An engrossing and carefully documented account of a beloved film icon’s life.



A thoughtful exploration of the career and elusive private life of Rock Hudson (1925-1985).

It’s surprising that in the three decades since Hudson’s death, there has been little written about him that could be considered comprehensive. Previous biographies came from past lovers and friends, and each seemed to have an agenda, often salacious. Griffin (A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli, 2010) goes a long way toward rectifying this issue, casting a respectful light on some fresh as well as familiar details. The author begins with Hudson’s difficult childhood: Born Roy Scherer, he and his mother were abandoned by his father when he was just 5, and his mother would eventually remarry an abusive alcoholic. Griffin then moves on to his various jobs and his brief stint in the Navy before he arrived in Hollywood. Like Hudson’s friend Marilyn Monroe, his early recognition in Hollywood was largely attributed to his exceptional good looks, and he also experienced sexual exploitation on his path to stardom. He was taken under the wing of the powerful yet notoriously lecherous agent Henry Willson. After appearing in several largely forgettable films and signing a long-term contract with Universal Studios, Hudson established his mark as an accomplished actor and romantic lead under the guidance of talented directors such as Douglas Sirk and George Stevens. Yet it wasn’t until Pillow Talk (1959) that Hudson found his sweet spot as a versatile comedic actor. In the 1970s, he found renewed fame on TV as the star of the hit series McMillan & Wife. Griffin pays equal attention to Hudson’s private life as a sexually active yet closeted gay man, and he explores his complex relationships with both sexes. Throughout, he provides a balanced, multifaceted view of his subject. By the end of his life, having disclosed his exposure to HIV, his professional and private lives were forced to merge. Yet his death would bring much-needed recognition and funding to the AIDS epidemic.

An engrossing and carefully documented account of a beloved film icon’s life.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-240885-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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