cover image Up with the Sun

Up with the Sun

Thomas Mallon. Knopf, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4819-7

Mallon’s sparkling latest (after Watergate) draws inspiration from real-life actor Dick Kallman’s career on Broadway and television and his 1980 murder. A pianist named Matt Liannetto, who first met Dick while working on the 1951 Broadway musical Seventeen, provides the narration. Matt had dinner at Dick’s in 1980, the night Dick and his partner, Steven, were killed during a botched robbery. Alternating chapters describe the actor’s career. The “aggressively ingratiating” Dick opens for comic singer Sophie Tucker (who gets in a few good lines); works with Lucille Ball, who has the manipulative and bombastic Dick’s number; and stars in the touring company for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which leads to his ill-fated TV series, Hank. After Seventeen star Kenneth Nelson rejects Dick’s advances, Dick’s decade-long obsession with Kenneth drives the story. Meanwhile, Matt goes to identify a murder suspect in a “vocal lineup,” where he meets and becomes romantically involved with Devin Arroyo, who works with the police. Mallon finds a natural sweetness in his depiction of Matt and Devin’s relationship as the trial and its aftermath unfold—a nice contrast to Dick’s unpleasant story. Peppering the juicy drama of Dick’s ambition and unrequited love with pop cultural references, as well as cameos from Dyan Cannon and Kaye Ballard, Mallon creates a fascinating, page-turning tale. Readers will be swept off their feet. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Feb.)