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NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT by Hallie Ephron: Book Review

Life in Hollywood must be great, right?  Your friends, or the friends of your parents, are famous actors and actresses, known around the world.  You’re invited into their homes, swim in their pools, are friends with their families.  What could be better?

Actually, a lot of things.  When Deirdre Unger reluctantly drives to her father’s Hollywood home to help him put it on the market, her mind is filled with memories of her parents and of her own childhood.  Arthur and Gloria Unger had been successful screenwriters, maybe not at the top of the list but not too far from it.

But for some years now Arthur’s career has been stalled, he and his wife are divorced, and it’s time for him to sell the house and downsize, that hated word.  However, before his daughter arrives, Arthur will take his regular nighttime swim in the pool.  He was always a good swimmer, and he wants to indulge himself before he has to sell the house.  One final indulgence, and it proves to be his last.

Deirdre arrives at the home that her father and brother share, but at first no one answers the door.  When her brother finally lets her in, they start to look for their father.  And then they find him, down at the bottom of the deep end of the pool.  Who could have made certain Arthur never surfaced?  And why?

When Deirdre was a teenager, her best friend was Joelen Nichol, daughter of the beautiful actress Elenor “Bunny” Nichol.  The two girls spent days together and often had sleepovers at each other’s houses.  They were together the night that changed the lives of both of them forever.

Bunny had thrown one of her famous parties, and after it was over she and her live-in boyfriend, Tito Acevedo, got into a fight.  Deirdre and Joelen heard angry words, glass being broken.  Joelen went to the kitchen, picked up a knife, and climbed the stairs to her mother’s bedroom.  Then she plunged the weapon into Tito’s chest.

Deirdre was driven home after the police and ambulance arrived.  On the way, the car went off the road; Deirdre was severely injured and is unable to walk without crutches.  While Deirdre was in the hospital, Joelen was put on trial for Tito’s death.  The verdict was justifiable homicide.  First Joelen was sent to a juvenile facility and then went to live with her aunt out of state.  By the time Deirdre was released from the hospital after her first operation, she wasn’t able to find her friend.

But apparently Arthur knew, or had known, where Joelen was.  Because Joelen is the real estate agent Arthur was using to sell his house, and  now she and Deirdre have their first face-to-face meeting in more than twenty years.

Night Night, Sleep Tight is loosely based on the true story of Hollywood star Lana Turner, her daughter Cheryl Crane, and Turner’s lover Johnny Stompanato, a reputed mobster.  Hallie Ephron has brought to life the Hollywood of the 1980s, its famous and its flawed.  It’s an exciting read, with fascinating characters, written by a woman who herself was the daughter of movie scriptwriters as well as a neighbor of Turner’s.  Fiction based on real life doesn’t get more compelling than this.

You can read more about Hallie Ephron at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.

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