The Definitive Marilyn Monroe Biography

Posted: February 11, 2011 in Aaron Hilton, The Whole Works

“The Definitive Marilyn Monroe Biography” by Aaron Hilton

A couple of weeks ago I tackled the chore of organizing the pit/office/second bedroom of the apartment so I’d be able sit at my writer’s desk in order to focus harder on my craft. This meant sorting through a great deal of books. A lot of them I’m holding onto, some I was able to trade at Murder By The Book (Portland’s most famous mystery bookstore) for some in-store credit, while a few others will be donated.

I came across many treasures. In particular a stockpile of Marilyn Monroe books. I know. Who doesn’t own a book about Marilyn Monroe? Whether it focuses on her photographs, films, life story, tragic death, JFK, RFK, or mental illness, there are mountains of tomes available about America’s iconic blonde bombshell.

For quite some time I’ve been plotting the backstory of my Generation-X private eye, Matt Grudge. He’s a third generation detective. His father was an insurance investigator in the Seventies and Eighties. I planned on writing about his grandfather being a Pinkerton operative from the Forties to the Sixties. Marilyn Monroe was going to be featured as a major character in this historical fiction novel. At times, I could still fool myself into believing this book had the potential to be my All American Novel that would bridge generation gaps, because it would reference so many icons from today and yesterday.

The key word here is ‘was.’

The definitive Marilyn Monroe biography, Inside Marilyn Monroe: A Memoir by John Gilmore, altered my vision. Weighing in at a little over two-hundred pages, Mr. Gilmore’s  frank and poignant rendering of Monroe is intimate and spare of bullshit. The Marilyn Monroe he writes about is a living, breathing legend who, as an orphan, was easy prey for the Hollywood identity grinder of the period to absorb and mold in an image that would make money. The only thing that kept her going were mutual friends (which he quotes throughout his book) and her love of art and poetry.

In Monroe’s final days depression, loneliness, and a dependency on pills took her life. End of story. But it’s not the end of her memory.

Not if the other biographies about Monroe continue to flow like the oil bleeding from a ruptured, sabotaged coastal refinery. The atomic sun inside the legend of Marilyn Monroe will fade away into the goo of tabloid journalism: lurid affairs, conspiracy theories, and true crime armchair theorists anticipating if her exhumed remains would bare any DNA evidence. Watch a CSI re-run on Spike or DVD for that kind of sensational crap, please.

So, back to how this has altered my craft. When I eventually write about the days of Matt’s grandfather, Marilyn Monroe won’t be a character in my novel. No matter what level of respect I could bring to her persona by studying material, which is 99.9 percent tainted, I believe her soul deserves to rest in peace.

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