The Fan Club: Another name for rape

Depending on your gender, Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club is either about the ultimate high or the worst degradation.

The Fan Club acts out its fantasies.

An interview fabricated by Sharon Field’s PR agent reveals Hollywood’s “Love Goddess” longs for an ordinary man to love her.

Adam Malone, a part-time grocery clerk and wannabe writer, enlists three other  equally ordinary, and equally gullible men to kidnap Sharon believing if she meets them, she’ll willingly have sex with them.

The four agree if Sharon won’t willingly participate, they’ll release her.

Once they have Sharon in an isolated mountain cabin, Adam’s quixotism is trampled by his three accomplices’ sex drive.

The men tie her down and rape her.

One beats her.

Using her dramatic skills and retentive memory, Sharon fights back.

A less skillful writer than Wallace would have reduced the kidnappers to stereotypes. Wallace makes each of them distinct individuals whose behavior is as plausible as it is despicable.

He also makes clear that when sex is used to sell entertainment, the entertainment industry must accept some blame if people believe the stories they’re told.

Wallace blows his superb plotting with what may possibly be the most implausible ending on any 20th century novel.

The Fan Club by Irving Wallace
Simon and Schuster [1974] 511 p.
1974 bestseller #10. My grade: B.

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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GreatPenformances goes on summer schedule

After my review of the last of 1974’s top ten novels is posted June 12, I’m going to cut back to posting just one review a week on Tuesdays June 19 through the end of August.

The list of the novels I’ll be reviewing and the dates they’ll be posted are on the Best Seller Lists page for 1970-1999.

Linda Aragoni

 

The Seven-Percent Solution: 100% fun

Sherlock with his pipe,hat, and tweed coat
Detail from David K. Stone’s cover illustration for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a twentieth century addendum to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, written by Dr. Watson with “editing” by Nicholas Meyer.

After he marries, Watson doesn’t see much of Holmes. One evening in April, 1891, when Watson’s wife is away, Holmes drops in, looking ill, behaving oddly, talking wildly.

Watson rightly suspects Holmes is addicted to cocaine.

Hearing that a Dr. Sigmund Freud in Vienna might be able to help, Watson invents a tale that lures Holmes to Vienna where Freud breaks Holmes of his addiction.

Holmes and Watson go along when Freud consults on a case of an attempted suicide.

Under hypnosis, the woman says she’s Nancy Slater Von Leinsdorf, wife of the recently deceased munitions king, Baron Von Leinsdorf. Holmes deduces she’s been held captive by the Baron’s no-good son and heir.

Under suspicion, the dastardly new Baron grabs his stepmother, shoves her in a trunk, and takes off by train for Germany.

Holmes foresees millions killed if the new Baron isn’t prevented from selling arms to Germany, so he Watson, and Freud commission a special train and steam off in hot pursuit.

It’s all delightful fun, even for those who are not Sherlock Holmes fans.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution:
Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of
John H. Watson, M.D.
By Nicholas Meyer
W. W. Norton ©1974 [paper] 221 p.
1974 bestseller #9. My Grade: B+.

Cover illustration by David K. Stone on plastic-encased library copy of The Seven-Percent-Solution did not photograph well. As the saying goes, the book is better.

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

I Heard the Owl Call My Name: A Novel

Owl flying across the moon is image on I Heard the Own Call My Name
Cover art has a fantasy feel.

Doubleday says I Heard the Owl Call My Name is Margaret Craven’s her first novel, but that description is a bit overblown. Owl is really a longish short story. All the narrative bones are in place without the flesh and guts to make it a novel.

A Catholic Bishop sends a young, newly-ordained priest to a remote Native American community in British Columbia where running water means a river. There are no roads, no electricity, no telephone, no doctor.

Young Mark Brian has to adjust to a new role in an unfamiliar culture among people whose language he doesn’t know in a rural village miles from anyone he knows.

Mark is quickly captivated by the setting: the sea, rivers, fish, animals, and landscape enthrall him. The children are next to win his heart.

Mark is blessed with ability to listen and empathize, not forcing his ways on his congregation. Unlike most outsiders, Mark realizes the value of the traditional native traditions.

He is as torn as many of his parishioners are at the realization that the community is doomed to extinction.

I wish another writer had attempted to turn this story into a novel. A novel of this sort requires the author get inside the characters. Craven doesn’t do that.

I Heard the Owl Call My Name
by Margaret Craven
Doubleday, [1973] 166 p.
1974 bestseller #8. My grade: B

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Pirate: Arrrr, matey.

Having read three Harold Robbins bestsellers, I wasn’t looking forward to reading The Pirate.

Author and title names obscure  images on dust jacket of The Pirate
Images on The Pirate cover lost are in text.

The novel lived up to my expectations.

The story is set “today” — the novel came out in ’74—in the Middle East, which is the setting for most of the action outside of bedrooms.

The pirate is Baydr Al Fay, a Jewish baby switched at birth for a dead Arab one and schooled in England and America to use money to make more money.

Baydr is emotionally separated from his California-born wife, seeming to care only about their two sons, whom he rarely sees. Their elder son is soon to be named heir and successor to the Prince Feiyad.

One of Baydr’s daughters by his wife has joined the Fedayeen in rebellion against her father’s preoccupation with making money.

Badyr is a tough guy living by Eastern codes in which women count for nothing; however, my Western mind says rape is rape even if the victims have the personality of a foam egg carton.

The story jerks disjointedly though the sexual adventures of all the major characters and a few of the minor ones, until the novel ends in flames in the Syrian mountains.

The Pirate by Harold Robbins
Simon and Schuster 1974. 408 p.
1974 bestseller #7. My grade: D

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Dogs of War has a sharp bite

White type for title and author on red background suggest innocence.
Crossed guns on the badge are mercenaries’ insignia.

In The Dogs of War, as in his earlier bestsellers The Odessa File and The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth explores a subject ripped from the foreign wire services.

Dogs takes readers into the shadowy world in which high finance allies itself with political power, both using physical force to work their will.

A prospector notices unusual vegetation patterns on a mountain in West Africa, which indicate the presence of tin. When the report gets back to London, a scientist discovers the rock samples reveal a high presence of platinum.

To get the platinum, an unscrupulous British financier instigates a plan to overthrow an African country.  He hires Cat Shannon, a mercenary with experience in Africa, to handle the coup which must occur on Zagaro independence day, just 100 days away.

Shannon is a meticulous planner, carefully selecting his associates, taking advantage of differing national laws on currency transactions, buying goods to furnish a small army, covering his tracks, and always keeping a close eye on the calendar.

Forsyth’s typewriter knocks out flawed characters with redeeming qualities and model citizens who are total scumbags — and makes them both feel totally real.

Dogs has a surprise ending — and Forsyth makes even that feel inevitable.

The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth
Viking Press, © 1974, 408 p.
1974 bestseller #6. My grade: A

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Something Happened

All -text cover of Something Happened is not interesting
Its dust jacket is as boring as Something Happened.

Joseph Heller’s 9174 bestseller Something Happened is a long-winded tale told by a mid-level, mid-career company man, Bob Slocum.

Bob talks like a bright sixth grader, bubbling with joy at potty jokes and inserting “ha, ha” to show when he’s trying to be funny.

Bob had an unhappy childhood, which set the tone for an unhappy life.

Bob became a man in a gray flannel suit who wants desperately to have an even better suit, which he probably won’t get, and even if he did it probably wouldn’t fit right, but he shouldn’t worry about the suit because nothing ever goes right for him and he’s already 40 and he has an unhappy wife and an unhappy teenage daughter, and pre-teen son who is a mess of insecurities and a brain damaged son who will never mature beyond a five-year-old’s level.

Bob knows he’s a revolting individual, but he is convinced he’ll never change.

He’s right.

Heller takes readers through 560 pages of Bob’s narcissistic monologues, coming back again and again to the same stories and observations that were boring the first time.

Then on page 561, something happens.

By that time, readers will be a numb as Bob is.

Something Happened by Joseph Heller
Knopf, 1974, [1st ed.] 569 p.
1974 bestseller #5. My grade: C

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni