Lust Queen by Don Elliott (Robert Silverberg), Midnight Reader #401, 1961
Another Hollywood novel with a writer as a narrator…but this wrter is not a screenwriter but a pulp hack.
Silverberg had the first Nightstand (1501) with Love Addict, reviewed here, and had the first Midnight Reader (401) with Lust Queen.
I love the “waterbaby” Robert Bonfils cover, a companion to Robert Carney’s Anything Goes.
Joey Baldwin writes detective and science-fiction books and makes an average living. Then his agent gets him a lucrative gig: ghostwrite the autobiography of a 50s star, Mona Thorne, who is making a come-back. He stands to get $15,000 for the initial job, with a possible $50K more with foreign, film, and other rights. Big money for 1961!
He’s about done with a sticky divorce and wants to marry his girlfriend, Lisa. He has to leave her for a few months to go to L.A. and write the book. He assumes he will be put up in a hotel but Mona Thorne wants him to live at her Pacific Palasides estate…and, he finds out the first night, be her sex toy.
This is no Norma Desmond/Sunset Boulevard gigolo situation. Mona is in her mid-30s, well-fit, well-endowed, tanned, sexy, and likes kinky things in bed. Joey likes doing kinky stuff he’d never ask Lisa to do.
So begins their business arrangement: breakfast early, work on the book, pool and marinis by four, dinner, Hollywood parties, sex all night, and so on…
L.A. people find Joey fascinating since he’s not a screenwriter. When people ask, “What studio are you with?” they cannot get their minds wrapped around the fact that Joey is not in the game.
The book opens like it’s Silverberg’s autobio:
I was busy making the typewriter move. My fingers were writing as if they had their own private case of St. Vitus Dance, and every time they twitched more nice black marks appeared on the white paper in the machine. I was 40,000 words into the new detective novel… (p. 5)
Writers who have never worked on a manual typewriter do not understand what a physical task it was to use the machine, pressing down on keys, putting paper and carbons in, changing ribbons, matching one’s typing skills to the keyboard of any given typer…some old writers, like Harlan Ellison, still write on manual machines, never having graduated to an electric one (Ellison didn’t like how they hummed) or computer…Silverberg is on a computer now, and online, having embraced the 21st Century…I understand that T.C Boyle still writes on the old Sears typewriter he had when he was first writing.
Joey meets a lot of typical Hollywood characters — the miscle boy models, the shady producers, the jealous actresses…at one party, Joey meets a down to earth TV announcer on a kid’s network and has a quickie outside with her. She also has “small breasts,” unusual in sleaze where all women are at least 37-42 D cups.
Mona gets outrageously jealous over his sex fling…but gets over it…but when Lisa comes to visit him, she loses her mind…
Mona is petty, insecure, clingy, cannot take rejection for a big famous rich star…Silverberg does a good job showing how the famous lived isolated, lonely lives for the most part, outside their films and publicity shots. I have seen the same with well known actors I have met in Malibu (staying at the home of a certain big produce once and getting to know the neighbors like Bruce Willis, etc.)…one thing Silverberg did’t mention that I find funny is how so many film/tv stars are short…they’re all so damn short..
This is one of the better Don Elliots, I think, up there with Sin Servant, Love Addict, and Convention Girl. It’s also a dark story of greed and petty jealousy, with quite the violent outcome with a nice Hollywood iroic twist about commercial marketing of tragedy.