Tricks of the Trade - Ben Tyler
A modern tale of Hollywood and the lies and deceit behind the façade.
Bret, a Hollywood publicist spends his day writing lies to promote the careers and film of Hollywood stars, under the watchful eye of his boss, the evil Sheri.
Rod is a hustler with a secret—he’s intelligent, ruthless and can write.
They come together for a night of casual sex, Rod financing his writing by servicing men. They form a bond of need: Bret to escape his job and have his kiss-and-tell novel published; Rod to get an in with a studio.
The unlikely partnership is extended to other men that Sheri has metaphorically screwed, and together they set out to bring her to trial.
I did finish this book, but I’m not entirely sure why. It is quite well written, which is rather belied by the almost total waste of time plot. If your only reading material by choice is Hello magazine or the National Enquirer, then you might really get your teeth into this. I was utterly bored by the endless Hollywood gossip, and really missed the actual story that could have been told. The plot never actually seems to happen. Early on Bret meets Rusty (really, that’s his name) a PhD animal behaviourist, who caters to the stars. They fall into a deeply romantic relationship. So, I spent the rest of the book waiting for the punch line—Bret to realise that the hot sex he had with the dangerous Rod was what he really wanted. The romance between Rusty and Bret is so cloying that you feel you’re being set up for the fall… that never comes. It’s like watching Queer as Folk when Mikey was living with Dr David—you just “know” it isn’t going to work, and really enjoy the excruciatingly cloying romance. But in this novel, the punch line never comes. It’s the antithesis of plot.
The novel is packed with descriptions of gay sex—and I use that expression deliberately. I wasn’t convinced or carried away with any of the sex scenes. They were mechanical and predicable. Cute guy comes in the room, all the men get hardons. It’s not particularly clever. You don’t feel the sex or the passion; you read it, and even though the author clearly can write, that’s not really enough.
If you like Hollywood gossip then this would make amusing holiday reading.
Tyler delivers an entertaining and bitchy satire that delves deep into the mire beneath the Tinseltown glamour so readily bought by writers, actors and would-be players seeking to live that elusive Hollywood dream.
Burt Cain, studio hack and would-be novelist, is a hopeless romantic waiting for his Prince Charming to sweep him off his feet and carry him away to the remote Scottish hideaway he fantasises about while plotting revenge against his Machiavellian boss, Sheri Draper.
Burt sold his soul to Serling studios to get where he is. He’s miserable, stressed out, and in therapy.
Having been ditched by his partner, Burt finds it hard to trust. He says he’s never been much for sex- thereby turning the gay stereotype on its head. Then one day in an internet chat room he meets Rod, a drop-dead-gorgeous Latino hustler. Burt has never done sex for fun, or paid for it, before. Rod’s considerable charms prove impossible to resist. They have awesome sex, but Burt just can’t help falling in love.
Rod is a multi-tasker. In addition to his talents as lover, he’s a screenwriter. Burt introduces Rod to Jim Fallon, a TV actor whose star is fading due to an S & M video exposé, but he still has the right connections. Is Burt’s new beau, Rusty Stone, too good to be true? Will he sell his book- and will Meryl Streep play him in the movie, like Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria? Can he escape the latter day Sodom and Gomorrah that’s Hollywood- and does he have any idea what attitudes are like in the Scottish Highlands, where landlords refuse to allow male couples to share a bed lest they contaminate the sheets with perverted practices?
Full of LA entertainment industry references and American popular culture (a lot flew above my personal radar), the book is a pleasant way to while away a few hours- ideal beach material. I thought it dragged a bit, and would’ve been punchier shorn of maybe 100 pages. Tyler has created some characters who are a bit more than caricatures, and although it’s disposable froth, the novel is well crafted. There’s enough hot sex to keep the slash lover happy, and, like all good fairy tales, there’s a happily ever after ending- mostly.
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation. ISBN: 1575668130
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