As every writer knows, the best dramas have a back-story, a ghost lurking in the past - a secret, perhaps, that haunts the present. This is the heart of story-structure, especially if you're a mystery writer, and my biography is no exception. Five years before I was born, on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 1940, my mother's lover, the author F. Scott Fitzgerald, jolted to his feet from a green armchair in her Hollywood apartment as they were listening to Beethoven's Third Symphony on a scratchy gramophone; he reached for the marble mantelpiece of her fireplace, a last attempt to save himself, then collapsed dead on the living room floor of a massive heart attack. Scott was forty-four years old and my mother, a pretty young Hollywood newspaper columnist by the name of Sheilah Graham, had been his girl in a tumultuous relationship for three and a half years. She had left school at the age of fourteen and Scott had taken it upon himself to educate her in his fancifully named F. Scott Fitzgerald College of One. This was the sober Scott - the Good Brownie, as he liked to say, the most charming man imaginable. Drunk, he had tried to kill her on several occasions, once as they wrestled together over a gun, a very Bad Brownie indeed. Now she refused to believe that he was dead, even later when the ambulance came and a fireman stood over the body and shook his head. Though my mother lived another forty-eight years, she never entirely got over Scott's death. I was born in 1945 and, being a selfish woman, she decided that I must become a writer to replace the writer she had lost. One of my first memories is sitting with her in our Beverly Hills home with the encyclopedia open in her lap to Fitzgerald, Francis Scott Key, and listening to her tell me about this man that she had loved. Of course, when she had known Scott, he had been a great failure. His books were out of print, he was deeply in debt. His wife Zelda was in a mental institution back East, and his health had been ruined by years of alcoholism. He died a forgotten man, yet now - wasn't it strange! - he was considered to be one of the greats. Millions of copies of his books sold every year. I grew up in the shadow of this contradiction, both the glory of what it meant to be a writer, and the terrible price it often entailed. Somehow, despite the cautionary tale of Scott Fitzgerald - and despite my mother's pushy ambitions on my behalf - I always wanted to be a writer, from as long back as I can remember. It seemed to me the most wonderful thing in the world. So I've been a writer all my life, long enough to have seen the business change from three-martini lunches and family owned New York publishing houses to mega-media corporations and sparkling water - and now (most intriguing of all), the new digital revolution where it's possible to bypass publishing companies altogether. I still believe it's magic, the luckiest thing in the world to be an author of books. __ Books One and Two of Robert Westbrook's epic Hollywood thriller trilogy: "The Torch Singer" are now available as a paperback and ebook. Book One: "An Overnight Sensation" relates the journey of Sonya from Nazi-occupied Poland to become a Hollywood star. Book Two: "An Almost Perfect Ending" relates the series of events which lead to her death amid a scene of mayhem on a rain-soaked St. Valentine's night in Beverly Hills in 1956. The third and concluding book of the Trilogy, "The Saint of Make Believe" will be published in 2015. "Intimate Lies", Robert Westbrook's non-fiction book about his mother Sheilah Graham's relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald is being reissued by Swan's Nest in late 2014.Read more Read less
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