Melody Johnson Howe
I was born in Los Angeles and grew up under the relentless sun and the dusty palm trees dreaming of becoming a great writer. Then Hollywood discovered me. At twenty-one I did a screen test for Universal Studios. Never having acted professionally, I somehow managed to get a seven-year contract. In that same month I married Bones Howe, record producer and bachelor father of three small children. At twenty-one you can do anything.
In my first acting job I was shot dead in the titles of a TV movie. They covered me with a sheet and carted me off to an ambulance. Only my hair showed. But in my next role I starred in a TV movie called Kicks where I shot Mickey Rooney dead. I acted in such movies as: The Ride To Hangman’s Tree co-starring with James Farentino; Coogan’s Bluff with Clint Eastwood; Gaily, Gaily directed by Norman Jewison; Rabbit Run with James Caan; and The Moonshine War, co-starring with Alan Alda.
I was acting and raising my new family. At night I attended the UCLA Extension where I studied creative writing. I still wanted to be a writer. A young man in the class gave me my first critique. He said, “How can you write with a body like that?” Hooray for Hollywood. In 1980 I wrote a play titled The Lady of the House, which was produced by the Los Angeles Theatre Center, and starred Salome Gens, Nan Martin, and Carol Lockatell. But this first success as a writer didn’t stop me from acting. I was now doing it all; even TV commercials. I sold everything: cars, shampoo, deodorant, Kool Aid, and beer.
One day I went on an interview. I entered a room filled with blondes. We smiled and sized one another up as we studied our scripts. It was then I wondered what I was doing with my creative life. I put the script down and walked out of the room to the surprised looks of the other blondes, the casting director, and the producer who asked me if I was crazy. Maybe, I thought. But I never returned to acting.
A few years later I wrote my first mystery novel, The Mother Shadow, featuring Claire Conrad and Maggie Hill—the female answer to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. It was rejected by seven publishers and then accepted by Viking. The Mother Shadow was nominated for an Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha. Shortly after the publication of my second Claire Conrad/Maggie Hill novel, Beauty Dies, I ran into my ex-Hollywood agent who asked me what I was doing. I told him I was a published author. And he said, "Why do women facing menopause always write books?" Hooray for Hollywood.
I wrote a group of short stories for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine starring a middle-aged actress. Crippen Landru collected them into a book titled, Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories. My latest novel is City of Mirrors, a Diana Poole Thriller. Surprise. It’s about Hollywood.
I’m still married to Bones Howe (and they said it wouldn’t last). The three children who are now adults still call me mom. And their children call me grandmamma. And I’m still writing: Hooray for Hollywood.