The Fleshpots by Florenz Branch. Phoenix Press (1944), approx. 250 pp.
Sometime movie extra Shirley Pierce dreams of stardom. She’s beautiful enough to turn heads, yet she can’t get the attention of anyone who matters. But that may be changing. She’s been set up to meet reporter and author Bill Hilliard, who has the connections to get her noticed. First, however, she needs to slough off her boring ex-boyfriend, Charley Collins, who has just returned from the war. Bill, meanwhile, has other plans for Shirley. Nevertheless he inadvertantly becomes responsible for her encounter with predatory movie star Ralph Wharton. It could be her big break.
In Shirley Pierce Stonebraker has created a well-rounded character -- ambitious without a plan to get ahead, confident of her good looks but insecure otherwise, naïve and worldly at the same time. When she speaks to herself in the second person, Shirley amusingly reveals the contradictions in her personality. It’s a shame, then, that Stonebraker hasn’t gone further to break the conventions of the romance novel. She allows the tension to slacken as Shirley implausibly plays hard-to-get through the second half of the book. And she lets the focus wander when Ralph’s wife shows up to take control of her marriage. So while the author has presumably done enough to entertain her intended audience in 1944, she has perhaps missed opportunities to claim a readership today.