Beach Reads > May 25, 2012

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Jackie After O. By Tina Cassidy, It Books. On Nov. 22, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy witnessed the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, in a Dallas motorcade. Five years later the young widow, enshrined in the public imagination as an almost mythically tragic figure, shocked Americans by marrying a toad-like billionaire named Aristotle Onassis and becoming a very public member of the jet set. Five years after that, when Onassis died, “Jackie O” reminded the world that she was more than the widow of a U.S. president, the widow of a Greek billionaire, and a preferred target of the paparazzi. One of the world’s wealthiest and most recognized women, Onassis took a job as a consulting editor at a New York publishing house. The pay was a mere $10,000 per year – which Onassis could have spent in a single day of clothes shopping. Tina Cassidy tells the story of Jackie’s first year on the job, when she faced the wrath of colleagues who thought she didn’t deserve the job, and worked in earnest to gain their trust and earn her keep. This charming and disarming chronicle will give you a glimpse of Onassis as a protective, sometimes frustrated mother of two teens; a seasoned celebrity who knew how to navigate the fishbowl of fame; a cautious lover; and an ambitious, intelligent woman who wanted to do more than star in tabloid headlines.


The Lost Daughter. By Lucy Ferriss. Berkley Books. Seventeen-year-old Brooke O’Connor and boyfriend Alex Frazier spend a harrowing night in a Connecticut motel, trying to lose their unborn child with the help of a folk “remedy” – a tea that’s supposed to induce miscarriage. Fifteen years later, Brooke – now a fairly contented wife and mother – learns that the daughter they delivered, discarded and thought dead is actually alive. When Alex comes back into her life, Brooke – who has kept an emotional distance from her husband Sean – realizes she must acknowledge the truth of her troubled past. While “The Lost Daughter” is artfully written, it has a TV-movie feel about it: even the lyrical turns of phrase feel slightly artificial, and the characters seem like they were chosen from a stock company. Plus, the ending is telegraphed from the beginning, and doesn’t the plot of “The Lost Daughter” also recall the novel “Losing Isaiah” by Seth Margolis?


Hedy’s Folly. By Richard Rhodes. Doubleday. The next time you use a Bluetooth or your car’s GPS, thank Hollywood sex symbol Hedy Lamarr. That’s right. Hedy Lamarr, the 40s-era star of films like “Zeigfeld Girl,” “Samson and Delilah,” and “Forever Amber,” helped to develop a landmark technology called spread-spectrum radio, which enabled satellite communications to play out over different radio frequencies. In World War II, Lamar’s system enabled Allied forces to guide torpedoes with more accuracy, greatly helping the war effort. In this marvelous little history, subtitled “The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of the Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes celebrates Hedy’s contribution to the computer age as well as the silver screen. Who knew!


All I Did Was Shoot My Man. By Walter Mosley. Riverhead Books. One of the most productive and popular novelists of our time does it again with the latest Leonid McGill crime thriller. PI McGill seeks redemption for a checkered past by vowing to clear an innocent woman. While she’s no angel – as the title suggests, Zella Grisham shot her lover after finding him in bed with another woman – she didn’t commit the multimillion-dollar robbery for which she served an eight-year prison term. And McGill’s not blameless either – he actually framed Grisham for the crime. Mosley is a master of the tormented hero, who veers between cynicism and idealism, who does wrong and then is dogged by remorse. Leonid McGill is a great character, and proves a worthy successor to the late lamented Easy Rawlins, star of many Mosley bestsellers. This is a real corker, smart and satisfying.


Jaws. By Peter Benchley. A great white shark makes a buffet of beachgoers, and officials in the shore town of Amity can’t decide what to do about it. That’s the premise of “Jaws,” a summer blockbuster first published in 1974. The book stands up because it’s fast-paced, cinematically plotted, and has a particularly unnerving villain in the shark, an “eating machine” that gobbles up hapless swimmers one by one. Benchley’s first novel became the first feature film directed by Steven Speilberg, and its success propelled both of them to the A-list quicker than you can say “Pass the chum.” Years later, Benchley apologized to sharks everywhere for casting them as villains, and worked to preserve the species. But even now people recoil to hear that scary soundtrack, the sound of the dinner bell to a great white.

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