New Year's Eve, 1951. Hollywood, California. As Tinseltown rings in the twilight of its Golden Age, a young man arrives from Texas hell-bent on exploiting his brooding good-looks in exchange for a shot at stardom--only to become dangerously entangled in the lives of one of the most powerful couples in show business. As his dream devolves into a lurid nightmare, he must choose between fortune and fame or sanity and survival in this City of Whores.
"Subtly powerful…a Truman Capote-like piece…deeply affecting and tinged with pathos…" - Kirkus Reviews
"…displays an excellent sense of plot and pacing…the historical settings sparkle…" - Foreword Reviews (To be published September 1, 2014)
Thank you, Mr. Perry
How important is the title and how did you chose it?
The working title for the book was, in retrospect, both wrong and embarrassing. My ace editor, Alice Peck, strongly encouraged me to change it. While working on the draft that incorporated her notes, I wrote the line “Jesus, this city was full of nothing but whores,” and it was kind of a light bulb moment. For the record, the original, rather esoteric title was inspired by the image of my characters all drunk and stoned, bobbing their heads to the jazz music playing on the outdoor speakers by the pool in the mansion’s backyard they had dubbed the “Urban Idyll”: Head Dancing in the Urban Idyll. Can’t tell you how glad I am I changed it. And how grateful I am that Alice challenged me to do so.
Real facts, real persons VS fiction: what are the author’s obligations when the reality is mixed with fiction?
It’s tricky, but since you can’t libel the dead, nor can you exploit their images for personal gain, you walk a fine line as a writer. I did exhaustive research and tried very hard, for the most part, to make sure that my historical figures could realistically interact with my fictional characters as required by the story. I believe writers have an obligation to portray real people with the accuracy and respect they deserve. It was especially synchronistic that Tallulah Bankhead had a very active 1952 and ’53 with the publication of her memoirs, the film she made playing herself for MGM, her radio and television shows, her Las Vegas debut, etc.
How the TV/artistic experience influenced you as a writer and were there any advantages or disadvantages for your affirmation as a writer?
During the writing process, I had the epiphany that each season of a television show is like a novel in a series, and every episode is a single chapter in the book. So when I actually wrote a novel, I felt like I’d already been well trained. If I may humbly say so, Foreword Reviews picked up on this when they wrote: “Perry is an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning writer and producer of a number of successful television shows, and City of Whores displays an excellent sense of plot and pacing…” The truth is, if you learn anything from a quarter-century in television, it’s plot and pacing.
What differentiates today (morals) Hollywood from the 1950 one and what it takes for your story to take place in our days too?
In the 1950s, Rock Hudson’s sexuality was fiercely protected by the studio publicity machines. The salacious fan rags like Hollywood Confidential were just then on the rise and starting to print sensational and lurid articles about closeted actors attending all-male pajama parties, but before that, even the media was complicit in keeping the images squeaky clean. Remarkably, even Liberace managed to entrance his legions of clueless female fans. Of course, all of the R-rated stuff was going on behind the cameras (or candelabra), while the world presented in the movies was more sanitized and idealized. Sadly, we still live in a town where some actors and actresses feel the need to remain closeted, despite the fact that the “open secret” phenomenon still exists. Out and proud actors like Matt Bomer and Neil Patrick Harris would have been inconceivable in 1950s Tinseltown.
To whom you recommend City of Whores?
Anyone with an interest in Hollywood or the 1950s (or, of course, both), everyone whose default television channel is Turner Classic Movies, all the marvelous Twitterers at #TCMParty, fans of 20th century ocean liner travel, and anyone who wants to read an unconventional love story.
Thanks so much for the interview and your interest in City of Whores. I do hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it!
About the author:
Mark B. Perry was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and earned his BA in broadcast journalism from the University of Georgia. An aspiring writer and filmmaker, he moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and worked as an office temp until he wrote a script on spec for the top-ten show The Wonder Years. Not only did this writing sample lead to a freelance assignment and a staff position on the series, it was also purchased and produced as the opening episode of the 1989-1990 season, entitled "Summer Song." Its premiere was the number three show for that week in the Nielsen Ratings, outranked only by the venerable Roseanne and The Cosby Show.
After three years and eighteen episodes of The Wonder Years, Mark went on to write and produce such diverse television series as Northern Exposure, Picket Fences, Moon Over Miami, Law & Order, Party of Five, Push, Time of Your Life, Pasadena, First Years, That Was Then, One Tree Hill, Windfall, and What About Brian. After helping successfully launch the second season of ABC's Brothers & Sisters in 2007, Mark was then a co-executive producer on CBS's Ghost Whisperer. Finally, in 2011, Mark began two gloriously venomous seasons on the ABC hit Revenge before resigning to complete his debut novel, City of Whores.
As a producer on the first season on David E. Kelley's Picket Fences, Mark and the other producers received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Dramatic Series (1993). For his episode of Party of Five entitled "Falsies," he was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Achievement in Dramatic Writing (1997). And for his writing and producing services on that same series, he shared a Golden Globe Award for Best Drama (1996).