Don's Blog: August 2021

Clay Shaw/Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw/Dueling Voices/I Lost It at the Beginning/101 Reasons Not To Murder The Entire Saudi Royal Family/He Knew Where He Was Going (?)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Clay Shaw and the Actress Kay Francis

Clay Shaw knew the actress Kay Francis, who was a big film star during the first half of the 1930s. Her career plateaued during the second half of the 1930s, and declined from there forward. She struggled with alcohol and Rx drug issues and died at a relatively early age during the 1960s.

While researching Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw, I was told by at least one person that Shaw knew Francis, but I never resolved the facts of how they met, and how well they knew each other.

I recently found a website that summarizes entries from diaries that Kay Francis kept for decades. Those summaries reveal that Francis, who traveled frequently and widely in those years, had been to New Orleans in the late 1920s where she pursues a romantic (or physical) relationship with another woman. The affair didn't last long, and it is unclear whether she knew Clay Shaw that early.

However, an entry from 1953 revealed that Francis visited with Clay Shaw (and others) on a visit to New Orleans. Perhaps the actual diaries reveal more detail. They are located at Wesleyan University.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Clay Bertrand character in Early Novel

 A number of people who have read one of my early novels, I Lost It At The Beginning, have asked about the Clay Bertrand character in that novel. Specifically, how the character relates to the real-life Clay Shaw.

The passages were written during the spring and summer of 1994, at a time when I was toying with the idea of a full biography of Clay Shaw. My interest in that biography ultimately resulted, in 2013, in Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw, the most complete biography of Shaw ever written.

Since the novel was based in Louisiana, in an unspecified location some distance away from New Orleans, I got the idea of working the mysterious Clay Bertrand character into the fabric of the story. I never intended that the character represented the real-life Clay Shaw, but I did make him look like Shaw (in contrast to Dean Andrews's ever-shifting descriptions of Bertrand), and kept much of the elusiveness of the idea of Bertrand. I thought the ide came across well, and was very neatly integrated into the larger story.