Reviewed by Meghan Hyden
I always begin my reviews with a little something about the story – a short synopsis that doesn’t give away too much, but does highlight enough to make the reader of my review want to read the book. But with this book – let’s just say that I have been writing and erasing for the last fifteen minutes. There is so much I want to say about this story that I don’t even know where to start. I want to sit down with someone who has read it and discuss our thoughts (anyone?).
City of Whores is about Dan Root, a young man from Tyler, Texas, who wants nothing more than to be an actor. He leaves home and heads straight to Hollywood shortly after he turns twenty-one, changing his name to Clifton Garrow along the way. This is the Hollywood of 1951, and it is very different than the Hollywood of today. The day that he arrives, he heads straight to a mansion where he has a job as a waiter at a big party. Chance circumstances, shaking hands, the reaction to a mistake taken too far, a lady who cares about others … and soon he becomes engrossed in the Hollywood of old, living a life of ups AND downs, as his acting career takes off.
The story opens in the present, with Dan (his real name and the one he has chosen to go by in these later years) finding out that an old friend, Milford Langden, had died. With mixed feelings – with the past coming to the front of his mind after all these years – he heads to Los Angeles for the funeral.
As the book continues, it switches back and forth between the present (the funeral and the events that happen afterwards) and the past (the good and the bad memories of those two years of his friendship with Milly and his wife, Lillian Sinclair).
I can’t tell you what it was exactly that drew me to this book. I’m one of those people that see a cover and go “hmm…” so when I saw this on the Luxury Reading book list, I wanted to know more. The Golden Age of Hollywood?! … yeah, that’s probably what did it. The description, though short and sweet, really left me intrigued and I let Vera know that it was a book I would be interested in reading. When it arrived in the mail, I was happy to see that the book is even more beautiful in real life and I couldn’t wait to finally get the chance to sit down and read it (the life of a book-blogger includes not always getting the chance to just read what you want).
I have been reading since yesterday afternoon, stopping only for dinner and sleep. That is how mesmerizing this book is. Watching the life of Dan/Clifton (and later Dexter Gaines) unfold before me, watching him remember the good and the bad times, brought happiness (sometimes with bursts of laughter) and sadness (sometimes with tears rolling down my cheeks). Finding out about the events that happened, the people he met, and the way it all came to an end was sometimes shocking and definitely interesting. Seeing where he is at now, finding out what has happened in his life since those two years, and being a part of the mystery that he is trying to solve, with Milly’s daughter, was exciting. By the end of the story, I felt like I knew them all and am happy that I “met” them.
It is a very emotional read – with an ending that completely caught me off guard … but also made so much sense. This book is an eloquent work of art and I hope that the author writes much more (this is his debut novel, but he is an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning writer-producer). I do want to warn you: This book involves homosexual relationships, though done with class.
My favorite part (and also, to me, one of the saddest) is the death of a dog that Dan had grown very close to. (By the time it was all over, I was sobbing)
You can find Meghan (that’s Meghan spelled the right way) over on her book-ish blog The Gal in the Blue Mask. She’s an avid reader, a book editor, a story teller, a purveyor of delectable fare and pulchritudinous confections, and the best aunt in the world. She loves gardening, hiking, cooking and spending time at the zoo, library and museums. She may not be able to find her wallet, car keys or sunglasses, but she always knows where her Kindle is.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Kelley and Hall Publicity. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.