Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catching Up #26: The Song Is You by Megan Abbott

The Song is You is not just a great Old Hollywood novel but a great journalism novel. Megan Abbott captures a time when studios would bend over backward to keep even the slightest indiscretion by their contract talent under wraps - and the great yellow journalists of yore were trying their damnedest to uncover every last slip-up. To keep said journalists from succeeding, the studios had smooth-talkers like publicity man Gil "Hop" Hopkins on the payroll, men with the magical ability to spin every shameful event into a glowing piece of positive press.

As our story begins, Hop is in some hot water. It is 1951 and it has been two years since B-girl Jean Spangler mysteriously disappeared. Thing is, Hop was with Spangler that night and knows for a fact that she went to a shady sex club with the song-and-dance movie duo Marv and Gene, men who are infamous for their violent sexual proclivities. Other thing is, Hop jump-started his publicity career that night by helping to erase the connection between Marv and Gene and the Spangler disappearance. Now that career high(low)point is coming back to haunt him in the form of the beautiful Iolene, a beauty who is asking the wrong questions about what happened that night.

And so begins Hop's journey to uncover what really happened to Jean Spangler. Whether he'll use what he finds out to cover his and certain studio players' asses or to bury all their asses is another matter...

Because that is really what is at the center of Abbott's novel - Hop's final shot at redemption. Sure, you've got a tight mystery plot and tons of great lore about fifties Hollywood, but what it all comes down to is Hop's very soul. He's a great fucking character. A man so pretty and smooth he can get his joint copped by a gorgeous starlet with a wink and a smile, but who is tortured by the many horrible mistakes he has made in the past. Shit, he makes plenty of them in the present, too.

And if that ain't the stuff of classic noir, I couldn't tell you what the fuck is.

But shit, if you've read this site even a little bit, you know how enamored (Wow, I just typed "enamored." I am king of the douches) I am with Abbott's work already. She is one of the true originals kicking ass in the crime fiction world today, an author whose work is both wonderfully classic and soberly modern at the same time. This Song Is You is an old Hollywood/yellow journalism novel to set on the shelf next to Ellroy's LA Confidential.

Yeah, I just said that shit. Fuck, I would even shout it into James Ellroy's crazy brilliant face.

Okay, no I wouldn't. Dude scares the shit out of me.

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