Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nonfiction November: The Only Woman in the Room by Rita Lakin (2015)

I am one of those people who likes to read the credits after movies and even after television shows. Awhile back, on a Sunday afternoon, I caught the end of an episode of "The Mod Squad." I was curious about who wrote the show, and that was where I first saw Rita Lakin's name as head writer. Then I noticed her memoir on Netgalley and requested a copy.

The Only Woman in the Room is written in a distinctive style. Lakin is always matter of fact as she tells her story. She was a young widow with small children when she decided that she wanted to be a screenwriter. How she started at the bottom as a secretary at a movie studio and worked her way up, eventually becoming a sought after television writer, is a great read. 

Her story takes place against the backdrop of the 1960s when changes were taking place for women. But in Hollywood, the men were still in charge and there were few women writers. Lakin faced challenges trying to navigate those waters. 

At the height of her success, Lakin married a second time. The world may have known her as a successful writer of television shows and television movies, but at home, she endured life with a controlling and abusive husband. Eventually, it took a toll on her career, but Lakin found her way out of the marriage.

Lakin has written a frank memoir with anecdotes, some funny and some appalling, that illustrate the bizarre inter-workings of show business and the difficulties women have faced in Hollywood. In fact, the book has made me see Aaron Spelling in a whole new way. Lakin also shines a light on what it's like to be a writer in Hollywood and how little control writers have over their work. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it must be to watch your story being rewritten and someone else's name put on the script as the writer. 

The only issue I take with The Only Woman in the Room is towards the end of the book, and it's a nit-picky issue. Lakin recounts advice a woman gave her who was a screenwriter in the early days of Hollywood, and Lakin states that she can't recall the woman's name. This was a little frustrating because I love reading about Hollywood's history and especially about the early screenwriters who were women and would love to have known who she spoke to. 

If you like an underdog story, or if you like reading about Hollywood, you'll enjoy The Only Woman in the Room.

These days, Rita Lakin writes mystery novels. I'm not familiar with her books. Are you? 

What nonfiction books have you read lately that you enjoyed?


  1. Interesting! I'm not familiar with Lakin's past career or her mystery novels. Love that you saw her name on the credits and then found this on Netgallley.

    1. Thanks, JoAnn! I love these kind of coincidences, too! I may have to find one of Lakin's novels to see what they are like, too.