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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

I Should Have Stayed Home

cover image By: McCoy, Horace (male)
Publisher: New American Library (Signet Books 884)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 327: PS3525 .A1715 I25 1951
Contributor: W. Prout, S. Wetzel


Era: 1930s Author as on Cover: Horace McCoy Geographic Locale: Hollywood, California Date of Publication: 1951  |  Original Date: 1938 Setting: urban; Hollywood and Beverly Hills, from the small bungalows of aspiring actors to the mansions of the rich and famous. Also some well-known Hollywood night spots: the Trocadero, the Brown Derby; Sunset Strip, Hollywood and Vine. The mood is one of expectation and dashed hopes. Motives: there is no real mystery, no murder. Each character has his or her own motives for behavior -- Mrs. Smithers is trying to hang on to her youth by buying young mens' favors. Ralph, Mona and Dorothy do what they do in search of fame and fortune. Sam Lally, Johnny Hill and others are led by greed.

Plot Summary

Georgia boy Ralph Carston is invited by a Hollywood talent scout to come out and do a screen test. Although he is then given a ticket back home and the agent won't return his calls, Ralph remains in California, certain that it's only a matter of time until he gets his big break. He shares expenses and accomodations with Mona Matthews, a young Okie also pursuing a dream of fame and fortune. Dorothy Trotter joins them, but after several months without work, she turns to theft and is sentenced to three years in a tough women's prison. Ralph, a virginal innocent, is drawn into the net of Ethel Smithers, a middle-aged, wealthy widow with a voracious capacity for handsome young men. There is no physical crime here, but each of the youths suffer as they see their dreams die. Mona marries a man she meets through a lonely-hearts magazine; Dorothy hangs herself after escaping from prison and being recaptured. Ralph, despite all evidence to the contrary, still believes he will make it. He sees no other choice; he is ashamed to admit to the folks back home that he has failed, and he has nowhere else to go.

Major Characters

Ralph Carston adult male, 23 years old, blonde hair, blue eyes, extremely good-looking, heavy Southern accent, aspiring actor, movie extra, store clerk, mostly unemployed

Mrs. Ethel Smithers adult female, nymphomaniac with a taste for violence, middle-aged, well-preserved but showing signs of age, socialite

Dorothy Trotter adult female, early 20s, pretty, vulnerable, failed actress

Mona Matthews adult female, 26 years old, beautiful, dark hair and eyes, actress

Sam Lally adult male, 20s, good-looking, dark hair, sturdy build, gigolo

Judge Emil Boggess adult male, middle-aged, non-descript, judge

Johnny Hill adult male, 20s, handsome, swaggering, athletic, publicist, would-be movie maker, opportunist


none. There is no actual murder, except psychologically. When Dorothy's body is lying exposed on the coroner's table and newsmen, taking photographs, ask to see the stocking she hanged herself with, Mona goes to the drugstore, buys some movie magazines, and arranges them in Dorothy's hands. This, she says, is what brought her to Hollywood, gave her false hope, and finally killed her. Words and bad behavior are the main weapons.

Level of Violence

little actual violence; Sam Lally slaps Mrs. Smithers repeatedly in one scene, and she reacts by smiling. During her attempted seduction of Ralph, she slaps him when he doesn't respond to her overtures, and invites him to reciprocate. He does not, is sickened by these sado-masochistic displays.


there is a great deal of sex (nude bathing, pornographic movies, etc.). Sex is a tool for some characters, a way to get what they want -- Sam Lally, Johnny Hill. It is a way for Mrs. Smithers to affirm her worth and to manipulate others. Most of the sexual activity is alluded to or only vaguely described. Actual sexual acts are infrequent, but sexuality is a powerful motivating force behind much of what goes on with the characters.

Gender Roles

Ralph has traditional views of proper behavior for women, which are at odds with what he sees in Hollywood. Most of the women are portrayed as free spirits, swimming in the nude at parties, openly having affairs and inter-racial relationships. Ralph views himself as a Southern gentleman with respect for the opposite sex. The other male characters are opportunists and/or lechers who use women and in turn allow themselves to be used in order to get ahead.


one incident of racism occurs when Ralph sees a black man embracing a famous white actress at a party. Mona has to restrain him from confronting the couple. He says a "nigger" should not be touching a white woman. He later claims he is not prejudiced like those Southerners who are "stupid and ignorant and live in the Dark Ages." Still, he says, nice white women don't go around "necking niggers." (This is the only such incident.)

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

no mention of drug use. Alcohol is used frequently, either in social settings or as a means of dealing with problems.

Law Enforcement

Judge Boggess is the only person in this category, more as a character than as part of the legal system. He harshly punished Dorothy, but lets Mona off the hook for a contempt charge and later tries to help Ralph and Dorothy. Some of his actions seem to be aimed at helping him in his re-election campaign.

Added Features

with the exception of Ralph, most of the characters are impressed by and desire consumer goods, such as expensive clothes, jewelry, cars and homes. This is a part of what they expect to gain with fame. McCoy glamorizes costly goods with his descriptions of lavish homes, extravagant parties, and other components of the "good life." Celebrity is important -- something to be exploited by those who have it and sought after at any cost by those who don't. When Mona joins a union and protests for better conditions for minor characters on a movie set, she is fired and blacklisted.

Subject Headings

California - Hollywood/ Motion Pictures/ Actors/ Actresses

Psychological Elements

depression leads to Dorothy committing suicide.