Westbrook, Robert 1945-

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WESTBROOK, Robert 1945-

PERSONAL: Born December 24, 1945, in New York, NY; son of Trevor (an industrialist) and Sheilah (a Hollywood columnist; maiden name, Graham) Westbrook; married Kate Heflin, September, 1969 (divorced, 1973); married Gail Obrecht, February, 1994; children: Loam, Torello, Gabriel (sons). Education: Attended Columbia University, 1963-67.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Onyx Books, New American Library/Penguin Putnam, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. E-mail—[email protected] robertwestbrook.com.

CAREER: Novelist. Worked as an assistant director of films in Europe, 1968-69.

AWARDS, HONORS: Shamus Award Nominee for Best Private Eye Paperback Original, 2002, for Ancient Enemy.

WRITINGS:

Journey behind the Iron Curtain, Putnam (New York, NY), 1963.

The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (novel; also see below), Crown (New York, NY), 1969.

The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (screenplay based on his novel), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1969.

The Left-handed Policeman: A Novel of Murder in Beverly Hills, Crown (New York, NY), 1986.

Nostalgia Kills: A Left-handed Policeman Mystery, Crown (New York, NY), 1988.

Lady Left: A Left-handed Policeman Novel, Crown (New York, NY), 1991.

Rich Kids, Carol (New York, NY), 1992.

Intimate Lies: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham: Her Son's Story, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Ghost Dancer: A Howard Moon Deer Mystery, Signet (New York, NY), 1998.

Warrior Circle: A Howard Moon Deer Mystery, Signet, (New York, NY), 1999.

Red Moon: A Howard Moon Deer Mystery, New American Library (New York, NY), 2000.

The Mexican, based on the screenplay by J. H. Wyman, Onyx (New York, NY), 2001.

Ancient Enemy: A Howard Moon Deer Novel, Signet (New York, NY), 2001.

Insomnia: A Novel, based on the screenplay by Hillary Seitz, Onyx (New York, NY), 2002.

WORK IN PROGRESS: An historical novel set in the 1940s and 1950s.

SIDELIGHTS: For novelist Robert Westbrook the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald's life and death has always had special meaning: Westbrook's mother, Sheilah Graham, was Fitzgerald's companion at the time of his death in 1940. Although Fitzgerald's popularity has increased tremendously since then, he was considered a failure when he died at age forty-four. "I grew up in the shadow of this contradiction, both the glory of what it meant to be a writer, and the terrible price as well," Westbrook once wrote. "Somehow, despite the cautionary tale of Scott Fitzgerald, I always wanted to be a writer, from as long back as I can remember. It seemed to me the most wonderful thing in the world."

Westbrook grew up with his mother in Beverly Hills, writing his first book, when he was seventeen years old. The book, Journey behind the Iron Curtain, was inspired by a trip Westbrook took to the Soviet Union. His first novel, The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, followed in 1969 after four tumultuous years at Columbia University. Westbrook didn't write again for fifteen years.

It wasn't until 1985, while living with his family in Hawaii, that Westbrook started to pen mystery novels. "I began writing a series of satirical mysteries set in the Los Angeles of my childhood," he said. The books that followed—three "Left-handed Policeman" mysteries starring Lt. Nicky Rachmaninoff—were widely appreciated by critics and fans of the genre. "A mercilessly witty social satire," Publishers Weekly reviewer Sybil Steinberg wrote in praise of Lady Left: A Lefthanded Policeman Novel, in which Rachmaninoff tackles Sandinistas and drug lords. "Westbrook adeptly exercises the sophisticated riposte," noted Steinberg of the 1991 novel. Westbrook followed the "Left-handed Policeman" series with 1992's Rich Kids, a whodunit featuring a dysfunctional Hollywood family that a Publishers Weekly reviewer called "a lively, no-holds barred mystery."

Westbrook's mother, Sheilah Graham, passed away in 1988, and Westbrook decided to write about her relationship with Fitzgerald in his next book, Intimate Lies: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham: Her Son's Story. Although Graham had told a romanticized version of the story in her autobiographical 1958 bestseller Beloved Infidel, son Westbrook presents the "unvarnished love story," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Intimate Lies confronts the less-romantic facts about the relationship, such as Fitzgerald's destructive alcoholism and Graham's buried past—that she grew up as Lily Shiel, daughter of an impoverished East London immigrant family. Westbrook drew on his mother's letters and diaries to write what Booklist contributor Donna Seaman called a "frank, riveting biography" that "illuminates Graham's often deceitful but always gutsy, independent, and unapologetic life with insight, respect and love."

After Intimate Lies, Westbrook returned to writing mysteries, this time turning to the Southwest as the setting for a series starring Howard Moon Deer. Critical reception of the series was sometimes lukewarm—an online review by Jeri Wright for Mystery Reader commented that Warrior Circle: A Howard Moon Deer Mystery is "smoothly written" and "mildly entertaining"—but many fans of the genre responded with enthusiasm. Harriet Klausner, reviewing Warrior Circle for BookBrowser, called the novel "a superb regional mystery" full of "complex and intelligent characters."

Along with his mystery series writing, Westbrook has worked on a number of side projects, including ghostwriting a mystery series and writing novelizations of major motion pictures. He also spent two years as an English-language instructor in Egypt and China, and has more recently been teaching suspense writing workshops in Chatham, Massachusetts, and at the Taos Institute of Art in New Mexico. "I still believe it's magic," Westbrook once said of writing; "the luckiest thing in the world is to have the great good fortune to be an author of books."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

periodicals

Armchair Detective, winter, 1989, review of Nostalgia Kills: A Left-handed Policeman Mystery, p. 77; summer, 1993, review of Rich Kids, p. 114.

Best Sellers, July, 1986, review of The Left-handed Policeman: A Novel of Murder in Beverly Hills, p. 137.

Booklist, March 15, 1986, review of The Left-handed Policeman, p. 1061; March 1, 1988, review of Nostalgia Kills, p. 1098; December 15, 1990, review of Lady Left: A Left-handed Policeman Novel, p. 805; April 15, 1992, review of Rich Kids, p. 1505; April 15, 1992, review of Rich Kids, p. 1516; August, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of Intimate Lies: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham: Her Son's Story, p. 1924.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1986, review of The Lefthanded Policeman, p. 170; February 15, 1988, review of Nostalgia Kills, p. 249; December 15, 1990, review of Lady Left, p. 1714; March 1, 1992, review of Rich Kids, p. 284; June 15, 1995, review of Intimate Lies, p. 849.

Library Journal, April 15, 1992, review of Rich Kids, p. 124.

Life, October 24, 1969.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 10, 1988, review of Nostalgia Kills, p. 10; July 19, 1992, review of Rich Kids, p. 11; September 24, 1995, review of Intimate Lies, p. 11.

New York Post, August 11, 1969.

New York Times Book Review, June 8, 1986, review of The Left-handed Policeman, p. 91; February 17, 1991, review of Lady Left, p. 19; July 23, 1995, review of Intimate Lies, p. 12.

Observer (London, England), February 9, 1997, review of Intimate Lies, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, February 14, 1986, review of The Left-handed Policeman, p. 71; February 19, 1988, review of Nostalgia Kills, p. 77; November 23, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Lady Left, p. 55; March 9, 1992, review of Rich Kids, p. 47; June 19, 1995, review of Intimate Lies, pp. 42-43.

Show Business, December 14, 1969.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), April 24, 1988, review of Nostalgia Kills, p. 7; September 17, 1995, review of Intimate Lies, p. 3.

Variety, May 28, 1969.

Wall Street Journal, April 1, 1986, review of The Lefthanded Policeman, p. 30.

Washington Post Book World, August 20, 1995, review of Intimate Lies, p. 4.

West Coast Review of Books, number 1, 1986, review of The Left-handed Policeman, p. 25.

Writer's Digest, September, 1969.

online

BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (February 26, 2003), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Red Moon and Warrior Circle.

Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (February 26, 2003), Diane Gotfryd, review of Warrior Circle; Jennifer Monahan Winberry, review of Red Moon; Jeri Wright, review of Warrior Circle.

Robert Westbrook Web site,http://www.robertwestbrook.com/ (September 5, 2003).

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