen Angels

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