The Joan Crawford Murdersby Peter Joseph Swanson
Joan Crawford returns to MGM in 1953. Her comeback to her alma mater is to make the garish musical Torch Song. Joan suspects that it's hokum, and that she's getting too old for such parts, but she is desperate to make it work. That includes living at the studio in her dressing room during production. All the while, a psycho killer Joan Crawford drag queen stalks… See more details below
Joan Crawford returns to MGM in 1953. Her comeback to her alma mater is to make the garish musical Torch Song. Joan suspects that it's hokum, and that she's getting too old for such parts, but she is desperate to make it work. That includes living at the studio in her dressing room during production. All the while, a psycho killer Joan Crawford drag queen stalks Hollywood to eliminate other Joan Crawford drag queens, and Joan is so strung out on vodka and super strength diet pills that she isn't sure if she has taken up murder herself. Her gay best friend is poised ready to help her party. A powerful gangster is only interested in saving her reputation until death, and her loyal hairdresser has a son who has his own sneaky Joan Crawford secrets. The final epic showdown between Joan Crawford and Joan Crawford is beyond any movie ending ever filmed. Followed by the sequel, The Joan Crawford Monsters.
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This review is of Peter Swanson's Tinseltown Trilogy ~ Hollywood Sinners, The Joan Crawford Murders, and Bad Movies. Some time has passed since I completed the third and final book and I have no excuse for being so slow at posting the review(s). Save only that life has intruded and I did not want to write reviews without being totally engrossed. I wasn't going to take the chance of possibly turning away future readers and/or fans. I also couldn't decide how best to write the reviews, either one at a time or all three in one. So, without further ado, I give you the Menage a trois: Hollywood Sinners, The Joan Crawford Murders, and Bad Movies. In Hollywood Sinners, I was transported to the glories and horrors of Hollywood in the 30's. I followed Karin from her home on the farm to her marriage with the lunatic drunk into Hollywood where she met Ramon, Mama, Carol, Antonio, Etienne and Sister Agatha. That sounds simple, but in reality, I cringed as she suffered at the hands of the drunk, who got what was coming to him pretty early in the tale. I laughed with her and the conversations she had with others. I imagined waking up beside her in the ditch as a foot long lizard stared at us both. I rode on her coattails as she pursued a dream of making it big and all the experiences that go along with the journey. I won't give it away by saying what happened to Karin and those she came into contact with. However, I will say the journey was quite an enjoyable ride. In The Joan Crawford Murders, I was again sent to Hollywood only this time the setting was the 50's. Instead of Karin, I was now enjoying the city with Joan Crawford. Whatever I thought I knew about Joan was thrown to the side after reading this book. During Joan's comeback production, I was able to see her in a new light as one Joan Crawford drag queen look-a-like is murdered after another. One by one someone is eliminating them and Joan's alcohol and drug induced paranoia had me wondering if she wasn't the psychotic killer. You know, Joan, no not that one...this one, not her...her. In the end, well...no, I can't tell you. Just get the book and read the filming for yourself. Who knows who will be left standing in the end ;) The final book in the trilogy, Bad Movies, was as good if not better than the first two. It had me laughing, cringing, crying, and blushing more than ever as I was thrust into the 70's with Jill in Tinseltown. Jill wishes to be a successful model, however she is naive as to the price she'll have to pay to achieve this goal. The price of bad movie making, a stalking psycho, murders, and natural disasters. All of these make an appearance in Jill's journey to stardom. Not to mention her fleeting, but haunting memories of losing body parts.... In my opinion, these books were a welcomed distraction. Peter made me believe I was in Tinseltown and witnessing everything happening. He made the characters, their dreams and motivations, their struggles and achievements, and the lifestyles believable. The mystery and intrigue had me wondering what was going to happen next. All in all, I enjoyed these three books and I look forward to reading more by this author.
Look around; everywhere you turn is heartache. It's everywhere that you go. You try everything you can to escape. .the sordidness of 1950s Hollywood, with its goat-cults of Osiris, washed-up monster movie actors, gangsters bent on burying you in the middle of the desert, and sinister Joan Crawford impersonators running around screaming "Bloody knife! Bloody knife!" If all else fails and you long to be something better than you are today, I know a place where you can get away, it's called... The Joan Crawford Murders (Book Two of the Tinseltown Trilogy) by Peter Joseph Swanson. If you grew up in the '80s like I did, your first impression of Joan Crawford may have come from Faye Dunaway's portrayal of her in Mommy Dearest. No doubt it scared you off of wire hangers for life. Joan Crawford, who died the year I was born, was actually a fascinating woman with a long and celebrated stage, screen and television career. Her name at birth was Lucille LeSeuer. Louis B. Mayer (studio head of MGM) made her change it because it sounded too much like "sewer." His first choice was "Joan Arden," but that name was already taken, so she became Joan Crawford, a name she always thought sounded uncomfortably close to "crawfish." Peter Joseph Swanson has fun playing with the biographical details of Joan's life in his novel. She was born in Texas, and she did try like the devil to remove any trace of Southwest twang from her speaking voice. William Haines was her closest friend, and he did give her the nickname "Cranberry" (a play on "crawfish," saying she ought to be serving at Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and cranberry sauce). You don't have to know Joan Crawford's real-life history to enjoy this book, though. Peter brings her to the page as a larger-than-life character, a Hollywood star with all a star's excesses and passions who half believes some of her movies were real. She thunders through the pages in faux diamonds and real furs with a gun in her handgun, ripping lesser starlets (in Joan's opinion, everyone but herself) like Esther Williams and Marilyn Monroe to shreds with her letter-opener-sharp words. But a star of Joan's caliber wouldn't literally rip a starlet (or a drag queen) to shreds, would she? In her vodka- and diet pill-induced fog, Joan doesn't even trust herself anymore. Read carefully, or you may miss some of Peter's clever one-liners. Despite all the grisly murders and shady Hollywood backroom dealings, this book is fun, fun, fun. There's even a splash of sex here and there, though of course observed through the warped lens of Peter's offbeat literary style. Whether you love mysteries and crime novels, Old School Hollywood, or both, this book promises to be like nothing you've ever read before.
Peter Joseph Swanson has a knack for informing and making you think, as well as entertaining. I know so little of Hollywood that I had to look up whether "Torch Song" was a real movie after reading "The Joan Crawford Murders." (It was.) But I didn't bother to look up how movies were made, the twists and turns of costumes and scenery, and the wonders of moving backdrops in glorious Technicolor. The author had convinced me already that his portrayals would be true. I haven't looked up the club scene of the Joan Crawford drag-queen look-alikes either, but I feel like I've been there, like a fly on the wall, or a sequin camera fastened to one of Joan Crawford's incredible outfits. IMDB tells me how over-the-top the acting in "Torch Song" was. And the author paints an over-the-top artiste and her world with Technicolor words and dialog, bringing the whole to life (or death, I guess, in the case of the murdered victims). Viewed through the lens of vodka, diet pills, and a desperate need to stay on top, "The Joan Crawford Murders" creates an utterly convincing, amazing, amusing and totally entertaining world. And then you wonder, if that world was never entirely real, then how come it reminds me so much of here?