JOHNNY'S GIRL by Kim Rich

JOHNNY'S GIRL

A Daughter's Memoir of Growing Up in Alaska's Underworld

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Superbly well-balanced and thoughtful reconstruction of a family life in the Anchorage underworld; based on Rich's series of articles that appeared in the Anchorage Daily News. ``Family life'' may be too loose a phrase to bind the fragments of existence excavated by Rich while digging up the bones of her murdered father and mad mother. She does an amazing job of searching out legal and hospital records, plus letters and diaries of her dead parents, and of interviewing cops, lawyers, former B- girls, and family members--all in an effort to lay to rest the ghosts within her. In the early 60's, her father, John Francis ``Johnny'' Rich, was a small-time bamboozler who worked whores in massage parlors, set up nude-photo sessions for all comers in his own home, assembled craps, poker, and blackjack games, and apparently pimped for his wife. And these were among the more openly shady of his dealings, which also included real-estate scams, an addiction to moonlight flights from landlords and creditors, longstanding wrangles with the IRS, and the double- dealing that got him killed in 1973, when Rich was 15. Unbeknownst to Johnny when he married her, Rich's mother, Frances Ann ``Ginger'' Chiaravalle, had been hospitalized for a mental breakdown at age 20. She kept her sanity during the first years of marriage by focusing on her newborn daughter and saving every scrap that attested to the child's existence. Rich was born in Hollywood, but the family shortly moved to Anchorage, with Frances sent ahead by Johnny to set herself up as a B-girl. Anchorage was an oil-rich frontier town, and Johnny swam in it as if born to the ooze, though Frances went to pieces and Rich endured endless midnight police raids on their house. After Frances died, Johnny married a teenage heroin addict, whom Rich fought with like a sister. Smartly written and compelling.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-11836-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993