"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Hollywood Shakedown Revisited in Kent

I'm enjoying a break down with one of my closest friends, and trusted proofreader, Kelly, and her partner Seth. I'm dahn sarf. In the garden of England. We had a wonderful time today. I won't bore you with a happy day - the run in the morning, the summer weather, the shopping trip, their terrific young son - but we had an interesting conversation last night I thought was worth reporting.

Carla is getting the best reviews I've had (though UV is beginning to catch up) but Seth, a clever man and a tough critic, seemed unimpressed.

'I think if you want to demonstrate your talent as a writer, you should forget Carla and concentrate on Hollywood Shakedown. That's your best work." 

Seth is a sharp cookie. Sharp suits. Buddy Holly glasses five years before there time. Eloquent. City of London. Competing with other sharp cookies in an environment where only the sharpest cookie survives. He's no bullshitter. Because of that, I trust his judgement.

Kelly agreed, though I get the impression she thinks the race between the two books is too close to call.

Yet, I can't get anyone to read Hollywood for free. 

The reason? My best guess? It doesn't have a genre. Its a real oddball book.

Even I don't know where to put it on the virtual bookshelf. Kelly's brother, and Roy, one of my oldest friends, likes the book. One of her best friends detests it. I can't get any consistency of perception. I don't know how to describe it - its unlike anything I've written - and thus, because of this confusion, I kind of forget it exists.

That might be a mistake.

It was written after I was banjaxed by a woman I really liked in 2009. She's the model for the books second key character, Monique, who must be the sexiest woman I've ever written.

She's an independent woman who won't be told what to do, a party animal bordering on the alcoholic. She's a Milfy, forty year old woman in love with her man but not ready to stay in watching Desperate Housewives on cable every night. Life's too short. In fact, HS is all about Monique and how Buddy, the novel's protagonist, relates to her. 

Set in East Hollywood in 2010, here's a scene with Monique and Buddy early on in the book:

Monique was off her tits by the time Buddy arrived and it wasn't yet noon.
He walked in the door of the Brown Derby (revamped), and there she was at the bar, deep in conversation with two men – bums, street drinkers – and the barman, who Buddy didn't know. 
The place stank of cigarette smoke and cooking fat. It was dark and cold – you really had to want to drink in the Brown Derby (new version).
She was so engrossed in conversation she didn't even notice her man come in. 
One of the men wore a cowboy hat and the other a plain tee shirt and jeans. Buddy shook his head; they were both draped over Monique like cushions on a sofa. He walked over and stood behind them.
“Having fun?”
“Honey!” she leapt from her stool. “Meet Randy and Grits.”
“Randy. Grits.” Buddy nodded. The men nodded in return and then looked away.
“We wuz just talkin...”she said. Her eyes seemed to move in two separate directions at once.
“I can see that. Drink your beer, we're outta here.”
For some reason Buddy was angrier than usual. He'd been in this situation countless times with Monique and after a while, he kind of tolerated it. He'd made the toleration mistake in the past because he was in love with her. 
First time he set eyes on her.
He knew the rules though: If a man tolerates his woman disrespecting him once, she'll play that game again and again and he can have no complaints. None whatsoever. It isn't her fault – it’s his.  A man's only available option after the toleration mistake is to shrug his shoulders.
“Honey, just wait a while huh? I'm having a conversation here. Why don't you get us all a drink...?” She turned back to the bar and picked up her bottle, took it by the neck and finished it. Monique could drink like a West Texas ranch hand after a month on a cattle drive. She looked good though, the booze adding some colour to her cheeks and wherever she'd stayed, the place had a shower and a mirror for her make up. Monique was all woman, nothing masculine about her at all.
He felt something stir and he thought of something else. “Maybe next time.” He reached for her and took her by the arm.
“Hey big guy,” the cowboy, Grits, turned round. “Leave the lady alone. She ain't doing no harm.”
Randy, a good deal younger than Grits, also woke from his slumbers. He turned round slowly. On his face, he had a scar running horizontally between his left ear and his left eye. The remedy looked like forty, fifty tiny stitches. A slash. 
A blade, huh? Buddy thought. Kids shouldn't play with sharp knives. Someone might get hurt.
The atmosphere was turning colder than the aircon. Buddy tensed and stared. No way out of this one. 
Just as he tensed for action, the barman appeared from underneath the optics, a tall fella, with dark hair and broad shoulders, immediately standing between the stooped drinkers on the stools and Buddy - a wise old barman and a skilled practitioner, anticipating the melodrama unraveling before him by a good five seconds.
He put his hand on Monique's shoulder. “C'mon Missy, you've had enough already. No more Margheritas for you today. Go home and sleep it off till tonight.”
Subtly, but firmly, he guided Monique away from the bar. She wasn't best pleased but it was much too early to argue.
“F**k you very much, jerkoff.” She gave him the finger and walked toward the door with Buddy who was quietly disappointed at the barman's intervention. Chekhov's demise on top of the hangover had him wired and breaking a nose would have cheered him up no end. 
However, the barman – clearly a good one - could see it coming and it was just as well – Buddy had enough on his plate without complicating things with a night in jail. 
Monique waved at her two companions, blew them kisses ostentatiously, provocatively, but the two men had turned back to the bar to continue their afternoon beer session.
They stood outside. “You is a controlleh, asshole. You jest hade it when I'm having a good ti-yam...” She lit a cigarette. Whenever Monique drank too much beer, she quickly reverted to the linguistics and intonations of the Mid-West.
“Jeez baby. It's true what they say. You can take the girl outta Oklahoma, but you can't take the Oklahoma outta the girl.”
“Stick your smarts up your ass. This lil lady needs a Margherita. Grits was gonna buy me a whole damned pitcher of Margherita and you came in and spoiled it all...” she replied, her face a dismissive rictus.
“Was he now...” Buddy looked at his watch. He'd seen her like this a hundred times. Sometimes the beer didn't agree with her, but mostly she hated men telling her what to do.
“D'ya hear me, asshole. I need a drink...”
“So do I,” said Buddy. “We'll flag a cab.”
“Well, I ain't walking, so you'd best get me a cab.”
“That's what I just said, Mon. Didn't you hear? You ought to pay attention, baby.”
She held his arm and moved closer to him. “Call me baby again.”
He was obedient because he loved her. “Let's get a cab. Baby...”
 “There's one coming now.” She ran into the road and flagged. No cab alive would drive past Monique in that pallid, sky blue mini-dress, those paper-thin sandals and with that dense, jet-black hair. And stop it did.
They got in. “Rusty's.” Buddy ordered, throwing a ten-dollar bill over into the driver’s seat, the racetrack big shot.
In the cab, she kissed him and he returned the kiss.
“I love you, Buddy Chinn,” she whispered.
He thought about this, said nothing. Well of course she did! She'd stayed out all night and he hadn't as much as asked her where she'd been. What woman wouldn't love that kind of tolerance...
Hollywood is chock full of dialogue like this. If you liked this, you'll probably like the book.
Buddy is the son of the literary alter ego of Charles Bukowski, Hank Chinaski, which is a spectacular (if innovative) conceit, but I changed his name right at the last minute because of copyright. So few people have read this I kind of lost confidence in it, yet it's sharp and sassy and as Seth says, "cool."  
It's a pound on Kindle. A dollar. Kindle Prime members get it free. 
I'm going to have to read it again to see whether Seth is right or not. I can't remember, actually. 
It seems so long ago...

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