by John Gregory Dunne

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A critically acclaimed best-seller set in the glamorous, gangster-dominated Hollywood of the 1940s tells the story of Blue Tyler, a child star who disappears from Hollywood and becomes a bag lady in New York City.


A critically acclaimed best-seller set in the glamorous, gangster-dominated Hollywood of the 1940s tells the story of Blue Tyler, a child star who disappears from Hollywood and becomes a bag lady in New York City.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fitful, often contradictory memories of a former child film star's decade of fame and the cloaked brutality that surrounded her in the film industry give shape to Dunne's latest, enthralling novel, a tragic tale of behind-the-scenes Hollywood from the '30s to the present. Skillfully interweaving numerous small narratives, Dunne ( True Confessions ) explores the steep price of stardom, the potentially destructive power of storytelling (including filmmaking) and the illusory nature of truth. Screenwriter Jack Broderick, scion of a late Hollywood billionaire, has recently lost his wife in an automobile accident and is halfheartedly researching a movie when he finds Blue Tyler living in a trailer park outside Detroit. More than 40 years after leaving Hollywood--she was blacklisted as a Communist and grieving over the death of her flamboyant gangster lover--an impoverished Blue, though mildly delusional, still retains much of her glamorous charisma. Determined to solve the puzzle of Blue's contradictory versions of her life and the real reason for her disappearance, Jack pores over records and interviews other survivors of the era--each of whom, in turn, tells a slightly different account colored by self-interest. Dunne's ear for vernacular is as keen as ever, producing gritty, on-pitch, often funny dialogue. His sharp eye and his gift for the precise, almost journalistic detail evokes Hollywood in successive eras, and his characters are as vivid and memorable as any he has ever created. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Recovering from his wife's sudden death, Hollywood screenwriter Jack Broderick (the hero of Dunne's last novel, The Red White and Blue, LJ 4/15/87) flies to Detroit to research story ideas. In a Michigan trailer park, he discovers a coupon-clipping bag lady named Melba Mae Toolate who claims to have been Blue Tyler, one of the biggest child movie stars of the 1940s. Melba tells Broderick her life story, focusing on her scandalous liaison with Jacob King, a flamboyant gangster and Las Vegas visionary modeled on Bugsy Siegel. Playland offers a compelling film noir vision of Tinseltown during the war years, with cameo appearances by real-life personalities such as Walter Winchell. Unfortunately, Warren Beatty's recent film Bugsy covered much the same ground, and long sections of the book read like a remake of that movie. In the end, it is Dunne's colorful minor characters who hold the reader's interest. Recommended for larger collections of Hollywood fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/94.]-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law School Lib., Los Angeles
School Library Journal
YA-A terrific read. Screen writer Jack Broderick finds himself in several awkward situations even before he winds up sharing a late-night cab ride with Blue Tyler. Tyler, a former child star 40 years removed from Hollywood, is now Autumn Breeze Trailer Park's answer to Norma Desmond. Sensing a story with a big payoff, Broderick tries to answer the questions surrounding her long hiatus. Young adults will be swept away as Jack Broderick tries to piece together the wild story of Blue Tyler. Dunne's vibrant characters and true-to-life dialogue make Playland impossible to put down.-Philip Clark, R.E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Donna Seaman
The quest that drives this shrewd, ironic, caustic, and extremely well written Hollywood novel involves finding what became of Blue Tyler, one of the hottest child stars of the late 1940s. Blue, actually Melba Mae Toolate, was cast as a pure and innocent little girl, but there was always something risque about her, something inviting more than paternal pats on the head, something that inspired her more demonstrative fans to send her letters encrusted with a certain bodily fluid. Dunne's hilarious and hapless narrator, Jack Broderick, estranged son of a mean-spirited billionaire and a modestly successful screenwriter, ends up finding Blue in a trailer park outside of Detroit after weathering a series of bloody disasters fraught with absurdity. Indeed, most of the initial plot shifts are precipitated by unexpected deaths. This is in keeping with the nasty, hypocritical machinations of postwar Hollywood, when gangsters were as glamorous as movie stars, and chic segued into violence with horrifying alacrity. Sex scandals, casino deals, the red scare and blacklisting all play a role in the cynical tale of Blue Tyler and her love affair with handsome hit man Jacob King. Everyone has an angle, whether it's money, power, lust, or the perspective of the camera. In sum, this is a wickedly funny, foulmouthed, hard-boiled, and perfectly executed bit of adult entertainment.

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Random House Publishing Group
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