John Meyer’s first book about Judy Garland, HEARTBREAKER, was a day-by-day account of his attempt to help the singer through her last year. Now, OPERATION RUBY SLIPPER drops Garland into occupied Europe at the height of the Second World War. She’s to locate—and photograph—a reclusive Nazi scientist who is working on nuclear-powered batteries for Hitler’s U-Boats.
ITW spoke to Mr. Meyer in his Manhattan home.
Why Judy Garland?
I was both lucky and unlucky to know Judy. She put me through an emotional wringer, leaving me broken and weeping. At the same time she was the most dazzling woman I’d ever run across, sexy, provocative and funny. As I began thinking of her as a character in a story, I asked myself, What’s the most colorful, dramatic environment I could put her in? And there was the Second World War, just waiting for her.
Did you do much research on the period?
The period I knew, what I needed was what Hitchcock calls The Maguffin. What was her mission? I knew that Hitler’s physicists had been working to develop a bomb, using uranium. But that requires a reactor, which they didn’t have. But they were also seeking to extend the life of their sub batteries—with nuclear power; so I conjured this scientist, Kintner, who’s using Plutonium—which doesn’t need a reactor—to extend battery life. These improved U-Boats could threaten the invasion of Normandy. And this is the guy Judy is commissioned to find.
All by herself?
No, no, she’s paired with a Brit, an MI6 operative who guides her through Occupied Europe. And, of course, she falls for him, there’s a bittersweet romance. The story shows how Judy’s experience transforms her from Girl to Woman. She accepts the mission because she wants to prove to her studio, MGM, that she’s capable of playing mature roles. Well, this is some role: undercover spy!
If Judy were alive today to read OPERATION RUBY SLIPPER, how do you think she’d react?
Well, Rex Reed read it and said “She would have loved it”. Because it’s so full of humor—and she loved to laugh.
JOHN MEYER is a novelist, screenwriter and songwriter. His songs have been performed by Judy Garland, Eartha Kitt, Madeline Kahn and Linda Eder. His memoir of time with Garland is called HEARTBREAKER. His original musical thriller The Betrayal of Nora Blake had a sold-out run at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre.
To learn more about John, please visit his website.
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