Sunday, 16 December 2018

‘FLAWLESS’ BY BURT HIRSCHFELD





During the early 1990s when I was still a young hip lad (in my head, anyway) I was on a mission to track down every single Burt Hirschfeld book in existence. It didn’t matter how many or how much they cost, I just wanted to complete my collection that started with this featured title, FLAWLESS (1985, Jove). This one has one of the best paperback covers of the glam ‘80s. I kid you not on this. Ever since the successful publication of Judith Krantz’s SCRUPLES, every publisher in America wanted to capitalize on the trend by focusing on the face of the heroine on their covers. In the case of FLAWLESS, she is a mix of Brooke Shields and Kim Delaney rolled into one. Simple but effective. The novel? About the same.


FLAWLESS delivers mostly the goods when the supposedly main character does take center stage—in about a third into the story. What the author does instead, with this tale of family feuds and shady business deals amongst the jewel industry, is concentrating on the male side of things and keeping everything in check with a fast-moving plot. A well made task, if you ask me, but one which could have had a higher benefit had it focused more on the heroine's point of view (like the book back cover teaser makes you believe). As is, the novel reads more like a ‘60s pulp actioner than anything else. Yet narratively speaking, Hirschfeld still knows how to charm his readers, and the path to the final climactic scene makes one yearns to grab other hirschfelds in the future, like I eventually did in the long run.


As of today, I almost own the complete collection of Burt Hirschfeld’s novels. There are still some titles I am in no hurry to get. Titles that failed to strike my fancy, whether they are non-fictions or TV show/movie tie-ins. If I do come upon them by chance, believe me I will purchase them. As of the end of 2018 I have not had the pleasure of catching them whenever I visit a bookstore here in Canada or around the world. Sure, there is always the Web to rely on but I just refuse to pay a bundle for titles I will most likely never read. Besides I got so many unread novels by this guy that I’m willing to settle for what I own right now. And you know the old saying, too many books so little time...  I have no idea if I’ll manage to go through all of them but I sure will try.



Until next post—Martin
1984 Hardcover






Sunday, 2 December 2018

‘DECEPTIONS’ BY JUDITH MICHAEL



I wish I could say I had a ball with Judith Michael’s first novel DECEPTIONS (1982, Pocket) but it ended up being just an OK experience and here’s why. Remember when I first saw the adapted miniseries on NBC back in the day, when network television actually took the time to produce glittery nighttime melodramas such as this one? No? Well, I talked about it here. LACE, SCRUPLES, HOLLYWOOD WIVES, all were adapted with big fanfares and big success. In the case of DECEPTIONS, however, it turned out being just a modest hit, but I digress. What I’m trying to say here is that problems of the rich ruled television in the ‘80s, and I was lucky enough to have seen my share of them. So it comes as no surprise that after salivating over the two-parter that was DECEPTIONS I needed to read the novel ASAP. Yes, I was that kind of a geeky gay. In fact, I still am. Duh! 

So one morning I took my sweet little ass to Coles bookstore and searched for the novel. I found it fast enough. It had the tie-in cover featuring star Stefanie Powers. Suffice to say, I was thrilled. Finally I was going to be able to get into the nitty-gritty of the two twins switching lives for a week. I mean, seeing it playing out on TV is more than fine but getting into the psyche of these characters in a 500 + page narrative is a lot better in my opinion. But surprise, surprise, it took me more than 10 years to read the thing. No, let me rephrase that. What I actually mean is that I waited more than 10 years to pick it up and read it. People who know me on this blog will probably recognize this pattern of mine, the tendency to give up on a read in favor of a juicier one, and at the time it was mostly Jackie Collins’ backlist. 

Cut to the end of the ‘90s and what do you know, I finally read that DECEPTIONS I so eagerly wanted. I come out of it satisfied but not wowed—and I never pick up a Judith Michael novel again, until this year when I decided to re-read it before embarking on its sequel A TANGLED WEB. Though I do think DECEPTIONS is still a fine specimen I am not again that keen over it, mostly because for the most part the novel turned out being more of a Harlequin romance-like story than anything else. There are a lot of ‘My love...’s thrown in in between fine narrative. And I feel that the story drags on a bit, mostly when the focus is on rich Sabrina becoming Stephanie the housewife. Not enough time is spent on the other sis, plain Stephanie now a UK jet setter, which is what I really wanted the book to delve into. And before you know it, kaboom! her life is taken away by the explosion of a yacht. So of course the focus is back on Sabrina. What a girl to do, right? Especially now that she’s tempted to stick with her new life and hunky professor hubby, who, by the way, still has no idea she isn’t really who she says she is despite having boned her more than once. Pretty farfetched, if you ask me. But hey, it's a silly little book anyway. Yet I still wish the novel could have been better handled overall. I am in no hurry to read the sequel now. Oh I’ll get there, eventually. I just hope it’ll deliver the goods as it should, as all books should.





Until next post—Martin 
UK PB edition

Monday, 19 November 2018

‘THE NEW BODY’ BY JAMES FRITZHAND




After feeling rejuvenated by the re-reading of A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING by Elizabeth Gage, I decided to aim my focus on what looked like another sure bet, 1976 THE NEW BODY by James Fritzhand (Avon). Coming to this paperback original is a story in itself. As you probably figured out, I have an impressive collection of trashy novels. You name it I own it, except for this featured title, which finally came my way during my last visit to the States. I was checking out a huge used bookstore thinking coming across that novel would never happen but there it was waiting for my eager hands to pick it up. I was so happy. I have been dying to find a copy at a decent price but since it’s almost impossible to do so when one is from Canada I had almost given up on my quest.  

So you can imagine how eager I was to start this one since I thoroughly enjoyed Fritzhand’s other showbiz-related novels over the years. THE NEW BODY isn’t really a showbiz novel per se but it does dabble in it since the central character eventually gets famous when she becomes a Weight-Watchers-like guru à la Oprah who travels across the globe to give seminars on how to win, like herself, the battle of the bulges. In other words, this bitch is really loaded, all thanks to dedication, self-reliance and a lucrative empire she had help build from the ground up. 

The novel begins in 1975 when an unauthorized biography of our busy as a bee gal is scheduled to appear. Of course she’ll have none of that since it would reveal things she’d rather keep quiet, like how a fraud she sometimes feels when hiding behind a girdle or a week-long stay at the spa to keep her svelte image, well, svelte. Not to mention the many problems of her two grown up children, one of whom would rather eat glass than be around her. Then it’s flashback time for hundreds of pages in which our heroine is still an overweight housewife who slowly but surely manages to slim her way to the top without avoiding the pratfalls that come with success: a failed marriage, an ungrateful family, a partner from hell, users and abusers of all sorts... Until we finally come back to the present time to support the woman behind the brand who deep down, this reader feels, will always struggle to overcome this guilt of having lost her family—and herself—over fame and fortune.  

THE NEW BODY also focuses on homosexuality (properly brought up), drug addiction, food addiction, rotten business deals, disastrous affairs... All wrapped up into one page-turning experience you’ll likely never forget. The author clearly knows what he’s doing. Whether it’s his strong narrative, or the swift pacing of his plot, or simply the keen-eyed way he portraits his imperfect but likable protagonist, one thing’s for sure, this is truly a delightful read. One I would have taken more of had I had the choice. I have no idea if it was a best-seller back in the day but if it was not, it sure should have been. Easily the best novel of the year for me.

  

Until next post—Martin

Sunday, 4 November 2018

‘A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING’ BY ELIZABETH GAGE


A strange thing happened on the way to our well-deserved vacation.  After completing the 42.2K Marathon in Montreal and heading the same day to the Tropics I suddenly had the urge to read a ‘80s book.  Not the kind of simple urge one gets when the itch beckons, but like a desperate now-or-never need to appease my craving. It didn’t matter which book, just as long as it was of the rich and the rotten and riveting as fuck. In came a hardcover copy of Elizabeth Gage’s A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING (1988, Simon & Schuster) from the ship’s library. It was sleeveless, heavy, and it had spots of sunscreen oil on its red stiff material but it barely mattered, for I had found my savior. From that moment on I didn’t care where we were or how many unread current titles were waiting to catch my eyes on my Kindle. This was the book that I was going to read—or re-read since we did cross paths in 1990—for the next 14 days.   

The things that A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING did to me on that trip, I will forever be grateful. I kid you not on this. I was stuck in a rut reading wise. I had spent the last few months wondering where my reading choices were heading, since I felt like nothing really stroke my fancy anymore. After all these years of reading and reviewing maybe it was time to finally throw in the towel and move on. I wanted to reconnect with this passion of mine but didn’t know if I still could since everything was all becoming so bland and uninspiring. It took exactly 10 pages of A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING to cure this itch of mine.  

Every day like clockwork, in between visiting islands, going to the gym, and eating fine cuisine, my nose was stuck in that book, revelling in the tumultuous lives of these two glorious but so different women. In a Hollywood setting that starts in the 1947 and ends in 1974 during the Academy Awards ceremony, readers who dig Jackie Collins but with an edge will definitely have their fill of sexually-charged situations and nail-biting plot twists. They may even come to care about either leads or some other secondary characters. It’s a long book, over 700 pages and not once did I feel the story dragging. Indeed, what a fun and remarkable piece of pop culture art that novel is. Not only did it turn out to be exactly what the doctor ordered, it also made me realize how much in the zone I still was regarding sleaze. And it only took the right novel for me to figure that out. And not any novel, mind you, but one that delivers the goods with its impressive narrative, well rounded characterization and an extra shot of intellect. 

I dare anyone who loves a good trashy book not to get caught up in the swirls of her two main characters. If the reader is not too prude, that is, because it is very bold in its description sometimes. I’m telling you, if you want to tackle a strong and clever, and sometimes moving, story of sins and redemptions, give A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING a try. I’m sure you’ll be impressed as I am. Now, how the twenty-something gay dude that I was could be able to catch all these notable traits the first time around I read this book, I’ll never know. But one thing’s for sure, I’m so glad I revisited it and had the chance to praise it yet again. And in exchange get this second wind so desperately needed. Isn’t life a trip?!





Until next post—Martin  
UK Hardcover




Sunday, 14 October 2018

‘SCRUPLES TWO’ BY JUDITH KRANTZ


Tackling the sequel to ‘70s classic SCRUPLES seemed the right decision last summer. Sun, surf, sex, plus a good trashy novel to boost—what more can a gay guy need? Besides, I’ve always wondered what the heck happened to all of those lovable characters Judith Krantz so stylishly put on paper that many years ago. Yeah, I know, the last time I talked about that book I put a gay mafia hit on it on account of its many homosexual gibes. But I have turned a new leaf since then. Call it maturing, call it not taking things so seriously, call it whatever you like, but something happened to me these last couple of months. Life seems less combative—which brings me back to SCRUPLES TWO (1993, Bantam). Well, not really. If I really wanted to enjoy that sequel I needed to go back to where it all started. So yes, I did re-read SCRUPLES and you know what? The gay thing in it wasn’t as intense as I remembered it to be. As a matter of fact, it was kind of tame and silly, and to be really honest, true to life in parts. But more importantly, I enjoyed the novel so much that I couldn’t wait to jump right into its sequel. By the way you’ll be glad to know that there are few gay-subtexts in this one except for the recurrence of a secondary character. 

In fact, the whole gang is back: Billie, Valentine, Spider, even fucked up Melanie who makes a cameo. But there are new faces as well, most noticeably Gigi who is Vito’s teenage kid and who wins Billie’s heart even though Billie’s marriage to Vito is on the rocks. Yes, what you thought would be forever is actually over in less than fifty pages.  Other worthy mentions: unsuspected deaths, unsuspected hook ups but most importantly unsuspected impressiveness at the narrative. I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise since Krantz has always been a solid writer. But just like her fictitious store, which takes a beating in SCRUPLES TWO only to be rejuvenated later on, I just wasn’t ready for the flowing and seduction of it all.   

I wish I could say the same in regards to the overall story which despite some well-meaning plot twists often ends up verging on predictability. In fact, the whole kit and caboodle is kind of lame compared to its prequel.  Oh, the author tries her best to put some spunk into her tale but the overall result just doesn’t cut it as much. Take Billie’s double-life in Paris, for example, it certainly was an interesting idea, especially the psychological aspect of it (you know, a woman hiding her true identity for the love of a man) but, again, I feel the author missed the mark in developing any kind of real depth behind the character’s motive, making Billie come across as an insecure, egocentric, whiny know-it-all instead of a fully-realized heroine. Yes, I am aware SCRUPLES TWO is light reading but if New-York Times best-selling author Elizabeth Gage can extend on the psyche of her characters and still be able to deliver the goods I’m sure others like Miss Krantz here can do so as well. Still, I say read SCRUPLES TWO, if you’re a fan of the first one. Just don’t expect to be wowed by it. I have no idea if I’ll ever pick up LOVERS, the next chapter in the SCRUPLES trilogy. If I ever do, you’ll be the first to know.  




Until next post—Martin 







Monday, 27 August 2018

NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY (1976)



I actually saw this TV movie when I was in my early teens. It was during the end of the ‘70s, a time when I still had no idea what a B-movie was. It was on late at night on some cable TV channel. What I do remember thinking, however, is how impressed I was with the whole thing. Innocent girls, life in the slammer... It reminded me of another TV movie I had caught prior to this one called CAGED WITHOUT A KEY starring Susan Dey from THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY. If you ever get the chance to cross path, watch it. It is indeed worth it. NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY tells the tale of two UCLA besties on a summer road trip who are falsely incarcerated in a Southern prison farm when they meet a sheriff from hell. What happens to them and the other inmates will forever change their lives.  

Without revealing too much let’s just say that, boy, they sure don’t make them like that anymore. I don’t think they could anyway with all the segregation and name calling going on. You see, the two leads happen to be black and white and when they aren’t even allowed to talk to one another once in the detention camp, planning an escape route as a team becomes almost impossible. Of course NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY is more than just being driven by race. It is foremost a story about strength and survival grade-B style. Curvy inmates, wicked wardens, women-on-women action—the sleaziness is all there but played down to the hilt to comply with the TV censors (check out the international cut if you want some female nudity). Still, it is quite daring for its time, I must say. 

The movie follows the same pattern as those other sleazy TV films of the era, such as DAWN: PORTRAIT OF A TEENAGE RUNAWAY (prostitution), LITTLE LADIES OF THE NIGHT (prostitution), ALEXANDER: THE OTHER SIDE OF DAWN (male prostitution), BORN INNOCENT (juvenile detention for girls) but what stands out most in NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY is the level of acting led by its two female stars, the late Deborah Raffin from LACE 2 and KNOTS LANDING Lynne Moody. Both give bravura performances worthy of Emmy nominations. OK, perhaps not exactly on that level but they do deserve some praises. In fact all do, from TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL Della Reese to Robert Reed from THE BRADY BUNCH fame and let’s not forget GILLIGAN ISLAND Tina Louise who plays against type as a sadistic prison guard. I almost failed to recognize her with a face shed of makeup and a tomboyish attitude. 


NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY has already reached the DVD market in 2012 as part of an eight-movie pack aptly named MOVIES FOR THE MAN CAVE, but I think it’s time for the film to resurface as a solo act. Perhaps in the form of a Blu-ray edition that of course would include both censored and uncensored versions and loads and loads of supplements. I’m sure this would make fans, like moi, very, very happy. So what do you say, Shout! Factory? Do we have a deal? 



Until next post—Martin




Monday, 13 August 2018

‘THE SISTERS’ BY PAT BOOTH




I was very surprised to find out that ‘60s UK model turned novelist Pat Booth succumbed to lung cancer in 2009 at the young age of 66. The passing of Jackie Collins in 2015 made me realize that glam fiction writers had literally been dropping like flies. OK I may exaggerate quite a bit but when you start thinking about it, my affirmation is not that farfetched: Collins, Robbins, Sheldon, Booth, not to mention Harlequin favorite Penny Jordan, and more recently Sally Beauman. Oh, and let’s not forget THE FIRST WIVES CLUB Olivia Goldsmith who died in 2004 from complications related to anesthesia. The wheels are turning, my friends, and before you know it, it’s your turn to get off the merry-go-round. Depressing thought, isn’t it?

But let’s talk about Pat Booth’s THE SISTERS (1988, Ballantine), a much better topic. I read this one in the early ‘90s when I was knee deep into my trash period. I wanted to read another Collins but since I was already up to date on her backlist, I had no choice but to settle on Booth. Not that Booth is lightweight, but compared to the queen of racy fiction, she’s definitely second-rate. Nonetheless, THE SISTERS is a delightful little roman-à-clef involving two sisters vying for the same man. Both are celebrities. One is a renowned actress, the other a bestselling author. When a shot from a handgun is heard during the filming of a much-publicized mini-series, suffice to say, all hell breaks loose. Who was it aimed at? Was it one of the sis?  You’ll have to be patient to find out as the story reverts back in time to focus on the tumultuous relationship between those siblings. Attacking lesbians, incarceration in Looney bins, porn—nothing is spared for our spotlight girls. Pat Booth delivers a worthy grade-B novel whose main subjects clearly reminds the readers of two real legendary Hollywood sisters, Joan and Jackie Collins.

Let’s just hope they are nothing like these two central characters because if they are—were—what a pain in the you-know-where they turn(ed) out to be. True or not THE SISTERS makes fun of these two with a relish and delivers an enchanting if flawed little novel. The narrative is rich but does appear somewhat clunky at times, though I have certainly read worse (and kudos to the author for forever trying to impress). None of Pat Booth novels have reached the digital market. My guess is that they eventually will. If not, well, you can always get them via Amazon for a few bucks—that is if you’re like me, always on the lookout for other glitz and glam efforts à la Collins, like THE SISTERS here.

  

Until next post—Martin 


US Hardcover Edition / Pat Booth

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

‘THE BOYS IN THE MAIL ROOM’ BY IRIS RAINER DART




When I was around 16 I couldn’t get enough of trashy novels. One of them was THE BOYS IN THE MAIL ROOM by Iris Rainer—who later on married and added Dart to her name. The year was 1981, and I was still in the closet but very aware that temptation beckoned whenever thinking about men. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was still young enough to believe that it was simply a phase, that it would come to pass as I grow older. How naive we are at that age. Anyway, when I read the synopsis of this wonderful book about show business I was completely taken aback by one of the characters who, according to the back cover, was also struggling with his own sexual identity. Suffice to say I plunged right into this story of four colorful guys who each struggle to make it in Hollywood. Of course they do eventually succeed (isn’t it the purpose of these stories, after all?) but the path to stardom is one roller coaster ride of sex and sin and the women—sometimes men—that get in their way. 

I can still recall that character’s first name, Barry—and no, I didn’t look it up in the novel. Like I said it just came to me. I’d love to tell you that I recently re-read THE BOYS IN THE MAIL ROOM to see if it held up but, alas, I have not, but I do remember enjoying it tremendously. It’s no surprise when I say that it’s in the same vein as any Jackie Collins title, so it wouldn’t be that hard for you to dig it as well—that is if you’re into that shit. If you’re still reading this post I guess you most certainly are. 

I had so much fun with this book that I could have easily seen it as a three part miniseries. Sort of like the TV adaptation of CELEBRITY by the late Thomas Thomson that aired on NBC in 1984 (which had a confused gay character as well). But it was not meant to be. We got BEACHES instead, seven years later, starring the Divine Miss M. Yes, Iris Rainer Dart wrote that one as well before it became a hit movie. In fact, she wrote quite a few novels after THE BOYS IN THE MAIL ROOM. Except for BEACHES, I have not had the chance to read anyone of them but when I finally do, you’ll be the first to know. Oh, quickly, before I forget. As much fun I had with this novel I also remember being quite annoyed by the fact that the paperback back cover described Barry’s homosexuality as being in love with the wrong sex. It scarcely helped this budding gay reader in moving toward accepting himself. In fact, I think it made him even more withdrawn in all aspects of life. Funny how a simple word can have major consequences to a 16 year old... But, hey, it was the early ‘80s. We certainly have accomplished a lot since then. Let’s take this time to thank all the pioneers, and that includes Iris Rainer Dart herself, who have made it possible for us to love freely our same sex partners. Without their contributions to the cause where would we be?

  

You can still catch this title wherever digital books are sold.




Until next post—Martin  
1980 Hardcover










Sunday, 15 July 2018

‘CALL HER MISS ROSS’ BY J. RANDY TARABORELLI



In 1982 a friend and I had the chance to catch Diana Ross in action as she toured the world with her live concert. Mind you, this was way before I came out of the closet. I had no idea she was a gay icon. I just loved her. My favorite album of hers was and still is 1981 To Love Again which has all of her classic love songs. So you can imagine how ecstatic we were seeing her that summer evening. I still get goose bumps just thinking about it. The night was so magical. She sang, she danced, she cracked jokes. She even went as far as mingling with the audience. We were seated too far to ever think she would come our way but it scarcely mattered, so much in awe we were just being there. I may have moved on to other singers as college beckoned but in my eyes no one had never come close to being a true superstar as Diana Ross was back in those days.

But there's an ugly side to her as well. We’ve come to know that by now. She's made enough front-page news to cover the bottom of many birdcages. Yet, J. Randy Taraborrelli was the first to really expose her bad behavior. His 1988 CALL HER MISS ROSS (Kensington Publishing) is a no holds barred account of the diva in action, from her humble beginnings in Detroit, Michigan to her sold out performances all over the world. This hit girl sure made a lot of people tremble in their boots, including her Supreme sister Mary Wilson who at the time kept quiet to keep peace. Taraborrelli spares no details in making sure his unauthorized biography is worth every penny: jealousy, backstabbing, business deals gone wrong... Ross' desperate need to control everything and everyone fits her over-the-top ego to a T while filling this bio with enough juicy details to keep any enquiring mind very, very happy.

I used to buy everything this lady put on records as a solo artist, even during her RCA days when she left Motown to make it on her own. Though some of her stuff during that time is still listenable (mostly ballads), I, like many of you, much prefer the Motown years. The Theme from Mahogany, It’s My Turn, Love Hangover, The Boss, Endless Love... So many hits and J. Randy Taraborelli goes through them all (including those of The Supremes) with a fine-tooth comb. You’ll have a ball discovering how they came to be and which ones reached the top of the charts and how long they stayed there. Indeed, CALL HER MISS ROSS is mostly an encyclopedia of knowledge despite its fun and dishy front.

Fortunately, the book is still available but going under the name DIANA ROSS: A BIOGRAPHY (Citadel, 2014). The author has rewritten, expanded and updated it with more interviews and more insightful viewpoints (which to me were my favorite parts to begin with). In other words, CALL HER MISS ROSS got a makeover. Personally, I liked it just the way it was but I admit that this new version should still be quite interesting. I will definitely check it out—as you should, especially if you’re a Ross fan.



Until next post—Martin 
Digital version

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

THE BIG CUBE (1969)


Here’s one I meant to review earlier but got sidetracked for reasons that still escape me. I caught it on DVD a couple of months ago with my hubby. I remember vividly his reaction to it. It was a mix of smirks and sarcasms from beginning to end, and to tell you the truth, I don’t really blame him. I mean how could I? This film is kind of whack—and it stars none other than the queen of high-gloss cinema herself, Miss Lana Turner. Anyone who’s caught her in gems such as IMITATION OF LIFE or PORTRAIT IN BLACK knows of her killer looks but limited talent. But as usual I was the only one who got a kick out of them that faithful day; so much so, in fact, that I now rank her presence in THE BIG CUBE as one of the must-sees of the psychedelic ‘60s. And that’s saying something when you think of all the overblown performances we had already witnessed during that time: Patty Duke in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, Kim Novak in THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE, Stephen Boyd in THE OSCAR… 


Turner plays a retired stage actress going slowly mad on LSD. What she fails to notice is that it’s all the doings of her stepdaughter who hates her guts, and you would too if you had to listen to all of those godawful step-mommy advices Turner gives while stealing the attention of the girl’s precious dad. Precious is a farfetched word to describe the goings-on of a selfish bloke who only wants to be with Lana, especially on the Pacific sea where he ultimately loses his life in a boating accident, rendering survivor Lana the executor of his estate. Of course, daughter dear will have none of that, hence the plan to make her go cuckoo. Meanwhile there is even a sillier subplot involving medical student George Chakaris (WEST SIDE STORY) and his free-spirited entourage charming his ways into the stepdaughter’s bank account. This guy is a major douche but you’ll have a ball following him as he schemes a plan to win big. 

What’s even more ridiculously cool about THE BIG CUBE is that the over-the-top scale is never determined, meaning you could be caught off-guard at any time. From an impromptu striptease at a private party to a bad acid trip at a popular night club, not to mention the many crazy drug-induced antics of Lana Turner herself (always dressed to the nines by the great Edith Head), THE BIG CUBE gives you nothing more than entertainment sleaze. Who cares if it got more plot holes than my used knitted sweater or that the stepdaughter sports a Swedish accent even though she’s supposed to be an American (educated overseas is the explanation). The fun never strays, and that’s the best thing about it. And before you know it, The End appears and you find yourself cursing the gods of bad cinema for having reached its plateau with this one. 

I have seen my share of Lana Turner movies and I got to admit that her career had never been as beguiling as when she made silly films like THE BIG CUBE. Alas, it was to be Lana’s last project from a major studio (Warner Brothers) before disappearing from the big screen.  Of course she made a semi-comeback on TVs FALCON CREST in the early ‘80s. I had no idea who she was since KNOTS LANDING ruled my world in those days. But trust me, once I became aware of her star appeal it took me no time to catch up on her many films. If you dig her work as much as I do, then you’ll be happy to know that I plan on reviewing other Lana treats, and lucky for us there are so many to choose from.

  

Until next time—Martin




Thursday, 28 June 2018

‘MINE’ BY J. L. BUTLER




MINE by newcomer J. L. BUTLER (a pseudonym for well-established writer Tasmina Perry) is an effective tale of a high-flying lawyer who’s way over her head when she falls for a rich client who may or may not have anything to do with the disappearance of his soon-to-be divorced wife. The author wastes no time in taking you into this fast-paced world of the court justice, with a little glamour on the side and a lot of romance in between. The result makes for an engagingly enough read despite the fact it is not exactly my cup of tea.  

Suspense books are very big nowadays, so I understand Miss Perry for trying to make a name for herself (albeit a different one) in that field—though I must say, the last couple of her books do verge toward that goal. And she deserves to succeed since MINE, like I said, is very well-crafted. The central character is a lovable one and the plot does keep you interested up until the obligatory climax, which, alas, wasn’t much of a huge surprise to me. Yet I would say yes to MINE. But don’t expect to be wowed by it. Although if you’re into this attorney-in-jeopardy shtick I’m sure you’ll enjoy the novel more than I did. 

If J. L. Butler turns out to be a bigger name than the one of Tasmina Perry, then kudos to her for having reached that goal. Let’s just hope that Tasmina Perry is not forgotten in the long run, for I really love what that name has been offering all these years.


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

  

Until next post—Martin

Monday, 18 June 2018

THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER (1973)




Hell hath no fury like a Shelley Winters scorned. Dressed in black with orange hair and lipstick to match, and using the power of the evil eye whenever feeling double-crossed, she could probably make anyone tinkle from fright.  As it must have happened to Belinda Montgomery’s character when shunning Winters after finding out she was (moody organ music, please) THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER.  Yes, this soapy 1973 ABC TV-movie of the week is heading for high-camp, thanks mostly to director Jeannot Szwarc (JAWS 2).  


The man who more recently was at the helm of some episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Supernatural and Bones has gathered then a bunch of talented people to recreate what ROSEMARY’S BABY had been for the big screen: a scary tale of Satan and His crazed followers.  What we get instead is a decently-made but way over-the-top romp that wickedly highlights the crazed antics of its star nemesis, Miss Winters.  She truly embodies the role of a 666 groupie who must lure innocent Belinda Montgomery into her circle of hell aficionados that includes a bunch of other well-known old-timers such as “Dark Shadows” Jonathan Frid, WILD AT HEART Diane Ladd and CITIZEN KANE Joseph Cotten.  Since she’s no picnic, you can imagine the degree with which she partakes in her scheme to sponsor the netherworld.  Szwarc almost makes her drool at the mouth every time she does her thing, which is often and which is such a blessing, as we wouldn’t want it any other way.



Same thing with the so bad it’s so good storyline. Put together by HAROLD AND MAUDE screenwriter Colin Higgins, its premise may have looked somewhat decent on paper but the execution is nothing but.  Melodramatic with a tempo that matches the script trite dialogue, this poor man’s Polanski offering is just a cinematic time bomb ticking for the inevitable explosion, which comes sooner than we think with a mind-boggling dance of the devils little number involving the cast.  You should see drug-induced Montgomery going at it as her evil opponents chant to her every move; so far out in its absurd choreography, you wouldn’t believe. The film has one good scene in its favor and it’s the devil devotee’s glowing eyes sequence nearing the climax that adds a little substance to what’s been left without for the past 70 minutes.  The setting in which it simmers may be a chill giver (finally!) but in the end guffaws can only best describe this outrageously-made hot piece of celluloid delivery.





Until next post—Martin



Monday, 4 June 2018

‘WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS’ BY LAUREN WEISBERGER



I got to admit that I have yet to read REVENGE WEARS PRADA, the sequel to 2003 THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. I had planned on doing so but life threw me a couple of curveballs I just couldn’t ignore. Nonetheless, I was certain that I would still enjoy the third book in the Prada series WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS now available from Simon and Schuster, and of course I was right. Author Lauren Weisberger gives you exactly what you need: a feel-good, funny, sometimes touching sometimes sad, slice of suburban pie, with a front row seat to the goings-on of the celebrity image consultant craze.


Last time I checked, Emily was still working for the very hip but very scary Miranda Priestley, but in this novel she is a married woman and an image maker to the stars. Anything involving celebrities gets my motor going so we’re off to a good start. When she gets shrug off by the latest teeny bopper for the workings of a rival, she is pissed as she should. I mean, how can she stay successful if she starts losing big clients, right? In comes former supermodel now a senator's wife Karolina who, one day, gets falsely busted for driving under the influence. Angry and scared she withers like shrunken Lululemon yoga pants. But with the help of Emily and good friend Miriam—who has an image crisis of her own passing from a successful career as an attorney to a stay-at-home chubby mom—Karolina will try to turn a new leaf and, in return, change the lives of the people surrounding her. That is, if she doesn’t get cold feet first.

The theme for this third entry is the suburbs versus the non-suburbs, through the eyes of the three women but more precisely through the character of Emily, who, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead living there. It makes for some funny encounters, not to mention cringe-worthy situations (in over-the-top parties mostly), that never fail to entertain. The three ladies are likable and you certainly find yourself rooting for them in the long run. Yes, some situations are more effective than others but the overall effect is quite addictive to say the least. As a bonus, you even get cameos from Miranda Priestly and Andy Sachs themselves. All in all I would definitely recommend WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS. I even look forward to the continuing saga of these charming if flawed grand ladies.



Thanks to the publishers and Net Galley for the chance of reading this novel in exchange for an honest review.




Until next post—Martin  


Monday, 21 May 2018

'THE EXHIBITIONIST' BY HENRY SUTTON




When Henry Sutton's THE EXHIBITIONIST shot toward the top of the New-York Times best-seller list in the fall of 1967 Jacqueline Susann took it very hard. VALLEY OF THE DOLLS had just come off the top ten after 65 weeks, and she felt totally betrayed that the same publishers would make her book compete with another show-business novel. It led her to cut ties with them and go ahead with the folks at Simon and Schuster for the release of her second novel THE LOVE MACHINE in 1969. Naturally, getting to know all that, I had to read THE EXHIBITIONIST STAT. Problem was I couldn’t locate a copy anywhere in the late ‘80s. Until one day after forgetting all about it I found myself at a local used book store with a beat up paperback copy in my hand and a relieved smile on my face. I’d love to tell you that I plunged right in the novel that faithful day but no, instead it took me many summers and winters to gather up the courage to read this thing. Why courage? Simple: I felt that if the queen of trash was having none of it then perhaps so should I. Crazy, I know. Yet it felt right. Besides, I already had taken a glimpse of the first few paragraphs and they were all about the Far West during the late 1800s. Clearly I really had other fishes to fry. 

Fast forward to this year and what do you know? I just turned the last page of the controversial novel in question, and, surprise, surprise, I really enjoyed it. Not so much as a wicked page-turner à la VALLEY OF THE DOLLS but as a character study of a lost soul yearning to find herself out of the shadows of her star dad. Of course she makes one thousand mistakes before getting eventually there but as the novel progresses you find yourself rooting for her success.  

To say that I heart the novel more than Susann’s classic would be unethical of me. So I won’t say that. What I would say however is that despite having the same theme THE EXHIBITONIST is completely in a different league. You get the literary treatment with this one (no wonder since Sutton is the pseudonym for acclaimed writer David R. Slavitt), not so much as getting all tangled up in fancy narratives but as being more than meets the eye. Sutton really goes out of his way to make a trashy book literate, and it works, most of the time, as a few parts take some minor adjustment to finally be assimilated. But as a whole the experience is very worthwhile. Those who may still be fearful of it not giving the campy goods, don’t. There are plenty of sexual situations and over-the-top moments to fill a scrapbook, and the heroine is a likable one so you’ll get plenty of no, no, don’t do that  bits to get you turning the pages even faster.  

As it turns out, Jackie Susann had very good reasons to worry since THE EXHIBITIONIST is much more rewarding and, dare I say it, better written than anything she had ever released (gods of the trashy books strike me now). Still I wouldn’t kick her to the curb because she’ll forever be my girl. Indeed, whereas she is still the reigning queen of mindless fiction, Henry Sutton is now the new king of serious trash. In hindsight, I’m really glad I waited all this time to read this gem. I probably would have not appreciated it as much had I dove right in once bought. Now, if I succeeded in any way, shape, or form in getting you interested in THE EXHIBITIONIST I really hope your journey to reading it will end up being as fulfilling as it was to little moi.   


  

Until next post—Martin  
French Edition

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

‘THE KNOCKOFF” BY LUCY SYKES AND JO PIAZZA




I think it’s time for me to focus on 2015 THE KNOCKOFF (called TECHBITCH in the UK) by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza via Doubleday. Last year I gave their second work FITNESS JUNKIE an outstanding review and I remember promising myself that I would get to their first novel ASAP. Problem was my shelves were and still are so filled with unread books that I completely forgot about it. Cut to a few weeks later during my hard-earned vacation overseas and what do you know, the book cover is staring at my face. So of course I buy the thing and I dig right in. Suffice to say I’m far from being disappointed. In fact, I’m ecstatic and here’s why. 

Just like in FITNESS JUNKIE, the main character in THE KNOCKOFF is a likable one. She’s a 40 year old cancer survivor whose world as an editor in chief for a renowned fashion magazine in New York is turned upside down when she is forced to share her position with a twentysomething former assistant now internet wizard. Imagine a spoiled child turned adult and you get a pretty good idea what that character is like. She claims she can bring the magazine into the 21st century of digital craze—to the expense of our heroine who not only feels threatened by her but who also has to learn the tricks of the cyber trade to survive this merger of technique and creativity. In comes a series of situations so wacky and humiliating that the idea of her quitting and owning a dream house in New Orleans becomes more and more tempting. That in a gist is the premise of this firecracker of a novel. Of course there is more to it than the work place, like family and the cyber bullying of her pre-teen daughter or the fear of facing cancer again…  All told with pizzazz and a habit of making the readers turn the pages very quickly. 

I found myself smiling often enough while investing myself in this novel. The central character is sure relatable and the way she’s thrown into the swing of things makes for a fresh and satisfying read. I got to admit that the plot, while always interesting, has a tendency to feel like a cumulation of events more than anything else but, like in FITNESS JUNKIE, it works perfectly well with the theme of the story. I plan on continuing following the journey of these talented authors, whether a solo act or partners in crime. They sure have this je-ne-sais-quoi to render anything worth checking out.



You can still catch this title wherever digital or non-digital books are sold.





Until next post—Martin 
UK