Book Spotlight: The Last Legwoman by Penny Pence Smith


Genre: mystery
Time setting: 1983


Meredith Ogden is at the top of her game in Hollywood as Legwoman (assistant in modern terms) to Bettina Grant, the country’s most widely read celebrity gossip columnist. But life changes for the 36-year-old journalist when she arrives for work at Grant’s Bel Air home-office on a December morning in 1983 to find her famous boss dead, murdered. A book manuscript lies on the floor next to the death bed.

Partnering with High-Profile crimes detective T.K. Raymond to find out who killed Grant and why, Meredith faces more than questions or answers.  A volatile TV night-show host lobs threats because of a damaging news investigation about his background, Grant’s children have demands on the office and valuable celebrity files. Meredith’s home is broken into and searched, and she is assaulted.

With T.K. Raymond’s help, and that of an unlikely team of colleagues, Meredith deals with the threats to herself, her future and even ghosts from her own past brought up by the emotional chaos. 

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Excerpt: (​An untimely arrest of night-time TV personality Joey O’Neal has caused Hollywood journalist Meredith Ogden  to discover a past life he is not willing to reveal. After she attempts to meet with him through his agents and representatives, he unexpectedly arrives in person at her office.}

. . Meredith bid an appreciative farewell to the publicist, reclaimed her car from the parking area and headed to the office. She drove the Ventura Freeway to Coldwater Canyon and took the winding verdant street over the top of the hill to enjoy the open air of the canyon. She was pulling off the freeway onto the Boulevard when the bulky much-touted—and rarely carried—cellular phone rang. Sonia alone had the number. It was seldom used because it was cumbersome, expensive and didn’t always transmit or connect.

“Hope you’re close to the office,” said an intense Sonia through static-laced air. “Joey O’Neal in the flesh is on his way over here right now and he sounds mad!”

“Is Ito in the house?” asked Meredith.

“Yeah, why?”

“I think it might be helpful to have a male presence around with the macho ego of Joey about to descend upon us.”

“Good point,” said Sonia, then she chuckled. “Ito? Macho? Well…”

Meredith had scant minutes to push the Mustang over the Canyon through the complex maze of Beverly Hills streets. She parked and ran from the car to prepare to meet up with one of America’s favorite late-night stud-muffins.  She was in her office no more than five minutes reviewing the facts of the story when she heard the limousine pull up and the driver ring the front doorbell.  She waited while Ito answered the door, then directed O’Neal into her office. She stood up and extended her hand cordially.

“Joey, it’s nice to meet you.” Joey O’Neal, all six foot two of him, did not speak at first, but rather glanced around the room, as if confused, and then glared at her with anger in his eyes. He was perfectly coifed and dressed in a gray brushed silk sports jacket, wide, loosely cut black slacks and a black shirt with a multi-patterned tie. He was the vision of the tony single guy.
Meredith withdrew her hand and gestured toward the couch. “Please sit down, won’t you?” 

He moved toward the couch, still silent. Well, she thought, at least he’s obedient.

“What the hell do you want from me?” he asked suddenly, contained rage straining from his barely controlled voice.  Meredith sat down in a side chair.

“Just the truthful story,” she said. “Coffee? Tea?”

He waved an impatient hand. “Do you have any idea how you’re fucking up my life?” he said, nearly shouting.
“Tell me,” she directed him without rancor.

“I’d like to tell you where you can fly your broomstick to,” he growled. “You’re one big busy-body, aren’t you? And who gave you permission to walk into a private rest home? That’s trespassing, you know!”

She folded her hands slowly. “I had nothing to do with that. The person who visited with Rebecca identified herself as a TV news person and was told to make herself at home. No one even suggested there was a restriction on Rebecca’s guests.”

Joey suddenly became quiet, glaring at Meredith as he slowly pointed an angry finger at her face. “If you so much as say one word about any of this…”

     “Someone else will,” she finished the sentence for him.


About the Author:

Penny Pence Smith began writing professionally during high school for the Indio Daily News, in Southern California. She went on to receive a Communication and journalism B.A. at the University of Washington, an MA from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

From the beginning, she was engaged in the entertainment industry: Warner Communication movie magazine editor, correspondent/LA Bureau Manager for New York Times Special Features Syndicate covering entertainment, Hawaii Correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter, and later, author of best-selling tourism books, Under a Maui Sun and Reflections of Kauai (Island Heritage).

Along the way, she managed advertising, public relations agencies and marketing consulting firms then became a professor at UNC Chapel Hill and Hawaii Pacific University. Her work appears current magazines. 

Penny lives in Hawaii with her husband of nearly 40 years, Dixon, and cat, Bob. 

​Contact/follow Penny through her Amazon Author Page: