Picks and Pans Review: Lullaby and Goodnight

updated 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Vincent T. Bugliosi with William Stadiem

When it comes to bottom-line heinous crimes, the Charles Manson murders are a decidedly tough act to follow. Even so, it's hard to fathom why Bugliosi, who prosecuted Manson, then recounted the case in his gripping book Helter Skelter, reached back to the '20s and New York City's Tammany Hall for this volume. Billed on the cover as "a novel inspired by a true story," Lullaby and Goodnight is the seedy saga of Emily Stanton, a Broadway ingenue who falls for a society swell, marries him, bears his child and endures his beatings. Escaping with her young daughter, innocent Emily ends up in a hotel room with a vice squad officer. Arrested as a prostitute, she is soon trotted off to prison, where she endures varied degradations. Of course she has also lost custody of little Jessica, and it turns out her arrest was masterminded by her Tammany Hall-connected husband. So Emily, out of stir, swears to clear her name as she begins her sexual tour of city power brokers. Though her real-life counterpart, a tawdry chorine named Vivian Gordon, ended up with a length of clothesline wound around her neck (her murder was never solved), Bugliosi's heroine not only survives but triumphs—which is more than can be said of this book. Blending the subtlety of Woman in Chains with the nuances of The Perils of Pauline, the authors transform a perfectly serviceable mystery into something reminiscent of the most flagrant Joan Crawford melodramas. (New American Library, $17.95)

From Our Partners