#MeetTheNewbs ~ Mary McCoy Author of Dead To Me (Guest Post + Giveaway)

Meet The Newbies is a blog event co-hosted by Dana @DanaSquare and I, in which we introduce you to all of the new kids in school, the 2015 debut authors!

Meet Mary McCoy:

Mary McCoy is the Senior Librarian in Teen'Scape, the young adult department at the Los Angeles Public Library. She's also worked as a hot dog vendor, a hotel maid, a bass player, a fundraiser for public television, and a contributor to On Bunker Hill and the 1947project, where she wrote stories about Los Angeles's notorious past. Mary grew up in western Pennsylvania and holds degrees from Rhodes College and the University of Wisconsin. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. Her debut novel, DEAD TO ME, is a film noir-inspired YA mystery set in the glamorous, treacherous world of 1940s Hollywood. Learn more at http://mary-mccoy.com/ or follow Mary on Twitter at @MaryElMcCoy.

Meet Her Debut Novel:

LA Confidential for the YA audience. This alluring noir YA mystery with a Golden Age Hollywood backdrop will keep you guessing until the last page.

"Don't believe anything they say."

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her--and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn't a kid anymore, and this time she won't let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets--and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie's attacker behind bars--if Alice can find her first. And she isn't the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.

I read and enjoyed Mary's mystery novel set in Hollywood in the 1950s. Today Mary is sharing the top ten Hollywood stories she discovered while researching for her book!

Guest Post:

Top Ten Hollywood Stories 

When I was writing my film noir-inspired YA mystery Dead To Me, I watched a lot of old movies, read a lot about Los Angeles history, and researched a ton of Golden Age Hollywood gossip, scandals, and tragedies.

These are my top 10 true Hollywood stories that I came upon while researching Dead To Me. People like to think about Golden Age Hollywood in a glamorous, idealized kind of way, but the truth is, a lot of these stories reveal the systemic sexism, racism, and homophobia that lurked behind the glitter.

Because of that, I won't call these my favorite stories (that seems ghoulish), but they are some of the most compelling, illuminating, and devastating tales of Tinseltown involving some of my favorite actors, writers, and directors. I've included links to more in-depth accounts of the stories I shared here in case you want to read further.

Oh, and in case you're curious, #1, 2, 5, 8, and 9 all have at least a cameo appearance in Dead To Me.

1. Lila Leeds and Robert Mitchum

In 1948, police raided a so-called "marijuana party" in Laurel Canyon, and arrested a stunning blond starlet named Lila Leeds along with megastar Robert Mitchum. Both were sentenced to 60 days in prison, and though Mitchum's studio rallied behind him and his career recovered, Leeds was sunk. She spent the next twenty years living with awful men, poverty, drug addiction, and occasional stints in prostitution before turning her life around and becoming a minister who worked with drug addicts in the 1960s.

(Side note: The character of Millie in Dead To Me was inspired by Lila Leeds. I wanted to imagine a different ending for her.)

On the night she disappeared, 27-year-old Jean Spangler, a dancer and bit player, had gone out to meet her ex-husband and discuss child support payments. A few days later, police found her purse in Griffith Park. Inside was a note that read, “Kirk – Can’t wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work out best this way while mother is away…"

Though the case remains unsolved, there is no shortage of suspects or motives. One of Spangler's friends said she was pregnant, leading to speculation that she may have died following a then-illegal abortion. She'd recently appeared as an extra in a Kirk Douglas movie, and he was questioned following the discovery of the note. On top of that, Spangler had ties to notorious LA gangster Mickey Cohen and the custody battle with her ex had been nasty.

And then there was the possibility that Jean Spangler wasn't dead at all. Police received a tip four months after her disappearance that she'd been spotted in El Paso.

This next story is devastatingly sad.

During World War II, many celebrities did their part by working at the Hollywood Canteen. Here, enlisted men could dance with Marlene Dietrich while Hedy Lamarr washed their dishes. Gene Tierney, who was pregnant at the time, contracted German measles while working a shift at the Hollywood Canteen. As a result of the illness, her daughter, Daria, was born with severe disabilities. Years later, Tierney met a woman who confessed that she'd sneaked out of a German measles quarantine all those years ago to go to the Hollywood Canteen because Gene Tierney was her favorite and she was just dying to meet her.

After that, Tierney wrote in her memoir, "I didn't care if I was ever again anyone's favorite actress."

From the 1930s through the early 1960s, Hollywood lived under the Hays Code, which required motion pictures to uphold certain moral standards in order to get wide distribution. There could be no "lustful kissing" or suggestive dancing, no drunken scenes, married couples had to be portrayed in separate beds, adultery could never be the subject of comedy, and that barely scratches the surface.

In 1944, legendary director Preston Sturges made The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, a film wherein Betty Hutton finds herself the mother of sextuplets after a night with a GI on leave. It follows the Hays Code to the letter while violating it in spirit in absolutely every way possible. and it's as delightful as it is subversive.

Okay, so I'm a little bit obsessed with Hollywood madams, and Brenda Allen is probably the most fascinating one. She started off working in a Hollywood brothel in the 1930s, but when her boss was caught in a police sting, Brenda made off with the little black book of names and started her own business. At her peak, she managed a prostitution syndicate of over 100 girls, and got away with it for years. This was partly because her clients were wealthy and powerful, and partly because Brenda's boyfriend was a member of the notoriously corrupt LAPD vice squad.

When John Barrymore died in 1942, somebody stole his body from the funeral home and propped it up in Errol Flynn's living room as a gag. In some versions of the story, director Raoul Walsh pulled off the prank, while in others it was actors Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart who were responsible.

Howard Hawks was looking for a screenwriter for his adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, and he'd just read a smoking hot mystery called No Good from a Corpse by Leigh Brackett. Hawks decided he wanted a meeting with "this Brackett fella" only to discover the author was a 20-something woman. Hawks hired her along with none other than William Faulkner to write the screenplay. Along the way, they got stuck when trying to resolve the notoriously knotty plot, and nobody could figure out who had killed the chauffeur in the book. When they called the book's author, Raymond Chandler, to ask him, he admitted that he didn't know either. (Raymond Chandler was, uh, known to take a drink.)

After her brilliant work on The Big Sleep, Leigh Brackett went on to write the screenplays for Rio BravoThe Long Goodbye, and The Empire Strikes Back

So yeah. She's amazing.

For my money, the most devastatingly handsome actor of his generation - or any generation - Montgomery Clift was also one of the loneliest and least known. The intensely private Clift was either gay or bisexual, and constantly hounded by the press about when he was going to settle down with a nice girl.

Following a 1956 car accident that left his face horribly scarred, Clift was in constant pain and became even more addicted to alcohol and pills, Robert Lewis, Clift’s teacher at the Actors Studio, called his death ten years later “the longest suicide in Hollywood history.” When he appeared in The Misfits (best known for being Marilyn Monroe's last movie), Monroe reportedly said that Clift was "the only person I know who is in even worse shape than I am.”

But he was in The Heiress. And A Place in the Sun. And From Here To Eternity. And he was so brilliant and so beautiful.

(Side note: The character of Conrad Donahue, the psychotic movie star in Dead To Me. was inspired by Montgomery Clift - in appearance only. Conrad is despicable to the core, and I knew he had to have a face like an angel if he was going to get away with his crimes.)

A totally indefensible publication, Confidential's favorite pastimes included racially motivated fear-mongering and outing gay and bisexual celebrities (Headlines included "Why Liberace's Theme Song Should Be 'Mad About the Boy'" and "It Was a Scandalous Way to Behave - Even for Marlon Brando and His Tan Tootsie!") Sometimes they blackmailed stars into paying them not to print stories. Sometimes they printed them anyways. 

Dorothy Dandridge, Maureen O'Hara, and Liberace all sued the magazine (Dandridge won a $10,000 settlement), and in late 1957, Confidential publisher Robert Harrison said that the magazine would no longer publish scandal stories about the stars' private lives. It limped along until the late 70s before publication ceased. Good riddance.

Liz Renay's 2007 obituary in the Washington Post opened "Liz Renay, 80, who died at a Las Vegas hospital from gastric bleeding, was a gangster's moll, ex-con, author, painter, stripper, Hollywood Boulevard streaker, actress and charm school instructor." 

Her memoir, My First 2,000 Men opens, "There've been so many talented, charismatic men in my life, it's hard to know where to begin. I'll start with Burt Lancaster."

We should all live so richly.

Mary is kindly giving away a copy of her book! It's a thrilling mystery that I'd recommend checking out :D

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I hope you'll join us for our first Meet the Newbies twitter chat on Friday, May 22nd at 8 PM EST!! There will be prizes and lots of fun. :)

Other #MeetTheNewbs Posts & Giveaways:


  1. Ooh these stories were really interesting, so thank you Mary for sharing them! I really want to read this book - I remember Larissa reading and really liking this and I know to trust her especially when it comes to all the historical fiction!

  2. Wooo! I have wanted to read Dead to Me for a long time now and it's so interesting to read about some of the stories that inspired Mary's writing! (Thanks for sharing, by the way!) These all sound so creepy, thinking about what happened next gives me the shivers, haha! :| ;)

  3. I love this post! I am also quite fascinated with old Hollywood, I love when I catch a TV show about it, or stumble upon an article, etc. I hadn't heard the Gene Tierney one yet, oh my goodness, that IS devastating! I also can't believe that the woman confessed- did she not know the story? But I guess you have to be amazingly selfish to risk other people's lives just because you enjoy an actress! Anyway, the book sounds SO good, and I love these stories, too! Thanks so much for sharing them :)

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

  4. This is a really interesting post. I like the stories.

  5. I've been seeing this book around a few weeks ago! So far all I have seen were positive and glowing reviews, so I can't wait to give it a try myself. I'll be reading and checking out the stories mentioned, too. Bookmarking this for future reference!

    Faye at The Social Potato

  6. I love old Hollywood movies and stories! -Jennifer Y.


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