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.

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