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The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean Hardcover – July 20, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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The Underground Railroad
The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dann (The Memory Cathedral; etc.) stumbles with this dubious what-if novel about an alternate reality in which James Dean survives his 1955 car accident. Before the crash, Dann's Jimmy Dean is a drugged-out bisexual party boy, as obsessed with the possibility that the child of former girlfriend Pier Angeli is not his as he is distracted by midnight sexual escapades with Marilyn Monroe. Following his recovery, Dean's career predictably skyrockets while he vacillates between dreams of his Momma and passionate rages over Pier's fickleness. Unfortunately, even though he handily snatches roles from Paul Newman and Marlon Brando, Dean never appears on a set or in front of a camera in Dann's narrative. Instead, via Marilyn, he becomes involved with the Kennedys, and the novel descends into familiar tawdriness (playing, for example, with the theory that Bobby Kennedy had Marilyn killed in order to protect Jack's reputation as well as his own). As the tabloid-style narrative races along, Dann introduces a stupid and blond Elvis Presley, then glosses Hollywood and Washington politics in an inane manner, offering up highly improbable caricatures of now-deceased American icons. Dann shuffles actual events to fit his plot designs and suggests affairs between Bobby and Jackie and Jimmy and a pregnant Ethel Kennedy. Intended to be over-the-top, the novel too often is off-the-wall.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Driving fast on a California highway on September 30, 1955, actor James Dean plowed his Porsche Spyder into another car crossing an intersection and was killed. But had he survived, what would have become of him? An affair with Marilyn Monroe? Directing movies starring Elvis Presley? Or perhaps joining forces with Bobby Kennedy in politics? In Dann's parallel universe, Dean does all of this and more when he survives the accident. While Dean lies recovering in a hospital bed, he dreams that his long-dead mother visits him and tells him, "do something important and wonderful." It takes Dean years to fulfill her request, and along the way he gets drunk with Jack Kerouac, stars in the movie Cool Hand Luke, and punches Frank Sinatra in the jaw. Eventually, the tumultuous events of the 1960s--the struggle for civil rights, the killing of Dr. King--affect him, and he uses his celebrity to move into the political arena. The anticipation of exactly what will be the apex of Dean's political career keeps the pages turning. Jerry Eberle
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (July 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380978393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380978397
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,787,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
In 1955, James Dean loves putting the pedal to the metal until his speeding Spyder met a Ford at an intersection. Encouraged by his sweet dead mom to get off the ground so he will not catch a cold, Jimmy awakens at Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital and later is moved to Santa Monica Hospital. Jimmy slowly recovers, but mentally is no longer the same Rebel Without a Cause.

Jimmy leaves the hospital, but is hooked on Demerol. He leaves Southern California for New York, following advice he once gave Marilyn Monroe. In Manhattan, Jimmy meets merry prankster writer Jack Kerouac and dreams of directing meaningful films. Marilyn, who he protects from the jealous rages of Joltin' Joe, introduces Jimmy to Bobby Kennedy. When Monroe commits suicide Jimmy suspects Bobby was involved. They battle over her incriminating diary. Jimmy is now a rebel with a cause as he plans to take on the Kennedy gang knowing he could end up rather quickly joining Marilyn in the afterlife.

This is an intriguing what if biographical-like fictional account of the life of James Dean if he recovered from the fatal car crash. The story line is at its best when fifties and sixties famous people realistically interact with Jimmy. However, Jack Dann goes too far out with the High Noon confrontation between Dean and the Kennedy mob, making it feels more like fantasy. When Mr. Dann stays with the low level scandals even of high ranking people, fans obtain a fine tale of what could have been intermingled with happened.

Harriet Klausner
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