Mr B's review
Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue Review 2018
Sigal was a fresh faced ex GI and son of a notorious union agitator who arrived in 50’s Hollywood at the height of the communist witch hunts. This is a whip smart biography of disgraceful superstars and the political kowtowing of the movie elite. It is also a searingly honest account of the author’s rebellion, tempered by his cowardice with the glitz/sleaze of L.A. as a perfect backdrop. A book that is told with such panache that it reads like a much improved Kerouac.
For me it begins in such an ordinary way … with a gorilla, a blonde,
and a gun …
Mid- 20th century Hollywood; ‘Raymond
Chandler’s LA before Pilates and cell phones’. Clancy Sigal (who would later be
the inspiration for Doris Lessing’s ‘Saul Green’) is just back from
fighting in the Second World War and an abortive solo attempt to assassinate Hermann
Goering at the Nurenburg trials.
Charming his way into a job as an
agent with the Sam Jaffe agency, Sigal plunges into a chaotic Hollywood peopled by fast
women, washed-up screenwriters, wily directors, and starstruck FBI agents
trailing ‘subversives’. He parties with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Tony
Curtis and an anxious Peter Lorre, who becomes a drinking buddy.
But this is the era of the Hollywood Blacklist
and Sigal, like many of his contemporaries, is subpoenaed to testify before the
HUAC. Will he give up the list of nine names, burning a hole in his pocket, to
save his own skin?
Hilarious, touching, intimate and revealing: Sigal’s
memoir reads like a forgotten hardboiled detective novel and has all the makings of an
Buzzes with gossip and scandal….This is one of the best Hollywood memoirs ever.
– The Jewish Chronicle The beauty of Black Sunset, for most readers, will be found in the details, lovingly or painfully described, page after page.
Clancy was there, at close range, as [Hollywood screenwriters] went down for the count or got themselves better, on the run from official and unofficial blacklisters.
Sigal brings the innocent and guilty back, once more, at close range, and proves himself the liveliest of literary nonagenarians in the process. — LA Review of Books Sigal stumbles into Hollywood […] lands the most reviled job in the biz – talent agent – and this milieu is where most of Black Sunset takes place, haunted by the Wink and by a conspiracy of accidents.
Black Sunset moves with the express swagger of a Hawks or Wellman picture, although it feels like an Ozu once it’s all over and the characters linger in silhouette as if they were a fixture of the freeway system at night. — Counterpunch ‘Gripping … a great tale of survival. [Sigal is] a terrific writer.’ — Literary Review ..His scapegrace adventures are described with so much vitality and scabrous wit you feel as charmed as one of his serial conquests…[a] marvellous book.
– The Spectator ‘Superbly
evokes the Cold War fears of communist subversion, the hidden FBI
microphones, subpoenas, and the naming of names … What stands revealed
is a hypocritical culture and society.
prose style is that of the secret agent in the macho gun-toting sense,
with a side-of-the-mouth, shoulder-holster private-eye delivery out of
Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett.’ — Mail on Sunday