Book Review: The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl

Title: The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl
Author: Julian David Stone
Publisher: The Duration Press
Release Date: October 2013
Length:  408 pages (paperback)
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: e-book
Source: Smith Publicity
18584668Challenge: n/a

Synopsis

The golden age of live television comes to vivid life with the memorable and entertaining tale of Jonny Dirby, who unintentionally captivates the imagination of America with his creation of the hit show Justice Girl. This fun, engrossing work of historical fiction transports readers back to a time when television shows were chaotic tightrope acts balancing the agendas of actors, studio executives, advertisers, and politicians, and all of it broadcast live to fifty million viewers without the security of a safety net.

Set in 1955 in New York City, Julian David Stone’s impressive novel follows Jonny from the writers’ room of a steady network gig to a crisis of conscience when he decides to abandon his regular paycheck to claim the moral high ground against the spreading plague of McCarthyism. In a final act of defiance, Jonny alters the script of a Superman-inspired lampoon moments before it is broadcast live. What nobody can anticipate is that Jonny’s accidental creation Justice Girl and her infectious catchphrase of “Justice is served!” are about to sweep the nation and win the hearts and minds of America. Add to the mix a highly driven actress trying to get Jonny blacklisted, along with a desperate network president willing to do anything he can to get compete control of the show, and the history of television will never be the same.

The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl moves beyond the gags and gaffes of television’s golden age to plumb the depths of the media’s broader influence. Anyone interested in this time when television was a new phenomenon, with different factions fighting to use it to promote their varied agendas, will enjoy this riveting novel.

Julian David Stone
Julian David Stone

Review

This book is something different. It is set in a time period that is almost unimaginable today: the Era of McCarthyism, the Red Scare, blacklists…and live, on-air television.

Slithering over the entire entertainment industry like the oozing spill from an oil tanker, the blacklist had claimed the careers of thousands of actors, writers, directors, musicians, and stagehands. 

Jonny Dirby is a man who grew up knowing the hard truths and ugly, covered up secrets to the war. He experienced them first-hand as a young teen, and now a young, single man scribbling off sketches for a popular show on one of the television networks. He works with several others writers…writers who have been blacklisted.

No one would admit that the list even existed. 

Jonny is a good man, and a good friend. He knows how to get his sketches on live television, and he shares his paycheck with a few select writers, who he openly admits to not initially liking. It’s a funny thing how long hours and close quarters can change opinions.

Then one day, Jonny gets the ax. In a flurry, he quickly makes some changes to that night’s show, airing live. It’s a last-ditch effort to stick it to the man, and oh does it set off fireworks, but not quite the kind he expected. Instead of blowing things up for Regal Television Network, it gets him an immediate appointment with the power greedy network president – and an entire new show based off of Justice Girl, a young female Superman living double lives with identities to be kept secret. It’s an appeal to those of all ages, and creates such rile and evocative emotion and support from viewers, creating such a sensation that the network makes a few mistakes in getting the show underway.

While Jonny is dealing with his own battles with the network, rounding up the old blacklisted writing gang and sliding in his own personal political attacks into the episodes, Justice Girl’s female star Felicity Kensington is undercover as a joe blow schlow while secretly collecting information to funnel back to her Congressional hopeful father. But somewhere between a one-time hit in the door of the entertainment world to dig in her talons, Felicity is thrown into a whole new world she can’t handle..and she’s about to lose her grip on the inside. Jonny’s such a great guy, he comes to her rescue and gets her some acting help.

Like I said, it’s a funny thing how long hours and close quarters can change opinions. Lines start to become blurred: the open-minded, honest lines binding the writers together, the lines between Felicity’s real life and secret identity, the lines between Felicity’s mission and her new-found passion, the lines between Jonny and the recent friendliness of his presidential back-pocket producer, and the lines between child and adult.

Everything eventually comes to a head as decisions are made and time runs out. Jonny experiences the bitter dosage of honesty, betrayal and pain, as does Felicity herself.

This novel is written in a way that in 25 years of reading, I’ve never come across anything quite like it. This novel follows several of the main players into their pasts that provide enlightenment of their backgrounds. It shows a stark contrast, yet similarity in motives of the main characters. They all struggle with their own internal battles, enhanced by external conflicts that are presented in such an intertwined way that it is so seamless and smooth. Jonny, and especially Felicity, experience such growth as individuals and characters in this novel, and it’s all imploded by their professional realm: live television.

Jonny is such an intriguing character. He’s the living, breathing reality of human nature: denying he tries to push confrontations (while enjoying  the escalation!), the “acute confidence that he was always right,” honest in his dislike of others. He is firmly grounded in who he is, what he is, what he believes and what he’s willing to fight for. Felicity is a complete foil of Jonny’s character; she has no sense of self or morality until her lines become blurred and her secret identity opens up her world.

Wonderful, thrilling read of an age of controversy, sensationalism, political agendas and one-shot chances. Will Jonny get his final chance, or will he blow it?

 

About the Author

Julian David Stone is an award-winning director and writer. He grew-up in the San Francisco bay area before relocating to Los Angeles after spending his college years at the California Institute of the Arts. For the next few years he wrote screenplays for Disney and Paramount, as well as several other studios and producers around town. With two decades of experience working in the entertainment business, Stone brings to his work an insider’s knowledge of the industry, augmented for this book [The Strange Birth, Short Life, and Sudden Death of Justice Girl]  by the personal stories and anecdotal history shared by those who were actually present in the 1950s when the story is set.

Find the author: Website | Facebook Twitter | Goodreads

Find out more about the novel: Background

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