THR's 5 Books of the Week: California Rock, Steve Martin’s Tweets, Sex in Old Hollywood, Anne Boleyn Re-imagined, and a Takedown of Fox News.
The Hollywood Reporter’s book picks include something for everyone.
Topping the week is an informative history of L.A.’s music scene in the '60s told through the little-known story of the Wrecking Crew, the city’s most sought-after studio musicians.
Also up is a plumbing of Hollywood’s history by Scotty Bowers in Full Service, his jaw-dropping account of his affairs with some of Hollywood’s best-known stars of the '50s and '60s. A modern look at sex and power is provided in screenwriter Carol Wolper’s retelling of the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn as a Hollywood tale.
Other new books include a takedown of Fox News by the top executives at Media Matters and a collection of Steve Martin’s tweets.
Check out THR’s books of the week below:
The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret by Kent Hartman (Thomas Dunne, 304 pages).
Hartman recounts the overlooked story of the Wrecking Crew, the best session musicians on the West Coast, in this fascinating book. From when Phil Spector first brought them together in 1962 until the mid-70s, they were the most sought after studio musicians in California. Few people know their name but everyone will recognize their sound(s) by looking at a short list of the musicians they recorded with: the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, the Byrds, Sonny & Cher, and the Monkees. Their name--really an informal nickname--came from another studio musician who complained that the group was so good they were wrecking the business for everyone else.
Hartman uses a mini-biography approach, focusing on key players to illustrate the group's history. Among the best-known members of the crew were songwriter Jimmie Webb and singer/guitarists Glenn Campbell (yes that Glenn Campbell!). Both Webb and Campbell were poor young kids who stumbled into the Wrecking Crew and parlayed the experience into successful solo careers. But Crew members didn't need solo careers to feel successful. They were so busy as studio musicians that many members took home more money than the president of the United States. Although there have been at least two other books and an unreleased documentary about the Wrecking Crew, the story will be unfamiliar to many. Hartman's book is a great tour through the California music scene of the 60s and 70s and a great introduction to how the music business functioned back then. This story has all the makings of a great HBO series.
Anne of Hollywood by Carol Wolper (Gallery Books, 338 pages).
Wolper's novel reimagines the story of Anne Boleyn as a Hollywood tale. Henry VIII is now Henry Tudor, a billionaire entertainment magnate with a discarded older wife Catherine, and a daughter Maren; Thomas Cromwell is given a sex change and reinvented as a venomous lieutenant named Theresa; Cardinal Woolsey has become a crooked financial advisor; and Jane Seymour is a hippie jewelry designer from San Francisco. Anne, an aspiring writer, snags Henry's attention away from her laid-back sister Mary. Henry marries Anne and sets his sights on being governor of California. Cromwell thinks Anne, who has given birth to a daughter Elizabeth but miscarried a boy is a liability. She engineers Anne's arrest for drunken driving and insures that gossip bloggers trash her. But Anne is only truly sunk when Henry falls for Jane Seymour, a rich hippie who he thinks will help his bid to be governor.
Wolper, who got her start working for uber-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and has written scripts for CBS, FX and HBO, knows Hollywood and has seen the power rich men wield up close. The story of Henry and his wives is a perfect tale for a modern Hollywood update and Wolper gives it a fun witty spin. This is a perfect beach read for anyone headed somewhere warm for a mid-winter break or, for those not traveling, the perfect book to lose oneself in on a dreary day. ABC is already adapting the novel for TV.
Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars by Scotty Bowers (Grove Press, 288 pages).
Scotty Bowers memoir of his sexcapades in Old Hollywood has unsurprisingly gotten a whirlwind of media attention. The stories the former Marine tells about running an escort service out of a gas station on Hollywood will make your head spin. Bowers claims to have had relationships with Cary Grant, Vincent Price, J. Edgar Hoover and Edward, the Duke of Windsor. In addition, he says he also procured girls for everyone from Katherine Hepburn (more than 150 by his count) to Desi Arnaz (Lucy didn't like him). It is easy to wonder if Bowers is making much of this up, but he has credible people vouching for his authenticity, notably the writer Gore Vidal, and his story has been gossiped about in Hollywood for years. What Full Service reveals at its best is a Hollywood that was a company town, a small community, that shielded its own from to much scrutiny. From the perspective of the 21st century, it is striking how inwardly sexual but outwardly chaste Hollywood was seventy years ago. The exact opposite is true today. Hollywood looks more provocatively sexual, but it is hard to believe many stars have as active a bedroom life as Bowers. But don't expect one long Penthouse Forum letter in Full Service. While Bowers' stories are incredible the telling of them is flat and unaffected. Full Service shows it is possible for a book to be titillating and a little boring at the same time.
The Fox Effect: How Roger AilesTurned a Network into a Propaganda Machine by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt (Random House/Anchor Books, 336 pages).
Brock and Rabin-Havt, the top officials at the liberal-leaning Media Matters, collaborate on this takedown of Roger Ailes and Fox News. The two don't hide their bias—an epilogue details the Ailes-authorized personal attacks Fox News launched on the two men in retaliation for their critical coverage of the network. Still, the pair launch a credible and meticulously footnoted critique of Fox. Their Ailes is a ruthless ideologue who doesn't let things like fairness or the truth get in his way. Love him or hate him, Ailes is a larger-than-life Shakespearean character and that alone makes the book fun reading. For liberals, The Fox Effect is likely to confirm their worst fears about Fox and provide fuel for their criticism of the network. Conservatives are likely to scream "bias." But both sides of the political debate should appreciate the evidence the authors muster.
The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten.: The Tweets of Steve Martin by Steve Martin (Grand Central, 112 pages).
Comedian Martin, a serial tweeter with more than 2.2 million followers, collects the best of his 140 character missives in this slim and often funny volume. Martin is as good as anyone at packing a wallop in the tiny confines of the micro-blogging service. Sure anyone can read twitter for free, but the shelf life of a tweet is about two seconds so it’s nice to have the best Martin (and fan responses) gathered in one volume. Still, reading the book confirms that tweets aren't literature. Martin is a gifted comedian and author (Shopgirl) but tweeting doesn't always showcase his gifts.