Book Review: Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne.

Two weeks ago I reviewed the lacklustre The Mansions of Limbo by Dominick Dunne. But as my favourite author, Dunne can do no wrong in my eyes. This time around, I’m reviewing the book that changed my life, Another City, Not My Own.

There’s nothing in particular that makes it a life changing book for probably anyone other than myself, but after I’d read it, there was no going back. I picked up the “novel in the form of a memoir” in mid 2009 after reading O.J. Simpson’s confessional, If I Did It. I had become fascinated and obsessed with the case, and Dunne’s commentary in the afterword was my first encounter with the famous name dropper.

I’m sure I Wikied him, as I do all new authors and books I come across to better familiarise myself with their writing and whether I want to commit to a book by them, and found out that Dunne was a Hollywood producer whose drug and alcohol fuelled lifestyle caused his wife to divorced him and the industry to shun him. Dunne became a recluse, penning his first New York Times Bestseller, The Winners, in a cabin in Oregon.

The murder of his daughter, Poltergeist star Dominique Dunne, and the subsequent “slap on the wrist” her killerand boyfriendreceived drew Dunne out of the woodwork and into the public glare once again. He became an advocate for victims rights and justice brought against rich and famous offenders, covering such high-profile cases as the trial of Claus von Bülow, charged with attempted murder as his estranged wife Sunny lay in a vegetative state after an alleged insulin overdose; Kennedy relatives Michael Skakel and William Kennedy Smith, serving time for the murder of teenage neighbour Martha Moxley (on which the 1993 novel, A Season in Purgatory, is based) and acquitted of rape charges, respectively; the Menedez murders; and, of course, the O.J. Simpson trial, for Vanity Fair. I could not get enough of his storied history and fascinating accounts of the dark side of Hollywood.

While I have only read a small sampling of Dunne’s published books, as they are quite hard to get a hold of, I just knew from the first self-deprecating paragraphs denouncing his credibility as a crime reporter and mention of the notorious footballer cum alleged murderer cum black hero O.J., as with all good books, that this was going to be one to remember.

Another City, Not My Own chronicles Dunne’s alter ego Gus Bailey’s return from New York back to the city that ruined his life, Los Angeles, for the murder trial of O.J. Simpson. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fictionalised (Dunne’s real son Griffin is now Bailey’s son Grafton; A Season in Purgatory is the narrator’s book-turned-miniseries), and such famous names as Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, the Spellings, Michael Jackson and Heidi Fleiss make guest appearances, if only in the form of dinner table gossip fodder. In addition, the larger-than-life main players, O.J., Nicole Brown Simpson, the Goldman family, Kim, Khloe and Kourtney’s dead daddy Robert Kardashian, pool boy Kato Kaelin, racist cop Mark Furhman, Nicole’s drug addicted friend, Faye Resnick, and super-lawyers, prosecutor Marcia Clark, and the arrogant Johnnie Cochran for the defence, make Another City, Not My Own read like a salacious gossip mag or blockbuster movie.

This book boats a twist, turn and pop culture reference on every page, making your eyes race to keep up as your mind tries to savour the action, because once you’ve read the shock ending, which links to another high profile ’90s murder, there’s no going back.

Related: The Mansions of Limbo by Dominick Dunne Review.

Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

In Perez Hilton’s words, “2010 has really been the year of the cheater”. First we had Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal, which broke late last year but has continued to be a headline grabbing story, then Jesse James’ spiral of shame, and now David Boreanaz, who went public a few weeks ago with news that he cheated on his wife of almost nine years, Jaime Bergman.

And last year was the year of the sports scandal, you might say, with the Matthew Johns group sex story coming to light in May.

What do all these men, with, perhaps, the exception of James, have in common? Their shady pasts have virtually been forgotten in favour of their more positive talents. Boreanaz plays the lead in hit TV series Bones, Johns now hosts his own self-titled show, and Tiger is back on the Masters tour.

While the wrongdoings of the Australian underworld are being glorified on Underbelly no one bats an eyelid. To take it even further, O.J. Simpson, although acquitted of double murder, was held up as a hero amongst African Americans in Los Angeles following his trial, despite being thought of as guilty in the court of public opinion.

Perhaps this is just a sign of the times changing; that our society has become so desensitised to notions of war, violence, drugs and sexual depravity that they are not longer taboo. I would argue that this is true to some extent it is not reflected on the other end of the spectrum.

For example, a recently refurbished Heidi Montag admitted to undergoing 10 cosmetic surgical procedures in one day because she wasn’t happy with the way she looked. She obviously has deep-rooted body dysmorphic issues, however instead of helping and supporting her, the public has turned on her.

The same could be said of the Britney Spears’ and Lindsay Lohans’ of the world. A recent Jezebel article, “In Defence of Lindsay Lohan”, was in support of the former child star everyone loves to hate.

Sure, Lindsay has a father who “is a nightmare… and her mother is more of a friend than a parental figure. So perhaps she is lacking in guidance and role models. But who among us, in some way, is not? Her experience [of growing up in the spotlight]… is not one many people can relate to, anyway.”

The author surmises that the public’s fascination with Lindsay and their “build-you-up-to-take-you-down” mentality is much simpler: “She’s 23-years-old and being ripped to shreds in the press mostly because she goes out at night.”

Right. Someone like Colin Farrell has had a sex tape released, sexual misconduct allegations brought against him and has battled substance abuse problems, however he is still held up as a Golden Globe-winning actor. We all know Lindsay has the acting chops, it’s just a matter of her getting out of her own way. Double standard? In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!

The beautifully tragic Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith were, and still are, vilified for being just that. Even in death, the girls can’t catch a break.

So that brings us back to the question, why do men get away with so much more than women can? Or, more to the point, why are men almost celebrated for their wrongdoings while women are banished into social oblivion?

I think, in a nation that celebrates sport as the highest level of achievement, especially, we want to give our sportsmen the benefit of the doubt. While I do think we focus too much on sport as the be all and end all of success in Australia, and the very nature of being “Australian”, it can be seen as admirable to offer someone a second chance. Johns, for example, could be seen as brave for coming forward and being the only one of his Cronulla Sharks teammates to own up to his mistake. But I do think it’s a bit soon to be running a television show off his back.

However, we also like to kick people when they’re down. Britney Spears, for example, was heralded as the princess of pop in her golden days, but when she started donning pink wigs, speaking to herself in a British accent in the gutter, and being carted off to the looney bin, we wanted nothing to do with her. Oh, I’m sorry, only to denigrate her on the cover of tabloid magazines.

Then last year she launched her comeback tour, and everyone was back on her side. That is, until, she lip synched (come on, it’s Britney! When has she ever not lip synched?) her way through Australia and out of our collective consciousness.

But how many second chances are we going to give these men, in particular? Charlie Sheen was embroiled in his latest domestic dispute over Christmas last year. But what of his past child pornography, prostitute and drug allegations? Not to mention the shooting of ex-girlfriend Kelly Preston in a domestic dispute. Do we just sweep them under the rug too so that Sheen can keep the $1.2 million per episode of Two & a Half Men coming?

When these mistakes are hurting people other than themselves, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Do we really care if Lindsay, Britney or Mischa are off to rehab again? And shouldn’t we be caring that Jesse James allegedly ran dog fights out of his West Coast Choppers headquarters and is apparently a white supremacist? Or that Sheen is essentially being rewarded by the cash cow that is Hollywood for his reprehensible behaviour? Or that Tiger sleptand somehow found time to golfhis way across the country in a narcissistic bubble of admiration from his countrymenand women?

Related: All Eyes on Marilyn.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] In Defence of Lindsay Lohan.