Up with the Sun

Knopf. Feb. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781524748197. $28. F
Mallon (Landfall) is known and lauded for fictionalizing historical events, political and otherwise; with this newest offering he puts a highlight on the brutal murder of a flash-in-the-pan actor turned fashionmonger turned antique salesman and the trial that brought the murderers to justice. Indeed, it seems, Dick Kallman did anything and everything he could in his many attempts toward the attainment of fame and glory. Told in first-person accounts from one-time friend and murder witness Matt Liannetto and third-person accounts that span three decades of the actor’s life, this sprawling look at being gay in the 1950s and 1960s seems to leave nothing out. Here we read about everything: from Kallman’s relationships—or lack thereof—with Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Carole Cook, and other celebrities of the day, to his bids for prominence in musicals such as Seventeen and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Then there was his title role in the 1965 TV show Hank, which received terrible reviews and lasted but a season. Notably, nearly every effort by the celebrity seemed doomed from the start.
VERDICT Had the author’s note left unspecified the many liberties taken, readers could easily assume this was a true-crime biography. Historical fiction or otherwise, this account of the tragic death of an inhabitant of gay Hollywood certainly captivates.
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