Pamela Moore’s first book was published in 1956 when she was 18 years old and became an international bestseller in its day.
Chocolates for Breakfast follows the coming-of-age of a 15 year old girl named Courtney, moving between boarding school and divorced parents in New York and Hollywood. At first a model student, she gradually falls in with a privileged and jaded set, who drink heavily and pride themselves on their cynicism and sophistication.
After a crush on her boarding-school English teacher leads to heartbreak, Courtney beds a bisexual Hollywood actor and then a dissolute European aristocrat living out of a luxury hotel in Manhattan. Chocolates for Breakfast includes frank discussion of sexuality and gender roles that was, for that era, uncommon. Her first lover abandons her to return to his male companion, and Courtney uses a razor blade to cut the inside joints of her fingers — one of the earliest depictions of adolescent self-cutting in young adult literature. The next scene is of Courtney being discharged from a psychiatric hospital. Her two-month stay there is not described.
The setting of the novel travels from Rosemary Hall (now part of Choate) in New England, to the Garden of Allah in Hollywood, to establishment landmarks of mid-century Manhattan such as P. J. Clarke’s, the Plaza hotel, and the Stork Club. The novel is considered to be autobiographical, largely based on Moore’s life from ages 15 to 16 (circa 1953 to 54.) The character of Anthony Neville may have been partly modeled on the British aesthete and adventurer Michael “Dandy Kim” Caborn-Waterfield, who lived out of the Plaza Hotel while reportedly running arms for the Batista revolution in Cuba.
Sondra in the novel is closely based on the author’s mother, Isabel Moore, an editor at Photoplay magazine who counted Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe among her acquaintances, and authored many books under her own and various pen names, including The Day the Communists Took Over America (Isabel Moore, 1961) ; The Sex Cure — Doctors who mix Medicine and Women (as Elaine Dorian, 1962) ; The Girl From Aquarius (as Dani Lawrence, 1970); and many others.
Courtney’s father Robbie is based on Don W. Moore, who edited stories for the pulp fiction magazine Argosy, wrote for the comic strip Flash Gordon, and later worked as a scriptwriter and producer on several television series, including Rawhide.