Guarding Gable: A Novel
Publisher:BearManor Media (Jan. 10 2019)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
At first glance, it might seem an exploration of actor Clark Gable's World War II service in the Army Air Corps after the death of his beloved wife, Carole Lombard, might be best suited to a non-fiction treatment. Happily, author Nat Segaloff chose to write an imaginative memoir featuring Gable's years in uniform as told from the Point of View of the apparently fictional Alan Greenberg. Greenberg is a junior publicist assigned by MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer to make sure Gable doesn't get into any dangerous situations, especially since the death of his wife has left Gable in a suicidal mood. So we see a friendship between star and publicist grow as well as a love triangle between them and a British publicist named Mavis Roberts.
Few authors can come close to having the credentials to pull off this novel like Nat Segaloff. Writer/ producer/ journalist Segaloff has penned 16 books on Hollywood subjects, was a studio publicist himself, has written stage and audio-plays, not to mention co-authoring and co-producing TV and radio scripts, many with a sci-fi bent. And these are but a few of his career highlights.
Not surprisingly, Guarding Gable is full of Segaloff's awareness of how a star of Gable's magnitude would be treated in the 1940s by the studio, the military, and the public. On top of that, what was most impressive to me were the many scenes of Gable flying over the continent in various bombing missions despite orders to stay on the ground. The detail Segaloff provides about the huge planes and the fliers who manned them in the Army Air Corps gives the book a level of excitement and suspense it wouldn't have had if Gable had followed orders. Or if Segaloff had given us a nonfiction book reliant on material necessarily cited from research sources.
The depth of the relationships Segaloff paints is first rate, especially between Gable and Greenberg as the star of Gone With the Windgains more and more respect for his "orderly." The romance between Greenberg and Roberts is far from a typical one and is also handled very deftly as the story progresses. The numerous supporting characters are vividly sketched and all entirely believable.
So who is the primary audience for this novel? Certainly Gable fans and enthusiasts of the 1940s era in Hollywood. So too World War II buffs interested in the Army Air Corps in Europe. But I'd go further and say anyone who enjoys a good story that is vivid, richly detailed, fast-paced, and illuminating should enjoy this one.
While I didn't get to hear it, I understand the audiobook for Guarding Gable is enhanced with sound effects and dialogue from the actual films Gable made during the war. Sounds like a fun way to go if audiobooks is your thing.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 9, 2019: