The Glitter Dome isn’t gold

The title of The Glitter Dome is set in glittering type
The title is covered in glitter.

The Glitter Dome is another of ex-cop Joseph Wambaugh’s police anti-procedurals.

Like The Choirboys, Dome is about cops doing things cops are supposed to keep from happening.

The main story is about partners Al Mackey and Martin Welborn, career cops old enough to be eyeing retirement hopefully. They have just been assigned to clear the murder of Nigel St. Clair.

Al and Marty have cleared other murders by arranging proof that the victim killed himself.

This time, however, they can’t find any way pass the shooting off as murder.

Marty gets interested in trying to solve the crime.

Meanwhile Gibson Hand and Buckmore Phipps are walking their beat when ball of clay thrown in an artists’ studio knocks Phipps’s hat off.

In the studio, a Marine modeling for the artists has a note in his pocket that says Nigel St. Clair and a phone number.

Overlapping coincidences lead to the cops solving the murder.

Wambaugh milks his story for laughs, but cop humor is pretty much that of sixth grade boys: Funny if you’re a sixth grader.

The characters are drawn in broad strokes: Only Marty emerges as a person.

The rest of the cops are people you don’t want to know.

The Glitter Dome by Joseph Wambaugh
William Morrow. ©1981. 299 p.
1981 bestseller #9. My grade: B

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

The Lonely Lady is alliterative, not accurate

The title character of The Lonely Lady, JeriLee Randall, is a lady only for alliterative purposes.

closeup of a sexy blonde with half her face in shadow
She looks better than she is.

For all other purposes she’s, at best, a slut.

JeriLee is beautiful and brilliant, as are all Harold Robbins’ protagonists unless they are men, in which case they are handsome and brilliant.

JeriLee is a small town girl who wants to be a writer. She marries a writer. They divorce.

JeriLee lacks the business savvy and connections to make it as a writer on her own.

She falls back on acting, then on dancing, finally ends up in a nude review.

She drinks heavily and uses drugs. Although she’s not selling drugs, she gets caught when the guy with whom she’s living gets caught dealing.

She ends up in a mental institution, from which she’s rescued by the police detective who arrested her. Surprisingly, she neither marries him nor has sex with him.

What she does is write a screenplay that wins an Academy Award and lets a stoned JeriLee tell off the world as the TV cameras role.

Robbins is a great storyteller, but his stories aren’t worthy of his talent.

With Lady, as always with Robbins’ novels, I had forgotten the title character’s name within 15 minutes of laying down the book.

The Lonely Lady by Harold Robbins
Pocket Books ©1976 [paper] 421 p.
1976 bestseller #8. My grade: C+

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Matlock Paper: Thrills at the university level

Silver and black type on front cover tell book author and title
The paper looks innocent enough.

The Matlock Paper is a tense, carefully plotted thriller about Jim Matlock, a young English literature PhD recruited by the Department of Justice to go undercover to find Nimrod, the brains behind an organization running drugs, gambling, and prostitution and in nearly every university in New England.

The DOJ regards Matlock as “flawed but mobile” and susceptible: Matlock’s younger brother died from a heroin overdose and he holds himself responsible.

Organized crime has arranged a conference to negotiate an accommodation with Nimrod, whose extraordinary growth is taking a bite out of crime.

The same night after giving him a crash course in how to go undercover, Matlock’s DOJ contact is killed on the way to his car and someone takes a shot at Matlock.

All that happens in the first 38 pages.

Even though there are dozens of characters to watch, novelist Robert Ludlum makes his characters distinctive so that there’s no trouble remembering who’s who.

Aside from letting Matlock go more than two weeks without ever going to teach a class, Ludlum makes his inventive tale seem plausible.

You won’t gain and wisdom from The Matlock Paper, but you’ll be totally caught up on Matlock’s world for a few hours.

The Matlock Paper by Robert Ludlum
Doubleday, © 1973. 310 p
1973 bestseller #8. My grade: B+

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Once Is Not Enough: It’s more than enough.

Once Is Not Enough is not nearly as bad as Jacqueline Susann’s prior two bestsellers, thank goodness.

Eyes focus on trophy represent worthyless pursuits in Once in Not Enough.
January Wayne wants to be important like her father.

Once is about the spoiled daughter of a famous producer, Mike Wayne. Mike ships January off to boarding school at age 7 after his wife kills herself trying to abort their second child.

January has no real friends at school, has no idea of what families are.  She idolizes her father, whom she sees sometimes on weekends in New York.

Graduated at 17, she wants to go work with Mike. He’s busy so he sends her to enjoy herself with an actor several years older.

Franco takes her on a wild motorcycle ride.

January is thrown off, hitting a wall. She spends three years learning to walk again.

That’s about all January ever learns.

All the people around her are immature, self-centered, greedy for money and power.

January’s fate is predictable.

Once Is Not Enough is a forgettable novel, though technically far better than Susann’s earlier bestsellers, Valley of the Dolls and Love Machine.

In Once, Susann draws her plot out of the personalities of her characters, but none of the characters in is someone you’d want to know: They carry too much drama around with them.

Once Is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann
William Morrow, © 1973. 467 p.
1973 bestseller #4. My grade: B-

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Rabbit Redux is a literary Pompeii

Rabbit Redux is the second volume of what would become John Updike’s four-book series about Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Although Redux is peppered with allusions to Rabbit, Run, readers who haven’t read that will feel slightly out of place.

Red, gray and blue striped cover suggests things out of whack in Rabbit Redux
The moon landing happens during Rabbit Redux.

The novel is set in 1969 in Brewer, a small Pennsylvania city whose neon outskirts conceal a decaying core left by the middle class folks like the Angstroms fleeing to the suburbs.

Harry takes the bus (“It stinks of Negroes.”) to work downtown. Janice drives the car to her job so she can meet her lover conveniently.

Janice moves in with her boyfriend.

Invited to a seedy bar by a black man with whom he works, Harry agrees to give a bed to a runaway, who says she’s 18 and drug free.

He brings Jill home; soon she and Harry’s son, 13-year-old son Nelson, are pals and Jill’s sharing Harry’s bed.

Then Jill brings home a black drug pusher wanted by police and things get complicated.

Reading Updike is like visiting Pompeii today: You see ordinary people going about ordinary lives captured as their world blew up and caught them unaware.

Rabbit Redux would be worth reading just for its glimpse into American culture circa 1969.

Rabbit Redux by John Updike
Knopf, ©1971 [my copy, 1981] p. 407
1971 bestseller #10. My grade: B+

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni