Veteran editor and author Brady (Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater) approaches the love-hate history of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner with reliable thoroughness. He reveals his sources for each chapter, promising that “no scenes or conversations are fabricated,” and an impressive bibliography shows the depth of his research. These resources build an unusually blunt, absorbing portrait of “the Voice,” whose disdain for others was often jaw-dropping. Sinatra gave Buddy Rich $25,000 to fund his own band so he’d be free to dally with the drummer’s wife, and had an affair with Lauren Bacall while Humphrey Bogart, her husband and Sinatra’s friend, was dying. Brady refrains from coming to his own conclusions about Sinatra, letting other voices speak. Wilfried Sheed is quoted as saying Sinatra was “doing what practically every man in America at least wanted to do—cheating on his wife and chasing after Ava Gardner.”
The repeated ups and downs of the Sinatra-Gardner relationship and careers become tiresome, but Brady knows how to keep readers turning pages all the way to the end of Sinatra’s career, when everything that he had collected was sold at auction. Anyone remotely curious about either of these larger-than-life characters will want to read Brady’s book.
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