Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Book: The Song Is You, by Megan Abbott (2007)

It’s a common Hollywood story. A beautiful woman, the belle of her hometown ball, goes to Los Angeles to make it as an actress and finds herself adrift. It’s Jean Spangler’s story. Then comes the twist: on October 7, 1949, she vanished, leaving behind a young daughter and a cryptic note found in her discarded purse. After an initial flurry of activity that compared Jean to the infamous Black Dahlia, interest faded. Spangler was never found. Her case remains open to this day.

But Megan Abbott hasn’t forgotten her. Jean’s disappearance is the basis of her second novel. (Abbott wrote about her interest in Spangler for the Rap Sheet.) The Song Is You is set in 1951, when on-the-rise publicist Gil ‘Hop’ Hopkins finds himself drawn back to that October night when he last saw Jean alive and kept a few details from the police.

Abbott’s low-key, intimate approach to Tinseltown noir makes quite a contrast to the epic scale of, say, James Ellroy, but it’s effective in its own way. And the ending is a doozy.

My favorite aspect of the book is the way Abbott deftly weaves in another real-life tale, that of actress Barbara Payton. Her story darkly parallels Jean Spangler’s, and is as noir as Hollywood gets.

Miscellaneous: My Valentine’s Day Gift To You

Saw this ad on CNN yesterday. Nothing says love like production values.