Rhinestone Country - Darwin Potter

Ladymol's Review:

Many of the things I wrote about Blood Moon are true of this book, too.

Itís full of dreadfully inconsistent characterisation to suit the plot. In one example, the ďheroĒ gives up all men for the sake of one (who heís hardly had the time of day for before), and your alarm bells just start ringing. Sure enough, the new love of his life is killed. Itís just a manipulative plot device, which angers you toward the author.

This is not a particularly pleasant book. Whereas I was happy that Blood Moon was badly written, but still quite readable for a holiday, this is not. Itís set in the deep south of America and is incredibly racist, which does not sit easy with modern day readers. I donít like the ďnĒ word, nor do I like black men being described as bucks, which they are throughout the early part of this book. Itís not the characters saying it (Darwin Potter never develops his characters enough to have their own voice), itís him, in his authorial role concurring with this that I find unpleasant.

Another major flaw in this novel, which he irons out somewhat in Blood Moon, is that he is convinced that heís writing a proper novel, and that proper novels need female characters. The female lead in this book becomes the wife to the main character, Pete Riddle, as a cover for his homosexuality, which would not be accepted in the country and western music scene in which the book is set. She is incredibly stupid and dull, yet her story takes up a good third of the novel, interwoven with the gay story of her husband.† Her story is incredibly ponderous; sheís unbelievably naÔve, and I found myself skipping through her pages to get back to the more interesting storyline.

The preface of the novel is an event in the modern day that the rest of the book works up to in flashback, telling the story of all these characters to show how they lead up to the catastrophic events in the preface.† It had the desired effect, which was to make me read to the end (something I was doubtful of doing at times). When I got to the resolution of this event, I wondered why I bothered.† Itís all so silly that it becomes meaningless farce. Itís as if Darwin Potter grew up watching bad American soaps, where any silly plot device is used to boost the ratings of flagging shows: alien abduction; evil twins youíve never heard of before; long dream sequences passed off as real life.

However, none of this is as worrying as my main objection to this book. Let me state here and now, nothing in a book offends me if itís well written.† I admit I bought this book because it explored the theme of incest.† Iím an adult; I happen to believe that you can keep fantasy separate from reality and explore in fiction things you donít continence in real life. However, the key words for me are well written. This book is not and his handling of the incestuous affair of Pete Riddle and his son Buster is appallingly exploitative. Darwin Potter canít write children. He just states that so and so character is such and such age, then proceeds to write them as any of his other, adult characters. And therein lies the exploitation.

Buster is five when he starts to seduce his father (Iím not joking). Pete, the father, is presented as totally innocent of his sonís wiles, not getting that letting him handle his erection in the bath is probably not a good idea. By the time heís eight, Buster is shown putting a mini bar into his room to entice his father in for sex. He speaks like all the other gay studs in the book: big boy, I want you to ram that Ö. (bad porn dialogue follows).† Itís all so exploitative and unreal because none of the real issues of incest are explored or discussed. Even in an avowed porn novel, The Velvet Web, the seduction of a young stable boy is handled realistically, and it does excite, it is erotic.† Busterís entire story is so over-the-top that he becomes nothing more than a name on a page as you read.

I made a list of all the male and female characters in this book and tried to join them up showing whoíd slept with whom. I ran out of ink. Pete Riddle sleeps with everyone, everyone he sleeps with sleeps with the others, four brothers sleep with him separately, together, with each other, with everyone else. Itís quite exhausting and as they are all basically the same, I wouldnít bother to try and work out who is who. After all, everyone Pete is with is always the love of his life and heís going for forsake all othersÖ. Blah.

The book desperately needs editing. Someone needs to make up their mind whether itís a history of Country and Western music or whether itís a gay porn novel, because it sits very uneasily between the two. I really canít believe that anyone who wants to read this extreme level of graphic gay sex is really interested in chapter after chapter about a Dolly Parton-look-alike woman and her dull history.

As with Blood Moon, not for me, and I wouldnít even say this would make good holiday reading; itís too unpleasant for that.

Cerisaye's Review:

If youíve read one Darwin porter novel it looks like youíve read Ďem all.† Thatís the impression I have after trying two of them (see Blood Moon).

This time Porter sets his sordid, and supposedly sexy, tale in the world of the country & western singer, covering a period from 1940s to the 80s.† Again the convoluted plot is overblown, heavy on the melodrama.† Iíd guess a real fan of the music and its history could put names to the novelís fictitious creations.† Lead female character Rosacoke Carson clearly owes something to Dolly Parton.† The early part of the book takes place in North Carolinaís Appalachia, and certainly gives a taste of how hard life was for its people, and the way music was an escape from grinding poverty.

I donít know how Porter gets away with racist caricatures like Sultan, the black man who initiates Pete Riddle, the good lookiní country boy who finds fame and fortune as a singer.† Pete likes to think heís straight. So all he needs is the right woman to keep him satisfied.† Heís got a prodigious appetite, however, and no one woman or man could ever be enough.† Peteís mood alternates between delirious pleasure and deep shame.† He marries Rosacoke, eventually, while servicing a harem of male lovers.†

Itís a bit like one of those heavy-on-the-angst country ballads. You know the sort.† A dirt poor orphan, raped by her guardian, appearing Cinderella-like in borrowed rags to be swept off her feet by her prince, then wrongfully imprisonedÖand yet, through it all she stands by her man.

The book is full of sex.† Itís big on anatomical description, whiffs & sniffs, and for my taste rather lacking eroticism and sensuality.† Repetitive too, and, though graphic, actually pretty dull.† Occasionally risible- way too many rosebuds. †Ew.

Thereís an Adams family of strapping lads youíd think wandered in from a porn movie, a stable of teenage boys and a stud daddy, available with group discount.

The dialogue too often evoked cheesy porn.

Porter doesnít believe in restraint.† We get rape, incest, under-age sex, adultery, castration, voyeurism, water sportsÖand on, and on relentlessly.

Just like Buck in Blood Moon, Peteís instantly in love with anyone he beds, male or female.† Peteís a manly man, a natural top.† Other men want to be his Ďwifeí, even when heís married to Rosacoke.† And Pete finds saying no very hard.† His father/son relationship with Buster is unconventional. I think itís meant to titillate.† I found it grotesque and rather disturbing.† Thereís another son, some vicious sibling rivalry and a bit of attention-seeking behaviour.

Itís all pretty predictable.† When it departs from that, completely ludicrous.

The book has racism, sexism, homophobia, rural deprivation (Sultanís so poor his house has a blanket for a door), and a sex change.† To name a few.

After a while the story jumps through years as if heís had enough and wants to wind it up, except there's loose ends to knot together.† Pete learns nothing from start to finish, though I guess he hones his technique.† Rosacoke is more punchbag than character.

Trashy undoubtedly, but Porter has a brash way with words that keeps you reading, often open-mouthed and disbelieving.† Thereís definitely a readership for Porterís books.† I wouldnít say I wonít buy another.

Publisher: Georgia Literary Association ISBN: 0966803035

Buy From Amazon UK here:  Rhinestone Country

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