“Make yourself an Aperol Spritz (or an entire pitcher) and find a comfortable chair because you’re going to spend the afternoon reading Leading Men by Christopher Castellani. Tennessee Williams was a genius — charming, brilliant, and powerful — but he was hell to live with and even harder to love, a challenge even for the man who loved him best, Frank Merlo. Castellani’s fourth novel brings to life not only their fraught relationship, but also the gritty glamour of their time. It’s a rich and gorgeous party whose guests include Truman Capote, Luchino Visconti, and you. Fortunately, you have that Aperol Spritz. Salut!”Michael Barnard, Rakestraw Books
"Blazing . . . casts a spell right from the start." --Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"A timeless and heartbreaking love story." --Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
"An extraordinary book." --Lauren Groff, author of Florida
Illuminating one of the great love stories of the twentieth century - Tennessee Williams and his longtime partner Frank Merlo - Leading Men is a glittering novel of desire and ambition, set against the glamorous literary circles of 1950s Italy
In July of 1953, at a glittering party thrown by Truman Capote in Portofino, Italy, Tennessee Williams and his longtime lover Frank Merlo meet Anja Blomgren, a mysteriously taciturn young Swedish beauty and aspiring actress. Their encounter will go on to alter all of their lives.
Ten years later, Frank revisits the tempestuous events of that fateful summer from his deathbed in Manhattan, where he waits anxiously for Tennessee to visit him one final time. Anja, now legendary film icon Anja Bloom, lives as a recluse in the present-day U.S., until a young man connected to the events of 1953 lures her reluctantly back into the spotlight after he discovers she possesses the only surviving copy of Williams's final play.
What keeps two people together and what breaks them apart? Can we save someone else if we can't save ourselves? Like The Master and The Hours, Leading Men seamlessly weaves fact and fiction to navigate the tensions between public figures and their private lives. In an ultimately heartbreaking story about the burdens of fame and the complex negotiations of life in the shadows of greatness, Castellani creates an unforgettable leading lady in Anja Bloom and reveals the hidden machinery of one of the great literary love stories of the twentieth-century.
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