Lady Boss: A Jackie Collins novel

"Lady Boss" signals for secrecyLady Boss is a Jackie Collins novel about people you wouldn’t want to know doing things you’d rather not know about.

Don’t let the word lady in the title fool you. Lucky Santangelo, the novel’s main character, is no lady. She is a multimillionaire, a control freak, and, as many other characters observe, a bitch.

The story is this: Lucky’s husband is an actor under contract to Panther Studios. Lennie hates the scumbags who run the studio. Lucky’s solution is to buy the studio as a surprise for Lennie.

Then she goes undercover at the studio to find out what’s really going on there, disappearing for a month without telling Lennie even how to get in touch with her.

Lucky is appalled by the studio’s treatment of women as objects. Most of the studio’s income is from porn films that it ships abroad hidden among legitimate films. When she takes over, she’ll change everything.

When Lucky tells Lennie she bought the studio, Lennie feels insulted that his wife thinks he needs rescuing. That surprises Lucky.

Collins has the gall to say, “Ego was not [Lucky’s] thing.”

Lady Boss by Jackie Collins
Simon and Schuster. ©1990. 608 p.
1990 bestseller #8; my grade: D-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Hollywood Husbands: the novel

a car key is single art element on front cover
A car key is caught on the Ls

Hollywood Husbands is a Jackie Collins novel, which means it’s about sex among the rich, powerful, and glamorous.

Here the setting is the entertainment industry.

The Hollywood husbands are two currently married jerks and one divorced jerk-in-rehab.

The two currently married jerks, once-divorced actor Mannon Cable and three-times-divorced film studio head Howard Solomon, haven’t a brain between them.

The only one of the three husbands who seems to have an ounce of sense is Jack Python, host of a top-rated television interview show.

Divorced once, Jack is in a sexual relationship with an Oscar-winning actress who he’d just as soon drop.

When model Jade Johnson, who is supposedly as smart as she is beautiful, comes to Hollywood to pose for a TV commercial, she gets sucked into the cesspool in which the husbands, wives, and their exes swim.

Collins doesn’t try to make any of three husbands interesting.

Instead, Collins focuses on daytime soaps megastar Silver Anderson’s marriage to an ex-bartender. Poor Wes had the misfortune to walk off with a gun and thousands of dollars belonging to the mob.

Hollywood Husbands serves up more than you want to know about people you wouldn’t want to know at all.

Hollywood Husbands by Jackie Collins
Simon and Schuster, ©1986. 543 p.
1986 bestseller #5; my grade: C-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Hollywood Wives

A woman's ring is the only pictorial element on the cover of Hollywood Wives
That’s a woman’s ring over the Ls in Hollywood.

The women whose husbands rule 1980s Hollywood are the subject of Jackie Collins’s Hollywood Wives.

Some of the wives are powers behind their men’s thrones; other are just mindless bodies. Instead of being real people, the wives are graphic novel memes.

A newly-wed couple enter this sexually charged atmosphere. Buddy believes the myth of instant Hollywood fame and fortune. He’s ready to do whatever it takes to be a star.

Angel knows little of movies or stardom. She just wants to make a home with Buddy and their baby.

Wives comes very close to being an all-sex novel on the model of the worst of Harold Robbins and Judith Krantz.

We really didn’t need another novel proving other people’s sex lives are more exciting than our own.

Hollywood Wives is saved—barely—by a secondary story that’s more interesting than the wives.

A young man is driving across the country murdering women as he goes. The victims are mainly addicts and hookers whose disappearances cause scarcely a ripple.

The killer is being trailed by a cop obsessed with finding and stopping him—and with figuring out what set off his murder spree.

Collins finally ties the killer to the wives, but the damage is already done.

Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins
Simon and Schuster. 1983. 510 p.
1983 bestseller #9. My grade: D

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Daniel Martin: Introspection writ long

Daniel Martin is a bildungsroman in which little happens but much is thought by 40ish Daniel Martin whose Hollywood screenwriting job is at odds with his Oxford educated instincts.

Daniel is having an affair with an actress his daughter’s age.

Daniel goes home to England to see a university friend at his request.

Since university, Daniel had been estranged from Anthony and his wife, Jane, whom Daniel had loved during university and with whom he’d had sex once before she married Anthony and he married her sister, Nell.

Daniel improves relations with his daughter and Nell, now his ex-wife, and tries to restore his relationship with Jane. He also debates how to break up with Jenny.

Daniel Martin, like his creator, novelist John Fowles, is an intellectual, as are his friends from Oxford. They discuss ideas (with a capital I), analyze everything, but remain wrapped up in themselves.

Flashbacks initially make figuring out the intertwined relationships difficult.

After getting the dramatis personae sorted, the problem becomes remembering the references so you can follow Daniel’s growing up.

I’m sure if I read Daniel Martin again I’d rate it more highly: Fowles is literate and a brilliant word craftsman.

But I just don’t find Daniel interesting enough to bother.

Daniel Martin by John Fowles
Little, Brown ©1977 629 p.
1977 bestseller #10. My grade: B+

©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

A Stranger in the Mirror

A Stranger in the Mirror is the story of a two people who have miserable childhoods and come to Hollywood in search of the attention they crave.

dust jacket of "A Stranger in the Mirror" shows Toby Temple totally alone in blackness.
In the darkness, comedian Toby Temple is at the microphone.

Born in Detroit during the Depression, Toby Temple has a domineering mother who convinces him he is going to be famous.

He’s furious when he isn’t an overnight success.

He finally submits to learning his craft, but he never stops trying to get even with the people who didn’t recognize his greatness.

Josephine Czinski, deprived at birth of oxygen for four minutes, she gets awful, recurring headaches when she’s stressed.

Raised by her widowed mother, a Polish seamstress caught up in a fire-and-brimstone religious sect, the girl has a lot of stress.

Josephine gets on a bus in Odessa, Texas, and get off in Hollywood as Jill Castle, one of hundreds of beautiful girls with dreams of stardom and no talent for acting.

Like Toby, she becomes an accomplished hater.

Without dragging readers through the dirt with them, Sidney Sheldon tells the story of two pathetically damaged individuals leading sordid lives in city full of people just like themselves.

It’s compelling reading, complete with what can only be described as a Hollywood ending: Unexpected, predictable, and dramatic.

A Stranger in the Mirror by Sidney Sheldon
Morrow, 1976. 321 p.
1976 bestseller #10. My grade: B+

© 2018 Linda Gorton 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 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

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

“The Pretenders” begins with a death, then decays.

Author Gwen Davis
Author Davis looking dazzled.

Reviewers typically refer to The Pretenders as trash fiction and jump into a discussion of how another of Gwen Davis’s novels landed her in a libel suit some years later.

Davis herself described The Pretenders as “a dazzling novel of the beautiful people.”

I failed to be dazzled.

The dead man whose funeral is the social event that kicks of the novel is a rich, ruthless Hollywood producer. Mourners come to impress other mourners—no one had any respects to pay— and to see if there’s any way they can profit from Harry Bell’s death.

Davis’s “beautiful people” are losers with more money than brains and more ego than money.

The novel has a huge cast of characters playing unmemorable roles badly. There’s a lot of sex, little plot, and nothing that is either worth remembering or memorable.

The Pretenders is the only one of the nearly 70 years of bestsellers I read for this blog that I wasn’t able to finish. I gave up somewhere around page 200, and I refuse to try again.

John Ashley Nail read the entire book and has  intelligent  comments about it on Amazon.

The Pretenders by Gwen Davis
World Publishing, 1969. 512 p. My grade: D-

© 2017 Linda G. Aragoni

 

Myra Breckenridge repels and fascinates

Eponymous Myra Breckrenridge is as repellent a character as you’d ever not want to meet.

And she’s absolutely fascinating.

Photo collage of dictators with overprint.
Myra believes her life mission is to realign the sexes.

Gore Vidal presents Myra’s story as her confidences in her diary, written as therapy on the urging of her dentist and analyst, Randolph.

Myra is in Hollywood to attempt to get money she believes owed to her by Buck Loner, her late husband Myron’s uncle. Buck had built a flourishing acting school on land willed jointly to him and his late sister, Myron’s mother.

Buck says he’ll get his lawyer on it; meanwhile, he invites Myra to join his faculty to teach courses in Empathy and Posture.

Myra and Buck set out to swindle each other without dropping the pose of family bonding.

For 20 of her 27 years, Myra in imagination cast herself as a the female lead in films she saw while growing up. But Myra doesn’t want the subservient roles: Myra hates men, and she’s determined to dominate them.

Despite his heavy hand with satire, Vidal makes the transgender Myra believable and human.

I didn’t like Myra the person or Myra the novel, but I felt I did something necessary and respectful just by exposing myself to Myra’s perspective.


Myra Breckenridge by Gore Vidal
Little, Brown, [1968] 264 p.
1968 bestseller #7. My grade: A-.

©2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni