Books & Projects

The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist

In October 2016 I was approached by an editor at Running Press, who was interested in doing a book about Marilyn and her 1955 movie, ‘The Seven Year Itch’. We talked for a long time about how the film had created an icon and gave Marilyn a push to go to New York and create her own film company. We were both intrigued by the idea that the film had inspired Marilyn, who had then gone onto inspire others. The effect her bravery had on women was an area we wanted to explore, and so I set about writing a proposal which reflected all of our vision and intention for the book.

Just before Christmas 2016, I was given the go-ahead to write the book, and it was the best present I could have wished for! For the past 30 years, I have been fighting Marilyn’s corner and telling the world how brave and intelligent she was, so it has been an absolute pleasure to put all that down on paper. It is my hope that fans will be able to use the book to prove to others just how much strength and determination Marilyn had, during an era where women were supposed to grow up, marry a nice young man and settle down. At the core of the book are the years 1954 to 1956, but there is so much more to it than that. I am immensely proud of the book and I can’t wait to see it published in May 2018. Look out for more news and updates on my blog.


The Battered Body Beneath the Flagstones and other Victorian Scandals

Several years ago, I sent some ideas to my editor at Robinson/Little, Brown, and he really liked the sound of a book all about Victorian Scandals. I wrote a proposal and after he had taken it to several editorial meetings, it was given the green light. The book is very special to me because I’ve always been fascinated by the Victorians, and this is the first time I’ve ever written about this particular period of time. I enjoyed it immensely and it has inspired me to research other Victorian/Edwardian stories for possible future books. I’d also like to write a novel based in this era, so you heard it here first!

‘The Battered Body Beneath the Flagstones and other Victorian Scandals,’ is 100,000 words long and comes in three sections: Scandals involving actors and actresses; Scandals between family members and lovers; and Scandals which either amused, bemused or perplexed the Victorians! I don’t know exactly how many stories there are in the book, but there are many! Here’s an exclusive to my website: one of the scandals involves a family member of mine! It tells the tale of my great, great uncle; an Italian ice-cream man living in Aberdeen, who was taken to court for breach of promise. He had asked a girl to marry him as something of a joke, but when he broke it off, the scoundrel was not allowed to get away with it! You can read more about this and many other Victorian Scandals, when it is published in April 2018. Also check out my blog for more information and updates.


A Girl Called Pearl

This is my first ever children’s book! The story is about a young girl called Pearl, who is growing up in the Los Angeles foster system during the 1920s and 1930s. She has a pretty horrible life, but dreams of meeting her idol, Jean Harlow. One day while living in an orphanage, she finally gets the chance to go on an adventure in search of Jean. Will she find her? You’ll have to read the book to find out! Also look out for a cameo appearance by Norma Jeane, who meets Pearl in the orphanage!


Carole Lombard: Twentieth-Century Star

UK Publisher: The History Press, 2016

My Carole Lombard book has an even longer history than the Thelma one. I started research in 2007, and it was published by The History Press in September 2016. My agent has told me he thinks this book will be the definitive volume on Lombard’s life and career, and that has made me extremely proud indeed. To write the book I ordered as many documents as I could possibly get my hands on: from her agent’s records, to production notes, FBI files and everything in-between. The result is a book very rich in previously unknown behind-the-scenes details of Carole’s film career, as well as many details about her early life and that of her parents.

Carole was a woman well ahead of her time, and her experiences have taught me a lot about how I want to conduct my own career. I feel more empowered after discovering her story and reading her interviews. She was a woman who always stuck to what she believed in and never, ever let anyone walk all over her. She was definitely a woman to be admired, and I hope this comes across in the book.

carole lombard cover


 

The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd

USA Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 2015

One of the books I am most proud of is The Ice Cream Blonde. I first wanted to write this book at the beginning of 2010, and it was finally published at the end of 2015. I had to research very deeply to find out about the many twists and turns of her eventful life, and then I had to go through all the literature, documents and reports involving her death. It was an extraordinary process, which only really finished a couple of months before publication. While I had finished the manuscript in August 2014, the editing process brought up many questions not only about Thelma’s life but of course her death too. I went back and forth with the editors for a long time, but it was all worth it. The book as it is now is much, much better because of the questions I was asked during the editing. As a result of all the hard work, it has gained many fantastic reviews from respected reviewers such as Liz Smith and Thomas Gladysz.  The book also appeared on the Huffington Post’s Best Film Books of 2015 list. This was a dream-come-true for me because I had wanted to make this list for many years!

thelma cover


Before Marilyn

(co-author Astrid Franse)

UK Publisher: The History Press, 2015

USA Publisher: St Martin’s Press, 2015

This was an interesting project to work on. Astrid and Ben Franse bought a box full of Marilyn items many years ago. In 2012 they discovered that these were actually the archive of The Blue Book Agency; the modelling agency Norma Jeane (Marilyn) was signed to in 1945. Astrid wanted to turn the archive into a book and approached me in 2013. Astrid had done a great deal of research into the archive’s contents, and then we both did more over the months ahead. Once everything was complete, I wrote the manuscript then sent it to Astrid for her input. We went back and forth until the book was perfect and ready to send to the publisher.

It was a challenging project to work on because of the many photographs and documents involved, but it has been worth it. The book has been published in the UK and USA, and reviewed far and wide. It has been featured in The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday, The National Enquirer, The National Examiner, The Lady, Harper’s Bazaar and many, many more.

Before Marilyn


Madonna

UK Publisher: Robinson/Little, Brown, 2015

Madonna has been my idol since I was fourteen years old. She is a huge inspiration to me and through reading and learning about her life I have been encouraged to make my own dreams come true. When I was commissioned to write this book, I was so excited. It is a photo book, rather than a biography, with 40,000 words and 220 photographs. The book tells Madonna’s story from birth, right through to the making of her Rebel Heart CD, and I also included an Introduction, explaining how I became a Madonna fan and what she means to me.

I loved writing this book so much. It was the most fun I have ever had on a project and as a result, it only took me about a month to write the first draft. I worked from morning until night on it, and was quite sad when it was all finished. It is definitely one of my favourite books. It has been published in the UK, the USA (as The Mammoth Book of Madonna) and soon it will also be out in Korea!

Madonna_cover


Hollywood Scandals

UK Publisher: Robinson, 2013

This book covers dozens and dozens of Hollywood scandals, ranging from the silent stars right through to the modern day. There are murders, affairs, mysteries, arrests and much, much more. The book is 170,000 words long and I had less than a year to research, write and edit it! I made a strict timetable which I stuck to throughout 2012, and managed to complete it in ten months. To find out about the Hollywood scandals that gripped the nation ‘back in the day’ I went straight to vintage newspapers, magazine articles and documents; often unearthing revealing stories that had never been featured in scandals books before. It was a huge undertaking to write this book, but I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot from it. It has been published in the UK and the USA.

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Wife Five: A Play

(co-author Steve Hayes)

USA Publisher: BearManor Media, 2013

Wife Five is the story of Harry and his four spirited ex-wives. They still hang out at his house; still use his pool and torment him on a regular basis. But when Harry decides to marry wife number five, it threatens to disrupt their way of life. Over the course of a weekend, a plan is concocted to get rid of the interloper once and for all, through a mixture of comedy, cunning and a battle of the wills.

The play was born through a friendship I developed with Hollywood scriptwriter Steve Hayes. He told me about a play he had written, but was not totally happy with it; especially the Second Act. I totally rewrote the second part of the play, and then together we went through and made adjustments to the entire work. We are both very proud of the play and my hope is to one day see it performed on stage – so if you are a producer, feel free to get in touch!

WifeFivecover.indd


Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed: New Edition

UK Publisher: Robinson, 2012

While I enjoyed writing the first edition of Private and Undisclosed, there was a problem in that I had written 30,000 more words than the publisher actually wanted! Being new to the game, I decided that they would just cram everything in anyway. Wrong! They took out 30,000 words and with those went some really great stories too. Needless to say, when I got the opportunity to write a revised edition, I jumped at the chance.

At 140,000 words, the revised edition is almost twice as long as the first, and while it does not have as many photographs, it has many, many stories that were not included before. The book has been a wonderful success and reached number 16 on the WH Smith Bestseller chart in 2012. It has since been published in the USA (As Marilyn Monroe: Private and Confidential), Russia and Bulgaria.

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Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed

UK Publisher: Constable and Robinson, 2007

This book was the result of many years of research into Marilyn Monroe’s life. It was never my intention to write a biography but after approaching an agent about doing a revised edition of Marilyn’s Addresses, he told me he’d rather represent a biography. In the end he was not the agent for me, but he did plant a seed in my head about one day writing a full-scale story of Marilyn’s life.

I began my search for new information and people to interview. I was told by some Marilyn experts that there was no-one left to interview; that they’d either all spoken before or had passed away. That only spurred me on and in the end I found literally a hundred people who were willing to be interviewed, many for the first time.

I did the initial research for this book while pregnant with my daughter in 2003. Then when she was a baby I would write and research whenever she took a nap. In 2005 I got an agent (The Robert Smith Literary Agency); in 2006 he sold the idea to Constable and Robinson, and in 2007 it was published. The book received many positive reviews, as well as an eight page article (plus cover) in The Sunday Times.

priv undisclosed1


Marilyn’s Addresses

Publisher: Smith Gryphon, 1995

This was released in 1995 and was the first professionally published book I ever wrote. The idea was to take readers on a tour of Marilyn-related locations, such as homes, places of work, hotels, studios etc. etc. The book has hundreds of addresses, accompanied by information related to each one. The reason I wanted to write this book was because when I first visited Los Angeles in 1992, I had no idea where any of the Marilyn locations were, and we ended up missing quite a few. I did not have that problem when I returned in 1995, armed with Marilyn’s Addresses.

While this edition of the book has long been out-of-print, please note that a revised paperback edition (entitled Marilyn’s Footsteps,) is available to buy from Lulu.com. It is also available on Kindle (entitled Marilyn’s Places) from most Amazon stores. It does not include any photographs but does have many addresses.

Marilyns addresses


 

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