Wednesday, 28 December 2011

“LORAYNE ASHTON” AND HER “PARK AVENUE”

 

Here’s another author I discovered recently. Her name is Lorayne Ashton but she is really Ted Gottfried—and not the other bogus biographical Rita Picker pseudonym at the end of the novel. He has written a dozen of trashy best-sellers under two women’s names. From Ashton to Kathleen Fuller (no relation to the historical romance writer of the same name), his tales revolve around the super rich in a Dynasty-esque setting—which comes as no surprise since the TV series was still drawing enough viewers back then. The novel I was introduced to is the first of a seven book series. Written in 1987, it focuses on many characters living at 777 Park Avenue. Now, I know what you’re all thinking, and I agree. You can definitely smell the influence of Harold Robbins in the title, but rest assured the plot is completely different. In fact, in PARK AVENUE (yes, without the numbers) nothing reminds of Robbins, except perhaps the narrative, which, come to think of it, is a lot stronger. However, the overall effect fails to be up to par.
 
 
Like I said, this one offers a slew of unhappy New Yorkers living the big life in one of the most sought-after building in the city, from the unfulfilled Scandinavian who yearns to be touched by whomever to the reclusive Howard Hughes-like millionaire Mafioso who may or may not be involved in the death of his female neighbor. In other words, all desperately yearn to take the happy pill but just can’t seem to grasp it. Gottfried does fairly well in keeping everyone and everything in check with short chapters but the overall presentation ends up being a bit bland once the going gets tough, and even though the novel is rather short (340 pages) you can clearly feel the lack of total dedication underneath the scandals and sins.
 
 
Still as a whole it’s never boring. You may not find yourself flipping pages quickly to see what happens next but you won’t skip parts either. Furthermore, Gottfried does a pretty good job on his characterization, making some of his people interesting underneath their tame adventures. As for the book ‘80s feel, you can clearly feel the author’s flair for the era, not to mention the sometimes saucy dialogue. But I got to admit that it’s the strong climax that really hooked me. You’ll definitely be left with wanting more, and in the end that’s all one asks for, isn’t it?
 
 
Working on a serial like PARK AVENUE must have been a challenge for Gottfried, just to keep everything in check while satisfying his readers. It involves time and energy in all the right places. Just ask King or Collins who did it later on (and successfully, I might add). But based on this first outing, the PARK AVENUE saga might not fare as well but the author has to be patted on the back for having had the gall to do it before any others. Just for that reason, I recommend PARK AVENUE. I will definitely come back to this address, if not in a hurry then in between sure-fire best-sellers. Who knows what the future holds. Maybe the second book will be the slam dunk one expects it to be. Well, at least from this end.

 
 
 
Until next post—Martin
French edition

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