Val Holley’s book James Dean, The Biography

Val Holley’s book James Dean, The Biography

     Updated 23 April 2000        URL is

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Review of James Dean, The Biography

by Val Holley

This review is written by Kris Frailey, email

Kris is a delightful fifth-grade teacher (if you aren’t in the U.S., that’s the fifth year of schooling here, mostly eleven-year-old students. She’s now in in Scottsdale, Arizona and is originally from Collinsville, Il, northeast of St. Louis, Missouri.

James Dean, The Biography, by Val Holley

Reviewed by Kris Frailey

Val Holley¹s book, James Dean, The Biography, is just that…THE biography! This is a wonderful read — utterly enjoyable, and, I believe, the most factual of all the biographies about James Dean.

Holley seems to have sought out sources which other biographers have passed over. Composer David Diamond is quoted extensively in one chapter of the Holley biography. Diamond came into Dean¹s life in February of 1953 and, luckily for us, Diamond kept a diary. His reminiscences about Dean are, to me, some of the most enjoyable passages in this book. Candid yet sensitive, Diamond, through Val Holley, gives us a glimpse of James Dean¹s personality which is both illuminating and poignant. But Diamond isn¹t the only obscure source which Holley found. This book is chock full of interesting new voices which give us wonderful insight into the enigmatic nature of James Dean.

Another enjoyable aspect of this book is that Val Holley isn¹t afraid to take splendid issue with some of the other biographies written about Dean–Joe Hyams James Dean, Little Boy Lost, for one. Holley debunks Hyams¹ claim that Reverend DeWeerd of Fairmount seduced the teenaged Dean and admitted it in an interview with Hyams conducted after Dean¹s death. Holley¹s logic is excellent and his factual information is well-researched and documented.

Holley brings great enthusiasm and vibrancy to his work. His recounting of Dean¹s years in New York is spell-binding and beautifully researched. Holley¹s knowledge of Dean is encyclopedic, but never pedantic. Truly an amazing accomplishment in a biography of this size and depth.

I think that Holley¹s work is near perfection in a biography, and actually the definitive Dean biography. His prose is extremely readable and well-paced. The reader cannot doubt Holley¹s veracity or his dedication to research and documentation, as there are an extensive bibliography, twelve pages of notes, and a comprehensive listing of Dean¹s television, stage, and screen credits. This book is a MUST read for everyone…Dean fan or not.

Kris Frailey

P.S. I have revised this review since I was contacted by Mr. Holley who very kindly explained to me that I had made an error in my earlier review of his wonderful biography. Sorry, Val, and readers for any misinformation that my earlier review conveyed. Mea culpa!

Notice from the editor: Will the young woman who recently sent me her review of this book please write again? I can’t find your letter to add your review. Many thanks, from Sandra, 23 April 2000.

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