Would-Be Sinner by Don Elliott aka Robert Silverberg (Evening Reader #1215, 1965)


This is, perhaps, the best of all the Silverberg Don Elliotts we have read so far, perhaps because its subject matter is of great interest, and close to home (or fantasy) of the author.

Michael Storm is a whirlwind success of a first novelist, stuck in the second novel hell — can he produce a wonderful follow-up or is he but a one-hit-wonder?

In his late 20s, he was working a PR man who had a way with words, a copy wizard, and while he was capable of making a good living doing that, he yearned for more, and two women in his life knew it; they in fact urged him to write a novel, one a girl at the office, Eileen, whose gives her virginity to him, and one a wanton but wealthy bi-sexual lawyer, who offers to be his patron, or sugar momma, giving him what money he needs so he can quit working and focus on writing his novel. (As for the reality of that, these women are really out there, we here have experienced that first-hand.)

He writes an enormous, 323,000-word tome on Madison Avenue and the American Dream, accepted based on a partial.  The publisher knows this will be heralded as an American classic of modern times, and it is: great reviews, great sales, movie rights to Hollywood, all kinds of foreign rights sales — Storm makes $200,000 in the first year, quite a chunk of change for the early 1960s, and if invested right, he could live comfortably foe the rest of his life…he need not ever write another word again…but he wants to, he wants a second, third, more novels…but does he have them inside him?  Can he acquire, as the cover copy states, “a sin career”?

He finds many women are eager to sleep with a famous author…and when he goes out to Los Angeles to work on the treatment for a film to his book, working on a studio lot, he finds an endless supply of would be actresses and secretaries and PAs to have sex with, so much that h soon becomes bored for th lack of the chase and challenge.

Back in New York, he befriends Harris Merrill, an author ten years his senior who had one smash-hit novel, a classic, and never wrote again (like a female version of Harper Lee); instead, in his 10-room Park Avenue abode, he dives into LSD, peyote, shrooms, and having wild sex orgies on the drugs.  Storm tries it and fears becoming just like Merrill. We cannot help but wonder if Merrill is loosely based on Philip K. Dick…(Note here, Silverberg has people waiting 3-4 hours at a psiocybin party to take effect, when the effect of that drug really takes 30-60 minutes to start…and he has Storm throw up after taking them, when vomitting is more a part of peyote, not psiolocybin.)

After Merrill’s OD and death, the darkness inspired Storm to writ his second novel, also a masterpiece.

But what of love? A wife? Can a man have the whole world and be alone?  Storm finds out no, that it all is meaningless until he has someone to share it with.

The ins ans outs of the publishing business makes for an interesting read, the giant blockbuster of a novel with fortune and fame a fantasy for the young Silverberg, unlike the hustling life of a paperback hack found in Thirst for Love as David Challon.

This one should get a reprint.

One Response to “Would-Be Sinner by Don Elliott aka Robert Silverberg (Evening Reader #1215, 1965)”

  1. “Back in New York, he befriends Harris Merrill,… (like a female version of Harper Lee)”
    You- or Silverberg- must know something about Harper Lee not many people do…
    “We cannot help but wonder if Merrill is loosely based on Philip K. Dick”
    Given Dick’s aseonishing productivity, whatever his his condition, very loosely based.

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