Sleaze master Barney Leason came on the scene just as Harold Robbins’ popularity was waning. It was 1981, and the male-oriented sexcapades in print were beginning to take their toll. Melodrama was the new thing. Authors like Judith Krantz, Sidney Sheldon or Jackie Collins already dominated the best-selling lists with their tales of glitter among the rich. Sex was still a four little word but it was more romanticized, more female-friendly if you will. In other words women ruled in that era. Barney Leason was certainly aware of this when he submitted RODEO DRIVE to Pinnacle Books. Why else would he end up mixing both sub-genres and ultimately sell one million copies of this paperback novel?
RODEO DRIVE revolves around Belle, the society wife of a big shot publicist. She wants out of the marriage. She has a teen daughter, Susan, who just can’t stand her stepdad, and with good reasons. It seems that Stevie boy has made the moves on her more than once, and although he pretends it’s the other way around, we all know that he’s a pathological liar. Isn’t he the one who loves nothing more than to dip his well-endowed (or so we’re told) member into other women’s vaginas? That’s how we get to meet some of the other players, verging from an over-sexual real estate vixen to a rather frigid Hollywood wife. There’s also Belle’s bestie, who has only a few months to live (cancer) and who wants to raise enough money to build a clinic in her name. She’s the better developed character in this novel, besides the main one. The rest are mostly there to divert from the central plot.
I can’t say that I hated RODEO DRIVE. I can’t say that I loved it either. I’m what you call on the fence and the only reason why is that it is a very ambitious novel for a then-first-time writer. So much is happening that it becomes quite dizzying at times. BUT it’s never boring, I can tell you that. Had Leason spent more time on his heroine than on the many sexual situations of his secondary characters the novel would have made more of an impact. But as is I can only give RODEO DRIVE a mixed review. And it kills me, really, for, as you all know, I’m all for fun sleaze. There’s a sequel called NORTH RODEO DRIVE that I’ll probably get to. One thing I must stress again, however, is the author’s gracious way of putting the spotlight on a strong and eventually independent female protagonist. Seeing her pushing through adversity with her head held high can only make the novel all the much worthwhile. I’m sure I’ll get around to his other work (PASSIONS, SCANDALS, GRAND ILLUSIONS just to name a few). I’m all the more interested to see what else he can come up with now that I’ve seen what his pen can do.
RODEO DRIVE is now available wherever digital books are sold.
Until next post—Martin