In real life, Alma Cogan was a well-known British pop singer of the 1950s and early 1960s, known as "The Girl with the Laugh in Her Voice." (Americans might think of her as something along the lines of Connie Francis or Lesley Gore). A friend of the Beatles and many other pop acts of the era, Cogan died of cancer in 1966 at the age of 34.
In Burn's novel, however, Alma Cogan does not die in 1966, but retires from show business sometime thereafter to a quiet solitude near the English seashore, living neither in luxury nor poverty. In contrast to Cogan's bubbly public persona, Burn's Alma, who narrates the book, is an arch, dry-witted, highly intelligent observer of the world around her, mildly dismissive of, even jaded by, her showbiz past (but not entirely disdainful of it). She recounts with equal detachment the heady days of celebrity and the sordid backstage cruelties—including bouts of unexpected violence—as she muses on the nature of stardom and its many pitfalls, which entrap the worshipper as much as the worshipped. But her residual fame proves a gruesome and unwanted relic as it serves to tie her, through her fans, to an unforeseen encounter with evil.