“My Friend Marilyn” by Christopher Lentz mixes old Hollywood glamor with romantic suspense. The book is set in the fall on 1958 and the Hotel del Coronado during the on-location shooting of the film “Some Like It Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemon. Fact, fiction, and legend combine to make a captivating story. I enjoyed this book even though it was totally different from my usual reading choices.
The story is a first person narrative by Penny Parker, a local young woman who won the opportunity to meet Marilyn and assist her during her during the filming. She gives readers a unique perspective on the people, the problems, the filming, and the mystery. The book retains the film feel as every chapter fades in with the setting and time, and fades out at the end. Penny shares her excitement, her hesitation, her insecurities, and most of all her devotion to Marilyn. The cast includes not only the actual celebrity members of the film cast but also many diverse supporting characters who fill in the suspense and romance of the story. All are amusing, complex, and sometimes deceptive. Penny, herself, has some personal issues that she faces, and she finds strength, support, and encouragement from Marilyn’s experiences and struggles.
Lentz shows readers some of the darker side of Hollywood as well. Tensions can run high on a high-budget film shoot. “Those bad boys love to play with fire and, sadly, they’ve not learned their lesson after all these years.” Moreover, not everyone is content and accommodating. “ ‘No. Actually, things haven’t changed much at all.’ Marilyn drew her voice down to a whisper. ‘It’s pretty much still a rich man’s meat market. I’m not sure how long Marilyn Monroe can take it. Know what I mean?’ ”
Naturally, the paparazzi and news media always spice things up. “The headline seared my eyes. ‘ EXCLUSIVE: INSIDE MARILYN’S BEDROOM’ The smaller headline tucked under it didn’t help my cause. ‘Dime Store Cashier Penny Parker wins more than she bargained for the contest.’ ” The storyline proceeds at a casual yet appropriate pace over the month-long location filming with several twists, turns, and unexpected changes.
Readers will find “My Friend Marilyn” easy to read as well as enthralling, entertaining, and surprising. Since the Hotel del Coronado and its stories live on, the epilogue jumps to 2018. When a writer visits the Coronado in search of a story idea, readers acquire updates on a few of the main characters. “Penny’s eyes followed his. ‘Nice view, huh? Hasn’t changed much, not really. Now sit back. We’ve got some bombshells to discuss.’ ” Of course, readers already know all about those bombshells