From Publishers Weekly
Dann (The Memory Cathedral
; etc.) stumbles with this dubious what-if novel about an alternate reality in which James Dean survives his 1955 car accident. Before the crash, Dann's Jimmy Dean is a drugged-out bisexual party boy, as obsessed with the possibility that the child of former girlfriend Pier Angeli is not his as he is distracted by midnight sexual escapades with Marilyn Monroe. Following his recovery, Dean's career predictably skyrockets while he vacillates between dreams of his Momma and passionate rages over Pier's fickleness. Unfortunately, even though he handily snatches roles from Paul Newman and Marlon Brando, Dean never appears on a set or in front of a camera in Dann's narrative. Instead, via Marilyn, he becomes involved with the Kennedys, and the novel descends into familiar tawdriness (playing, for example, with the theory that Bobby Kennedy had Marilyn killed in order to protect Jack's reputation as well as his own). As the tabloid-style narrative races along, Dann introduces a stupid and blond Elvis Presley, then glosses Hollywood and Washington politics in an inane manner, offering up highly improbable caricatures of now-deceased American icons. Dann shuffles actual events to fit his plot designs and suggests affairs between Bobby and Jackie and Jimmy and a pregnant Ethel Kennedy. Intended to be over-the-top, the novel too often is off-the-wall.
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Driving fast on a California highway on September 30, 1955, actor James Dean plowed his Porsche Spyder into another car crossing an intersection and was killed. But had he survived, what would have become of him? An affair with Marilyn Monroe? Directing movies starring Elvis Presley? Or perhaps joining forces with Bobby Kennedy in politics? In Dann's parallel universe, Dean does all of this and more when he survives the accident. While Dean lies recovering in a hospital bed, he dreams that his long-dead mother visits him and tells him, "do something important and wonderful." It takes Dean years to fulfill her request, and along the way he gets drunk with Jack Kerouac, stars in the movie Cool Hand Luke
, and punches Frank Sinatra in the jaw. Eventually, the tumultuous events of the 1960s--the struggle for civil rights, the killing of Dr. King--affect him, and he uses his celebrity to move into the political arena. The anticipation of exactly what will be the apex of Dean's political career keeps the pages turning. Jerry EberleCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved