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 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 is 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

 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

‘THE STYLIST’ BY ROSIE NIXON


 
When Amber Green (!) becomes an assistant to stylist extraordinaire Mona Armstrong for the approaching and highly-publicized award season she can’t believe her luck. The stars, the glitz, the glamour, what more can a girl working at a trendy boutique in London want? A lot, as it turns out. Before she even has time to breathe, Amber is caught in the middle of her boss’ crazy antics—not to mention putting up with the excessive demands of the Beautiful and not so Beautiful People—and it’s up to her to save the day. Or can she? 

If you think Rosie Nixon’s THE STYLIST (2016, Mira) is a knockoff of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA by Lauren Weisberger you may have a thing here. Both books have the same vibes (the fashion world, a demanding boss, multitask challenges…) and both books deliver. THE STYLIST even more so since the characters are less one-dimensional, including self-absorbed Mona who contrary to PRADA’s Miranda is just a little pest with a heart deeply buried somewhere. This Amber Green person is one tough cookie, though, as she goes from one pre-award ceremony to the next dressing up A-listers while her celebrity boss is again MIA. Her first person account of the hectic journey is filled with funny tidbits, impossible situations, and ultimately tender moments as cupid dares to show himself in the form of an assistant director who’s filming it all for the purpose of a pilot reality TV show.  Good stuff.

I admit, I went ahead and read this novel because of my soon-to-be involvement with its sequel via NetGalley. Indeed, a review of AMBER GREEN TAKES MANHATTAN is hitting this blog very soon and I just couldn’t do so without getting to know its well-received prequel. Being the escapist fiction guru that I am, however, I had a pretty good hunch that THE STYLIST was going to be exactly my cup of tea. I was right on the money. The author clearly succeeds in making her own a variation on the same theme and I applaud her for that. I look forward to reading her follow-up and post my thoughts on it. Hope you’ll be along for the ride.
 
 
You can still get this title wherever digital or conventional books are sold (mostly in the UK).
 
 
 

Until next post—Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 12 June 2017

‘LOVERS & GAMBLERS’ BY JACKIE COLLINS


 
 
The second book I picked up from the forever-talented Jackie Collins after the glorious HOLLYWOOD WIVES was none other than LOVERS & GAMBLERS.  I wanted another great trashy read and I couldn’t have found a better one. I was in my early 20s, fresh from being out of the closet and having the time of my life. Well, what I thought to be the best time of my life. The truth of the matter is I was lost, lost in booze, sex and dope. It was the ‘80s and everyone around me was on autopilot. As Jerry Blake used to say in TV's STRANGERS WITH CANDY, good times!  Anyway, to make a long story short, I needed a breather from my wild ways, and this latest Jackie Collins was exactly what the doctor ordered.  

LOVERS & GAMBLERS takes you into the glamourous world of Dallas and Al, two gorgeous misfits who suffer greatly in the name of love. Their destined-to-be-together union is a roller coaster ride of secrets and sins only Jackie can concoct, and that means a whole lot of fluff appeal. Sort of like my love life back in the day if you will. Kidding. In reality, underneath the disco ball I felt totally lost. Before going too much After School Special on you, let me just reiterate that thank Heavens I had novels such as LOVERS & GAMBLERS to soften the edge. It literately kept me from going cuckoo. Yes, as odd as it may seem, it took a superficial book like this one to ground me.   

Indeed, LOVERS & GAMBLERS worked like a balm to my angst. It didn’t cure my permanent unhappiness (therapy did) but it sure gave me a break from all the shit thrown my way. Because, yes, life in the fast lane is far from being what’s it’s cracked up to be. Any trashy read can tell you that. I just needed to tell it to myself and take it from there. What I didn’t know then, and that’s the coolest part, was how devoted I would become to the genre in the following years—to the point of starting my own blog and share the love with others. I truly hope my many silly entries, either about books, films or miniseries, give you an ounce of the thrill I feel when I’m writing them. Long live trash.
 

 

Until next post—Martin

 

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Monday, 5 June 2017

THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT (1977)


 

On a scale of one to ten how delectably bad is the screen adaptation of Sidney Sheldon’s mega-bestseller THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT? I’d say an eleven. Nothing can surpass this over-the-top, over produced, over-acted piece of drivel that just keeps getting wackier with every viewing. It’s as if everything’s thrown in but the kitchen sink, but I’m sure that if you look more closely you’d even see that taking place somewhere. I have no idea why it took me so long to blog about this title since it’s one of my favorite films EVER but I can honestly say that I’m just as excited as the time I wrote about another delectably bad film called THE LONELY LADY. 
 
The fun starts just before the outbreak of WWII in France when poor innocent-looking French gal Marie-France Pisier declares “Papa, I do love you” to her eager dad who, unbeknownst to her, has sold her to THE DUKES OF HAZZARD Sorrell Booke for a radio and some other goodies. After surrendering herself to Booke she packs up her bag and heads off to a plush hotel lobby in Paris where she is mistaken for a whore. She is saved from embarrassment by TV’s FLAMINGO ROAD John Beck who she thinks is all that but really isn’t. Before you can say here we go, a long lovey-dovey montage of the two in the City of Light is accompanied by a Michel Legrand score that is just as syrupy as the whole sequence.

When Beck is shipped elsewhere (who cares where) he promises Pisier that he will be back to marry her. But like the bastard that he really is he never returns and Pisier is left with a double P: pregnant and pissed. She aborts with a wire-hanger before sleeping her way to the top to become a renowned European actress (yeah right). Filthy rich and the mistress of a Greek tycoon with connections (in other words a bad rich guy), she then hires a private detective to keep tabs on Beck and sets a course of action to make him pay before rekindling their passionate romance (uh-huh).

Now married to a young and—thank heavens—effective Susan Sarandon (yes, she is in this as well) who we witness passing from a career gal to a lush wife during the course of the film, Beck has no idea what he is about to get into when he becomes Pisier’s private pilot in Greece. When the job also involves getting into her pants for old time’s sake, she wants him all for herself. When he refuses to get a divorce she swears she’ll tell everything to her tycoon of a boyfriend no matter the consequences. What a man or a gal to do? Get rid of Sarandon of course.  

It all comes down to Sarandon overhearing their plan to kill her, hiding away in a docked rowboat during a thunderstorm (wise move) then getting swallowed by the wild sea as if we didn’t anticipate it. Cut to Pisier and Beck getting executed for the death of Sarandon, and the shocker of all shockers, finding out that Sarandon isn’t dead after all, just an amnesia victim found on the shore near a nuns’ convent.
 
Oh yes, my sweet little high-camp gems devotees, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT is a must for all the wrong reasons. It is the apogee of bad cinema making. This 2 hour and 45 minute fiasco, which BTW ended up being just a modest hit, has it all: sex, money, power, greed... It is directed by the same guy who later on gave us another Sheldon adapted treat: A STRANGER IN THE MIRROR. Sheldon subsequently wrote and produced a sequel to MIDNIGHT which of course will eventually see the light of day on this blog. Oh, and I almost forgot, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT was a packaged deal upon its theatrical release in ‘77, to help a little film the industry thought was going to bomb: STAR WARS. Imagine that.
 

 

Until next post—Martin