Authors: Colette Moody
The Seduction of Moxie
When Hollywood-bound actress Violet London meets speakeasy singer Moxie Valette, her trip takes an unexpected turn toward love.
New York City, 1931: When wry Broadway actress Violet London and her hard-drinking cohorts venture into a speakeasy the night before she is to board a train for Hollywood, she is floored by sassy blond singer Moxie Valette. As Violet introduces Moxie to an assortment of bootleg liquor, cross-dressers, and sex shows, she vows to find a way to see her again. Moxie is fascinated by Violet in a thrilling and unfamiliar way, and the ensuing evening of bon mots, shameless flirtation, and illicit revelry is unlike anything she has ever experienced.
From Manhattan to Los Angeles, both women’s lives are turned upside-down by separation, unscrupulous motion picture studio executives, self-serving agents, eccentric celebrities, and the collection of hedonistic reprobates that are their closest friends.
The Seduction of Moxie
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By the Author
The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of Original Sin
The Seduction of Moxie
The Seduction of Moxie
© 2009 By Colette Moody. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 10: 1-60282-114-3E
ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-114-9E
This Electronic Book is published by
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.,
P.O. Box 249
Valley Falls, New York 12185
First Bold Strokes Printing: September 2009
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Editors: Shelley Thrasher and Stacia Seaman
Production Design: Stacia Seaman
Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])
As always, thank you, Laura, for your unflagging support and feedback. I have a sneaking suspicion that without your input and encouragement, my novels would be an endless string of boob jokes and limericks.
Also, this book would not exist in its current state without the spellbinding tales of debauchery provided by Cat, Jen, and John that ultimately helped to form the framework of my characters’ own carousing—much like the grain of sand that evolves into a pearl. Thank you for shoving your filthy particles into my oyster (you know, in a purely academic way).
Thank you, Bold Strokes Books staff. I’m astounded by the freedom that you give me to blaze my own peculiar trail—usually through the dense brush of farce (though obviously at times stopping in the perilous thicket of preposterous metaphor).
For those who sparked my fascination and admiration with their amazing work and the even more spectacular way that they lived their lives: Tallulah Bankhead, Katharine Hepburn, Alla Nazimova, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Lauren Bacall, Louise Brooks, and Howard Hawks. You continue to inspire me daily.
Table of Contents
The night that 1930 fizzled out and 1931 roared in, Moxie Valette stood singing in a chintzy speakeasy in Fayetteville, Nebraska, with a faraway look in her eyes that made her appear as if she was dreaming of something more. The room was thick with the haze of stale cigarette smoke as she sang “Bootlegger’s Rag” with more vim than most of the drunken spectators would have anticipated.
A glass of ice and jorum of skee,
Drag your heeler to the speakeasy!
Bring your scratch, shake a leg.
Gold digger, sugar daddy, vamp, and yegg.
There’s no time to lollygag.
Everybody wants to do the bootlegger’s rag!
Sitting in the back of this somewhat dilapidated, unmarked establishment known to locals as Fat Philly Red’s, Cotton McCann watched the performer with considerable interest. He rested his chin in the palm of his left hand while he chewed on his cigar and contemplated her level of talent.
She was blond, though not in an artificial way. Show business had far too many peroxide blondes already, he thought. No, this one had a more natural look. Like Garbo, but without that exotic quality. Like a corn-fed, fresh-faced Constance Bennett. This girl was attractive, but somehow unusual. Sexy, yet wholesome and approachable. He inhaled deeply from his cigar and motioned to the waitress with his other hand.
“You need a refill, mister?” the curvy matron called to him over the music and the din of the crowd.
“I’d rather talk to that singer,” he answered, straining to be heard. “What’s her name again?”
“Moxie. But she don’t usually spend her time bumpin’ gums with the customers.”
“And would a little jack maybe get me an introduction?” He held up two folded dollar bills between his index and middle fingers.
The waitress’s eyes flashed, and she quickly snatched the money and slipped it into her ample cleavage. “I’ll see what I can do. I can’t guarantee you too much more than that. That kid’s a straight arrow. But I’ll make sure she stops by after her last number.” She winked and disappeared back into the crowd.
Luckily for Cotton, very little about Fat Philly Red’s homemade gin compelled him to actually finish the one he had ordered nearly an hour earlier. He had patronized more than his share of these clip joints in the last eight months, and in that time he had never tasted liquor quite this lousy. He held the glass to his nose and sniffed it again, to remind himself exactly how noxious it was. The smell suggested that its distillers had somehow managed to blend sulphur, animal feces, and kerosene. “Holy cats,” he muttered, setting it back down on the table and pushing the glass away. He made a mental note to neither smell nor swallow the foul venom again, no matter how thirsty he became.
“Leave it if you’re fond of your liver.” The singer stood by his table, her left hand propped defiantly on her hip. She looked amused. “I hear that you got something to say.” The timbre of her voice was melodic, but the tone was feisty. This girl obviously was no shrinking violet.
“You must be Moxie,” he said, her name now an epiphany to him. He politely stood and gestured for her to sit, scrutinizing her again, this time from much closer. She was a striking combination of light hair and dark, smoky eyes. Her lips were full, what the flappers would call bee-stung, and her cheeks were round and pink. He reevaluated his earlier assessment. This girl didn’t look like anyone he could think of, and she was mesmeric.
She eyed him appraisingly. He was clearly an out-of-towner. He absolutely radiated the city with his fancy brown suit and dark mustache. She guessed him to be around forty, and he carried the paunch that only a life of leisure could afford. Curious, she decided to see what he had to say and pulled up a chair. “But I don’t know your name.”
“Cotton McCann. Can I assume from your comment that you’re not interested in me buying you a drink?” He nodded to the glass in front of him.
“You can. You can also assume that I’m not a five-cent whore, if that was going to be your next question.” She spoke nonchalantly, intent on setting the boundaries clearly and early in the conversation.
He frowned and took another puff of his cigar. “You’ve got me all wrong. I’m looking for talent. I’m an impresario of sorts.”
“Then what the hell are you doing in this jerkwater town, in this crummy speako?”
“I’m on my way from Los Angeles to New York City.” He stroked his mustache with his thumb and index finger. “My last act cut out on me just as she was on the verge of her big break.”
“Cut out on you how?”
“She married some mook and settled down.” He tried unsuccessfully to keep the anger out of his voice. “She could have been the next Jeanette MacDonald.”
“Is that so?”
The buxom waitress reappeared and set an open bottle of Dr. Pepper in front of Moxie. “Here you go, sweetie.”
“Thanks, Ruby.” She eagerly took a sip and motioned for Cotton to continue as Ruby slipped back into the raucous crowd.
“How old are you?”
She brushed her wavy bangs out of her eyes with the back of her hand. “Twenty-two.”
Cotton reached into his jacket pocket and removed a business card. “Look, I know you have no reason to trust me.”
She picked up the card, printed on stiff, cream-colored stock. It read:
COTTON G. MCCANN
PROFESSIONAL ENTERTAINMENT AGENT
TWELVE YEARS EXPERIENCE
“You reprint these every year?” She took another sip of Dr. Pepper.
He smiled. “This is the first year I’ve had them. I didn’t think about that when I placed the order.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, I’m sure you’re skeptical, not knowing me from Adam. But I’m telling you that you’ve got something special, kid. Something I haven’t seen in months. And believe me, I’ve been looking.”