Poisoned Pen Press
November 6, 2012
Paperback, Hardcover, e-book
"Others find peace of mind in pretending. Couldn't you? Couldn't I? Couldn't we?"
Oh, the good old days with Broadway musicals where most people knew all the songs. Among all those wonderful shows, one always stood apart in that it had a mixed happy/sad ending. Yes, the happy endings gave us a warm feeling inside, but the mixed ending made you think about the story and the message in the story. That is always how I have viewed the musical, Show Boat.
Edna Ferber wrote the novel Show Boat and many others highly acclaimed novels even winning the Nobel Prize in literature. When Show Boat became a musical it had numerous barriers to knockdown, one of which was the author not always supporting the production. With the 1951 remake of the 1936 movie production, this particular novel is a mystery that surrounds the details of the movie, the actors, and the behind the scenes dramas including infidelity and the Senate investigation of the Hollywood well-known personalities and their possible affiliation with the communist party.
In Make Believe, Edna Ferber decides to attend the opening of this magnificent production in Hollywood, not for further publicity, but in support of her long-time friend MaxJefferies who has just been blacklisted by the McCarthy hearings and his name is being erased from the film credits. Unfortunately, Max is murdered and Ms. Ferber utilizes her writing skills in investigating this unsolved crime. Could it be his widow whose former mob husband was also killed? Could it be Frank Sinatra whose career is quickly falling being that he has recently left his wife for Ava Gardner? Could it be a member of America First who doesn't want these hidden Communists corrupting their country? All of these are possible, but who else?
Make Believe, entitled from a song in the musical, is an accurate and enthralling portrait of the time period, the people, and Show Boat. Complete with the Hollywood gossip of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, this novel quickly and neatly allows the reader to actually be a part of both the investigation and to meet the people while still solving the mystery of who killed Max.
Edward Ifkovic has written numerous novel with Make Believe being his third in his Edna Ferber series with the prequel Escape Artist and Lone Star. He has taught literature at a community college in Connecticut for thirty years.
For those of us who were not born at this time, Make Believe is a wonderful snapshot of the time period as well as the history of the actual show mixed with a well-thought-out mystery encompassing the time period and the well-known characters. Warning or suggestion: Since I started reading this novel, the soundtrack of Show Boat has been the background music. Just play the soundtrack.