Sunday, 27 January 2019

‘THE PARISIANS’ BY MARIUS GABRIEL




I’ve been collecting the work of Marius Gabriel for quite some time now. The first novel I got a hold of was THE ORIGINAL SIN (1992); then I found THE MASK OF TIME (1994). Before I knew it I had at least four of his novels, not counting the Kindle titles I got later on. This book loving of mine is nothing new. Ever since I decided to amass as many racy novels as possible, anything resembling that genre definitely has had a place on my busy bookshelves. So you can easily imagine what my reading room looks like. A tornado of books, I tell you. But am I complaining? No freaking way. I feel rather blessed to have and own so many titles, vintage or current. Some authors I have already read, some I have still yet to. Mr Gabriel used to place himself in the latter category—until a few weeks ago when NetGalley came a-calling for me to review his latest one THE PARISIANS (2019, Lake Union Publishing). Of course I had no choice but to accept.   

Turns out, I very much enjoyed THE PARISIANS where real and fictional characters do a cross over in a plush hotel in Paris during WW2. From Coco Chanel to famed French actress Arletty—not to mention a bunch of other well-drawn fictional characters—all are faced with the invasion of the Nazis and all yearn to survive the best they can. This of course is far from being simple, especially for the central heroine who longs to save her boyfriend who is at the hands of the Gestapo. One thing’s for sure, though, simple or not, their many problems do make for a compelling read. The narrative, as the plot and subplots, is solid, and I found myself totally invested in the denouement of these complicated but oh-so fascinating people. Marius Gabriel has a knack for re-imagining true moments in time, and I look forward to read more of his stuff in the future.  

So I guess I was right about getting a hold of this guy’s work. Funny thing, though, I thought I had everything he ever published but, boy, was I wrong. It looks like he’s also written a bunch of romance novels using the pseudonym of Madeleine Ker, from the 1980s to the mid-2000s. I doubt I’ll ever get to them but I wonder if I would ever change my mind had I easy access to them. Better to focus on the many unread titles I already do own. Besides, I barely have the time or the energy, not to mention the cash, to venture into other publications. Still...



Pick up THE PARISIANS. Like I, you’ll find it interesting, especially if you’re into biographical historical fiction. It’s a new subgenre to me but one I’ll definitely return to now that I had a first taste of it.



Until next post—Martin



Monday, 14 January 2019

‘YARGO’ BY JACQUELINE SUSANN


YARGO (1979, Bantam) is the kind of novel I would never have approached had it not been written by trash connoisseur Jacqueline Susann—or by the likes of Jackie Susann, come to think of it. I mean, let’s be real here, Sci-Fi has always been a bore to me. The genre and I just don’t gel. That’s the truth of the matter. So I was a bit reticent in starting this one. Turns out my worries were for nothing, for I found it to be very delightful indeed.  

The story is rather simple: a beautiful girl is mistakenly abducted by aliens and ultimately falls in love with their leader who strangely looks like actor Yul Brynner (Google him or scroll down to the French edition pic). The planet they take her to is called Yargo. In a space (pun intended of course) of 347 pages we follow her journey as she goes through the motion of discovering the planet, its inhabitants and their ways of life. A little mundane in imagination perhaps, but touched by the Susann pen it is anything but. The author hooks you right away with the misadventures of her sweet protagonist which, BTW, almost read like a romance comic book magazine from the ’50s and ‘60s. I can easily see it as a bi-monthly thing where we discover further on if our heroine will finally settle in Yargo for good or be brought back to earth to forget all about this close encounter of the Susann kind.  

Speaking of the author, she wrote this way before VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, during the mid-‘50s, if I remember correctly. It was then called THE STARS SCREAM, and she tried to get it published without success. It was only after her death in 1974 that if finally saw the light of day, most certainly to cash in on the Susann name. But, like I said, contrary to what some may believe, YARGO is surprisingly effective. Of course you have to dig Jacqueline Susann to really get this one. We’re not talking about Alan Dean Foster here. YARGO is just a quick and satisfying—and yes, silly—read that will make anyone on the Susann band wagon smile and appreciate her range as a trashy novelist.  

One last thing before we part yet again. YARGO can even be taken as a continuing story of January Wayne from ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH, Susann’s third consecutive #1 best-seller from 1973. Remember, the novel left us to believe that her sudden disappearance was the cause of an abduction by a UFO. Well, there you have it—in all its sleazy glory no less—the unofficial continued drama of poor January in a galaxy far far away. Makes some of you drool, doesn’t it? 



Until next post—Martin  
French edition 



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Wednesday, 2 January 2019

‘GAMES’ BY VERA COWIE


In my quest to find the best trashy book there is I often find myself salivating over eye-catching covers. Like this title by British author Vera Cowie (1987, Avon) whom I discovered while vacationing abroad. She was one of many authors I brought back home that day, and that cover alone just made me want to jump right in, especially with that blurb describing it as Dynasty-like. Sold, as they say! Though it took me a couple of years to finally get to it, I can now finally attest that, alas, as much as I wanted it to be Dynasty-like, in the end the content didn’t exactly match the drapes, if you know what I mean. 

GAMES (called THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL in the UK) is all about a gorgeous interior designer who marries a hot looking rich swinger who, we come to find out, has a scary mother fixation. This mother in question is a well-respected and well-feared socialite who, upon hearing of her son’s surprised wedding, schemes her way to destroy it and eventually does, big time I must add. Suffice to say, our talented but oh-so clueless when it comes to love heroine is soon left with a broken heart, not to mention a black and blue face after a major couple’s brawl.  

Cut to a few years later when our gorgeous but now divorced interior designer is a mother. The father is of course her hot ex, whom, BTW, she’s still mad about (!) despite having learned that he has remarried (the bride handpicked by his mother, this time). Since he has no clue he is a daddy our gorgeous heroine tries her hardest to keep it that way to avoid any unfavorable confrontation. No can do, it seems. Upon a chance meeting in Hollywood where her career flourishes even more, they talk, he cracks, the child gets kidnapped, he confronts his controlling mom (she apparently knew about the child but kept it from him). The socialite mom croaks, so does his second wife in a silly murderous subplot and eventually they all live happily ever after: the hot swinger, the successful and gorgeous designer and their safe and sound perfect little daughter.  

Perhaps I should have put a spoiler warning ahead but I figured, what the heck, live a little. Besides, I just couldn’t resist making fun of the whole thing. It’s not that it’s a bad book. The narrative, if bloated, is fairly competent but the story, boy, it’s like watching paint dry. The author loves to linger on beautiful things and descriptive dialogue (“I feel this, I feel that...”) to the point of making the reading experience almost cringe-worthy. But I do have to admit that when it’s good, it’s very good, especially when it involves Mommy Dearest. God, what a bitch she is. I loved everything about her. We need more characters like her in trashy novels. Just in better ones than this offering.

  

Until next post—Martin  
UK edition