Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Joanna Barnes

The first time I laid eyes on this novel I knew I was in for a treat. Maybe it's the 70's cover that did it, or perhaps it's the Jacqueline Susann's blurb underneath the title praising the work. Whatever the reason, this novel is worth your time and money.

THE DECEIVERS by Joanna Barnes (Pocket, 1971)

Yep, another Hollywood novel, but one done with panache. Veteran actress truned author Joanna Barnes clearly has fun with her cast of characters which goes from the sweet ingenue to the ultimate brat who rules Tinseltown. Her prose is as sharp as her villain's scheming ways. No one is safe from her pen as she pushes them all into a topsy-turvy world of charmed lives and decadence where a Hollywood gone mad is worthy of any Susanns and Collinses.-----Martin Boucher

Monday, 9 June 2008

Elton Clarke

Here's a quick read that delivers--well, sort of:

OPTIONS by Elton Clarke (Leisure, 1985)

This B-grade Hollywood novel spents most of its time out of LaLa Land and into the world of a woman on the run from her deranged rich hubby; a sort of Sleeping With the Enemy without the obsession for neatness shtick. Author Elton Clarke has fun with his one dimensional characters but barely manages to elevate his story to nothing more than déjà vu plot with an over the top climax. Boring this does not make the novel, however, since half the fun is figuring out if indeed the cliché road will be taken. When it does take that route mostly, the next part is trying to figure out how it'll all going to end. Let's just say you have to read to believe it. If you're into this sort of narrative pleasure, than OPTIONS is a must. If you prefer high class trash, then looking elsewhere is a surer bet.-----Martin Boucher

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Jonell Lawson

Another novel turned into a miniseries which starred Knots Landing Lisa Hartman as a woman scorned who goes all the way to take what's hers. It was a two-parter during the heyday of the big budget, big hair, big TV stars--and let's not forget big shoulder pads--that were the 80s. The author whose book on which it was based never managed to pen another one, which is a shame since this featured title was such a great time-waster. She is now deceased.

ROSE ARE FOR THE RICH by Jonell Lawson (Signet, 1986)

ROSES ARE FOR THE RICH is a gripping tale of passion and revenge set in Texas. Jonell Lawson's heroine is a strong-willed young woman who will stop at nothing to avenge her lover's murder. Hold on to your copy because the lives of the rich and rotten in ROSES ARE FOR THE RICH is one heck of a bumpy ride. Filled with glamour, sins and dirty little secrets, Lawson's story takes you on a fast-paced trip into self-discovery for one girl who's set to have it all no matter what--even at the cost of her own happiness. You may not always agree with her decisions, but one thing's for sure, this gutsy heroine's journey makes for an impossible to put down read. It's powerful, intense and hot; the perfect book for this time of the year.-----Martin Boucher

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Judith Michael

This featured author may not be as forgotten as most people below but their (yes, they, since it is the collaboration of husband-and-wife Judith Barnard and Michael Fain) heyday was definitely in the 80s-90s. Who can forget the 1985 miniseries starring Stephanie Powers which was based on this novel. I, for one, would have loved to see other Judith Michael adaptations on the small screen but it was not meant to be, since this one did little for NBC. Now, little may be too harsh a word; it was in the top 20 of most watched television events at the time, but compared to other biggies such as Hollywood Wives, Lace it was a disappointment. Yet, people have fond memories whenever there's mention of:

DECEPTIONS by Judith Michael (Pocket, 1982)

Would you change places with your twin sibling? If you'd ask Sabrina Longworth, the one half of the duo protagonist team of DECEPTIONS, she'd probably say not on your life. She'd also say that having tried it more than once, thanks to the imagination of Judith Michael's Judith Barnard and Michael Faine, she lived to regret it, big time. Indeed, faith has a strange way of throwing a curve ball when least expected. Especially to this fictitious bunch whose lives make for a pretty decent time-waster read despite the been there seen that plotline. Just go to show you that originality comes in small doses. Just simmer it in creativity and punchy dialogue, and you've got yourself one hot bestseller that is as juicy as a pack of Doublemint gum.-----Martin Boucher.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Penny Jordan

Here's another author I was clueless to her Harlequin ways. The B-grade premise sure attracted me, though: girl is violated by quartet, years later girl takes matters into her own hands, and voilà, a sure fire hit. The author then published many many other mainstream novels, but I never got around to them. Paint me anti-Harlequin romances. It's a barrier I scarcely cross--even without the publishing logo.

POWER PLAY by Penny Jordan (Mira, 1988)

Pepper Minesse (!) only has revenge on her mind when she sets out to destroy the men who did her wrong in the very compelling POWER PLAY. Author Penny Jordan paints an accurate portrait of the 80's woman whose money and power alleviate her to superwoman status in her quest to face inner demons. Her difficult path to fulfillment brings her to undiscovered territories that make for a fun and compulsive read. Some of her decisions may be hard to swallow (her feelings for rapist Miles, for example) but POWER PLAY stays an entertaining yarn that is narratively enjoyable and worth every (yes, dare I say it) penny.-----Martin Boucher

Friday, 23 May 2008


Remember young Luke and Laura from General Hospital ? They were so hot way back when. So much so that when Genie Francis tried her hands at nighttime TV, the results was a ratings smash. However, it all fizzled out quickly when the two-parters turned into a weekly series. It was based on this title:

BARE ESSENCE by Meredith Rich (Fawcett, 1982)
The birth of a great scent is the main focus in Meredith Rich's (Claudia Jessup) absorbing drama about the rise and fall of people behind the perfume industry. Throughout wonderful settings, handsome men, gorgeous women, power and romance Rich's first outing paints a colorful portrait of a pampered heroine on the brick of self-discovery, and the effect it causes to those around her. BARE ESSENCE touches themes as trust, betrayal, love, greed, independence, and the power of forgiveness, all the right ingredients for making this novel a sure-fire best-seller. With a clear narrative behind a rich jet set frame of mind, the author's talent definitely shines from cover to cover.-----Martin Boucher

Thursday, 22 May 2008

JoAnn Ross

JoAnn Ross is a prolific writer to say the least. Among her many Harlequin romances and her later Nora Roberts-ish trilogies, she has penned a contemporary novel set in (where else) Hollywood. It's the only one I read from her (I wasn't even aware of her Harlequin past at the time). So it here goes, let's talk about:

SECRET SINS by JoAnn Ross (St-Martin's, 1991)

Baron Studios heir Leigh Baron has a lot on her shoulders beside a jealous sis and the running of a successful corporation. She must proves that she is as good as anyone at the reins, which includes rebuffing any distractions, like a possible reinvolvment with actor/screenwriter Matthew St. James. True to form, her path to success will lead her into danger zones which involve past sins and secret affairs (wink, wink!). If you haven't figured out already what is the big secret, then picking up this novel will probably make you want to find out. SECRET SINS is a fun easy-to-the-eye ride to glamour city even though the novel is more of a romance than a blue blood contemporary treat. Still the ingredients are all there: sins, sex, secrets, and a climax that sizzles despite its formulaic treatment. C'mon, indulged in SECRET SINS, especially under the sun.-----Martin Boucher

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Elizabeth Gage

This next featured author is supposedly a pen name for an established bestselling novelist. Some claim she is Susan Libertson who, interestingly enough, has written zilch under her own name. According to Publishers Weekly, however, (1/13/97, p.24), Elizabeth Gage is the pseudonym of Joseph Libertson. He is also working under the pseudonym Joseph Glass.

TABOO by Elizabeth Gage (Pocket, 1993)

Here's another sizzler set in Hollywood, this time in the 1930's. The lives of the movers and shakers in TABOO are a roller coaster ride of sins and secrets and of unattainable happiness. Gage's two main sufferers, Kate Hamilton and Joseph Knight, go through the melodramatic motion of uniting then paying the price for it. But it's Eve Sinclair, the child superstar, who really makes TABOO a delicious romp. Her cold-hearted volcanic temperament will make any fan of the trashy novels stand up and cheer.-----Martin Boucher

For Lovers of Forgotten Books

How I love finding little gems like the following which one blurb compares it to Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. Truth be told, it may not be exactly up there with Susann classic, but it sure was a fun read:

WALK ON GLASS by Lisa Robinson (Ace, 1983)

WALK ON GLASS, penned by then-syndicated columnist to the stars Lisa Robinson, is a fun and fascinating novel about, you guessed it, show business, more specifically the music industry. Heroine with the golden voice Lindel James suffers greatly in the name of talent. Her voice may be hot, but, boy, is her life in cold shambles. Robinson clearly has fun creating a world filled with double-crossing dreams and empty synthetic promises--a variation of the same theme, perhaps, but made with panache and flair. Readers will need plenty of sunscreen for this sizzler. It is a one sitting (or lying) read worthy of any beach read seeker.-----Martin Boucher

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Judith Gould

According to the publishers, the following will be 25 years old next February (more like 27, but I digress). To celebrate this, Alyson books will publish a trade paperback edition. It even was a top rated mini-series back in the mid-80's starring none other than nighttime soaps veteran Joan Collins. Let me introduce you the work of two great gentlemen with whom I correspond from time to time, Nicholas Peter "Nick" Bienes and Rhea Gallaher:

SINS by Judith Gould (Signet, 1982)

Judith Gould's SINS is a super-glossy weaving tale of passion and intrigue set into the world of haute-couture which starts during WW2 and ends in the early 80's. Hélène Junot is a strong heroine surrounded by a group of colorful characters, many of whom are driven by their own need to destroy her, in a setting that is as rich as the people who lives in it. Gould uses every trick in the book (sex, money, power, greed, sex...) to capture her readers and transports them into a world of (not so) privileged lives, and thus succeeds in making her first novel a thrilling experience.-----Martin Boucher

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

I'm On A Roll

Some of you may know this next author for his column "On the Town with Rex Reed" in the New York Observer; some may know him for his alleged shoplifting of CDs in 2000; some may even know him for his 1970 involvement as the "other half" of Raquel Welch in the outrageous Myra Breckinridge; I know him mostly for having written this wonderful novel called:

PERSONAL EFFECTS by Rex Reed (Jove, 1987)

Film critic and longtime fan of the glitz and glamour, Rex Reed has finally penned one of his own. PERSONAL EFFECTS is the riveting tale of four fans who befriend a legendary movie star named Gilda, until one of them is involved in her 1979 murder. Throughout many torrid flashbacks, and many succulent exchanges between the culprits, Rex Reed delivers an eye-popping tale of old Hollywood when studios were kings and stars their pets. There's never a dull moment in this novel. From love to jealously to murder, the author's uncanny flair for creating unputdownable escapist entertainment shines through. His colorful protagonists plus his clever way of building an explosive conclusion make PERSONAL EFFECTS a one sitting read. Another Rex Reed novel is way past due.-----Martin Boucher

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Gwen Davis

Again, a different type of a novel about the rich and famous:

SILK LADY by Gwen Davis (Warner, 1986)

Protagonist Miranda Jay is one unlucky lady. Used, abused (physically and emotionally), she heads off into the right circles where money is the key and sex is the price (yes, I made that up all by myself). She hooks up with various successful men, one of whom’s having close ties with the White House. When a big scandal is just around the corner, many key players end up on the chopping block (the demise kind), including this silk lady whose life story is entirely told in flashbacks. Prolific Gwen Davis is one smart cookie. Her fun and unique tale takes you into all kind of places where colorful characters are as strong as the narrative. She is the best at mixing trash with literature. SILK LADY is so much more than fluff; it is a thinking man/woman novel (and let’s not forget a very satirical one) that dissects life, death and the S&M in all of us. Yes, the novel reeks of sex, but underneath the scent lies so much more. Grab yourself a copy—if you’re ready to venture out into different fictional areas, that is.-----Martin Boucher

Davidyne Mayleas

Here's another one I recently finished. It was quite different from other Hollywood novels but I dug it because of that. A very well-written piece:

NAKED CALL by Davidyne Mayleas (Avon, 1991)

Wall Street, the mafia and Hollywood go hand in hand in this fine tale of money embezzlement and the woman who suffers because of it. She is Christie Larsen, the president of United Cinema studio, a Sherry Lansing-like single mother who is a fighter despite big adversities, like the inevitable down slide of her career when she is accused of stealing studio cash. What a girl to do? Trust author Davidyne Mayleas to shake it all up as he/she (William Saxon, a.k.a. Willilam Mayleas is a surer bet) delivers a cool tale of the business behind the business with a strong narrative approach which include colorful but narcissistic to the eyeball characters (but, hey, aren’t they all in real life? This is La La Land, folks). What really makes NAKED CALL stands out, however, is the way the reader gets caught up in the money laundering plot while learning the ABC’s of the financial industry; not your typical fluffy Hollywood novel, per se, but a riveting one at that if you’re in for something different.-----Martin Boucher

Monday, 12 May 2008

Here we Go!

First blog, first time at the rodeo, you might say (OK, yes, you got me. I'm channeling Dunaway in "Mommie Dearest"). I'm a French-Canadian who loves "trashy" books, especially those which are scarcely known today. So I thought why not give them a second wind and talk about them via reviews, long or short. Just like I, they need to be acknowledged for their self worth--if that makes any sense. So please, join me in discovering the now (or never) unsung heroes of the publishing industry, starting with:

DOLL BABY by Burt Hirschfeld (Dell, 1985)

A very gripping grade-B tale of a Marilyn Monroe-like heroine who is used and abused by Hollywood. The plot centers around her pursuit of happiness while surviving the many pratfalls of the business. Hirschfeld (a.k.a. Hugh Barron) delivers a fun if very dark account of star control during the 60's. His protagonist is the ultimate sufferer whose hectic journey involves many explicit situations (with cheesy dialogue to boost) and raw-nerved discoveries that surprisingly verge on poignancy near the end. Thanks to the author's skillful savoir-faire and his successful association to beach reads throughout the years DOLL BABY is another page-turning experience fans of the genre will not want to miss.-----Martin Boucher