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