Andy Marx's new book, Royalties, makes for a fun summer reading experience. The book is historic fiction but the term feels like a bit of a misnomer as the historic period is not all that far in the past. The era and subjects covered begin in the early 20th century. Marx's story tracks the progress of three main characters -- a comic vaudevillian, a popular music composer, and a woman who gets her start in the music publishing business as a "song plugger."
Along the way, readers follow these characters through the energetic and exciting developments of the 20th century.
Songwriter Ben Cohen becomes the first composer published by Eve Solomon's new publishing company. As with all entrepreneurs, Eve continues to be a "jack of all trades," so she and Ben travel the show circuit so that Eve can play and "plug" Ben's songs. (Before radio and television, live performances were the only way to get songs known. The goal of these performances by "song pluggers" was to sell sheet music so that songs could be performed in homes and by other professionals.)
Among those who eventually perform Ben's songs to great success for all of them is rising star, comedian and singer Alex Getz. Getz makes the transition from vaudeville to Broadway to film and along way encounters Mae West, W.C. Fields, Frank Sinatra, and many other household names of each era.
As Alex becomes one of Hollywood's biggest stars, Ben marries Eve and continues to write songs that Eve can publish and sell very successfully. In the tight upper echelon of show business, the three of them encounter one another with great regularity. A long-lasting love triangle ensues.
Eve, tremendously effective at all she does, is ill-fated in only one regard: Her inability to settle down with the love of her life, Alex Getz.
As their careers and lives intersect across the years, there is a price to pay. As the jacket copy says, "a royalty for true love that can never be measured."
At first thought, one might take Royalties to be just a good summer read, but the fact that the book was written by Andy Marx brings the material into a new light. Growing up in Los Angeles, Marx was regularly exposed to Hollywood royalty.
Andy Marx's maternal grandfather was renowned songwriter Gus Kahn who composed many songs that were performed in vaudeville, on Broadway and in films, including some of the films of Marx's paternal relatives -- the Marx Brothers.
And Andy was a frequent lunch guest at the Beverly Hills home of his paternal grandfather, Groucho, who regularly entertained those who are so famous that they are still household names.
With that in mind, readers can logically assume that, while the book is definitely fiction, that some of the stories grew from what was happening in the Kahn and Marx households.
While most of the historic moments are ones all Americans could identify -- World War II, the death of President Roosevelt, the creation of the March of Dimes, et al -- some of the history is lesser known but still very interesting. I think particularly of the section about the formation of ASCAP (American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers), which was absolutely instrumental in devising a way for musicians to be paid for the continuing use of their work. While much in the music business has changed in the last fifteen years, the basic trajectory of success for musicians would have been far different had ASCAP not been formed.
About Andy Marx
In addition to authoring this book, Andy Marx is an award-winning writer and photographer, whose work has appeared in publications such as Variety, The Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly, among others. In addition, he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the popular comedy website, Hollywood & Swine, which is known throughout the world for its lampooning of the entertainment industry.
To read little-known, true stories of America's past, visit www.americacomesalive.com.