The podcast that first hooked me into the whole world of podcasts wasn’t SERIAL, I was too late to the party for that, it was Karina Longworth’s YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS. A look behind the stories of old Hollywood which was sympathetic, empathetic and offered a 21st century perspective on these old black and white tales. I’d never really listened to any podcasts before it, but it hooked me in completely.
(Interestingly, at the end of this book, she says she got this book contract in 2015 when the podcast still only had a small cult following. I am very pleased to have been part of that cult.)
It’s on hiatus now, but to salve my cravings I made sure to download her audiobook of her Howard Hughes biography SEDUCTION – read by Karina herself. For twenty glorious hours it was like having the podcast back.
Whilst writing this book, she did do a short podcast series on Hughes, but here we get the proper depth. The lawsuits, the money, the planes, the glamorous actresses, the stalking, the downright creepy behaviour and the sink into something like madness.
Longworth tells the tale beautifully. Focusing on him through the women in his life, be they wives or girlfriends, or the women he worked with, like Jane Russell. (Fascinatingly, busty, brown haired Russell is the template of the type of woman he pursued from them on, but he never seems to have tried to have a romance with her.) Also, the women – and there seem to be dozens if not hundreds – that he stalked and then kept under his control.
Even though Hughes is frequently seen through other’s eyes, Longworth never loses her focus on him. Even as he does his best to obscure himself from prying eyes, she still finds a way through his defences and probably does as well as anyone can in working out what made him tick.
Absolutely he remains a fascinating man. It’s hard to imagine a public figure today – with all that money and looks – being allowed to behave quite this badly (although maybe I’m just being naive), or to hurt so many people (although for Hughes other people didn’t have much importance). And that’s what makes his slide into the kind of madness we now associate with Hughes (even if tissue box shoes and bottles of urine are never mentioned in this narrative) never come across as truly tragic. Yes, it’s sad for anyone that brilliant to lose their bearings in such a way, but Hughes behaved so badly throughout his life it’s hard to be truly sympathetic.
Much like the podcast this is a brilliant, sympathetic, empathetic book which is perfectly timely in this post #MeToo age, and is well worth a read/listen.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!