Thursday, March 22, 2012

What the Hell is This Crazy Book and Who Wrote It?

The world of sleazy, low-rent, talent-sucking paperbacks resulted in a lot of interesting stories. Not just the ones between the covers. The real-life tales of the people who made them, rival and often surpass anything contained in the outlandish hi-jinks and exploits of the characters on the pages within. A writer of these books was making a bet on himself that his work on a sexy book about suburban swingers for Reed Nightstand Books, published under a pseudonym, might somehow lead to a deal with Random House to publish that Great American Novel he has in his head or in a drawer at his desk. But most of these bets were lost. Most of these writers either spent their lives toiling in some measure of obscurity or found a different career. Only a handful of people like Donald Westlake, Harlan Ellison, or Lawrence Block made it to literary heights. And William Knoles; aka Clyde Allison and Clyde Ames was not one of the fortunate ones. But before I get to the end of his real story, let me tell you about the one he wrote (this time as Clyde Ames) that I just read.

Gorgonzolla, Won't You Please Come Home is just as aggressively silly and bizarre as its title. The plot involves Eva de Struction, agent for Super-Villainous Organization OCTOPUS-E doing battle with Agent 0008, Al Fresco, from inside a giant mechanical movie monster named Gorgonzolla. The book explains they couldn't use their original choice, OCTOPUSSY, because they were threatened with a law suit by a certain British spy. See what I mean? Oh, and Eva hangs out with a bevy of busty beauties with names like Honey Soit, Bette Noir, and Aqua Long.The only male in the metallic behemoth is Albert, her horny pet gorilla whose internal dialogue about how much he wants to have sex with Eva is helpfully described in the book. Much of the book is sideline discussions. There are characters that show up just to say something quippy, and then they're gone. Knoles is writing below his abilities in this book. He dutifully includes the cheeky sex scenes (fairly chaste by today's standards) that were required of him by his editor. He seems clearly bored by them. But he uses that boredom to make them ridiculous and far more interesting to read that most of the scenes like this in books like this. As the book begins, we see Eva in her opulent apartment, which comes complete with a fire pole that leads to her bed, terribly upset that she is getting to the obscenely advanced age of 21. Knoles makes nearly everything that is physical; sexual. A girl will be described as having a "voluptuous finger" or a "shapely nose". The story takes ludicrous twists and turns. It starts out in Cannes with Gorgonzola being used as movie promotion at the film festival before Eva takes it over and submarines the thing to Malibu, where she proceeds to wreak destruction (what else?) throughout LA. The brilliant thing about this book is that everything that should be bad about it turns out to be fine. I should be annoyed at the complete absence of logic and yet, I'm not bothered. The world's dumbest spy in the world's most nonsensical plot seems to be authored by a guy who knows what he's doing. The sex scenes, which are not sexy, should bother me for that fact. Instead, I find his funny take on the scenes more satisfying than if he had tried to make them serious. Most sex scenes in books like this are not successful turn-ons, anyway. It all plays out like a fever dream of a horny teen-aged virgin. There's lots of attention to sex, but no real understanding of what it is. Then the book ends abruptly, as if Knoles reached his word quota and stopped typing. 

Sadly, Knoles real story ended in a similar way. Apparently tired of the life that he had toiling away in pen-name obscurity writing sex novels for low pay (many more pornographic than this one), he killed himself at age 46 by cutting his own throat. Now I didn't know him, of course, but I am sad for myself that I won't get to read more insanely dopey adventures of Al Fresco.

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