Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dorothy Parker Has Her Say

By Dorothy Parker, from MURDER YOUR DARLINGS by J.J. Murphy

I once said, “I don’t care what is written about me, so long it isn’t true.” Well, I’ll be darned…Someone finally took me up on it.

Go to your local bookstore (if you still have one that hasn’t been overtaken by a coffee shop and a glut of teenage vampire books) and poke your nose into the mystery section. They have a book out now called MURDER YOUR DARLINGS. In this story (a murder mystery, in fact), there’s a “character” called Dorothy Parker. (Oh, she’s quite a character!)

She lives in the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s. (True enough.) She works for Vanity Fair magazine, where she penned the line “Brevity is the soul of lingerie”. (So far, so good.) She’s friends (maybe more?) with the funny and light-hearted Robert Benchley. (No comment.) And she drinks too much for her own good. (OK, they have me dead to rights on that one).

Here comes the fictional part: This Dorothy Parker solves a murder mystery. Now they’ve gone too far…I’ve never even solved a crossword puzzle, so I don’t know how I can be expected to solve a murder. But there you have it.

It’s not as though I haven’t been fictionalized before.
In my own day (a cold, wet, rainy day, as I recall it), a character based on yours truly appeared in no less than three plays on Broadway. I suppose that now if I ever wrote a play about myself, I’d be sued for plagiarism. Oh yes, and there was that dreadful film in the 1990s. [Editor’s note: “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.”] It made an afternoon at the Algonquin Round Table look like as much fun as a visit to the orthodontist. (A bartender once asked me, “What are you having?” I replied, “Not much fun.” That’s this movie in a nutshell. And in a nutshell is exactly where it belongs.)

The Roaring Twenties were a hell of a time! As the song went, “Ain’t we got fun?” We certainly did, my sweet little peaches! That’s the one thing this MURDER YOUR DARLINGS book gets right. It shows the 1920s as an endless parade of fun. Drinking, smoking, carousing, and insults flying across the table like horseshoes… You know—fun!

Oh, other events happen in the book as well. A famous drama critic is found under the Round Table. (Believe me, he wasn’t the first person to wind up down there.) But this old boy has been murdered. Then William Faulkner shows up. (Yes, that William Faulkner! And we find out how he learned his trademark style of writing.) I swoon over my beloved Benchley, not that he takes any notice. Some gangsters chase us around, through subways and alleyways and…anyways, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

I said I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true. But perhaps I lied, just a little. After all, lying is what writers do, isn’t it? Writers and prostitutes—they both lie for money. Read the book. You’ll see.

Mrs. Parker appears (with the other members of the Algonquin Round Table) in MURDER YOUR DARLINGS, available now from Obsidian/Penguin. She and her cohorts will return next year in YOU MIGHT AS WELL DIE.

Do you agree (or disagree) about her opinion of the movie version of her life? Which actress would you currently cast to play Dorothy Parker? Vote here, and comment below: Algonquin Round Table Mysteries.

Tomorrow on Killer Characters: a Maggie Sefton character.


  1. I am going to LOVE this series - if this column is any indication you are a GREAT writer!

  2. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book. Thanks for stopping by the blog and letting us know about this, Dorothy! Sounds like fun!

  3. I'm excited about this series, too. I can hardly wait to get to know you better, Dorothy!

  4. I bought the book last week & it's next to be read. I'm in awe of the witty Dorothy Parker. And it sounds like this will be a series that will do her justice.

  5. Some friends gave me a book store gift card and I used it to by this book last weekend. I can't wait to read it. I've never seen the movie and I'm not sure I want to - but the series sounds wonderful!

  6. Dorothy sounds like a hoot! A movie version? Hmmm, how about Meryl Streep. She can play anybody!

    Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

  7. Unfortunately, Dorothy can't "log on" yet today. As usual on Sundays, she's sleeping off a hangover (or hanging off a sleepover ;-) ). In any case, I'll pass along your enthusiastic comments to her. I hope you enjoy reading MURDER YOUR DARLINGS (at least, I hope you enjoy it more than Dorothy did).

  8. Dorothy just called. She still refuses to get on the computer. She says she doesn't want to engage in social media for fear of getting a "social disease." She also says she must have had a few when she wrote this yesterday because she realized she worked at Vogue, not Vanity Fair, when she penned that "Brevity..." comment.

    Julie Hyzy, I'm looking forward to reading your Buffalo West Wing, because buffalo wings are one of my favorite food groups. -- J.J.

  9. What a hoot! Can't wait to get to know Dorothy better. I'll wait until she sleeps off the hangover, though.

    ~ Krista

  10. I just had to download this onto my Kindle today, and I haven't put it down since. To paraphrase, adapt, and massacre the words of Ms. Parker: "This isn't just fun, it's fancy fun. It's fun with raisins in it."

  11. Good one, Laineshots! You know your Parker-isms. Yes, "this is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

  12. Magnificent job commenting in character. Hilarious. It helps to have such a famously funny "character" to give voice to! I hope you are having as much fun as it sounds. Murder Your Darlings is definitely on my to read list.