The Empty Glass: A Novel

The Empty Glass: A Novel

3.2 24
by J.I. Baker

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“J. I. Baker takes a bold run into Cain and DeLillo territory and scores.” —Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart

In the early-morning hours of August 5, 1962, Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald arrives at the home of the world’s most famous movie star, now lying dead in her bedroom. There he discovers The Book of

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“J. I. Baker takes a bold run into Cain and DeLillo territory and scores.” —Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart

In the early-morning hours of August 5, 1962, Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald arrives at the home of the world’s most famous movie star, now lying dead in her bedroom. There he discovers The Book of Secrets—Marilyn Monroe’s diary—revealing a doomed love affair with a man she refers to only as “The General.” In the following days, Ben unravels a cover-up that implicates the Kennedys, the Mafia, and the CIA. Soon the sinister and surreal accounts recorded in The Book bleed into Ben’s own life, and he finds himself trapped—like Monroe—in a deepening paranoid conspiracy. A knockout combination of fact and legend, The Empty Glass is a riveting debut thriller.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Chapter 1

After a while, everything started to blur.

I felt that I’d spent hours, days, lying on the floor of this hotel room with my face against the wood and my eyes open wide as the air came through the vent near my head. The whoosh was all I heard— then the door closing, the keys in the lock, the footsteps on the floor stopping as I turned to see the patent leather shoes before my eyes, the stub of a cigarette dropped between them, burning.

And then there was the gun.

“Wake up.” Captain Hamilton pushed the Smith & Wesson into my neck. “I want you to write me a letter.”

I don’t remember when or how I did it. The three (or was it four? Or five? Or ten? I don’t remember) Nembutals had knocked me out. The captain was out of focus, going double.

He handed me the pen that she had used to write her own last words, and forced me to write mine. Reeling on the bed with his gun at my temple, I thought of the notes written on napkins and doors and windows and carpets that lined the shelves of Suicide Notes and Weapons. Now I was adding my own: Take care of Max for me. Tell him that I loved him. Tell him that whatever else his father did, he loved his son.

“That’s good, Delilah.” He loomed over me. “Now you feel good?”

I nodded.

“Even better.” He handed me the bottle.

I leaned forward, reached for the pills, and ended up with the gun. Ah, his shoulder had been injured, Doc. You know that.

I don’t need to tell you that I shot him. I was on my back, elbows locked. He was bending down when the gun kicked, a black dime smoking on his chest. He reared, touched the hole, and stared at the fluid that glistened like oil on his finger. “Oh, I know what this is,” he said as he fell.

I heard the sound his skull made.

I know what happens when you die.

You sigh and rub your forehead. “All right.” You shake a Chesterfield from your pack and light it with a kitchen match. You drag and blow smoke to the ceiling fan with the bulb above the table, and I notice (not for the first time) how clammy and pitted your skin is. You’re a big man, Doc, like an aging football player, with the face and waist of a small- town cop. “Let’s go over this again,” you say. You adjust your wire- rimmed glasses and check the notes that you are keeping in the book near the Sony reel-to-reel, lying on the desk like a suitcase, rolling at RECORD. “You shot him.”

“In self- defense. You see the bandages. You gave me the Novril.”

“Is it working?”

“For now.”

You sit on one side of the table; I sit on the other. Between us, that reel-to-reel, a stack of used and unused seven- inch tapes, a glass ashtray, a vial of Novril, and your pack of Chesterfields. There is also a box with a label reading “Fitzgerald, Ben, Psych Eval.” It contains what you call “the evidence”:

  • 1. The Smith & Wesson
  • 2. A vial of Nembutal
  • 3. A piece of notebook paper reading “Chalet 52” and “July 28
  • 4. A stained manila folder containing a number of 8 × 10 photographs
  • 5. Amahl and the Night Visitors
  • 6. A bag of ashes
  • 7. A new red MEMORIES diary.

You pick up Item No. 1. “It had your fingerprints on it.”

“Like I said, I shot him.”


“Why did anyone do anything? Everything changed after she died.”


“The actress. I’ve told you this already.”

“Tell me again.”

So I do:

“I woke to the sound of the knock on the door and sat up in the light from the neon sign that snaked along the wall outside the window,” I say. “An empty carton of moo goo gai pan sat beside me; I hadn’t thrown it out. I wasn’t sure if I had dreamt the knock or actually heard it. I didn’t have a phone—”

“Hang on.” You are frowning. Something is wrong with the Sony. The wheels have stopped. You hit REWIND, then PLAY, and I hear my voice:

“—touched the hole, and stared at the fluid that glistened like oil

on his finger—”

You hit STOP and look up at me. “Like oil?”

I nod.

“It glistened like oil, Ben?”

“It’s a simile.”

“Who do you think you are, Edna Ferber?”

But you can’t hear my voice on the tape anymore. This is where the recording stopped. There is nothing but static. You make minor adjustments to the machine and try it again: REWIND, STOP, PLAY.

It doesn’t work. You hit it with the heel of your hand.


My voice: “Why did anyone do anything? Everything changed after she died.”

You pause the tape and look at me. “Now pick up where you left off.”

“Give me a cigarette first.”

“I thought you quit.”

“That was yesterday.”

You give me a cigarette.

And a Novril, too: for the pain.

After a while, everything starts to blur.

“Tell the truth this time,” you say.

“I already told you the truth.”

“So tell it again.”

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for THE EMPTY GLASS by J. I. Baker:

The Empty Glass comes rampaging out of the gate and keeps on roaring and roistering until the sad, salutary shock of its final pages. After I started, the vivid writing and the presence of the unhappy latter-day Marilyn Monroe kept me reading all the way to the end. I want to tell everyone within the sound of my voice to buy this splendid novel. It's really punchy and really good, and you really should read it.”
—Peter Straub, award-winning author of In The Night Room

“J.I. Baker takes a bold run into Cain and DeLillo territory and scores. The Empty Glass is chilled and redolent of a good gin martini, leaving you primed to order another.”
—Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart

“Stylishly written and perfectly paced, The Empty Glass is noir fiction re-imagined for the modern era, a novel that is sharp, smart and breathlessly fast-paced, yet somehow manages to convey the slow burn of an old regret. As such, it marks the auspicious debut of a new voice in American suspense.”
—Thomas H. Cook, Edgar Award-winning author of Taken

“[In The Empty Glass] Baker conjures a suitably paranoid atmosphere and crackling dialogue in this look at the seedy intersection of celebrity, politics, and power.”

The Empty Glass is riveting, brilliant, and endlessly fascinating. Writing from a wholly original perspective, J.I. Baker has combined the history and myth surrounding one of the most intriguing deaths of last century and created a shocking, unputdownable thriller. ”
—Jason Starr, author of The Craving

“J. I. Baker has spun a gripping and pulse-pounding conspiracy. Smart, perfectly atmospheric, and ultimately heartbreaking, The Empty Glass is one not to miss. It will stay with you long after the final page.”
—Andrew Gross, author of 15 Seconds and co-author of six #1 NYT bestsellers with James Patterson

“[An] imaginative 1960s yarn.”
US Weekly

“Marilyn Monroe is suicide. So why does all the evidence suggest that she was murdered? Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald’s relentless search for answers leads him down a dangerous path away from his sanity—and [he] takes readers along with him....a totally credible imagining of [Monroe’s] uncensored speech: breathy, sparingly punctuated and a little bit lost.... but Baker is totally in control, and watching him lead his hero along a precarious tightrope of reason is scary—and totally exhilarating.”
—Nathalie Gorman,

“It's LA CONFIDENTIAL meets the Bio channel with a little TMZ thrown in for fun.”

“Baker imagines Marilyn Monroe’s death through the eyes of the coroner. Mixing fact and theory, this taut thriller explores conspiracies around her as well as the official’s own psychological turmoil.”

“James Ellroy fans will relish Baker’s impressive first novel, a dark paranoid thriller … barbed prose makes a familiar story fresh. Fluent in the noir idiom, Baker maintains the depressing atmospherics throughout.”
Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

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The Empty Glass 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
CCOlive4 More than 1 year ago
Great take on what really could have happened to Marilyn in her last days and what happened to the people investing her death.Kept me till the end and then kept me thinking,......Could it really have happened that way??
mikeval More than 1 year ago
Well written, imaginative, entertaining and thrilling. I read it in one day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept your heart racing until the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cupcakes4eva More than 1 year ago
this book was exceptionally written.  i loved Ben's voice and his curious nature and enjoyed discovering the secrets of Marilyn Monroe alongside him.  the writing in this book was beautiful and the idea of the story being written as Ben told it to "Doc" was creative and different.  the ending was sort of confusing and at times i tripped over characters and wished that Baker supplied me with more information, which i why i'm only giving this novel four stars.  one day in the future hopefully i will re-read this book so i can say that i give it five stars, but for now it is only four because of a couple of confusing parts... overall, i loved this book and was haunted and captivated by Ben's thrilling ride.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
VirtuousWomanKF More than 1 year ago
Writing is very poor and at most times disjointed.  Did not enjoy the book whatsoever.  If it had not been chosen for our book club, I would not have bothered finishing it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Page turner though confusing at times. Have researched MM for 50yrs. This books uses known documentation to weave a plausible story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Writing was sketchy. The story did not flow well. Nothing new about the details of Ms. Monroe's early tragic death.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
teach92 More than 1 year ago
It was a very strange book. Hard to follow and very depressing.
CTinAZ More than 1 year ago
This read like a 1940's P.I. movie. It takes the story of Marilyn's death scene and imagines things that never happened. The protagonist is , of course, smarter than everyone else in the world. I felt like I really wasted my money on this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great book it was interesting and well written I could not stop reading it I even brought my nook to work with me so I could keep reading it.
MaritaNE More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to get into. It was written as if the person was talking to someone, then it switched to "live action" and kept going back and forth, so was confusing at times. It did have a good plot overall.
AntomyOfaSoul More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. Excellently paced, very intriguing, suspenseful, and well-written. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book does alot of jumping around not as good as I though it was going to be disappointed ....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I see what the writer was trying to convey! Sad Marilyn only some understood her
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story kept me interested and in suspense i loved the writing and could not put it down umtil the end highly recommended