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City of Whores

In Perry’s novel, a former actor reflects on life with a Hollywood power couple.

During the O.J. Simpson scandal, Daniel Root learns of the death of mogul Milford “Milly” Langen, whose wife, actress Lillian “Lilly” Sinclair, committed suicide in 1982. Although never an A-Lister, Root enjoyed a brief stint in pictures until the film offers “dried up like the chaparral on the Hollywood Hills.” His stage name was Dexter Gaines—“Dex” to Milly and Lilly—and the trio was together for two years, separating in anger the night Dex almost strangled Milly. Four decades prior, Dex had arrived from Texas determined to be a star, blessed with good looks, a birthmark on his lip (“a bit of bittersweet chocolate”) and shaky hands that he calmed by smoking pot. Dex first encountered Milly and Lilly on New Year’s Eve 1952 and later crosses paths with Cary Grant, Tallulah Bankhead, Tony Curtis and Darryl F. Zanuck, to whom Milly was second-in-command. With the advent of TV, studio heads feared audiences would stay home, but the real drama is in the trio’s affairs and the secrets each kept. Deftly mixing fictional characters with well-known personalities of Hollywood’s Golden Age, this subtly powerful novel is neither slick nor sleazy, and thankfully devoid of caricature. Milly, Lilly and Dex are finely drawn with foibles of the flesh, in a Truman Capote–like piece that may leave readers pining for Bogie and Bacall. At heart, it’s a love story, deeply affecting and tinged with pathos. Granted, the scandalous behavior of the 1950s seems, at present, to be relatively tame, and the big reveals are played less for shock than emotional resonance, though at least one may fail to surprise. In such a dramatic setting, some melodrama is to be expected, but here it’s kept to a minimum. Overall, the narrative is rich in detail, and everything matters in this fully realized world.

A poignant tale of unrequited love and sexual longing, which burns slowly and lingers like cigarette smoke.

—Kirkus Reviews

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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).