I am delighted to announce that I have partnered with Applause Books to publish my biography of James Dean next year. I am deeply appreciative of the tireless work of my agent, Lee Sobel, in helping to find my book the best possible home, and for the support and enthusiasm of my editor at Applause, Chris Chappell. Publication of the book is the culmination of a years-long journey that began when I happened upon Rebel without a Cause on Turner Classic Movies one day during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and involved the largest and most comprehensive literature and archival research into James Dean’s life and legacy ever conducted. I am so thankful to have found a team that believes in my book and my work and wants to help me share with the world a story that needs to be told.
You may think there is nothing left to say about James Dean, but drawing on more than four hundred previously secret pages of Dean’s personal and business records, this book will serve as a necessary and essential correction to seven decades of literature grounded in the homophobia and toxic masculinity of twentieth-century society. A modern, twenty-first century approach, informed by contemporary ideas about sexual diversity transforms our understanding James Dean’s story, and his impact on America.
I am deeply aware of the enormous trust that has fallen to me as one of, if not the, only researchers to have read and studied the cache of four hundred pages of James Dean’s previously unseen documents held by his onetime agent and the revelations contained in them. With those papers now scattered to the winds, I may be the only researcher who will ever study them in their entirety. Similarly, I understand the responsibility of being the first author to have reviewed many archival materials that reshape much of what was previously said and thought about James Dean. I take very seriously my obligation to history, and I am honored to have the opportunity to present this material to redefine James Dean for a new century and new generations.
Thirty years ago, another author, journalist Paul Alexander, attempted a similar project with his book Boulevard of Broken Dreams. His 1994 James Dean biography was a product of its time, wallowing in the tabloid sensationalism of the 1990s and painting Dean’s sexual life in pornographic detail, freely mixing well-documented facts with dubious hearsay. The widespread negative reception to that book made the subject virtually unspeakable for three decades, just as Walter Ross’s bestselling demonizing novelization of James Dean’s complex sex life as The Immortal in 1958 had cast an unsavory shadow over Dean in the preceding decades. With a wealth of new material unavailable to previous writers and a rigorous approach to historiography that transcends the celebrity biography genre, my book will correct the record and provide a definitive account of truth behind the many myths that surround an American icon.
I will share more details about the book as they are decided, including the final title and the official publication date, which is likely to be sometime in the middle of next year. It has been a long road to publication for a project that began three years ago. As much as I don’t believe in signs and wonders, even I found it more than a little unusual that when I woke up the morning after signing the contract, I turned on the TV only to find I had left on TCM and they were playing Rebel without a Cause.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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