Publisher: Penguin Group, 2019

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Available Spring 2019

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The Great Pretenders

 

Hollywood, 1953: From the beach at Malibu to leafy Laurel Canyon, from the soundstages of Empire Pictures to jazz clubs on Central Avenue, Roxanne Granville’s sunlit world is shadowed by secrets.

Roxanne, granddaughter of Julia and Leon Greene, founder of Empire Pictures, romped through a charmed, wealthy childhood until Leon’s passionate affair with a much younger actress destroyed his marriage. Leaving the Greenes’ fabulous mansion Roxanne moves to a Malibu bungalow, and takes an entry level job at a prestigious agency. When the boss attempts a sexual conquest, she quits, and moving forward, forges a career unique for a woman in the 1950s, becoming an agent for hungry, young screenwriters. Her clients work for low wages and long hours in B pictures, and the new voracious medium, television.

Her professional fortunes soar when one of her writers enjoys a stunning success. But this victory is based on a lie. The picture is actually the work of a disgraced writer from Empire’s glory days, a man who had refused to co-operate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and found himself blacklisted, unable to work under his own name. He is not alone; the blacklist destroyed sterling reputations, wrecked careers, smashed long friendships. One by one, blacklisted writers surreptitiously approach Roxanne asking her to find fronts for their work. Out of loyalty, affection, respect for these writers–and unresolved resentment against Leon–Roxanne agrees. She wades into a world murky with duplicity and deception.

Her life is further complicated when fate–and a police raid on a jazz club—introduce her to Terrence Dexter, a compelling African American journalist unlike anyone she’s ever known. Roxanne again breaks rules, risks everything as she and Terrence are swept up in a dangerous, passionate love affair.

Roxanne Granville bravely defies the era she is born to. Enmeshed in a swirling cauldron of pretense, lies and deceit, her many secrets make her, and those she loves, vulnerable to ruin.

The Great Pretenders is riveting, resonant fiction, a novel about aspiration and desperation, about sex and star billing, defiance, betrayals, forbidden love and unregretted folly.

Women in Hollywood

Offscreen roles for women have changed over the years. In 1948 women made up some 25% of the writers in Hollywood. By 1974 that number had fallen to 14%.

The Blacklist Era

Despite a longstanding love of film and the darkened theatre, I had never given much thought to the Hollywood blacklist until the 1999 Oscars when the Academy gave a special award to Elia Kazan, the legendary director – and cooperating witness to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Television

Television is an important part of my novel, The Great Pretenders. Doing the research, I was astonished to find that the first talkie of Cyrano de Bergerac was actually made for British television in 1938.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Some moments in American history are embedded forever in the national imagination, our collective memory.