Before there was "Sex and the City," there was "Sex and the Single Girl."
Helen Gurley Brown’s 1962 book caused a sensation, but she was in way over her head when she became editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1965.
“Park Avenue Summer,” a new novel by Akron native Renée Rosen, the first formative months of the new Cosmo are seen through the eyes of Brown’s secretary, Alice Weiss.
Alice’s fiancé jilts her, and her widowed father remarries, spurring her to fulfill her dream of moving to New York. Alice’s mother’s friend, a book editor, gives her the inside track for the secretarial job.
Though Alice’s real dream is to be a photographer, she feels an immediate affinity for Brown, who is crying during the interview after three editors have quit.
Helen Gurley Brown cries during the next few months, and for good reason: Her vision is to transform the magazine from “casserole recipes and housekeeping tips” to a reflection of “her girls,” Brown’s imagined Cosmo readers, single women with careers who had no one to answer their questions about sex, and money to buy products from the new advertisers Brown wanted to attract: Max Factor and Clairol instead of Preparation H and Mr. Clean.
Alice documents Brown’s struggle to survive as her budgets are slashed. She cuts articles by established writers like Gore Vidal and finds freelancers at the beginnings of their careers, names like Nora Ephron and Judith Krantz. A Hearst executive asks Alice to spy on Brown and report on her phone calls and meetings, dangling a possible promotion in exchange for her cooperation.
Alice finds time for some romance, as New York is full of men and Helen Gurley Brown is free with her advice, warning her that a corporate smoothie is a “Don Juan” but that Alice should “go out with him, sleep with him ... and get back on with your life.”
Through Alice, readers explore Swinging ‘60s New York and cheer for Helen Gurley Brown, learning that they underestimate her at their peril.
“Park Avenue Summer” (368 pages, softcover) costs $16 from Berkley. Her books include the Akron-set teen drama “Every Crooked Pot.” Her other books are set in Chicago. Her next novel, “The Social Graces,” based on the story of Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt in New York society, is scheduled for publication in 2020.
Cleveland Institute of Art teacher Shelley Costa has contributed a story to “Odd Partners: An Anthology,” a collection presented by the Mystery Writers of America. According to the publisher, Penguin Random House, “some of today’s best mystery writers ... craft all-new stories about unlikely duos who join forces — sometimes unwillingly — to solve beguiling whodunits.” Costa’s story, “Glock, Paper, Scissors,” joins others by bestsellers like Jeffrey Deaver, Anne Perry, Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear. Costa is an Edgar and Agatha award nominee.
MAPS Air Museum (2260 International Parkway, Green): Tim Carroll signs “World War II Akron” at the museum’s spring pancake breakfast, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. The cost of $10 for adults and $6 for children includes museum admission.
Barnes & Noble (4015 Medina Road, Bath Township): Tim Carroll signs “World War II Akron,” 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Barnes & Noble (28801 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere): Debbie Michuck joins Storytime with her book “These Dirty Fire Boots,” 11 a.m. Sunday.
Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.): Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe talks about “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” 7 p.m. Tuesday. Register at 330-653-22Fairl52.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Fairlawn-Bath branch, 3101 Smith Road): Tim Carroll discusses “World War II Akron,” 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Northwest Akron branch, 1720 Shatto Avenue): Author Jennifer A. Nielsen will speak about formulating a novel idea and getting it published, 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Wadsworth Public Library (132 Broad St.): Kathryn Hardgrove Popio, author of “Cross Keys, Carpet Bag and Pen: Letters Depicting Three Ohio Families During the Civil War,” talks about her book, 7 p.m. Thursday.
Main Street Books (104 N. Main St., Mansfield): Abbey Mei Otis, who teaches at Oberlin College, signs her story collection “Alien Virus Love Disaster,” 6 p.m. Friday.
Dover Public Library (525 N. Walnut St.): The Canal Town Book Festival begins at 7 p.m. Friday with a reception featuring Pickerington native Natalie D. Richards, author of “My Secret to Tell” and other teen romantic thrillers. The cost is $5 in advance and $10 at the door and includes refreshments and musical entertainment. Call 330-343-6123. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, an author fair brings more than 30 authors to sign their books; see the list at doverlibrary.org.
Visible Voice Books (2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland): GennaRose Nethercott reads from her narrative poem “The Lumberjack’s Dove,” 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Morning Owl Coffee House (297 Main St., Munroe Falls): De-de Mulligan of Stow signs her novel “Safety in Numbers,” about an executive who discovers financial malfeasance in her company, 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson): Fairlawn dentist Stephanie Aldrich talks about “The Habit Formula: Life’s Success Equation,” 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or email@example.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.