HALLIE EPHRON: By the time I finish writing a novel, usually I’ve put the characters through so much grief and turmoil that a sequel would be cruel and unusual punishment. Just for instance, ninety-two year old Mina Yetner goes through trial by fire (several times) in THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN. I imagine Mina going on without me, her final years unfurling in messy episodes, not acts, blissfully free of drama and suspense.
But when I finished NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT (which comes out in March) I realized there was more story to tell. Not what happens after the novels ends, but what went on before. And out “popped” (if only) a longish short story, PHOTOPLAY: A STORY OF SUSPENSE which goes on sale today.
The main characters from NIGHT NIGHT are in PHOTOPLAY: movie star Elenor “Bunny” Nichol; her hunky Argentine lover, “Tito” Acevedo; her 15-year-old daughter Joelen (Joe-Ellen). Plus her daughter’s best friend Deirdre Unger.
A professional photographer (the consummate Hollywood inside outsider), Duane Foley, is the narrator. The pictures that he’s hired to take at Bunny’s glamorous party are supposed to reflect Bunny and her guests at their best and most beautiful, the kind of pictures that ran in movie magazines like “Photoplay,” publications that were virtual PR machines for the stars.
At the party, Duane’s camera gets an eyeful. But it’s not all what he or his host bargained for.
Writing the story, I mined my own memories of what it was like to grow up in Beverly Hills in the 60s, the daughter of Hollywood screenwriters. I recreated the kind of parties my parents used to throw (laughter, music, a haze of cigarette smoke, and too much booze) and upgraded the guest list to include A-list players like Doris Day and Rock Hudson. I took the Beverly Hills house I grew up in, moved it from “the flats” to north of Sunset, and tripled its size.
At the party, Bunny allows Joelen and Deirdre to dress up and answer the door, just the way my parents did. But the girls stay up far past the time when they’re supposed to have turned into pumpkins, and they indulge in cocktails far more potent than Shirley Temples.
In the party’s aftermath, neither of them will be the same.
NO SPOILERS! I worked hard to make sure that PHOTOPLAY doesn't spoil any of the surprises in NIGHT NIGHT. But if you read the story you'll have a few insights into the novel that other readers won't.
The e-story PHOTOPLAY (HarperCollins/Witness Impulse) is available starting today for $1.99: