- Paperback: 408 pages
- Publisher: For The Duration Press (October 16, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0989831507
- ISBN-13: 978-0989831505
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 57 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,629,756 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl Paperback – October 16, 2013
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Best Historical Fiction - 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Best Historical Fiction - 2014 IndieReader Discovery Awards
"The golden age of television comes to life in this scathingly critical and immensely entertaining novel from Stone. The author ably captures the tension and excitement of live television, focusing on how quickly this medium made and destroyed both careers and lives. This modern fable of fame and failure emphasizes the political and economic agendas that molded the entertainment industry and a generation. This fast-paced and emotionally vibrant satire is a treat for television buffs and general readers alike." Publisher's Weekly Starred Review
About the Author
Julian David Stone grew-up in the San Francisco bay area before relocating to Los Angeles after spending his college years at the California Institute of the Arts. For the next few years he wrote screenplays for Disney and Paramount, as well as several other studios and producers around town. His recent work includes the full-length play, The Elvis Test and direction of the short-form documentary, Frank Sinatra – Body and Soul . His notable screenplays include the Brooklyn Dodgers-focused comedy, Duke Snider Eats Here Free, and the music industry satire, I Want Kandee. He is also the writer and director of Follow the Bitch, a cult film comedy that has played to packed houses all around the country and received numerous awards. www.juliandavidstone.com
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Based on the title and cover of this book, I had expected to find a lighthearted, humorous book about the craziness that was the world of early live television. While it seemed to start out that way, it soon became much more as it delved into the blacklisting being done in the era, the struggles of early television production, and the paths that molded the main characters into the people they have become.
At the beginning of the book, the characters seem to be shallow and rather simplistic, but as their backgrounds are explored by the author, we find the whys behind their actions and their motivations based on things that have happened to them during World War II years. Each character becomes whole and more understandable, although not always more likable. It's this delving into the past and motivations of the characters and the showing of the human cost of the blacklist that takes this beyond the ordinary and makes it a meaningful, serious book.
There were a few minor anachronistic blips that I noticed that seemed out of place in the 1955 setting of the book, mostly things like turns of phrase that were not common at the time or a mention of area codes in a era when there was no direct dialed long distance calls and almost a decade before area codes came into being. None of the slip-ups were enough to derail the story, but for someone familiar with the mid-1950s, they are noticeable.
Recommended, especially for anyone interested in the era, early television, or the blacklisting of show business workers.
1950s, and into the insanely hectic world of live television. I say 'attempt', because the novel doesn't always avoid anachronisms---too many modern idioms make their way into the narrative. It may have been the fault of a younger, slightly careless editor who hadn't read enough
period literature to spot anachronisms.
But that's a pretty minor quibble, given the wonderful, often outrageous tale which author Stone spins for us. And he's clearly researched the period very carefully----blacklisting, Cold War paranoia, upper-class anti-Semitism, and the unexpected impact of live TV on that first generation of viewers, all are used to telling effect in this fast, frequently funny (and sometimes hilarious) narrative. We also see the public's fear of Communism being carefully cultivated by the politically ambitious. If you can't read modern anti-Islamic paranoia into THAT plot-line, try harder.
Justice Girl herself begins life in an impromptu addition to a Sunday-night comedy show on the struggling Regal Network, added at the last minute by writer Jonny Dirby. He's just been fired for refusing to sign a loyalty oath, and decides to have a little revenge. So, after taking a baseball bat to an annoying ceiling fan in the network's decrepit Writer's Room, Jonny drastically alters a discarded comedy sketch which includes a caped, costumed heroine. He reckons that since he's already unemployed (and about to be blacklisted), he can use his newly-free time to do the serious writing which he's had to neglect in favor of live-TV sketch comedy. He inserts the new sketch into the lineup, leaves the network's ramshackle offices, and assumes he's burned his bridges gloriously.
The next morning, Jonny finds that his plan has backfired. Instead of being outraged, network president Hogart Daniels, who watched the show, saw its' impact on viewers. Justice Girl could be the gimmick which saves the network, and he's gonna exploit this Heaven-sent fluke for all it's worth. Jonny, far from being unemployed, now has a new job, a dream contract, a GREAT salary...and a complete new show to create in a week's time. Which he does, using a sub rosa writing team of blacklisted friends. JUSTICE GIRL, played by an ingenue named Denise Yarnell, quickly becomes a media sensation. All is glorious...to the outside observer.
Behind the scenes, it's a very different story. 'Denise Yarnell' is the stage name taken by Felicity Anders Kensington, daughter of a right-wing Republican (once upon a time there USED to be other kinds) and potential Senate candidate. Felicity wants to infiltrate the seamy world of show business and gather evidence of Communist influence, all the better to help her adored father's political career. (She in fact has another, unacknowledged motive for seeking evidence that anything remotely 'Red' is evil...one of the novel's unexpected depths.) In costume and wig, she prays that none of her blue-blooded Connecticut family or social connections will recognize her, despite their collective disdain for the new medium of television.
Jonny, in the meantime, is reveling in being a new producer and writer (given sole credit for scripts, despite the fact that he's a 'front' for several friends). The show's publicity prominently features Jonny, and fast becomes a sore point with his behind-the-scenes collaborators for utterly if necessarily ignoring their contributions. And Jonny's relations with network president Daniels deteriorate as the show's popularity and its attendant pressures escalate. By a scheduling fluke JUSTICE GIRL is pre-empted one week owing to a major news story...and Jonny uses the time off to attend a supermarket opening where 'Denise' (aka Felicity) has to face a live audience in her on-air persona. The
event turns into a near-riot, with Jonny appearing just in time to help Felicity escape from a mob of screaming kids. Felicity admits to him who she really is, but not why she's really playing the role. She's discovered that her father is part of a blacklisting organization, and is appalled to realize how thin the evidence of any wrongdoing is on the part of people whom she's coming to know, and to like. And it goes on from there.
Whatever else author Stone may have on offer as a novelist, he's produced an enjoyable read with this first book. Highly recommended.