Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review -- City of Whores

Zingy one-line repartee and poolside parties with Clark Gable and Tallulah Bankhead, exquisitely decorated Hollywood mansions and the best tailor-made suits, trans-Atlantic European cruises and dinners with the rich and famous, such was the life of a nineteen fifties Hollywood star as depicted in the popular magazines  -- the dream for any small town boy or girl who wanted to make it big in Tinseltown.  But behind the glamour, behind all the success and glitz often lay hidden pools of stinking corruption and enough greed and lust to sink the Titanic. Working the well-cultivated ground of California depravity, City of Whores by Mark B. Perry weaves a fantastic and entirely captivating chronicle of the descent into madness and paranoia of a Hollywood threesome that can't ever face the truth or consequences of their illicit sexual attractions.

Underdog Texan Dan Root, a good looker with trembling hands and a self-medicating, Mary Jane jones, drives west to escape his small-town childhood and abusive parents, only to fall into the clutches of a powerful producer, Millie Langford and his famous actress wife Lilly Sinclair. The two provide Root with an alternative family and a ready made Hollywood career complete with screen tests and access to studio roles in exchange for sexual services for Lilly and, in good time, a sexual partner for the tortured and self-loathing Millie. When it becomes clear that he is being toyed with, Dan, now with the ironically ridiculous stage name of Dexter Gaines, tries to break loose but finds he is too enamored of the good life, and of Millie, to get away. It is only years later, with the sordid deaths of Millie and Lilly, that Dexter/Dan gains peace of mind.

Told from the first person perspective of the ingénue Root, City of Whores makes an entirely believable case, explaining and demystifying the world of closeted homosexual shame, pertinent still today. But as with many Hollywood exposes, our solidarity with the denizens of the city of whores comes clouded with a sense of inevitability as we witness the downfalls and tragic unravelings suffered by those enticed by such sordid and empty dreams. Nonetheless, Mr. Perry has produced a page-turner replete with authentic period details, excellent and witty dialogue, and a layered plot worthy of the finest of Hollywood's golden age.

This debut novel by Perry, a veteran television writer and producer of award winning shows such as Northern Exposure and Picket Fences, marks an impressive foray into the world of fiction, although at times it reads like a padded out screenplay with insert here tabs for expanded visual and other sensory details. But there is no doubt that City of Whores is sure to make a splash with readers fond of the behind the scenes, tell-all Hollywood memoirs which provided Mr. Perry with much of his inspiration.
Where to purchase City of Whores

Anthony Caplan is the author of Savior, available as an ebook from Harvard Square Editions and on Amazon.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Good Book for Fall Reading Pleasure - Savior by Anthony Caplan

It is fall now, the season of decay and death and what better thing could there be in this season than a good book to remind ourselves of our condition, either by looking at similar lives under the microscope of an expert observer or by looking at lives seemingly different.

I want you to read my book, Savior, published in April and currently available as an ebook from Harvard Square Editions. So why Savior? Why not the collected works of the esoteric yoga mystic Charles Schitsky or the bound volumes of the six masters of contemporary vampire urban noire? Here's my reason why:

Savior is about a man and his son, normal people, people like you. Let's talk about you.

You have nothing to fear. You are at home, trolling the internet for interesting tidbits, information to spark your interest. Your life proceeds as it always has. Not much changes from day to day and you like it that way. You do not fear for your life or for the lives of your friends and neighbors. There is no authority that is intent on quashing your liberty or your ability to support yourself or your inclinations to a life of pleasure. As far as you know tomorrow will be pretty much the same as today, except that you will be one day older. But you do not even fear the passage of time because you are largely in control, of your destiny, your thoughts and certainly of your actions.

You know that you are okay.

But what if one day you awoke at the bottom of a hole, a prisoner with no hope of mercy from a death cult that was about to take over the reins of power from a largely impotent military/industrial government? What if the one person in your life who might fight for you was a teenage boy who was happier surfing and hanging out with his girlfriend than pushing himself or risking discomfort? How would you keep hope alive? How would you survive?

You are intrigued. Here is an excerpt from the thoughts of Al Lyons, the man in question.

I'm breathing slowly in and out. I'm stringing one breath after another in a prayer chain. I'm thinking hard, focusing my mind on an image of Ricky. My son is fine. He is strong. I know it. Because he is good. And good will always triumph over evil. This is my faith. It is strong. I am strong. But when I hear the train overhead, a chill runs through me.
Maybe he will come today. Not my son. I'm talking Samael Chagnon. It has been many days and I do not miss him. Even so, the toxins he brings strengthen me. The stink of his words gives me the slightest purchase on life, better than the sheer nothingness of solitary imprisonment. The foulness of his ideas sharpens my mind. It is enough to go on. And worth the pain he brings in his wake. I have a high tolerance for pain, especially when I feel myself sinking closer to death. It is a fine line. This is how I demarcate it, one breath after another. Walking that line. But without that shock of contact with the death force of Chagnon, I am unmoored, floating in this sea of blackness. This is an ultimate sort of pain beyond pain, the despair of a wasted breath, a meaningless life that is not worth pursuing down the rat hole of what my mind is in danger of becoming.

The train rolls by again, like a corner of the world coming unhinged. My head is bursting with pulsating waves of pain. I hear my name. He's here again. The guard unbolts the door. I try to open my eyes to the light, but the pain is too much. A short, stoutish figure in a hooded sweatshirt, like a medieval monk, silhouetted by the light, walks in. Next to him are the two guards with shaved heads, black shirts and loose fitting pants who accompany him always, unquestioning, muscular loyalty, the cream of the Santos Muertos, barrio warriors from Tegucigalpa to Las Lomas. With nonchalant inattention, as if I were a sack of inert matter, they strap me down, pinning my arms and legs to the rough mat with rubber ligaments.

It is possible to keep alive in the worst possible conditions, under the worst of circumstances. Al is a prisoner of the Santos Muertos, a gang of thugs who use beheadings and human sacrifice as a tool of terror and subjugation. Sound familiar? I won't give any more away, but read it and let me know what you think. 

(Photo courtesy of New Your Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement