The very first book I picked up about Marilyn Monroe was the biography by Fred Laurence Guiles. ‘Norma Jean, the life of Marilyn Monroe’. It’s a particularly well researched book and for a great many people, fans and writers alike, it has become the definitive biography of Marilyn, the place you go to find out all those facts and figures about her life, especially her early life. Her death is not really discussed in the same fashion as in later books, some of which are wholly devoted to the mystery of her passing. In my edition which I bought in the seventies, Bobby Kennedy is referred to only as ‘the easterner’ and it was only in later years that Bobby Kennedy and his brother, President John Kennedy became publically identified with Marilyn.
Norman Mailer apparently used Guiles book as a guide when writing his own book about Marilyn. Simply called ‘Marilyn, a biography’ the book is a large format book for which Mailer, the celebrated American writer supplied the text, and numerous photographers supplied the impressive array of photographs. The New York Times review online says the book is the ‘Glossiest of glossy books’ and further goes on to remark about the cover picture; ‘Marilyn Monroe has that blurry, slugged look of her later years: fleshy but pasty.’ I’m not sure what the writer was thinking about but personally, I rather like that cover picture of Marilyn.
A slim volume appeared in 1964 called ‘The Strange Death of ‘Marilyn Monroe’. It was this book that kick started rumours of strange goings on in the hours leading up to Marilyn’s death but the first book I read about the mystery (and I do love modern mysteries) was the book by Anthony Summers; Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Summers is a veteran journalistic investigator and has written books about J Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon and the JFK assassination. Was Marilyn murdered or did she commit suicide?
Another author who thinks she was murdered was Robert F Slatzer who wrote a book called The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe. I couldn’t find my copy when I came to photograph my Marilyn books but I do have it somewhere. Slatzer made a number of claims, one of which was that he actually married Marilyn but her studio bosses forced her to annul the union immediately and remove all the evidence that it ever took place.
Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed is a book I picked up quite recently. It is written by a British author, Michelle Morgan, and is similar to Fred Guiles book of Marilyn, very well researched but focusses on various people associated with Marilyn who have not been interviewed before. After reading this and other books, I get the impression that Marilyn compartmented her life, and those that were in one compartment, were not necessarily aware of people who were in the other ones.
Talking about J Edgar Hoover, here’s another book I picked up about Marilyn. This was a remainder book and concerns the information about Marilyn in Hoover’s FBI files. Marilyn: The FBI Files by Tim Coates. It’s an interesting addition to the many books about Marilyn with pages of FBI files concerning Marilyn, many of them redacted with various names and details blanked out.
The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe by Donald Wolfe. Wolfe is a journalist who has done a great deal of digging and research and one of his interviewees was the brother in law of Marilyn’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray. He reveals first hand that Bobby Kennedy was at Marilyn’s home on the day she died.
Donald Wolfe wrote another book; ‘The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe’. I’ve not read this one yet, it’s one I’m saving for my holidays.
Finally, Fragments, edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment. When Marilyn died in 1962 she left all her possessions to her acting mentor and head of the Actors Studio in New York, Lee Strasberg. When he passed away Marilyn’s effects went to his daughter and now it seems many will be auctioned off. This book is a look at the letters and notes she made, fragments of poems and thoughts scribbled in notebooks, on hotel stationary and envelopes. Marilyn’s thoughts and written meanderings show her to be a thoughtful woman who cared about what she saw and heard. Marilyn was a great reader and left behind a large book collection, part of which is listed in this book. Click here to read about all the 430 books she left behind.
Hope you enjoyed this post. If you did you might want to try my book, Floating In Space. Click the links at the top of the page for more information.