I’m very happy to welcome Rebecca Stonehill, with an interesting and thought provoking guest post recalling five books that have most influenced her. So without further ado, over to you, Rebecca…..
I’d be surprised to hear of a writer who isn’t first and foremost a reader. For writers, words are our lifeblood, both a joy and an addiction, whether in written or read form.
So I’d like to share with you five books that have, over the years, affected me deeply in some way.
- Author: Joe Hefferon
- Released: 20th May 2017 by Evolved Publishing LLC
- Category: Hardboiled, Noir, Crime, Mystery, Book Review
A telegram sets off a chain of events that destroys five lives, throwing Hollywood insider Nina Ferrer’s life into turmoil. The infant boy she gave up for adoption in Chicago sixteen years earlier has been arrested for murder. A plea from the boy’s adoptive mother pushes her to act, but Nina has a big problem—she never told her husband about the boy.
Lynn Killian left Chicago in 1948. She wanted a new life in a new place with a new name. With no particular plan in mind she headed west. Who she left behind would never really leave her. She would always wonder. Continue reading
I remember reading this many moons ago, and enjoying it.
In honour of the 50th anniversary Little, Brown book Group and Virago are celebrating with a special anniversary edition, due to be released on June 30th.
Before Jackie Collins, Candace Bushnell and Lena Dunham, Jacqueline Susann held the world rapt with her tales of the private passions of Hollywood starlets, high-powered industrialists and the jet-set.
Valley of the Dolls took the world by storm when it was first published, fifty years ago. Never had a book been so frank about sex, drugs and show business. It is often cited as the bestselling novel of all time.
Dolls – red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight. For Anne, Neely and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three beautiful women become best friends when they are young and in New York, struggling to make their names in the entertainment industry. Only when they reach the peak of their careers do they find there’s nowhere left to go but down – to the Valley of the Dolls.
Extract from Valley of the Dolls
She would never go back to Lawrenceville! She hadn’t just left Lawrenceville – she had escaped. Escaped from marriage to some solid Lawrenceville boy, from the solid, orderly life of Lawrenceville. The same orderly life her mother had lived. And her mother’s mother. In the same orderly kind of a house. A house that a good New England family had lived in generation after generation, its inhabitants smothered with orderly, unused emotions, emotions stifled beneath the creaky iron armor called ‘manners.’
(‘Anne, a lady never laughs out loud.’ ‘Anne, a lady never sheds tears in public.’ ‘But this isn’t public, I’m crying to you, Mama, here in the kitchen.’ ‘But a lady sheds tears in privacy. You’re not a child, Anne, you’re twelve, and Aunt Amy is here in the kitchen. Now go to your room.’)
And somehow Lawrenceville had pursued her to Radcliffe. Oh, there were girls who laughed and shed tears and gossiped and enjoyed the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of life. But they never invited her into their world. It was as if she wore a large sign that said, Stay Away. Cold, Reserved New England Type. More and more she retreated into books, and even there she found a pattern repeated: it seemed that virtually every writer she encountered had fled the city of his birth. Hemingway alternated between Europe, Cuba and Bimini. Poor bewildered, talented Fitzgerald had also lived abroad. And even the red, lumpy-looking Sinclair Lewis had found romance and excitement in Europe. She would escape from Lawrenceville! It was as simple as that. She made the decision in her senior year at college and announced it to her mother and Aunt Amy during her Easter vacation.
‘Mama . . . Aunt Amy . . . when I finish college I’m going to New York.’
‘That’s a dreadful place for a vacation.’
‘I intend to live there.’
‘Have you discussed this with Willie Henderson?’
‘No. Why should I?’
‘Well, you’ve kept company since you both were sixteen.
Everybody naturally assumes . . .’
‘That’s just it. In Lawrenceville everything is assumed.’
‘Anne, you are raising your voice,’ her mother said calmly. ‘Willie Henderson is a fine boy. I went to school with his daddy and his mother.’
‘But I don’t love him, Mama.’
Jacqueline Susann is a legend in American publishing. Susann was the first author to have three consecutive #1 books on the New York Times Bestseller List. She was married to her beloved husband, producer Irving Mansfield, until her untimely death on September 21, 1974, after a courageously fought battle with breast cancer. Susann’s intensely private twelve-year fight to overcome the disease was not known publicly until after death. She was 56.
Fifty years ago, in 1966, Valley of the Dolls achieved the No. 1 spot on The New York Times bestseller list, and stayed there for an unprecedented 28 weeks.
Virago Modern Classics designer hardback and merchandise (notebook and mug) also available, designed by the founder of Biba, Barbara Hulanicki
Valley of the Dolls remains the all-time pop-culture classic, a pioneering work that tackled drug addiction, women’s rights and gay rights, profoundly influencing generations of cultural figures from Gloria Steinem to Lena Dunham
Valley of the Dolls has sold over 40 million copies in 30 languages
‘50 years later, it’s still spot on. The world’s changed immensely but the climb to the top is still a tough one’ Michael Kors
‘Much imitated, but never bettered’ Daily Telegraph
‘Jackie, it seemed, understood by instinct that her readers were ready for the raw side of love… for a franker sexuality and a tougher kind of story – for romance with tears AND oral sex’ The New Yorker
- Author: John Lansing
- Published: November 2014 by Tatra Press
- A Short Story
A coming-of-age story set in 1950s, small-town Long Island, at a time when suburban America is about to undergo seismic societal changes.
Jack Morgan returns, for what he knows will be the last time, to Baldwin, Long Island in order to settle his parents’ affairs. He felt indifferent about the sale of his boyhood home until he found himself parked outside. Looking at the house unleashed the floodgates of memories and emotions, taking him back to 1963 when he was a boy of fourteen in a completely different social and racial climate.
Jack and his two best friends, Gene and Greg, are sprucing up and getting a little buzzed on beer before heading to the dance hall. The evocative atmosphere is captured perfectly and is so relatable. Having the pre dance drinks for dutch courage, only in our case it was cider – yuck! Even after all this time I still can’t so much as think of drinking the stuff. The groups of boys and girls separated by the width of the room, the music and the coloured lights. After a couple of false starts Jack gets to dance with the girl of his dreams. Only it’s anything but straightforward.
“Jack, you’ve got to leave…now. No shit. I heard some crazy talk. Go! Now!”
I read the fear in Vida’s eyes; she nodded her head yes. I took her lead and we were on the move across the dance floor, hearts thumping. We grabbed our coats and were out the door and walking briskly down Grand Avenue before the song ended.
A touching teenage love, described with feeling and emotion, which could never be realised without probable tragic consequences. But, above all else, this is a poignant and disturbing reminder of the social conflict of the time. Racial prejudice was prevalent in most communities and was a major factor for a large number of people. When the first black family arrives in Baldwin the event is viewed with mounting dismay and anxiety by the towns’ residents. As Jack finds out to his cost.