Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, August 5, 2016


I Could go on Singing by John D. MacDonald (1963)

I Could Go on Singing was Judy Garland's last film.  It was also John D. MacDonald's last movie tie-in novel.  (I'm cheating here -- it was also JDM's first, and only, movie tie-in novel.)

I haven't seen the movie, but what I could gather from comments on IMDb. The flick bombed, mostly because of its maudlin storyline.  From all accounts, Garland's performance was fantastic and co-star Dirk Bogarde put in a good performance which cold not match Garland's presence.  The movie, which drew some parallels to Garland's life, is evidently an absolute treat for Garland fans.

I don't know why MacDonald agreed to novelize this movie, but he was able to add depth to the plot by introducing a main character and love interest who were not in the original film.  Jason Brown is a screenwriter still climbing back from a writer's block following the accidental death of his alcoholic young wife.  Long before his marriage, he had a brief affair with singing sensation and movie star Jenny Bowman, who herself was recovering from a disastrous marriage.  Their brief affair ended amicably.  Jenny went to another disastrous marriage and divorce, while Jason went on to his short-lived marriage.

Jenny harbors a secret that has been kept from the press and the general public.  Early in her career, she had an affair with a married man that led to an illegitimate child.  The powers that be in her career, convinced he to give up the child and to keep her entire pregnancy a secret.  The child's father, David Donne, and his wife agreed to adopt and raise the child on the condition that Jenny have no contact with the boy, Matthew.  Matthew is now 13 and lives with his now-widowed father in England.

Throughout her career, Jenny has refused to perform in England, fearing that she may want to come into contact with her child, who has no idea of his parentage.  Guilt and lost opportunity have plagued Jenny to the point where she has scheduled London concerts in the hope of meeting her child.  The studio executive in charge of her next movie is frightened of what might happen if the story of Jenny's illegitimate son became public, so he blackmails Jason into going to London, hoping he will have a calming effect on Jenny.

In London, Jason falls for Lois Marney, Jenny's manager's secretary and another victim of a disastrous marriage.  As a result of her marriage, Lois has shut down emotionally.

Things come to a head when Matthew accidentally discovers who his real parents are.

In this story, almost everyone is damaged goods and it's interesting to see how each manages to face (or not face) inherent flaws.  MacDonald adds a depth of character to the story by playing on the effect of Jenny's obsession on those around her.  This is not one of his best books, but it is a highly readable book.  MacDonald has turned a sow's ear into a moderately respectable silk purse.

I Could Go on Singing was a 1963 Gold Medal paperback published in both an American and a Canadian edition.  To my knowledge, it has never been reprinted -- one of the few JDM books that have not been reprinted.  Copies are available on with prices ranging from $27.95 to $105.00.


  1. I confess: I haven't read I COULD GO ON SINGING although I have a copy of it around here somewhere. The fact that JDM didn't allow the book to be reprinted gives you an indication of what he thought of the book. Nice review!

  2. I know why he agreed to do the tie-in: money.

  3. ...or, perhaps, he'd sold all rights. At those prices, perhaps a library search is in order. Thanks for the pointer.