Depending on your gender, Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club is either about the ultimate high or the worst degradation.
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  511 p.
1974 bestseller #10. My grade: B.
The Exorcist is every parent’s nightmare: Losing a child to a horrible, un-diagnosed disorder that changes the child into a murderous monster while it kills her.
A divorced actress, Chris MacNeil, distracted by work, notices odd sounds in her apartment before she notices odd behavior in her 11-year-old daughter.
When Chris finally consults a doctor, he can find nothing to account for Regan’s sudden personality change.
Chris turns to a Jesuit priest who is also a psychiatrist. Father Karras knows the church is skeptical of reports of possession and unlikely to authorize an exorcism without very good reasons.
Dust jacket notes say William P. Blatty read every work in English on the subject of exorcism before writing The Exorcist. That’s how the novel reads: like research notes propped up by cardboard figures.
The novel is gruesome but not terrifying. To create terror, readers must see the victims as people like themselves, but Blatty’s characters lack personalities.
Subplots about a creepy butler with a drug-addicted daughter and a Columbo-styled homicide detective pad the novel without adding to the main story.
Like Love Story, The Exorcist needs to be acted out, and like that novel’s author, Blatty was a screenwriter before this, his first novel.
Everybody over 40 knows what Rosemary’s Baby is about, just as they know Moby Dick is about a guy hunting a white whale.
The difference between Ira Levin’s novel and Herman Melville’s is that there’s more to Moby Dick what everybody knows.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Random House, 1967, 245 p. 1967 bestseller # 7. My grade: C.
The story is about Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, a young couple who move into a New York City apartment house noted for its Victorian architecture, its history of unsavory residents, and its unusually high rate of suicides.
Guy goes to work—he’s an actor who works mainly in commercials —and Rosemary putters at decorating, always with an eye to how the rooms can be rearranged to accommodate a baby.
After the inexplicable suicide of young woman who lived with the older couple next door, Rosemary and Guy get sucked into friendship with them.
Strange things start to happen.
Ira Levin, a master of the art of plotting, keeps the story moving briskly.
Levin doesn’t attempt to flesh out any of the characters beyond their initial descriptions. Nobody in the book learns anything or changes in any way.
The characters are dummies in an all-dummy cast which, in horror novels, may be the proper authorial pose.