Dark Lady of Hollywood
Dark Lady of Hollywood is hard to categorize, but one soon gathers that it is a satire of a place the author knows very well. As an arts and entertainment journalist, LA Times staffer and Southern California journalism professor, Haithman shows her love and hate of the town which now has an unknowing international film loving community. The book follows Ken Harrison, a sitcom TV executive who is dying of cancer, but would like to find his dark lady like Shakespeare did so he can go out with love and a bang. Early in the book, he meets actress Ophelia Lommond from Sadilla who performs in Shakespeare plays in the City of Angels, and is smitten.
There are two voices in the book to follow. The book has elements of comedy as well as Noir. One might call it a dramedy. There are plenty of silicone jokes and funny comments about the town in this sometimes funny ironic tale. Ophelia and Ken both turn out not to be who one would think they are after a first impression, but they connect for a tragic-comedic tale not only about revenge.
Harvard Square Editions
You’re Not The Only One Who’s Anatomically Correct ‘Round These Parts – Tales of Phallocentrism
This is an irreverent fable of sorts about a group of stuffed animals that live in the land of Bed. The protagonist of the story is Travis T. Bear, a rough, opinionated, hard-drinking teddy bear who, after some bad choices involving fallen women and penis envy, discovers what is important in life.
Though Bed may look like, well, a kid’s bed, it is a world whose society resembles the human world, with stuffed animals that resemble stereotypes (albeit very unflattering) of people. Protagonist Travis T. Bear is an outspoken bear that engages in lively rants about the politics and politicians of Bed. While Travis is “cantankerous,” he has time to be a pal (versus “an enabling therapist”) and advises his friend, Percy Herbert Wimpledon the Third (AKA Wimpy), to “get [yourself] a job, rather than just sit around and suck the system’s tit dry.” Like some citizens of Bed, who can only fix their stressors, like unemployment, social recession, food allergies, and social media envy, with mood stabilizers, Travis has issues. Penis envy is one. So much so that he, through a crazy stint on “the queen of daytime TV” – Winny Elephant’s show, receives a penis transplant/enlargement. This leads to all sorts of other issues, but also to a revelation about what and who is important to him.
This politically incorrect, in-your-face narrative offers some moments of entertainment (besides shock value), with the irony of a foul-mouthed, womanizing, teddy bear, and his take on the world today. The obvious references he makes to various socio-political situations parallel real life characters and situations: the Go-Between’ers Party, the Grouper’s Party Liberals with their “lazy and free” (laissez faire) attitude, business mogul, Darren Hump, and the “flipped-his-lid despot” – Ping Pong Un – who is threatening to blow Bed up once again.
The plot, if any, is extremely weak, and barely camouflaging the diatribe on political shams, the breakdown of social mores, and personal integrity. The in-your-face commentary, foul language and the amusing Monty Python-esque humor can be overwhelmingly unbalanced due to this lack of plot and character development.
Illustrations are bold, and like the story, are definitely not suitable for children. Strong bold lines and thatching add a roughness to the sometimes explicit (as graphic as teddy bears in human sexual positions can be) images.
Monty Python meets Babes in Toyland in this often provocative, and sometimes funny, take on today’s socio-political state.
Mr. Thorleifson has created something astonishing for a new fiction author; a work of true educational merit that immediately engages interest.
Beginning and centered in Yonkers, in the disputed territory between British and Colonial forces in early 1777, economic, social, and political realities of the period are made explicit.
Bold line drawings, also by the writer, convey the utilitarian simplicity of buildings, transport, and tools.
Clear intent to teach is established with notes in simple declarative style, a paragraph here, pages-long elsewhere. These are all professionally presented, as though one had a friendly teacher reading along. Some of those insertions are historical background that is not conveyed in the story line, but is necessary for full understanding of the environment through which that tale wends its way. Some are biographical, some financial . . . how shillings and pence and pieces of eight and seasonal scarcity and plenty interacted could have been stultifying. Set this way, these snippets of information are easily learned and remembered. A great contribution for neophyte students of our revolutionary period, and for some of us not so new–come to the era!
Having said that, any experienced editor will wince at frequent telling, rather than showing; where dialogue is employed to relieve the telling, it is sometimes stilted so the read is jarred. None of this detracts from the desire to know what happens next! Point of view shifts enough that a grateful reader needs to leaf back to the Characters page set handily before Chapter one.
This is not Johnny Tremaine for the grade schooler, though the protagonist here, too, is an apprentice, to a carpenter, a trade for which the boy lacks some focus. His sobriquet is “Tim Useless” among his fellows. He is plunged into action on the first page and into serious legal trouble just as fast. In the course of time and while he grows, both physically and mentally, Tim’s adventures pull the reader into frightening military intelligence, a seeking for a murderer, and to a developed self respect.
This would be a fine Christmas gift for a youngster or even an elder who likes a good read.
Hitler, Mussolini, and Me
A long-ago week in 1938 spent touring Italy in the company of two of history’s most notorious dictators comes back to bite former Assistant Curator and Art Historian, Colgan, in the rear when his daughter finds an old newspaper clipping of dear old dad hobnobbing with the two icons under the damning headline: The Man Who Saved Hitler and Mussolini. In an attempt to stave off his offspring’s rage and disgust, Colgan embarks on an oral history of the now infamous week, cleverly unpacking the pitiful flaws of each man, describing the unsettling personas that made up their personal entourages, and doing his best to describe the events that led to the distasteful headline.
In disassembling the internal personalities of two of history’s most evil men, Davis manages to heighten the reader’s feelings of disgust rather than quiet them, and in portraying the dictators in ordinary terms, he renders them even more terrifying. The character of Colgan may be fictitious, but his recounting of events is built on real-life documentation, including the journal of Ranuccio Bandinelli, who was the actual art historian who accompanied the dictators in 1938. A clever and entertaining portrayal of damned men in ordinary terms.
Call Me Pomeroy
There is more than meets the eye in the seemingly bold, boorish and narcissistic Pomeroy.
Fifty-five-year-old Eddie Beasley – a.k.a. “Pomeroy” is a homeless musician, who believes he is a stud – a “star” – and it’s just a matter of time before he’s going to be famous. Pomeroy lives his life on the street (when not in various prisons and shelters), singing from and adding to Ants In My Pants – the song that will get him discovered. Soon after his release from Quentin, Pomeroy finds himself in the middle of an Occupy Oakland demonstration, and is mistaken for kidnapping policewoman, Nora, when he is in fact saving her from a mob of angry anarchists. Despite the best efforts of Jessica Jiminez, his sexy Latina parole officer, Pomeroy lands himself in one spot of trouble after the next, as his adventures take him across the globe. While Pomeroy appears to be nothing more than a foul-mouthed, self-centered, womanizing misfit, he is an entertaining study in paradoxes. Despite his lifestyle, never-ending use of expletives, crude, misogynistic references to women’s body parts, and narcissism, he states: “Pomeroy ain’t no illiterate, crack-smokin’ bum”. He is right. Pomeroy is well-read, and can bring up literary analogies to his observations of life (not to mention his repartée of euphemisms to describe his belief that all women want to have sex with him); has the ability to learn from his downfalls (“When a woman puts Pomeroy in jail, Pomeroy cuts her off”); even reveals a sense of chivalry that prompts him to save Nora (“Can’t let no women get beat up, even if she is a cop”). He even has respect for those he cares about (“Jessica’s always been good to Pomeroy and Pomeroy takes care of his own.”). And through all his shocking language, no holds barred views, Pomeroy shines as a funny and curiously endearing anti-hero. While his talk about women is offensive, and so condescending on one hand, it humorously sheds light on Pomeroy’s own flawed nature as he, at times, takes on the persona of the hapless victim of every woman’s sexual desire, that lead him, for example, to quickly disembark a boat “before the women have a chance to tear [his] pants off”.
Pomeroy defies all things sacred – relieving himself on Ireland historical Blarney Castle. His views attack the hypocrisy in society, as he questions the morality of the men whose faces are on our money, the ethics of our presidents (“If a man wants my vote, he can damn well keep his pecker in his pants”) and comments on the state-of-the-art housing units in the Santa Rita lockup. Pomeroy’s rudimentary appearance and behavior invite judgment against him, but it becomes clear very quickly that his appearance and behavior belie a sense of values and decency that is missing from many who appear to be far more dignified and well-spoken.
Tight writing makes for a brisk-flowing narrative, while strong characterization captures the ironies that make Pomeroy thoroughly tawdry, yet peculiarly appealing and ridiculously funny.
Call Me Pomeroy brings us a protagonist who is a bold anti-hero that challenges the boundaries of superficiality in today’s society.
Chocolate Chocolate Moons
In this futuristic story of gourmet food and shady interplanetary business deals, Molly Marbles seeks to find her place in the world, or rather, in the solar system. Molly is an overweight Earth woman in a universe that prizes the tall, thin figures of those born and raised on low-gravity heavenly bodies, such as Mars. Everything changes for her when she begins college on the Moon. She no longer worries about dieting, and she can begin to focus on her passion for cooking and eating delicacies, such as duck breast in a coriander fig sauce.
She and her husband suddenly find themselves penniless and forced to move to Mars, where nearly everyone is thin and they only eat food supplements, if they eat anything at all. Molly once again finds herself on the outside looking in, but when she takes a job in security at Culinary Institute of Mars, home of the Candy Universe, Molly finds her niche. Unfortunately, Molly discovers that her favorite candy, Chocolate Chocolate Moons, is poisoned! She and her friends must catch the candy-poisoning culprits and ensure they receive their just desserts!
Jackie Kingon’s stuffs her writing full of puns, plays on words, and food similes. For example, the characters wear Dolce and Banana, and Molly drives along the Carpal Tunnel to get to the mall. When I first began reading, I thought, “This book is so silly!” but I got into the spirit of it and laughed out loud throughout the whole story. It is a quick read, and the foodie version of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. Molly is an instantly likeable character, and Kingon’s wordplay is so fun, it is hard to resist this quirky novel.