Friday, 29 December 2017

'HOLLYWOOD DREAMERS' BY JUDY SPENCER




This one, though I have fond memories of it, came with a price.  Again I got called out for loving trash, this time by a bunch of gay guys. I barely knew them since I was accompanying my future husband driving to Toronto’s pride. I made the mistake of taking the book out, thinking I was safe around my peers. How wrong I was. Anyway, to make a long story short, I still didn’t have the courage to assert myself. I only blushed and, yes, slid the book back in my backpack’s front pocket. I remember glancing shyly at my new boyfriend whose green eyes seemed to say forget those jerks, so I did. Besides, I was already on cloud nine—being in love and all—so only he mattered.  
That’s what HOLLYWOOD DREAMERS (Paperjacks, 1987) eventually ended up becoming, a sweet page-turner I barely could live without. The lives of these two fast friends while trying to break into show business and juggling love and happiness is as compelling as any Jackie Collins novel. Well, almost, if you can take some parts with a grain of salt (the climax about the possible murder of one of the two main characters leaves something to be desired in my opinion). But on second thought the same applies to most of Collins efforts, so there. Judy Spencer weaves a fine tale of secrets and sins that’ll make you want to read some of her other stuff. To date only REDHEADS exists besides this featured title. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Judy Spencer was a pseudonym for an established author, like Elizabeth Gage is supposed to be. Though I tried to find out, nothing on the net validates that belief so far.  

Still, Judy Spencer’s HOLLYWOOD DREAMERS crackles with spunk and sure is worthy of a wider readership. I don’t recall it being a huge best-seller but I guess it did find its way since we’re still talking about it after 30 years. One thing’s for sure, though, even if it’s been overlooked for some reason or another, the most obvious being the overflow of genre books at the time, the fact of the matter is the novel is still worth a second look. Yes, I don’t know squat about this release except the fact that I enjoyed it but in the end, who gives a flying whoop. The important thing is that you discover it and perhaps, given half a chance, you’ll love it too.

  



Until next post—Martin 
UK

Sunday, 17 December 2017

BAD GIRLS CLUB: ANN-MARGRET IN 'THE SWINGER' (1966)




Let’s get right down to business: Ann-Margret is a knockout in the delectably awful THE SWINGER which reunites Margret and her BYE BYE BIRDY director George Sidney. In it she plays an inspiring writer who will do anything—and I mean anything (except that)—to get published, that is when she’s not dancing her tush away in a commune which also inhabits a vice squad officer/wannabe artist or sitting on a swing while belting out the catchy title song à la, well, BYE BYE BIRDY. Lured you into seeing this gem yet? Good. ‘Cause everything in THE SWINGER is très wacko, from the lurid voice-over narration that describes the sexual goings-on of a Playboy-like magazine owner, to the many sultry scenes of supposed decadence that Margret’s puritan character tries her hardest to emulate. 

In fact, THE SWINGER is at its best when it goes all the way into smut zone. Of course the film would never had been made today on account of all the real sexual misconduct scandals happening lately. But for the benefit of the era in which the film was made, let’s just say that the male libido is as highlighted and glossed over as a hooker in a limousine. And looking at this fetching fiasco it sure ain’t a bad thing, believe you me.  

As I said, THE SWINGER is really good when the focus is on sex and sin, and that’s about half of the story. The rest of the film is quite silly as Margret—pretending to be bad so Anthony Franciosa (from THE PLEASURE SEEKERS fame which also stars Margret) subsequently publish her tawdry story based faultily on herself—ends up becoming clay to Franciosa’s Pygmalion ways. There’s no question the two leads eventually become an item. So we just go by the cinematic flow of seeing them doing their thing while wondering if the film could have been better had the sexual performances of the female star been the sole focus (which in a way it still is since Margret is sex on a stick). As the song and dance go, Margret once again shines in her vocals and moves, especially the go-go line dancing early on in the story. 

I first saw this film in the late ‘80s, having caught it one rainy afternoon on TV. I was already a big trashy film buff and had heard that this one was as wacked as it could possibly be. So true it was, and still is considering the topic for a ‘60s film. Sure, it’s no VALLEY OF THE DOLLS but the fun is still palpable enough to grant THE SWINGER two thumbs-up. It may not be as perfect as I thought it’d be but it still deserves its spot as a must-see for camp classic devotees. It has yet to conquer the DVD/Blu-ray market but when it does I sure am going to purchase myself a copy. Until then, I will keep hold of my used VHS copy transferred to a disc.





Until next post—Martin



Monday, 4 December 2017

HEAVENLY BODIES (1984)



 
I remember the publicity for this film. You couldn’t flip through a newspaper or a magazine without seeing some sort of a poster ad (in Canada anyway) for the movie. I was around 20, living it up in the village, embracing my new-found freedom as a gay man. I was out every night all night and trying to go to school in between which turned out to be a pain. I ultimately ended up putting a temporary halt on my education (NOT very smart, I know) to spend the rest of my time, when I was not working, reading trash or going to the cinema. So when this FLASHDANCE rip-off came my way in February of 1985 I was more than ready for it.

Yes, HEAVENLY BODIES is as cheesy as it can get but is still enjoyable thanks mostly to the star’s physical appeal. Cynthia Dale embodies a popular aerobic dance instructor who challenges a competitor in a televised marathon of the fittest for a chance of owning the loft where stands her health club. What you get in between is a cliché-ridden subplot involving single-mom Dale and her perfect son, a blond football player as a love interest, and many, many jiggly moments of aerobic moves that are topped by an uninspiring ‘killer’ soundtrack. Unsurprisingly, the performances of its actors verge from OK (Dale) to so-bad (everyone else). Ms. Dale may work her hardest to bring any semblance of humanity to her paper thin character but it’s her well-choreographed exercising that is really the star of the film.

That said, if you have a keen eye for bad cinema I think you’ll enjoy this one. Underneath all the faux pas is a film that wants to be great. The problem is that despite its slick production values it’s all hardly well-handled. But that’s what makes HEAVENLY BODIES so lovable, the way it ends up being so good but for all the wrong reasons.

The film was apparently co-produced by Playboy. In spite of  that it tanked at the box office. It probably aired endlessly on their Playboy channel and became some sort of a camp classic in the long run. It did in my eyes. Hope it does the same thing in yours. It sometimes runs on TCM. Catch it if you can and get back to me. We’ll compare notes.




Until next post—Martin












Tuesday, 21 November 2017

THE STUD (1978)




So here I am about to discuss yet again an earlier screen adaptation from the late Jackie Collins and I still have a hard time dealing with her passing. It’s not like I knew her or anything but, damn, how I miss that lady. I never had the chance to meet her in person but the many responses to my silly emails proved just how devoted she really was to her readers. Some say that it was probably just her assistant substituting for Collins but I don’t care. If one of my emails, tweets, handwritten letters, did manage to reach her in any way, shape, or form than I’m more than a happy trooper. Besides, I still have my TWO signed pics hanging in my house.



Now let’s move on to THE STUD. I think I read the novel before seeing the British film but I’m not 100% sure. One thing I’m positive, however, is that it was right after reading HOLLYWOOD WIVES since for me this was the one that started it all. I vaguely remember catching glimpses of THE STUD on TV years before but it was only much later that I came to associate it with Jackie’s work. Strangely enough, though, the author must have had ESP or something, for watching Joan Collins in this film is almost like watching the character of Alexis doing her thing before joining TV’s DYNASTY. It’s as if 90 minutes are spent test-screening the actress for her next big gig in America.



THE STUD in question is Oliver Tobias, a social climbing hottie, whom Joan can’t get enough of. So much so that they’re doing it all over the place: in lifts, in limousines, in water where he almost makes it with another guy but manages to escape just in time (darn!). He also has an eye for Joan’s step daughter which ultimately ruins his sexual relationship with the older woman as he starts questioning his lifestyle. When Joan gets tired of him and learns of his plans to open a discotheque of his own (he is the manager of Collins’ highly-sought nightclub), she gives him the boot—not before getting him roughed up by some bodyguards in the club’s bathroom, leaving him with a messed-up face and a broken dream (no new discotheque for him, as it turns out). Disillusioned with everything (including his would-be relationship with the step daughter which doesn’t go anywhere) he then rushes out of the establishment before the clock strikes midnight on the New Year to start anew. The end credits roll.



What’s still cool about THE STUD, besides the club scene and all the sexual situations that come with it, is finally being able to see a central male character regarded solely as a sex object. Not an innovation per se but one seldom used in cinema. But that’s Jackie Collins for you, always pushing the envelope. Plus, the soundtrack is a must for ‘70s disco fans. From K C & the Sunshine Band to Tina Charles to Rod Stewart, it’s all here for your ears to enjoy. I recently purchased the DVD copy of THE STUD (and its sequel, THE BITCH) from KL Studio Classics and re-watched it and, suffice to say, I still had a good time. I’m up to the audio commentary by film historians David Del Valle and Nick Redman (who?). It should probably be interesting. Supposedly co-star Oliver Tobias believes the film ruined his career. Too bad for him but he sure is tasty in it. If you have yet to see him (and Joan of course) in action take the plunge and catch this film. Being a Jackie Collins fan sure does help but if you’re in it solely for the boobies of her sis or the hot bod (without the schlong reveal) of Tobias, I’m sure you’ll have plenty to sink your teeth into.





Until next post—Martin







Thursday, 21 September 2017

‘PAPERBACKS FROM HELL’ BY GRADY HENDRIX




I knew if I ventured into Grady Hendrix’s PAPERBACKS FROM HELL (2017, Quirk Books) two things would eventually happen: I would end up loving it to pieces, and then, once the list made up, I would try to get a hold of as many of the schlocky novels discussed in this nonfiction event of the season. I swear, if you’re over 40 and yearn to reconnect with much loved titles from yesteryear or are simply a vintage horror paperback collector you need to get this book ASAP. You’ll definitely thank me later. 

The premise is rather ingenious. The author has gathered tons of scarcely known paperback covers for your eyes to linger on before, during and after the horror boom of the early ‘80s. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific era with images of the novels in question and plot summaries, author profiles and publishers info. Grady Hendrix is indeed an encyclopedia of knowledge as he examines with a fine-tooth comb every little known gems in existence including the ones that were popular at the time but now seem to have been completely forgotten, like Ken Eulo’s THE BROWNSTONES trilogy or the erotic paperbacks of Russ Martin. Every page is a delightful homage to sub-themes (demonic possession, ghostly intrusion, homicidal crabs or vegetation…) that ultimately become a feast to the eyes and mind. 

Moreover, PAPERBACKS FROM HELL is complete with an Afterword by none other than Mr. Knowledge himself, Will Errickson. Those of you who have been following his amazing blog Too Much Horror Fiction will recognized many titles that he’s come to love or shun over the years. Like his dedicated entries he gives you a clear line as to what is really worth your time, because, truth be told, some of those featured titles are far from being compelling. One thing’s for sure, however, all have their devoted fans—not to mention fetching covers, mostly created by unsung artists who are graciously spotlighted by Hendrix. So impressed am I with the overall result of PAPERBACKS FROM HELL that I will move on from owning a digital ARC (thanks to the publishers and NetGalley) to purchasing a paperback copy just so I can truly savor the merits of this wonderful coffee table of a book.

  



Until next post—Martin







Wednesday, 13 September 2017

‘LOVERS AND LIARS’ BY BRENDA JOYCE




I’ve never been keen on historical romance. Call me a party pooper but I find it a total bore. I much rather concentrate on the problems of the rich in the present-day which, by the way, can certainly be written by authors who write in different subgenres. I have no problem with that. LOVERS AND LIARS (1989, Dell) is that kind of a novel. When I picked it up at a used book store back in the day, I had no idea that Brenda Joyce was more known for her historical efforts. Had I had a clue I probably would have skipped it (I tend to collect the entire work of authors), but since I was on the lookout for anything Hollywood-related I sure as heck found myself interested. I immediately started it, connecting as if it was a Jackie Collins novel. In fact, it did look, read and even smell like a Jackie Collins novel and again, I had—and still have—no problem with that as long as the tale is as juicy—and it eventually is.   

LOVERS AND LIARS takes us into the privileged lifestyles of the rich and rotten where a beautiful and independent heroine ends up having the hots for a bad boy turned actor with a past. True to form, the path to hooking up is one bumpy ride, but Joyce's account towards this destination is indeed a glossy, sexually-charged roman à clef that lifts from the first page and delivers. She evidently has fun with her subjects. (SPOILER AHEAD) Their hot and cold attitude for one another satisfyingly builds up to a grand sparks-fly union destined to become happily ever after. The author's world of caviar and champagne may not always be that original but the passion and dedication with which she writes about it make for a fun and exciting time-waster.  

I wonder why Joyce never followed on her Collins-ish attributes. She sure had the stamina for it. I guess she must have preferred to stay in her own turf where she certainly did go on to become one of the most highly-sought historical romance writers of the 21st century. How fun it is, however, to have been shown a different side of this talented lady who could have flourished just as well in contemporary settings if given more than half a chance.

 

You can still catch LOVERS AND LIARS wherever digital books are sold.

Until next post—Martin




Friday, 8 September 2017

‘THE POOL HOUSE’ BY TASMINA PERRY


 
Finally I can shout it out from the rooftop. BUY THIS BOOK NOW. I have been withholding my enthusiasm for nearly two months, whispering to anyone who would listen to read this gem ASAP.  Since I always try to respect my engagement with NetGalley and the publishers who graciously handed me a copy to review, I eagerly waited on pub day to finally spill the beans on this knockout of a novel. So here we go.  
 
Of all the current authors topping the bestselling charts I would say Tasmina Perry is one of the best. Her novels always manage to grip me no matter what, and THE POOL HOUSE (Headline) is certainly no different. The plot, well, to keep it as minimum as possible just so you can find out for your very self, involves a dead woman, a curious female protagonist, a beach house in The Hamptons and secrets from the past that will make you turn the pages as quick as the undeniable sense you get of inhabiting a world out of anyone’s reach. Because let’s face it, Tasmina Perry’s world is mostly all glitz and glamour and only the privileged ones get to experience it. Not that anyone actually would want to after reading this novel. 
 
Opulence aside, THE POOL HOUSE is a well-crafted fast moving whodunit filled with enough twists and turns, interesting characters and shocking revelations for one to eagerly yearn for another Tasmina Perry novel in the near future. And that’s always a good sign, especially coming from been there seen that readers like yours truly here.  


 

Until next post—Martin
 
Hachette Australia Cover

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

‘NIGHT GAMES’ BY CHARLES RIGDON


 
It always thrills me when I happen to discover a hard to find paperback novel for nickels and dimes. I think I bought this one for less than a buck a few years back. I was barely aware that it was a rare find but I sure liked the book premise: the swinging sixties and the rise and fall (mostly fall) of a privileged but doomed heroine. I’m sure NIGHT GAMES (1969, Award Books) wouldn’t have existed had it not been for the mega-success of Jacqueline Susann’s VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. More power to both titles I say, for I could spend the rest of my life reading this trash, and I say this with all the love in my heart. Call me masochist but there’s nothing better than a sizzling tale of an unhappy wealthy bunch to cure any gloomy day.  
 
Take the heroine of NIGHT GAMES, for example. She could easily have been little moi, if little moi was still 40 years old and a former screen goddess looking for love in all the wrong places. Since I’ve been happily hooked for 22 years, two of which being married, all I can say instead is, boy, does it bring me back. Clubs, booze, dope, fucked up rich—or not that rich—friends; those were the days of my so-called life and they are all showcased again in this 156 page effort which gravitates around lost as a lamb Dana as she shakes her curvy bonbon in New-York and in the French Riviera in the hopes of finding happiness. A futile attempt of course since everybody knows that happiness comes from within (and a lot of therapy, trust me). If author Charles Rigdon is aware of that he sure as heck disregards it in NIGHT GAMES, for when it comes to the goings-on of his heroine the girl is a complete mess, which can sure make a fascinating read in the process but oh what a sad and pathetic ride this is.  
 
And that’s where the book might irk a little, its tendency to stray away from rose-colored situations. Indeed, NIGHT GAMES is far from being lightweight. The characters involved are all desperate people holding on to their desperate lives. Glammed-up and in control they very well may be but each and every one of them is hanging on by a thread. And that’s what makes this novel such a page-turner, to see them all tumble one way or the other. But most importantly despite its sexually-charged context NIGHT GAMES is mainly a character study of one lost soul who may never find her rainbow after all, and I’m the first to admit that that sucks, for everyone deserves a piece of the happy pie, even characters in a novel such as this one. 
 
If you ever cross this title in your lifetime, I urge you to give it a chance. If you can find it at a decent price, that is. Last time I checked, it was going at its cheapest for $30. Charles Rigdon wrote a few other scandalous novels (which I still have yet to get into) before disappearing from the public eye in the mid-‘80s. I have no idea of his whereabouts, but if he’s still around I sure would like to shake his hand for having delivered one heck of a read with NIGHT GAMES.
 
 
Until next post—Martin
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, 28 August 2017

‘NAKED CALL’ BY DAVIDYNE MAYLEAS




Along with Elizabeth Gage I would say Davidyne Saxon Mayleas is another writer who definitely should go digital. Her work is always fun and exciting, even her less than stellar titles like THE WOMAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING, which in hindsight is a lot better than some of the current bestsellers on the charts. Forgive me for saying that but I’ve come around some real clunkers lately and they only make me glad that I’ve decided to stick with vintage books. But moving on. This week is all about Mayleas’ NAKED CALL, her second to last 1991 paperback novel from Avon Books. 

Wall Street, the mafia and Hollywood go hand in hand in this fine tale of money embezzlement and the woman who suffers because of it. She is Christie Larsen, the president of United Cinema studio, a Sherry Lansing-like single mother who is one heck of a fighter despite adversities, like the inevitable downslide of her career when she’s accused of stealing studio cash. What a girl to do? Trust author Mayleas to shake it all up as she delivers a strong narrative of the business behind the business that includes colorful but extremely narcissistic characters. What really makes NAKED CALL stand out, however, is the way the reader gets caught up in the money laundering plot while learning the ABC's of the financial industry; not your typical fluffy Hollywood novel, per se, but a riveting one at that if you're in for something different. 

Many tried to follow Jackie Collins’ trail after her mega-hit HOLLYWOOD WIVES. Most failed miserably but some did turn out to be impressively good, like this Davidyne Mayleas person (probably a pseudodym). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, she’s just what the doctor ordered if you’re on the lookout for something quite unique. She may not be a household name but she sure as heck deserves to be.

 
 

Until next post—Martin

 

 

 

Monday, 31 July 2017

BARNEY LEASON AND HIS ‘RODEO DRIVE’

 


Sleaze master Barney Leason came on the scene just as Harold Robbins’ popularity was waning. It was 1981, and the male-oriented sexcapades in print were beginning to take their toll. Melodrama was the new thing. Authors like Judith Krantz, Sidney Sheldon or Jackie Collins already dominated the best-selling lists with their tales of glitter among the rich. Sex was still a four little word but it was more romanticized, more female-friendly if you will. In other words women ruled in that era. Barney Leason was certainly aware of this when he submitted RODEO DRIVE to Pinnacle Books. Why else would he end up mixing both sub-genres and ultimately sell one million copies of this paperback novel?  
 

RODEO DRIVE revolves around Belle, the society wife of a big shot publicist. She wants out of the marriage. She has a teen daughter, Susan, who just can’t stand her stepdad, and with good reasons. It seems that Stevie boy has made the moves on her more than once, and although he pretends it’s the other way around, we all know that he’s a pathological liar. Isn’t he the one who loves nothing more than to dip his well-endowed (or so we’re told) member into other women’s vaginas? That’s how we get to meet some of the other players, verging from an over-sexual real estate vixen to a rather frigid Hollywood wife. There’s also Belle’s bestie, who has only a few months to live (cancer) and who wants to raise enough money to build a clinic in her name. She’s the better developed character in this novel, besides the main one. The rest are mostly there to divert from the central plot.
 

I can’t say that I hated RODEO DRIVE. I can’t say that I loved it either. I’m what you call on the fence and the only reason why is that it is a very ambitious novel for a then-first-time writer. So much is happening that it becomes quite dizzying at times. BUT it’s never boring, I can tell you that. Had Leason spent more time on his heroine than on the many sexual situations of his secondary characters the novel would have made more of an impact. But as is I can only give RODEO DRIVE a mixed review. And it kills me, really, for, as you all know, I’m all for fun sleaze. There’s a sequel called NORTH RODEO DRIVE that I’ll probably get to. One thing I must stress again, however, is the author’s gracious way of putting the spotlight on a strong and eventually independent female protagonist. Seeing her pushing through adversity with her head held high can only make the novel all the much worthwhile. I’m sure I’ll get around to his other work (PASSIONS, SCANDALS, GRAND ILLUSIONS just to name a few). I’m all the more interested to see what else he can come up with now that I’ve seen what his pen can do.

 
 
RODEO DRIVE is now available wherever digital books are sold.

 
 

Until next post—Martin

 
Inside cover used as French cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

‘PANDORA’S BOX’ BY ELIZABETH GAGE



 
Sure took me a while to read this one. Not that it was boring. I certainly had a ball. It’s just that with all the ARCs coming my way via NetGalley I just had no time for it. I tried my best to get back to it in between books but the truth of the matter is it was just a pain to leave it aside. Now that peace has started to reign again since I have slowed down on my NetGalley requests I can tell you that not only did I finish PANDORA’S BOX (1990, Pocket Books) a happy man but I found myself cursing the gods of trashy books for having read my last of the Elizabeth Gage’s contractual five novels from Simon & Schuster. I’m almost sure nothing will be the same once I start her Mira books which are supposedly tamer than what we’ve gotten so far. 

Anyway, getting back to PANDORA’S BOX, I must point out that it’s a lengthy novel, a door stopper as some of you like to call it. At 864 pages (mass market paperback) the novel has to be pretty darn good for me to invest my time in it. It is, as it turns out. The story revolves around two women who, born on the same date but different as night and day, come to cross paths later in life against a backdrop of political agenda. What happens before is a series of scandals and sins à la Elizabeth Gage. Lies, adultery, business takeovers, all spiced up by a strong narrative and a psyche of its characters that really lets you in on the reasons of their ways. In fact, if I had one negative thing to say about PANDORA’S BOX it’s that the author relies too much on explanation. The show, don’t tell mantra seems completely forgotten at times, which, in the end, irks quite a bit, but since the positive overcompensates the negative I am—and was—willing to let it go.  

Indeed, getting into the nitty-gritty of this frothy read that spans over thirty years was a joy still, most specifically because it took over from the real world. With its fleshed-out characterization and well-thought of plot twists (some expected some not) nothing came to matter except the fate of these fictitious people. I even found myself getting soft on the antagonist who the author managed to render human-like. Just go to show you that even a trashy novel like PANDORA’S BOX can impress on a literary level. But are we really surprised? This second offering (after the riveting A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING) is nothing less than what we’ve come to expect from a writer who, in my humble opinion, should come back from the pseudonymous grave ASAP.
 

 

Until next post—Martin

MMP UK edition
 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

‘FITNESS JUNKIE’ BY LUCY SYKES AND JO PIAZZA



 
Rarely do I give a novel an outstanding review. Yes, many have had my seal of approval over the years but the ones that earn a notch above the rest happen once in a blue moon. Like this featured title, for example, penned by the duo team of Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza (THE KNOCKOFF). It was such a joy to read that a second go at it would have been more than welcomed had I not had to reduce my reading pile. FITNESS JUNKIE (Doubleday, 2017) tells the tale of a career woman who’s on a quest to find the magic solution that will give her back her girly figure. Not a simple task—of course—but at the hands of these two talented writers anything is possible. 

The fun—or should we say the hardship—begins early on when gay bestie and longtime business partner of a couture wedding dress company urges 40 year-old Janey to take a leave of absence to slim down about 30 pounds (bad for business, he claims). Since the weight issue has been contracted (!) when they were in their ‘20s Janey realizes she has no choice. So in come a slew of fitness gimmicks that eventually do more harm than good. Aided by a college chum who’s just as obsessed with health and fitness as she is and a spin-instructor of a niece who has a mouth like a sailor, Janey will stop at nothing to regain her rightful place as CEO.  

First and foremost let me say that the recipe for riveting reads is to always showcase a knockout of a protagonist, and in this novel, Janey is her. She is sympathetic, smart, resilient, kind, funny but most importantly relatable. Women of all sizes will see themselves in her. If not so much, then at least her crazy encounters with the human kind will make them grin from ear to ear and sometimes warm their heart. Because FITNESS JUNKIE is not always all fun and games (which are aplenty, trust me). There are also moments of sensitivity such as the scene where the heroine clearly sees that she’s no longer considered a muse in the eyes of her business partner or the one involving a group therapy session which almost moved me to tears with its message of hope after despair. I say almost, because I’m a mean S.O.B.  

The real star of this novel, however, is the over-the-top fitness regimes that just can’t be real (according to the writers some are). From drinking clay to attending a Free the Nipple Yoga session, not to mention getting high on cactus juice, all are nuttier than the next. But the most important thing in FITNESS JUNKIE, besides giving the heroine not one but two male counterparts to coddle with, is the strong and effective narrative. Like last year’s THE KNOCKOFF the story breezes by like a summer wind and before you know it the end is near and your only wish is to go back in time and enjoy it all over again. Can’t wait to see what’s next in the horizon from these dynamic authors.  

 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

  

Until next post—Martin


 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

TOO MUCH, TOO SOON (1958)


 
I remember a time when PBS used to showcase vintage movies on weekend afternoons during which I caught TOO MUCH, TOO SOON starring the ever-interesting Dorothy Malone. The aim was to recreate movie house magic with previews, intermissions between double-bills, and it totally worked. I was around 17 (I think) and already had a thing for silver screen cinema. I was so absorbed by this latest showing that I spent years trying to catch it again, to no avail. It took the possession of a VHS player and the magic of eBay for me to finally find a print. Fast-forward to early 2010 and what do you know, a DVD copy finally comes my way, courtesy of Warner Brothers.   

 
Based on the 1957 best-selling  memoirs of Diana Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s aunt), TOO MUCH, TOO SOON shows the world what it’s really like to have it all and still self-destruct. Malone’s downward spiral from the golden days of Hollywood to the sleazy side of the boulevard involves booze and booze and more booze. Did I say booze? 

The fun starts pretty early when teen Malone—already in her 30s at the time—visits her matinee idol of a dad (an impressive Errol Flynn) whom she hadn’t seen in years on account that he’s a wandering lush (but stuck on a yacht for this scene). She quickly sees his ways when he drunkenly throws himself into the ocean to crash a party on another yacht. This sudden abandonment doesn’t bode well for Malone as the gauzy soft focus equipped camera zooms in on her sadden face. Cut to a few years later and Malone, now a society belle, yearns to see her name in lights but fails at it big time after receiving scathed reviews (sort of like this film). Married now to fellow actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr (from SCRUPLES fame) and rid of her dad who has finally passed on, she sets out to be a good wife. Not for long, though, since she rather sleeps with tennis pro Ray Danton (who wouldn’t?) while hubby is away. 

Divorced, she and Danton get hitched and live off her domineering mom. The two party like the Lowans before he swirls a tennis ball at her in a fit of rage. Ouch!  She soon divorces him as well and consumes pints of alcohol to forget it all, especially the fact that she is now dead broke (her deceased mom’s has done a MOMMIE DEAREST on her in her will). Then we get to the film pivotal scene where Malone, drunk as a skunk and not much to look at, does an awful burlesque act in a seedy club to earn money and is quickly thrown off the stage. She ends up in rehab, cleans up finally and chance meets sweet old friend Martin Milner (Neely‘s first hubby in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) who offers a helping hand. She kindly refuses but promises to keep in touch and heads off to her new sober life.  The end. 

In real life Diana Barrymore had a much longer battle with booze (and pills) which lasted until her untimely death (ruled suicide) in 196o. She was 38 years old. In between drinks she had tried to revive her acting career from the success of her novel but failed again. Clearly her life was meant to be shitty. Supposedly Lana Turner’s character in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is based on Barrymore. It has been years since I have seen that film. Need to check it out once again.

 

 

Until next post—Martin
 

 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

‘AMBER GREEN TAKES MANHATTAN’ BY ROSIE NIXON





Amber Green is back, this time taking Manhattan by storm. Gone are the hectic days of being an assistant to troubled stylist to the stars Mona Armstrong. Now it’s all about making it on her own. Well not exactly, she does have her dreamboat of a boyfriend—now a documentarian for a famous lingerie brand—on her side with whom she shares a tiny apartment in the Big Apple. Not to mention being aided by a John Galliano-like designer who has been unjustly blackballed for apparently supporting Hitler. When a few innocent pics taken for her fashion blog go viral Amber ends up right back in the spotlight—but is it for good this time?

AMBER GREEN TAKES MANHATTAN (HQ) is enjoyable but not as much as THE STYLIST, the prequel. There I said it. It picks up six months later and focuses (too much) on her love life with Rob, with a few run-ins with the Beautiful People as she tries to make a name for herself. It’s only in the second half that we do get the sense that Amber is back in action. Truth be told, I almost gave up on it at one time. This wasn’t THE STYLIST I came to love. It felt more like a toned down version of it—as if the author was in a desperate need to be taken more seriously as a writer (the narrative feels indeed stronger), instead of letting the action speaks for itself. BUT, I persevered, and it did pick up eventually.

I truly hope a third book is on the way. I still have high hopes for this Amber Green character. She could be the next Becky Bloomwood if the author plays her cards right. All it needs to achieve this plateau is a better balanced plot and lots and lots of high fashion high jinks. The romance can even take a back seat if it has to. Isn’t it what made THE STYLIST so much fun to begin with?


Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Until next post—Martin

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

‘FIRE ISLAND’ BY BURT HIRSCHFELD


 
I should focus more on the work of Burt Hirschfeld. The guy certainly deserves it. His novels are always a treat. Take his first megahit FIRE ISLAND (1970, Avon), for instance, this one is a breeze to go through, mostly because of his devotion to one topic: sex; sex in the bedroom, sex on the beach, consensual sex, non-consensual sex…  What he also has in his corner is the ability to write. He knows how to create memorable characters, whether they are lost individuals (like the character of Mike in this novel), or wild little kittens (mostly Cindy who gets a book of her own in CINDY ON FIRE which is reviewed here). Hirschfeld likes nothing better than to gloat over their problems, and we, the readers, eat them up like it’s the latest episode of any Housewives.  At least I do.   

I took upon myself to take another look at FIRE ISLAND this year, just to make sure it’s still as badass as I thought it to be. It is. With summer just around the corner I couldn’t have picked a better title to celebrate sun, surf and hot bods. But the most exciting part is that it also gave me a new lease on my reading choices. I’ve been focusing too much on current bestsellers lately and I feel like I lost my way. This blog should, first and foremost, celebrate vintage trash. Besides the contractual reviewed novels that I still plan to post, I’m happy to report that Sleaze Factor is back on track, putting the spotlight on forgotten gems in books, films or miniseries. 

Indeed, revisiting a novel like FIRE ISLAND does make the heart grow fonder. The main reason being it judiciously delivers what it sets out to do: present a slew of well-drawn characters in a chronicle-like setting, topped by many sexual situations of the flower power era. Purists beware, however, for FIRE ISLAND is filled with many sexual encounters that, nowadays, are not always considered politically correct. The dominant male, well, dominates. His conquests are mostly of the submissive kind, though some do butt heads with their counterparts, but the results are always great fun and more than meets the eye. Because behind all of the author’s wild and descriptive imagination lies a novel with a message about life in general, especially for those over 35 who have stumbled more than once. Oh mind you, Hirschfeld may not always handle things with kid gloves, and to be quite honest, some of his scenes almost verge on bigotry, but he still does it with bravado and a keen sense of style. His ability to deliver a clean line behind all the sex and drama is reason enough to give the book a try. Plus, following a bunch of people who view the world without rose-tinted glasses always makes for a fun read. 

If I have failed to titillate you with this title then I don’t know what else to say except this: his work reminds me of early Robbins with a dash of Herbert Kastle thrown in the mix. If that gets your motor going, then you’ll probably end up like moi, collecting all of his novels and wondering how many more summers it will take to get through them all.  Thank goodness I got my groove back.

 
 

Until next post—Martin