The Sunset Crowd
Grade : B-

Have you missed Jackie Collins, but aren’t keen on her sexual content? Because Karin Tanabe seems to be channeling her to a degree – cutting her heady blend of sex, drugs and celebrity with a wry and witty Eve Babitzian/Marvelous Mrs. Maisel tone – with The Sunset Crowd. It’s the story of three women grappling their way to success in 1970s Hollywood. The end result is good old fashioned soapy fun, though it’s not stellar enough to garner a top grade.

Beatrice Dupont (yes, in the prose of the novel she is actually of the famous Dupont clan), our narrator, works as a photographer for several slick magazines and is described by another character as “Helmut Newton meets Henry Diltz. But with a vagina.” In spite of her active social life, Bea remains as single as can be, and is the lynchpin around which her small clique revolves. She’s also a rich girl from a snobby blue-blood New England family avoiding the demands of her mother to just get married already. Bea is indeed obsessed with one man – she has a long-term crush on her best friend and high school confidante, screenwriter Kai de la Faire, who happens to be dating another of her friends.
That friend happens to be Evra Scott. A true child of Hollywood, Evra was born and bred into the culture of celebrity but her true passion is fashion. She runs the popular store Sunset on Sunset and is squired around by Kai who is – you guessed it – secretly carrying around a torch for Bea.

The third member in this triumvirate is PA Theodora Leigh. She wants to become a producer and will do just about anything to achieve her goal. To do that she, too, mixes up with Kai and Evra, trying to convince them with her body that she’s the one to produce his latest script. Kai and Evra fall under Theodora’s spell, but Bea is not convinced. As the end of the 1970s play out and the 1980s loom, tensions build. Will Bea ever figure out her relationship with Kai? And will she figure out who Theodora really is?

It’s rare that I think a book would benefit from more than one PoV, but The Sunset Crowd is hampered a bit by being told through Bea’s eyes exclusively. Maybe I would have liked Kai better if I’d gotten his perspective, or sympathized with Theodora more if I could understand her ambition through any conduit but dialogue translated to prose by the jealous Bea. What are Theodora and Evra getting up to out of her sight? We learn through gossip, but that only helps point up the book’s own superficiality.

Far too much of the novel is about everyone’s obsession with Kai, who is not interesting enough on his own to be anything but a pretty shell. He’s a hot screenwriter and a major cocaine fiend, but they claw over him like he’s Brad Pitt, and his moderate wit does not convince me of his attractiveness or brilliance. He and Bea use other people to avoid confessing to their shared attraction and it’s just annoying. Bea surfaces as the only really likable character, if only because Evra is underwritten.

The book veers between tones. We start with women’s fiction, fall into Babitzian tones of fond excess and Hollywood (Evra appears to be loosely based on Eve’s sister, Mirandi Babitz, a child of LA, former groupie and eventual addiction counselor who opened her own fashionable clothing store that was huge among rock stars) and somehow end up with a crime drama and revenge fantasy. There are trips abroad, booze, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s told with some élan, but it feels very erratic. The prose is airy and filled with namedrops (Pam Grier! Lauren Bacall! Dustin Hoffman!) and is best when it’s about Bea’s observations of her polyester-soaked world. When it tries to convince us of Bea and Kai’s love, it rings less true. The fact that the book takes way too long to get out of its muddle and start telling its story just added to my frustration.

This, naturally, isn’t really a love story – our star crossed pair barely touch, and by the end, it’s more of a let-go-and-live-life story. I wish The Sunset Crowd had spent more of its length embracing that attitude.

Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: B-

Book Type: Historical Fiction

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : July 8, 2023

Publication Date: 07/2023

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Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at, follow her on Twitter at or contribute to her Patreon at or her Ko-Fi at
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