A film buff's dream wrapped in the decadence and glamour of a bygone era.

The Forgotten Flapper


From the Forgotten Actress Series series , Vol. 1

In Giles’ (Love Lies Bleeding, 2015) novel, the ghost of actress Olive Thomas recounts her previous life as a model, chorus girl, and silent-film star.

The spirit of the actress haunts Manhattan’s New Amsterdam Theatre, once the home of the Ziegfeld Follies, in which Olive performed. The apparition recollects her modest beginnings in a Pennsylvania coal mining town, getting married too young, and working as a shopgirl in New York where she’s “discovered” and becomes a model for artists such as Howard Chandler Christy and Harrison Fisher. After using her connections to become a Ziegfeld Girl, she performs in both the Follies and the more risqué rooftop Frolic; she also begins an affair with her married boss, Florenz Ziegfeld. After he refuses to leave his family for her, Olive takes a heartbroken trip to California, where she meets Jack Pickford, the notorious playboy and brother of Mary Pickford, and they have an exciting yet volatile marriage. Her beauty and enthusiasm open many doors into the world of silent film; however, she struggles with Jack’s alcoholism and indiscriminate infidelities. These dalliances inadvertently bring about her early end; she accidentally drinks a mercury solution, her husband’s syphilis treatment. Though a tragic figure, Olive unapologetically indulges in the excess of the early 20th century by being sassy, savvy but never cynical, and sexually vibrant. Giles employs an easy style and modest creative license backed by obsessive research. The book’s only noteworthy shortcoming is its failure to explore one of Olive’s more noteworthy claims to fame: her early death was one of the first heavily publicized scandals, and as a ghost, the starlet would have been uniquely positioned to comment on it. That said, nearly every page features at least a passing reference, if not an appearance, by a Hollywood legend, from the Pickfords to the Selznicks to F. Scott Fitzgerald. These are joined by lesser-remembered figures such as actors Blanche Ring and George Chesebro and the cross-dressing performer Julian Eltinge. The author includes an impressive reading list to explore these personalities further.

A film buff's dream wrapped in the decadence and glamour of a bygone era.

Pub Date: July 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9947349-0-7

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Sepia Stories Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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