Megan Abbott The Song Is You: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780743291729

The Song Is You: A Novel

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9780743291729: The Song Is You: A Novel
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From Edgar® -nominated novelist Megan Abbott, who makes “devotees of Cain and Chandler fall down and beg for mercy” (The Hollywood Reporter), The Song Is You imagines a thrilling conclusion to the still unsolved since 1949 Black Dahlia murder case.

On October 7, 1949, dark-haired starlet Jean Spangler kissed her five-year-old daughter good-bye and left for a night shoot at a Hollywood studio. "Wish me luck," she said as she crossed her fingers, winked, and walked away. She was never seen again. The only clues left behind: a purse with a broken strap found in a nearby park, a cryptic note, and rumors about mobster boyfriends and ill-fated romances with movie stars.

Drawing on this true-life missing person case, Megan Abbott's The Song Is You tells the story of Gil "Hop" Hopkins, a smooth-talking Hollywood publicist whose career, despite his complicated personal life, is on the rise. It is 1951, two years after Jean Spangler's disappearance, and Hop finds himself unwillingly drawn into the still unsolved mystery by a friend of Jean who blames Hop for concealing details about Jean's whereabouts the night she vanished. Driven by guilt and fear of blackmail, Hop delves into the case himself, feverishly trying to stay one step ahead of an intrepid female reporter also chasing the story. Hop thought he'd seen it all, but what he uncovers both tantalizes and horrifies him as he plunges deeper and deeper into Hollywood's substratum in his attempt to uncover the truth.

In the tradition of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia and Joyce Carol Oates's Blonde, The Song Is You conjures a heady brew of truth and speculation, of fact and pulp fiction, taking the reader on a dark tour of Tinseltown, from movie studios, gala premieres, and posh nightclubs to gangsters, blackmailing B-girls, and the darkest secrets that lie behind Hollywood's luminous façade. At the center of it all is Hop, a man torn between cutthroat ambition and his own best intentions.

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About the Author:

Megan Abbott is the author of three acclaimed novels, the Edgar Award–winning Queenpin, The Song Is You, and Die a Little. She lives in New York City. 

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1949

The Petty Girl

The whistle isn't jaunty, not Doris Day. It's low and slow and the actor Bob Cummings would remember its hot zing for some time.

Ah yes, that bit player of definite note.

"You sound happy," he says to her, his head half turned, leaning back in his springy dressing-room chair so he can catch a glimpse of her in the corridor.

She stops, swivels her hips, and looks back at him, black eyes crackling.

"I am," she says, almost a husky coo. She laces her long, red-tipped fingers along the door frame. "I have a new romance."

"Is it serious?" he says, flirting hard. Has he played this game with her before? He lets his arms dangle boyishly from the sides of his chair.

"Not really," she replies, tilting her head. Then, with a klieg-light leer lewd as a burlesque dancer but with infinitely greater appeal: "But I'm having the time of my life."

With that, she twists her long hips back around and, with a kittenish wave of the hand, continues down the corridor, heels lightly clacking, matching her whistle in perfect time.

What is she humming?

He can almost name it, taste it even.

It reminds him of close quarters, mouth pressed against folded satin, sparkled fishnets, music throbbing unbearably, pressure in the chest and fast, jerky leg kicks in the air. A long-ago peccadillo with a clap-ridden chorus girl in a curtained booth at the Top Hat Café, an encounter so quick and so urgent that it felt like a sucker punch in the stomach.

Of course.

That was it.

You're so much sweeter, goodness knows...

Honeysuckle rose...

He will tell this story hundreds of times in the weeks and months to come under official and unofficial circumstances. He will tweak it occasionally, leave details out, add a shading of provocation or a whiff of heat. Or he'll tell it as if it were a cool exchange between temporary colleagues. He'll tart it up or iron it out, depending.

But this is how it really happened and it has lodged tightly, uncomfortably in his head on a continuous loop, winding itself through his thoughts, unfurling in his dreams. He may barely recall the movie they were shooting (The Petty Girl, right?), but he remembers everything about the costume she wore as she walked down that hall, all china silk and shocks of pleats, a curling blue flame. And the lipsticked mouth folding around the coarse and delicious whistle. His creaking, squeaking chair as he leaned back, makeup bib cocking up, he, the star, too eager, bright-eyed and chomping, aside her distinct and unfounded cool, the cool that comes from her not needing his attention at all. He could tell: she had brighter stars sniffing around her, around her creamy curves, lashes batting in chestnut hair, a turning ankle, a cloud of jasmine, a bawdy song no white girl should sing.

It was her voice that purred and snapped and stuck in his head most ferociously, making him sick with random desire, making him want to do something foul, unmentionable, unarticulated, ugly. How he'd like to fuck her into oblivion.

But someone beat him to it.

Park La Brea

"He ain't gonna pay up, doll. No matter what the judge said. Once you're out of their bed, you lose all the angles. You should've stayed hitched and played it close to the line."

These words of advice came from next-door neighbor Beryl Doolan, who delivered them as she chipped the last bit of nail polish from her curled foot, planted flat against the edge of the kitchen table.

"Are you going to listen to her?" Peggy said, drying the last dish.

They were both talking to Peggy's cousin, Jean, the tall brunette girl, the one pulling on a pair of crisp gloves and not meeting either woman's gaze. The girl, well, she was beautiful in a toothy, sharp-dimpled way. You had to look very, very close to see the thin skein of lines around her eyes. She was still a good eighteen months away from post-ingenue.

"She don't need to listen to me," Beryl said. "She knows. She can talk to the ex-hubby 'til she's blue in the face and she ain't getting more child support. She thought she married an en-tre-pre-nure and he was just another four-flusher."

"That's enough, Beryl," Peggy said. "Christine's in the other room."

Jean pulled a lipstick from her purse and dabbed her mouth with it.

"Christine knows all about her old man," Beryl said, watching as Jean clipped her purse shut and slung it over her shoulder. "Don't she, Jean?"

Jean finally raised a pair of finely etched eyebrows and looked in Beryl and Peggy's direction as she straightened her hat.

"Five years old," she said. "And she's already got her daddy's number. I should have been so lucky."

"Oh, Jean." Peggy shook her head, hands on her hips.

The girl smiled, all straight, shining teeth and two sets of dimples. The smile was so charming that Peggy couldn't help but smile in return. Even Beryl, nursing a hangover from a late-night party at her apartment next door, managed a grin. Everyone smiled when Jean Spangler smiled. That's why they all said she'd make it someday. And why no one had been surprised when the leading men started circling.

"Are you coming home after you meet with him?" Peggy said, walking her cousin out the front door. Behind them, Jean's daughter, Christine, came running out of the house, following her mother down the front path.

"No." Jean kneeled down and kissed her daughter hard on the cheek. "Can you watch this little darling?"

"Sure. Are you working at the studio tonight?" Peggy asked her.

Jean patted Christine's neat row of blonde bangs and then stood up. "Yeah," she said, winking at Peggy. "Wish me luck."

As Peggy watched her cousin walk away, Christine pulling at her legs and whimpering for Mommy, she felt funny. The same strange feeling she'd had all day. That morning, she and Jean were alone in the house, Mama Spangler away visiting family in Kentucky. When Peggy went to the bathroom to brush her teeth, Jean was already there, zipping up her skirt and looking at herself in the long mirror.

"I had this dream about you last night, Jean," Peggy had said, rubbing her face tiredly, her cheeks still pink and soft from her sleep.

"That so," Jean murmured, straightening a stocking.

The night before, Peggy had gone to bed with her head throbbing from the sloe gin she'd had for a nightcap -- a bad habit she and Jean's brother, Rich, had picked up lately, itching to go out in the evening, like lazy-legs Jean, but with no coin to do it. Peggy was still officially in mourning for Ray, her husband, who'd died at Saipan five years back. Peggy couldn't type, sew, or run a cash register, so pocket money was hard to come by. Rich's only excuse was too many afternoons at the dog track. Too broke to go out on the town, he came by the apartment instead, often staying on the couch overnight.

Many evenings, the family listening to the radio, Peggy and Rich felt their collars scratching, the closeness of the living room, Mama Spangler's nerves on edge, and Jean's little girl, Christine, playing jacks soundlessly for hours, the most blank-faced five-year-old you ever saw. When it was late and just the two of them, they'd make a cocktail, sometimes two, with whatever Jean's boyfriends had left behind. Sometimes soft-tongued scotch, other times the tingly zing of fine stone-white gin.

Jean didn't mind and often she'd get home early enough to join them, wilted gardenia in her hair, the musk of nightclub smoke and long ocean drives radiating off of her. She had fine stories to share, of star sightings at Trader Vic's, seeing the Will Mastin Trio at Ciro's; her voice -- warm and flat with strange pitches to it -- seemed engineered to accompany late-night drinking in cramped spaces, the tightness of frustrated day-living giving over, lovely-like, to the breaking freedom of faint, early intoxication.

That night, however, they'd just about given up on Jean. Peggy was working up the energy to go into the kitchen and soak the gluey red bottoms of their sloe-gin fizz glasses when she finally heard a car idling in front of the apartment.

"Carriage turned back into a pumpkin," Rich murmured, reaching behind his chair to lift up a blind slat.

Peggy smiled tiredly and leaned across the end table to look through the slat, too.

"Dim that light," Rich barked suddenly, before Peggy could get a look herself.

She did as he asked.

"What is it?"

In Peggy's dream that night, Jean had touched her shoulder. When Peggy turned to smile, Jean was looking at her expressionlessly. Then, her cousin opened her mouth and black ashes issued from it in a soft gust, painting a thin layer of glistening soot on her chin, her jaw, her golden collarbone.

"Jean," she'd said in the dream. "Jean, you were on fire."

Jean nodded, saying, "From the inside out." Suddenly, long strands of inky tears dropped from her eyes.

"From the inside out," Peggy repeated, and suddenly she was crying, too.

When she woke up, she wanted to tell Jean about the dream. She might get a kick out of it. She might laugh and make some joke about having one too many cigarettes the night before.

She wanted to tell Jean so she could get the picture out of her head. That was what she wanted. The old story about the kid who dreams about a marshmallow sundae and wakes up with a big bite out of his pillow -- that was how Peggy felt. When she woke up, she was afraid that if she looked at her hands, they'd be smudged with soot from reaching out to Jean's face. When she woke, she stayed in bed for twenty minutes, arms under the covers, afraid to see.

But when she tried to tell Jean, when she got out of bed and found her ironing her burnt-orange "audition dress," Jean barely looked up from what she was doing.

It wasn't until an hour later, when Peggy was putting on her hat to take Christine to play in the park, that Jean approached her.

"Tell me again about that dream." Her hands were clasped in front of her.

Peggy slid her hat off and met her cousin's gaze. She told her the dream once more. This time, she told her everything.

"What do you think about it, Jean? I tell you, it spooked me,"...

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2008. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. From Edgar(R) -nominated novelist Megan Abbott, who makes devotees of Cain and Chandler fall down and beg for mercy (The Hollywood Reporter), The Song Is You imagines a thrilling conclusion to the still unsolved since 1949 Black Dahlia murder case. On October 7, 1949, dark-haired starlet Jean Spangler kissed her five-year-old daughter good-bye and left for a night shoot at a Hollywood studio. Wish me luck, she said as she crossed her fingers, winked, and walked away. She was never seen again. The only clues left behind: a purse with a broken strap found in a nearby park, a cryptic note, and rumors about mobster boyfriends and ill-fated romances with movie stars. Drawing on this true-life missing person case, Megan Abbott s The Song Is You tells the story of Gil Hop Hopkins, a smooth-talking Hollywood publicist whose career, despite his complicated personal life, is on the rise. It is 1951, two years after Jean Spangler s disappearance, and Hop finds himself unwillingly drawn into the still unsolved mystery by a friend of Jean who blames Hop for concealing details about Jean s whereabouts the night she vanished. Driven by guilt and fear of blackmail, Hop delves into the case himself, feverishly trying to stay one step ahead of an intrepid female reporter also chasing the story. Hop thought he d seen it all, but what he uncovers both tantalizes and horrifies him as he plunges deeper and deeper into Hollywood s substratum in his attempt to uncover the truth. In the tradition of James Ellroy s The Black Dahlia and Joyce Carol Oates s Blonde, The Song Is You conjures a heady brew of truth and speculation, of fact and pulp fiction, taking the reader on a dark tour of Tinseltown, from movie studios, gala premieres, and posh nightclubs to gangsters, blackmailing B-girls, and the darkest secrets that lie behind Hollywood s luminous facade. At the center of it all is Hop, a man torn between cutthroat ambition and his own best intentions. Seller Inventory # BZV9780743291729

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