The world of splashy, sensational true crime and celebrities has always been a gold mine for storytellers. This week鈥檚 book club features three new works that look at the supposed suicide of a wonder of the art world, the kidnapping that may have inspired Nabokov鈥檚 Lolita, and the sham trial of a Victorian music hall star turned countess. Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction; sometimes, it just inspires it.

1. An Accidental Corpse by Helen A. Harrison ($16): Harrison is no stranger to mystery (An Exquisite Corpse: Death in Surrealist New York) and the world of Jackson Pollock as the director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. Having written several non-fiction books on the artist, she turns her eye to the end of his life, when, in 1956, the artist crashed his Oldsmobile into a tree. Thought to be a drunk driving accident, it killed Pollock and one of the two young female passengers in his car, Edith Metzger. The other young woman, Edith鈥檚 roommate Ruth Kligman, was injured but survived. She also happened to be Pollock鈥檚 mistress of a few months. Harrison reimagines this straightforward tragedy into a high-stakes murder mystery.

鈥淛ust then Finch snapped to attention. 鈥楲ook out!鈥 he shouted, and shuttled the family aside as an Oldsmobile convertible barreled up Fireplace Road, apparently oblivious to the pedestrians. The officer shook his fist at the car as it shot past. 鈥楬ey, you, Pollock, slow down!鈥 he called out to the driver, without apparent effect. The car continued north, then swerved into a driveway on the right, tires screeching. 鈥榃ho the heck is that?鈥 asked Fitz. 鈥楥razy artist,鈥 was the reply. 鈥楢lways drives like he owns the road. Even when he鈥檚 sober, which ain鈥檛 often. One of these days I鈥檒l yank his license.鈥欌

In this version, married New York City police officers Brian Fitzgerald and Juanita Diaz (who met during a previous investigation when one of Pollock鈥檚 friends was killed in 1943) take on the case. It opens with a surprising wrinkle: An autopsy shows that Metzger died before the crash, from asphyxiation. There are a number of potential suspects. For one thing, Kligman isn鈥檛 saying anything. Then there鈥檚 Lee Krasner, Pollock鈥檚 wife, who despises his philandering and stands to inherit his estate. The real world of art intrigue meets the world of murder in a combination that鈥檚 anything but accidental.

2. Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood ($27): According to Greenwood, the 1948 real-life story of 11-year-old Sally Horner鈥檚 kidnapping and disappearance from Camden, N.J. proved the catalyst for Vladimir Nabokov鈥檚 terrifyingly popular Lolita. Greenwood hopes that writing this version will give Sally鈥檚 tale her own voice, so she doesn鈥檛 just become 鈥渁 footnote to someone else鈥檚 story.鈥

鈥淪ally felt her skin flush hot. She knew she wasn鈥檛 like these other girls, the ones with glossy hair and perfect smiles. Sally wore homemade dresses and hand-me-down shoes, while these girls got their clothes from the J.C. Penney. The shiny copper pennies they put in their loafers caught the sun. They were the keepers of light, Sally thought. Shining and bright鈥ally, on the other hand, lived alone with her mother in a run-down row house on Linden street, both her real daddy and her stepfather, Russell, long gone. She knew the stories people told about her stepfather, heard the whispered speculations. (They heard he did it with a rope, in the closet. With a shotgun, in the basement. Someone, somewhere, said no, he just got drunk as always and wandered from Daly鈥檚 Caf茅 onto the tracks one night 鈥 this one the tender, awful truth.) She knew they whispered behind her back, mocked her. But Sally still ached to belong, and studied those girls with the same wonder and love with which she studied the laws on the universe.鈥

In a bid to get into the mean girls鈥 club, Sally is convinced to steal a notebook from Woolworth鈥檚. Frank LaSalle, 52 and recently released from jail for sex offenses, watches her and pretends to be an FBI agent. He tells her that she鈥檚 being taken into custody and to meet him after school the next day. Given an excuse to 鈥減rotect鈥 her family, who now think she鈥檚 going on vacation with a friend, Sally instead is kidnapped by Frank and taken across the country. Greenwood chronicles the yearlong disappearance and the more and more desperate search for Sally, as her mother, brother-in-law, and even her new teacher gradually figure out what happened. Sally adds her own perspective to a horrifying tale of a punishment that in no way fit the 鈥渃rime.鈥

3. Becoming Belle by Nuala O鈥機onnor ($25): 鈥淚sabel only needed to be forty miles from Aldershot in order to unlock liberty. In the six weeks she spent alone in London, waiting for Flo to join her, she began to have a life. Once the curtain closed at the Empire, her nights were a whirl of the Pelican Club and the Caf茅 Royal, and wherever else the crowd was keen to spend time. There was sparkling company in the form of fellow performers, directors and assorted theater folk. Aristocrats and bohemians, city men and night birds of every stripe flocked together. These were hedonists: they drank all night and slumbered by day, the better to enjoy the next night鈥檚 party and the next鈥.She could bend her hours to whatever shape she wished, and keep company with any motley troop, and society be hung.鈥

Born in 1867, Isabel 鈥淏elle鈥 Bilton knew she was destined for great things. Her goals included becoming an actress on the London stage and marrying into wealth. She achieved both of these things, but not without struggles and drama. The daughter of Sergeant John George Bilton, she moved to London and began a career as a music hall entertainer, eventually starring with her sister, Flo, in a double act. Relishing the bohemian lifestyle, Belle winds up pregnant by a baron (or at least, he claims to be) named Aldon Weston, who is later arrested on fraud charges. But that鈥檚 not the case this fictionalized Victorian novel is about.

After Belle gives away her child, she falls in love with a viscount 鈥 a real one this time 鈥 named William, viscount Dunlo, heir to the title of Earl of Clancarty. Their young love (despite all the drama, the couple are both only 20 at this point) is strongly disapproved of by William鈥檚 father, Richard Somerset Le Poer Trench. After the two were married, the 4th Earl of Clancarty hit the roof; a showgirl bride had not been in his plans for his son. He promptly sent his son of to Australia under threat of disinheritance, and forced the beginning of divorce proceedings, leading to a sensationalized trial; after all, the main way to achieve divorce was to prove adultery. The well-connected Earl did his best to ruin Belle鈥檚 life to save his family name. Belle was tried first for forgery in an attempt to ruin her name. We won鈥檛 tell you how either trial came out (though you can look it up, because it really happened), but suffice it to say it was big news 鈥 and maybe more satisfying than you鈥檇 expect.

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