Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Interview with Author, Don O’Melveny on his novel, No City for Dreaming

28 Aug

Dear Readers, I wanted to share with you an exciting series of novel, by the author Don O’Melveny. Don is a screenwriter and former art gallery owner who has turned his lifelong fascination and love of Marilyn Monroe into three exciting novels. Last Year in the Life of Marilyn Monroe Volume One and Two and the most recent hit novel, No City for Dreaming is a historical exploration of what happened the night Marilyn Monroe died and of course, asserts that her death was no suicide, nor a mere accident. Kirkus Reviews, notoriously snarkey raved! RAVED! I’m a little jealous, but wanted to share this little gem with you.

“Hollywood noir mashed up with Cuban missile crisis-conspiracy theories and the shadowy death of Marilyn Monroe…makes for a dark and fascinating read.”

Actually, it is no small effort that landed Don here. He’s climbed to #10 in the Kindle charts recently, got over 3000 likes on his Facebook page, and 17,000 followers on Twitter. I’m a little more than jealous of his following.  Aren’t you?! But of course, I thought my friends who love historical fiction, noir, pop culture and Hollywood history might like to meet Don and hear all about his book.  Enjoy!

When did you first become aware of Marilyn Monroe? When did you know you wanted to write about her and her death?


Back in the early 80’s I was reading through some Marilyn material and stumbled into the mysterious  circumstances of her death.  The more I read up on it, I became convinced it would make a great premise for a story – and then developed the frame of the long-lost missing manuscript  around it to give the feel of a true story finally getting to be told.

What do you find most interesting about writing historical fiction?


What I find most interesting is digging down below the surface of what we’ve come to believe is true – or what we thought we knew.  Only to discover layers of hidden truth, facts, and untold details.  And I am particularly intrigued by the blending of history and fiction and the yield of another realm of truth that neither alone can present.

Are you ever frustrated by fans who are so loyal to Marilyn that they believe any exploration of her death is unfair to her image?

No… because it’s human nature to want to protect Marilyn in this way – not wanting her to be caught up in a messy murder scenario.  But personally, I think there are too many indicators that Marilyn had finally come to some hard-earned realizations in her life about herself and the life she  wanted to lead going forward (especially with Joe DiMaggio) that make her undoing by her own negligence far less appealing – and far less consistent with the inner strength I believe she had finally grasped.

You’ve written three books, two prequels and one novel, surrounding Marilyn’s life and death. What was the biggest challenge of the project? What has given you the most pleasure as an author?

The most challenging aspect was to compose a picture of Marilyn that wasn’t picture-perfect – and that wasn’t just about Marilyn.  An argument could be made that “The Last Year in the Life of Marilyn Monroe”  isn’t so much an examination of Marilyn’s life as it is a chronicle of so many interesting  dramas and personalities with Marilyn as the point of intersection. But to me, one must understand this historical context to ever fully appreciate why people did and behaved and acted as they did.  Character is action, and action is largely a result of cause and effect.  For me, Marilyn is the lens through which to see into a truly dramatically significant period of our country – that eventually culminated in Dallas with the assassination of president Kennedy.

What do you find most compelling evidence that her death was not an accident?

Without question the one compelling aspect pointing to murder – was really a ‘lack of evidence’.  Marilyn’s stomach contained no capsule sludge – as it must have to be consistent with a verdict of ‘accidental overdose’.  Because:  when victims die from overdose as the coroner found – this means the individual swallowed a lot of pills.  Which invariably results in the capsule sludge residing in the stomach.  Marilyn’s stomach had no so such refractile deposit.  This has never been explained.  Marilyn died from overdose – but not by oral ingestion.  It would have had to be administered in another way. And not by Marilyn.

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Talking Books with Connie Martinson

18 Apr

Talking Books with Connie Martinson

Click the link to watch a little interview on the occasion of my first book.

And in case you were wondering, I’ve only gotten more handsome with age.

Excuse Me, Are Those Your Fangs in My Neck? Part Two

8 Apr

 I’ve just released the first half of my vampire book, The Chronicles of the Sanguivorous – The Rising as an eBook.  I had started the book almost two years ago after reading Charlaine Harris’s “True Blood” series.  Inspired, I knew I could write about vampires through the lens of my own specialty, historical fiction, and actually tell the history of civilization (albeit through the eyes of vampires) in the seven volume series.  I did enormous amounts of research about vampires’ historical/mythological origins and discovered they were first mentioned in early Mesopotamia, around the time that the city of Ur rose to prominence (or “Ur of the Chaldees” as the Bible calls it.)  This was a fortunate turn of events, because I had already versed myself in Mesopotamian history for my second novel, Day of the False King.

I had long been a devotee of Egyptian history, and the one thing you discover about ancient Egypt is how consistent its historical flow was when compared to other civilizations.  Protected by its deserts, Egypt developed slowly, always in the service and celebration of its God-Kings.  But the study of Mesopotamia (called Assyriology) is a heartrending hodgepodge of invasions, battles, and massacres.  The people of the river plains between the Tigris and Euphrates did not deify their kings; rather, whoever was in charge was simply called the Big Man; and these men changed with stunning swiftness.  Armies of invaders would sweep in, establishing a turbulent new culture, only to be swept away again a few generations later.  Egypt possessed regularity in abundance; Mesopotamia was all chaos and confusion.

So, getting back to the vampires, I had a good head start on my first historical locale.  I wrote about 150 pages of the book and then made the mistake of going to my public library and seeing the array of titles in the New Books section.  Every other one of them was about vampires.  Disheartened, I put my writing aside – though all my friends who had read it loved it and pleaded for more.

One of the most fun things about attempting to write this series is creating a new mythology for my own vampires.  It seems  one of their first mythical Big Men, Lugal (actually the father of Gilgamesh, the greatest semi-divine hero in Mesopotamian literature) was known for his incredible licentiousness.  In other words, he’d sleep with anything.  Wind Demons who populated the river plains wanted a corporeal body, so they offered themselves up to Lugal.  Their mating indeed produced offspring with bodies that resembled humans, but they also came equipped with a terrifying appetite for human blood – i.e., vampires.

So MY vampires are actually a form of super-predator that have been around for as long as humans have been; one of their powers is that they can actually utilize telekinesis that enables them to control the winds (which is where we get the myth that they were the offspring of Wind Demons.)   In my books, when the winds blow – watch out, for that is how they hide their rising after years of hibernation.  They do NOT get burned by the sun, nor do they sleep in coffins.  Their aversion to light, however, exists because they hunt humans only at night and their keen vision enables them to see as clearly in the dark as we do during the day; they avoid strong light simply because it’s agony on their eyes.  They are immortal, in the sense that they do not age, but the CAN be killed by several methods.

Their main defense, however, lies in the fact that after a few generations of terrorizing the countryside, they are driven by a hibernation instinct to burrow into the ground and disappear.  During the time they are gone, mankind forgets about them and turns them into myth.  Generations later, the vampires rise again – by this time merely shriveled bags of bones and leather – to once again maraud and terrify and feast.  The blood they ingest enables them to “read” the cellular memories of their victims, allowing them to understand the current language and to know what has occurred while they slept.

In my first volume, The Rising, the vampires discover that mankind has developed something fairly new – organized religion.  Their great predatory powers of swiftness and strength can convince humans that they are gods, and they begin to co-opt the temples.  They no longer have to hunt, you see, for they invent a new ritual – human sacrifice.  Thus their prey is driven to them.

Each book ends with the vampires once again “going to ground”, and in the next volume they rise into an entirely new historical era.  (In the second book they will become the gods Homer’s “Iliad”; the Trojan War, you will discover, was an internecine struggle between various tribes of Vampires, who utilized humans in their own civil war.)  And in the third book, set in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago, we will see how Christianity itself was their product, too.  Surely you’ve heard of all that “blood into wine” stuff…well, now you know why.

Uniting all this will be my central couple, Aron and Enna.  Theirs is a love story that quite literally spans five-thousand years of history.  Newlyweds separated by the rise of Vampires, themselves made victims of it, they search for one another across time.  Aron will increasingly wish to discover what Vampires really are, and why some of their victims “turn”  – the only way they can reproduce – while others simply die.  In some volumes, Aron will be on the run, for humans (particularly in that little burg known as Transylvania) soon get wise to their ways and begin to hunt them down.  But through it all, we will see how Vampires were present at every great moment of human history.  It is also my conceit that when they rise, human fascination with vampires in arts and culture rise as well.

The last time they rose, you see, was in the late 1800s – just about the time that Bram Stoker’s little novel made an appearance.  But this new modern age is also an era when religion has receded for the first time and replaced by secularism – the biggest threat to the Vampire race.

That’s my Chronicles of the Sanguivorous in a nutshell.  I’m not going to give away anything more; for that you’ll have to plunk down your 99 cents. Whether you’re a fan of historical fiction or vampires, I hope you enjoy them – and be sure to write and let me know what you think.

Excuse Me, Are Those Your Fangs In My Neck? Part One of Two Parts

2 Apr

I don’t know when I first became enamored of vampires.  I read “Dracula” when I was very young, and though it didn’t terrify me, it nevertheless made quite a creepy impression.  I remember how Dracula is first introduced as a decrepit old man who then grows progressively younger and more vigorous during the course of the book, as the blood of his victims begins to rejuvenate him.  The most vivid impression that remains was of the Count slithering up the side of the castle like a reptile.  There was a mixture of the effete and the bestial in Stoker’s vampire, which is still a horrifying alchemy.  When would this tuxedoed gentleman inevitably bring his darker nature to the fore?  After all, we were simply meals to him.  This touch of cannibalism also brought with it a further creepy factor, that of ending one’s days in the jaws of a feral beast.  But not just any beast, but one that disguised its terrible predatory habits by simply resembling us.

I had seen the 1931 “Dracula”, of course, the one starring Bela Lugosi, when I was very young.  In 1950s Southern California, we had the Million Dollar Movie on Channel 9, which showed the same film over and over again for five nights a week, and consequently I saw “Dracula” probably every day of that week.  (This was well before videotapes and DVDs – we never knew when we would ever see these films again and had to store up the experiences.) Lugosi, with his middle European accent and fluid, balletic gestures seemed the quintessential blood-sucking nobleman of my youth.

Then in 1967 I saw Roman Polanski’s “The Fearless Vampire Killers”.  My best friend Randy and I were diehard film addicts and we had long heard of this mangled masterpiece by the Hungarian wunderkind.  It had been recut by MGM to feature its slapstick humor and general quirkiness, and a toning down of the violence had supposedly occurred.  (It a parody of all the Hammer epics starring Christopher Lee, you see.) What I did not expect was the full-blown horror that the film showed alongside the slapstick.  Polanski’s vampires were once again elegantly attired royalty inhabiting a seedy castle.  But when the blood lust came upon them they became animals, sporting huge jagged fangs that ripped into their victims’ throats with horrifying rapacity.  No delicate little puncture holes for our Roman Polanski; in fact, the man who designed the fangs was given a screen credit.  I remember being so terrified during the attack sequences that I had to go stand in the lobby.  I was in love with Sharon Tate back then, too, and “Valley of the Dolls” had been released earlier that year.  I remember saying to Randy that my one overwhelming memory of Tate would always be the moment when she turned into a vampire at the end of the film.  Alas, she was to be remembered for something far more dreadful.

My real conversion occurred when Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” was published in 1976.  (I still have the first edition).  She literally redefined the genre.  It was the time of the disco sex revolution, and I was just old enough to participate in all of it, and somehow the goth-influencing Rice novel seemed a mirror of it all – the infernal highs of mind-bending drugs (which is how the vampires described their ingestion of blood) and the gender-bending concepts of love and devotion.  It was all very perverse and exceedingly glamorous.  Just like Louis and Lestat, we were all night time prowlers looking for sex in all the wrong places.  And we were all so deliciously bored, you see, by our perceived immortality and the constant parade of flesh that paraded through our lives with barely an acknowledgment.  (Except that our immortality lasted all of five or so years before the dying set in.)

I never got into the “Twilight” phenomenon.  I read the first book because I decided that I must know more about this craze if I were to be a knowledgeable writer.  But it just didn’t take.  Perhaps I was the wrong age, and/or the wrong sex.  I was much more a creature of the rampaging 70s than the timid 90s, and it all seemed so vapid.  Was I really supposed to believe that the first question that the 100 year old vampire Edward asks Bella is “What’s your favorite color?” Really?  That’s it?  I simply don’t buy it; I believe that any 100 year old creature would be so mentally advanced when compared to a 17 year old high school girl that I wonder if he could ever think of her as anything other than a comestible…?

Nevertheless, inspired by both the success of Twilight and Charlaine Harris’ wonderful “True Blood” series (which I am unashamedly addicted to), I have decided to take the plunge and write my own vampire saga, called “The Chronicles of the Sanguivorous”. You can buy it here for a mere 99 cents.

Sanguivorous means “blood eater” and I’ve taken the story all the way back in time to the very first mention of vampires in history…to the river plain of Mesopotamia, to Ur of the Chaldees.  Each book will begin in a new time, until by the seventh we arrive in the 21st Century.  They also give to mankind both the art of writing and…religion.

What do you think?  Should Anne Rice become one of the vampires in the last volume?  After all, my heroine starts off with the name Enna.  Could she be one and the same?

Sometimes I think it’s the only explanation.

Oh, Canada!

21 Mar

I’m swamped today and headed off to teach tomorrow, but wanted to tell you that Chronicles of Sanguivorous, The Rising is available on Smashwords, the formatting for SW has yet to be proven, so if you’d like to wait for the Kindle edition, it won’t be long. Did I mention this first edition is free? If you love it, let me know and I’ll quickly finish Volume II.

And today is the first day in the blog that my international readers outnumber my American readers. Warm hello to my Canadian friends, and all our readers all over the world. It’s thrilling to me to see my WordPress map light up worldwide.

Also if you’re not follow me on Twitter, come on board… It’s always a fun conversation and the community is very entertaining and supportive of writers and aspiring writers. Follow me @BradGeagley and @Sanguivorous1, if you’re more attuned to the vampires and creatures of the night.

More About My Upcoming Novel, Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, The Rising

19 Mar

Where were we? Ah, more about my upcoming novel, Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, The Rising. As you read this, it’s being churned from a word doc to a .mobi and so on, so you can download it on Kindle, iPad or Nook. I promise you’ll know the moment it appears. And we’re doing everything we can to make the first volume free.

My own conceit is that vampires are a species of super-predators that appear periodically in history to “thin the herds.”  After slumbering in the earth for hundreds of years, during which the memory of their last rising has been forgotten or turned into folk tales by mankind, they rise again – shriveled, gaunt and ferociously thirsty – to wreak havoc on the populations they encounter.  Blood itself carries “cellular memories” so that vampires become instantly aware of languages and what has happened since they last “went to ground.”

In  “The Rising”, they discover that mankind has begun to settle in cities (in particularly the city of Ur of the Chaldees) and that the rudiments of religion are being created.  It is at that moment in history when the Earth Mother has given way to the Sky Gods.  They cleverly seize on religion, claiming to be ferocious gods who demand human sacrifice.  The prey is thus brought to them; in fact, the first novel concludes in the historically true vaults of Ur, where a tremendous amount of human skeletons were discovered, all part of a mass human sacrificial ritual.

After an indeterminate number of years on earth, the Sanguivorous are irresistibly called again to slumber in soil and rock.  Each book begins with them awaking into a new age.  In book two, for instance, a civil war brews between the vampire tribes.  They, in fact, become the gods and goddesses worshipped by the Trojans and the Greeks, and “The Iliad” is retold from their vampire perspective.  Book three takes place in Jerusalem, beginning in Bethlehem…well, let’s just say that the phrase “blood into wine” takes on a whole new meaning.  And so on, right up into the late nineteenth century when they rise again, spurring an entire new interest in vampires through the likes of Bram Stoker, Bela Lugosi, and all the rest.  Would it surprise you that they might make an appearance, too?

Uniting all these books will be the story of Aron and Enna, lovers from prehistoric Mesopotamia, whose wedding night is torn asunder by murderous winds – the first sign that the Blood Eaters are rising – and who become the victims of a family feud that is played out for three millennia.

And there you have the story in a nutshell.

But will you do me a favor?  After you read the book, will you please write to me and let me know what you think of the story?  Have I jumped on the vampire bandwagon too late?  Is the public thoroughly sick of the entire genre?  Should I even continue?

Let me know – and, while you’re doing that, take a moment to download The Stand In, too.  I promise you, no vampires there.  Just a damn good thriller.

Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, Not Just Another Vampire Novel

18 Mar

Sanguivorous means blood-eater.

Allow me to present to you, my newest novel. And very soon, dear reader, will be able to download Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, The Rising for free.

The novel is part of a planned seven book series that I’ve outlined, called The Chronicles of the Sanguivorous, with the first book being subtitled, “The Rising.”  As some of you might have already guessed, it’s about vampires.

I love vampire stories; they’ve always appealed to me, all the way back to when I was a kid and read Dracula for the first time.  Then Interview with the Vampire came along, which still is the overly prolific Anne Rice’s greatest work.  I particularly enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse books and love HBO’s “True Blood” series made from them.  Somehow, the working class South and eternal vampires make for a potent combination, and my hat’s off to Charlaine Harris for coming up with such a winning concept.

So, inspired– I decided to write my own vampire series, bringing my own particular historical twist to them.  I had always wanted to write a time travel book about a love that lasted for centuries, but I didn’t want to write science fiction.  I take the story all the way back to the beginning of history when vampires were first mentioned in the historical records.

That turned out to be in Mesopotamia, which is a very convenient place for me to write about because I had done extensive research on it for my second best-selling novel, Day of the False King, which is set in ancient Babylon.  It is believed by scholars that the vampire legends first arose there, when wind demons, desiring a corporeal body, mated with the depraved King Lugal.  Their misbegotten spawn became the vampire of legend.

(Stay tuned… details about the upcoming novel in my next post.) 

Dear Marilyn, Part Two

13 Mar

First, I want to apologize for the delay. My goal is to write two posts a week, but between the start of my new semester (I teach screenplay writing at Mt. San Antonio College) and finishing a screenplay, the time just got away from me.

Please keep reading, but … Have you read my latest book, The Stand In? 1957 Hollywood, intrigue and mystery for less than a latte. Now available on KindleNookeBook, and iPad. Downloading the book is a great way to support this indie-author. 

At any rate, where were we? Ah, yes, saying goodbye to the late, great Marilyn Monroe…

To recap, I was once the principle researcher on a best-selling book called, “Marilyn, the Last Take”, which dealt with Marilyn Monroe’s last film and final days. The real point of the book was to prove that the Kennedy’s had secretly killed her, making her death look like a suicide, because she supposedly was going to go public with her affairs with both John and Bobby.

How did they kill her? Well, there were two ways that were contemplated: one of the ambulance attendants, an FBI operative, purportedly gave her a hypodermic straight into her heart to cause an embolism. The other theory was that someone had given her an enema filled with seconal. When you think of it, both suppositions are equally nutty. Was the FBI supposed to plant someone on one of the many EMT services available, in the hope that they would be called in case Marilyn was in crisis mode? And the thought of someone taking the time to stick thirty seconal tablets up her ass is…well, a grotesquerie. What was Marilyn supposed to be doing all the time they were fiddling “down there”? The most logical explanation was that everyone around her knew that Marilyn staged suicide attempts for sympathy, during which she called all her friends to say goodbye, knowing that one of them would rescue her. On that last night, however, no one came. One conspiracy theory is that the Kennedy’s forbade their in-law and Monroe’s best friend, Peter Lawford, to intervene that night – and that’s the closest it ever came to murder. At best, it was a negligent homicide.

Well, as I’ve said, the book was an immense best-seller and it was fun to be associated with it. I so enjoyed working with its authors, Peter Brown and Patte Barham (true LA royalty, whose father gave his name to the famed boulevard located next to Universal Studios), and never expected to again become connected to the book. But when it was scheduled to come out in paperback, the authors once again contacted me.

It seems that after the hardbound book was published, the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” had done an episode about “the unsolved murder” of Marilyn Monroe, and Robert Stack had asked the public to write to L.A. Supervisor Antonovich to reopen the case. The Supervisor needed something like 30,000 signatures for legality purposes, if I remember correctly, but received only 8,000 letters and the matter was dropped.

In the meantime, however, after reading the first issue of the book, other people had come from the shadows to tell the authors what they knew, and their “confessions” were to comprise the addendum that was to be included in the paperback. My job was to go to the Antonovich office to read those 8,000 letters; to see “if there were any legitimate clues” that could be found in them.

Let me say that I found no legitimate clues. But, oh my God – those letters gave me a harrowing insight into the public’s collective mind that I have never forgotten.

I got to the Antonovich office in the morning and was led to a stark, windowless room where boxes and boxes of the letters were piled. I began to read them and became increasingly appalled at what they contained – and then, after the first two-thousand had been digested, I began to realize that they were repeating themselves. I saw patterns begin to emerge, and I was soon able to catalog them into a few sub-categories.
First, I’d like to say that only the very old, the very young, the truly profane, and the certifiably crazy took the trouble to write. Why? It’s because the sane, ordinary people don’t write at all. We’re too busy leading our lives, working our jobs, raising our kids, balancing our checkbooks – we just don’t have the time.
The next thing to surprise me was that the letters came from all over the world, from wherever the show was broadcast – mainly from Australia and New Zealand but also from Europe and even Vietnam. Antonovich couldn’t have used these signatures at all, because only American Citizens could have signed the petition to reopen the Monroe murder case. The foreign letters could not be counted, which cut the number of interested parties to about half.

The sub-category I next became aware of, because they were the most numerous, was the Marilyn for Sainthood letters. There was something so evanescent about her cotton-candy screen image that people could pin any hope and belief to her memory. To these writers, she was the Tragic Victim of an unfeeling world, too pure to live in its muck, a secular saint that was too fine for this hard, hard world. “Yes,” they said, “yes! By all means eopen the case, so that her true glory can shine again!” My God, I thought after reading them, this is how saints and redeemers are created. Marilyn is becoming Our Lady of the Overdose! (I just bet that this was how Jesus came to be regarded in those first years after his crucifixion – a gossamer mannequin that you could clothe in any costume you wanted. He could be Everything and Everyman. Now the same beatification process was happening to Marilyn.) What those letter writers seemed to forget was that Billy Wilder had called her the “meanest woman in Hollywood” or that Tony Curtis had said that “kissing her was like kissing Hitler”; they had also forgotten that she was an erotic vagrant of epic proportions and that she had terrorized directors and producers with her sheer and utterly selfish unprofessionalism. Yes, she burnt a hole in celluloid like no one else, but at what a cost – to both herself and the studios that employed her. In truth she was just ordinarily insane, just like her mother, and that’s from where our pity should spring. But to these writers, she was a goddess; enshrinement was their only end.

The next category I noticed was that of the Kennedy haters. They would write to anyone who asked them to vent their spleen about that terrible family. “She was assinated!” wrote one of them. (Need I mention that grammar and spelling skills were not readily apparent in most of these letters?) “The Kennedy’s were behind it and she was assinated!” (Yes, I thought, and after that she was rectified!) One particular writer went into lengthy discussion about how he could prove that it wasn’t Teddy Kennedy who had driven Mary Jo Kopechne into the drink, but that it was actually John F. Kennedy. John, you see, had actually survived that nasty “assination” attempt in Dallas, and the family had secretly installed him – almost a vegetable – on Chappaquiddick Island. Apparently they trusted him with the car keys, however, and poor Mary Jo paid the price. Teddy had come forward to cover the entire thing up! They assinated her!
Then there were the letters that went into what I called the Sacred Relics pile. These writers wanted Monroe’s body disinterred for any number of reasons – one saying that we would find a chip on her breast bone, where the aforementioned FBI agent had nicked it when he gave her that embolism. The most plaintive came from a gentleman from a foreign clime. “Please do a DNA test on Miss Monroe’s remains. The test will prove that I am the long-lost child she gave up for adoption in 1949” – which had been a long standing rumor, by the way – “signed, Quon Duc Pho of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.”

The most bizarre grouping of letters came from what I soon called the Lonely Woman Club, which exists mainly in Australia and New Zealand, but with ancillary chapters in places like Wyoming and Montana. Long, rambling twenty-page hand-written letters would describe their bleak lives on distant ranches or farms. “People have often compared me to Miss Monroe,” went one of them, “and often remark that I, too, am sad and tragic and not fit for this life.” Then a tiny slur against Monroe: “Only I am a natural blond!” Invariably these women would send snapshots of themselves posed provocatively against the corral fence, beside their best friend in the world, their horse Fluffy. I thought the first one was odd when I read it, but along about the thirtieth (complete with snapshots), I realized that these women (and they were only women) were so pathetically lonely that they would write to just about anyone who asked them, even a stranger on a television show. Then, almost as an afterthought on the last page they would remember the ostensible reason why they wrote and add, “please add my name to reopen the Marilyn Monroe murder case.”

I know there were other genres of letter, but I can’t quite remember them all. Suffice to say I had a whole new respect for our poor members of congress, city councils, and even Presidents – because if these were the kinds of people who wrote to them, just imagine what they must be thinking! We’re a nation of imbeciles, that’s what.

Perhaps the most profound thing I learned from these letters is that people are truly comforted by conspiracy theories. It is far safer to think that there was an important reason behind the death of a politician or a movie star; that cabals and conspirators with their elaborate and improbable plots are behind everything. What terrifies people most seems to be pure, uncaring randomness – because if even the likes of a protected, cocooned star like Marilyn Monroe can be doomed by chance or chaos, what hope do the rest of us have?

Dear Marilyn (Part One)

6 Mar

I just completed a screenplay yesterday for a proposed mystery series, in which the events revolve around the disappearance of a long-dead star’s body from her crypt.  She has been “collected”, you see, by a rabid fan.  Her corpse becomes, in effect, the ultimate piece of film memorabilia.  In the screenplay I call the star “Maxine Morrow”, but, as everyone will realize, it’s really Marilyn Monroe.  There’s been a long-standing rumor that Monroe’s body is not in the Westwood cemetery where she was laid to rest.  A corner of the marble door to her crypt sported a big chip for quite a while, allowing the faithful to touch her coffin if they so desired.  But some darker sources hint that the chip happened when her body had been whisked away by her acolytes, to become the centerpiece of some bizarre cult – and this is the nugget from which I drew my plot.  Who knows whether or not it’s true – it’s still a good story.  For me, the interesting thing in the writing of this screenplay was that I was forced to replay some incidents from my own past – for you see; I too have a tenuous connection to Marilyn.

The events I’m about to relate are true.  At first I thought I would turn them into a one-person play, in which a single actor plays all the parts; but with my last year’s first and only foray into the theater, I thought, “Why not just write about it for your blog?”  (The only thing that the theater did was convince me that I was much more temperamentally suited to being a novelist than a playwright.  I will always be grateful for the experience, if only because it was a clarifying one, but the theater really isn’t for me; more about that later.)

So here’s my story…

Before I became a full-time novelist, I served as a researcher on a couple of books, one of which was a best-seller.  It was called “Marilyn, the Last Take” by Peter Brown and Patte Barham (each of whom was an amazing character in their own right, and worthy of a book of their own).  The book concerned itself with Marilyn Monroe’s last (unfinished) film, the prophetically titled “Something’s Gotta Give”.  Incidentally, it also purported to at last uncover the truth about Marilyn’s so-called murder at the hands of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

I was hired mainly for my knowledge concerning the botched production of “Cleopatra”, which was the shadow story in the book; “Cleo”, if you remember, was being shot at the same time as “Something’s Gotta Give”.  It was the authors’ contention that one of the reasons 20th Century Fox pulled the plug on Marilyn’s picture, leading to her emotional meltdown and eventual death, was because of the studio’s horrendous travails with Elizabeth Taylor’s shenanigans in Rome – they simply could not afford two divas at the same moment, each with a reputation for tardiness, illness, and emotional volatility.  Clearly, with millions and millions of dollars sunk into its gargantuan production, “Cleopatra” was the more important picture.  The supposition taken by the authors was that the brunette won her battle with the studio while the blonde lost hers.

The book was an immense best-seller, mainly because of the Kennedy connection.  By this time, the late 1980s, the shocking news that the president’s mistress had been none other than Hollywood’s most famous and tragic blonde was old hat.  The truth was that Kennedy treated Monroe as just another serviceable doll, and when he was through with her he handed her off to his brother.  (This same territory had been covered as early as 1965 in Jacqueline Susann’s roman a clef, “Valley of the Dolls.”)  Monroe, however, was not just another easy bimbo and refused to endure such shabby treatment.  She was no $100 a night girl – she was a star!  Monroe pestered the President and his brother with daily calls and letters, insisting that she was going to spill the beans both to their wives and the public, and had, in fact, called a press conference for the following Monday morning.  That Sunday, however, she was found dead in her bedroom and the press conference never happened.

Well, there you have the ingredients for the perfect conspiracy theory.  You have the hysterical White House handlers, the unstable star, the pre-emptive murder made to look like a suicide, and the subsequent cover-up.  The real story was that sometime during the research phase the authors and I discovered that there was no proof whatsoever that the Kennedy’s had a connection to Monroe’s death.  Marilyn had been “sliding toward extinction” for most of her life.  She was forever getting plastered on the weekends with booze and pills, subsequently calling up her friends, members of the Rat Pack, and treating them to long, teary farewells.  “Say goodbye to the President for me,” she supposedly gurgled that last night, “and say goodbye to you, too, ‘cause you’re a pretty nice guy.”  Her friends even had a phrase for it – “Marilyn’s dangling the phone again.”

Usually one of them would race off to her house, revive her, call her shrink and have her stomach pumped out.  All would be well – for about another week.  Then it would start all over again, except that the last time everybody was tired.  No one went to help her, thinking that someone else would get it.  At worst, Marilyn’s death could only be labeled a negligent homicide – that people knew she was dying but did nothing about it.  The truth was that she had been dying every weekend for the last couple of years.  Her friends were sick of the endless drama.  (We’ve all had friends like this, haven’t we; people we’ve dropped from our lives because the emotional wear and tear is just so fierce.  Self-centered neurotics are fun theater for a short while, until you realize it’s all about them, and that you can never be more than a supporting player in their lives.)

Peter and Patte decided to contact their publisher, Random House, to tell them that they could not tie the Kennedy’s to Monroe’s death, but that they had a pretty interesting story to replace it nonetheless.  Do you know what the publisher’s reply was?  “You contracted with us to tell the story that the  Kennedy’s killed Marilyn Monroe, and by God you’d better deliver it or perhaps our lawyers will speak a tongue you comprehend.”  It was Gore Vidal’s cynical prophecy come horribly to life – that the new literature of the modern age takes real names, real places, and real events and simply makes all the rest up.

So here’s the lesson I wish to impart unto you today:  think of this story every time you read the purported “truth” in books or in magazines or in newspapers.  Remember that writing is slanted.  All writing has an agenda.  All publishing is about money.  If you want the truth, you must locate and read articles from many sources and then come to your own conclusions.  Somewhere in one of them there might be the kernel that engendered all the commentary – just don’t expect to find it in the book store, on the television or in the newsstand.  We have been so managed and maneuvered by our news sources that we don’t know what end is up anymore.

In other words:  DON’T BELIEVE ANYTHING!

After the publisher’s scary dictate, the authors and I had to go back to emphasize every untruth, every veiled accusation, and every raving innuendo made by some nut case who claimed to know the real story.  But the publishers got what they wanted – a best seller.  It even engendered an episode on “Unsolved Mysteries” – which was a bonanza of publicity for the book and its subsequent release in paperback – in which Robert Stack solemnly urged the public to write the Los Angeles Supervisor’s office to “uncover the truth about Marilyn Monroe’s murder!”

That’s when it really got interesting.

Next:  “Dear Marilyn – Part Two”:  in which I read through 8,000 letters from “all those little people out there in the dark,” as Norma Desmond was fond of saying.  You might think that Hollywood people are crazy, but let me assure you – they got nothing on the public.  You might even think that the events depicted in my latest novel, “The Stand In,” (also set in Hollywood and also based on a true story) are lurid escapism –

But just wait!

Have you read The Stand In? Available on KindleNookeBook, and iPad. Downloading the book is a great way to support this indie-author. 

Have You Read, The Stand In?

27 Feb
Couldn’t resist sharing my latest review on Amazon! Have you read it? You can download it on Kindle, Nook and iTunes for iPad.
New! B. Maxwell reviewed The Stand In
 Grabs You From Page One February 24, 2012
Given to me by a friend, I couldn’t put this book down! On its surface it’s about a 50’s Hollywood movie idol who uses his celebrity to seduce and kill young women until his studio mogul boss begins to suspect him. Instead of going to the police and risking his #1 asset, the mogul decides to secretly replace him with an innocent young actor with an uncanny resemblance. But will his true role be replacement or fall-guy? Along the way the plot twists and turns, drawing you in with characters that, true to life, are both seduced by their dreams of success and love, and battered by the reality of what this town does to you. So what author Geagley ends up unspooling is a seductive thriller with wry insider’s view of Hollywood. Oh, and you’ll never guess the ending.
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