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The Rebel
An Imagined Life of James Dean

an extract from the novel
by Jack Dann

From the HarperCollins website:

A movie star on a meteoric rise, young James Dean was already being hailed as one of America's finest actors when he died in The Rebel by Jack Danna high-speed car accident in 1955. In one terrible instant a luminous future glowing with extraordinary promise was snuffed out forever.

But what if it wasn't?

With The Rebel, acclaimed award-winning author Jack Dann pulls James Dean from the twisted wreckage and offers him a second chance to make an indelible mark on his art, his culture, and his time in an era of profound change and devastating social upheaval.

Ingeniously blending historical fact with brilliant invention, The Rebel is a hip, fast, mesmerizing ride through the fifties and sixties -- an unforgettable road trip across a nation torn by bitter racial strife and violently divided by war, with an American legend at the wheel.

The Rebel

Chapter One

Los Angeles: September 29, 1955

It was the same dream, the same ratcheting, shaking, steaming, choo-chooing dream of being back on the ghost train with his mother. She is imprisoned in a lead casket in the baggage car, and he knows that she is alive and suffocating. But he can't reach her, even as he runs from one car of the Silver Challenger Express to another. The cars are huge and hollow and endless, and he is exhausted -- James Dean, forever the nine-year-old orphan, on his way again, and again and again, to bury his mother in Marion, Indiana.

Mercifully, the whistle of the train rings -- a telephone jolting him awake.

"Hello, Jimmy?" The voice hesitant, whispery, far away.


"Well, who do you think it is, Pier Angeli?"

"You're a nasty bitch."

"And you're still in love with her, you poor dumb fuck, aren't you."

Fully awake now, he laughed mordantly. "Yeah, I guess I am."



"I'm sorry. I love you."

"I love you, too. Are you in Connecticut with the Schwartzes or whatever the fuck their name is?" Jimmy felt around for cigarettes and matches, without success. He slept on a mattress on the floor of the second-floor alcove. Shadows seemed to float around him in the darkness like clouds.

Marilyn giggled, as if swallowing laughter, and said, "Anti-Semite. You mean the Greenes, and I'm not staying with them anymore, except to visit and do business. I'm living in New York now -- like you told me to, remember? I'm at the Waldorf Towers. Pretty flashy, huh? But that's not where I am this very minute."

"Marilyn ... "

"I'm right here in L.A., and I've got news and I want to see you." She sounded out of breath, but that was just another one of her signatures.

"I got a big race on Monday," Jimmy said, feeling hampered by the length of the phone cord and the darkness as he felt through the litter around his mattress. "It's in Salinas, near Monterey. You want to come and watch?"

"Maybe I do, maybe I don't."

"Shit, Marilyn. What time is it? I've got to get up at seven. And I've got to be awake enough so as not to crash into a goddamn wall. And -- "

The phone was suddenly dead.

Marilyn Monroe was gone.

Jimmy should have known better. But it was -- he got up and flicked on the light switch -- two o'clock in the morning. Not late for Jimmy when he wasn't racing; he'd often hang out at this hour with Marty Wrightson, a studio electrician who claimed to be Jimmy's best friend. They'd go to Googie's or Schwab's on Sunset, which were the only places in L.A. open after midnight, or he'd drive around alone ... or talk through the night to Marilyn, who would call whenever she felt the need.

The lights hurt Jimmy's eyes, and although he hadn't been drinking or doing any drugs, he felt hungover; and as he looked around his rented house, forgetting for the instant that he needed a cigarette, he remembered his dream -- running through the clattering passenger cars of the Silver Challenger. "Momma," he whispered, then jerked his head to the side, as if embarrassed.

But eventually the light burned away the dream. He found the cigarettes in his bed, the pack of Chesterfields crumpled, the matches tucked inside the cellophane wrapper; and he sat on the edge of the alcove, his legs dangling, and smoked in the bright yellowish light. Below him was a large living room with a huge seven-foot-tall stone fireplace He had bought a white bearskin rug for the hearth, and on the wall was an eagle, talons extended, wings outstretched, a bronzed predator caught in midflight. It belonged to Jimmy's landlord. He could almost touch his pride-and-joy James B. Lansing loudspeakers that just about reached the ceiling. Below ... below him was the mess of his life: his bongos, scattered records and album covers, dirty dishes, dirty clothes, cameras and camera equipment, crumpled paper and old newspaper, and books -- a library on the floor. The walls were covered with bullfighting posters and a few of his own paintings, but pride of place was given to a bloodstained bullfighting cape that was cut into spokelike shadows by the bright wheel lamp that hung between the beams of the ceiling. Jimmy gazed at the cape and remembered when the Brooklyn born matador Sidney Franklin had given it to him as a souvenir. That was in Tijuana. Rogers Brackett had introduced Jimmy to the matador who was a friend of Ernest Hemingway. Brackett introduced him to everyone. All he ever wanted in return was Jimmy's cock.

But Brackett knew everyone.

Jimmy could still feel the dark presence of his recurrent nightmare. It blew through him like hot, fetid air, the hurricane of a fucked-up past, of memory. He had named it, thus making it tangible, absolutely real. Black Mariah. Black Mariah. Black Mariah.

Suddenly frightened, feeling small and vulnerable as his thought swam like neon fish in deep, dark water, he huddled up tightly on the landing. He wanted to cry. Momma ...

He flicked his half-finished cigarette in a high arc across the room and wondered if it would start a fire. If it did, he would sit right where he was like a fucking Buddha and die without moving a muscle.

If it didn't, he would race on Monday.

The phone rang again. He picked up the receiver.

"Hi," Marilyn said. "You ready to go out with me?"

Jimmy laughed. "Why'd you hang up on me?"

"Because you were treating me bad. I've changed. The new me doesn't take shit from anybody, not even from the person I love more than -- "

"More than who?"



Extract from The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean by Jack Dann, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2004 by Jack Dann. Used by permission of the publisher.
The Rebel by Jack Dann

The Rebel is published by William Morrow (July 2004, ISBN: 0380978393).

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