Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gays in Hollywood: Glamourpus

And now for something completely different. I only know of two titles by Christian McLaughlin (the other one being Sex Toys of the Gods), and I wish he'd written -- or would get on and write! -- more, because Glamourpus was one of the funniest books I ever read.

It was done originally by Dutton but the edition I have (I scanned the cover) is the Plume/Penguin one put out as a reprint in 1995.

This was CM's debut novel and I think we all expected him to go on and write a slough of books, hopefully with gay twists and great gay characters. Well, 13 years after I bought the reprint of Glamourpus, we're still waiting!

I guess CM's life took him in different directions -- and that's fair enough too. (Life usually takes us in directions we never guessed and for writers this is going to get worse in the near future. Have you been keeping up with the publishing industry news?!!)

Glamourpus is about Hollywood having a laugh at itself. It features daytime soapie TV ... you know, things like The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless. (At least Keith Hamilton Cobb is in The Young...! Him you could watch all day ...). In the novel the show is entitled Hearts Crossing, but if you see one of these things, you've seen 'em all.

One of the stars of the show is a new actor called Alex Young who plays a cute sociopath named Simon Arable, the son of a mad scientis. And Alex has a major secret.

He's not a sociopath. He's gay. When the books starts, his fans don't know. Yet. He has a boyfriend who's just way too hard to get -- Nick. And he's trying to keep his love life under wraps.

Then a nation-wide gossip rag gets its hooks into Alex and runs a story that blows his secret, and ... suddenly Alex is not that popular in Hollyweird. His fans are dead nuts, and his part in the show doesn't look too secure, and to top it off he's got a stalker. The story takes place in 1990-1991, when there was still a lot more homophobia than you have today. I today's movie and TV industry you have hunky young actors like Neil Patrick Harris, and John Barrowman, who're out and proud of it, and beloved for it. Not the case in 1990 ...

The plotline of Glamourpus could also have been done dead-serious as a thriller. It would have worked if CM had played up the fear and dread aspect ... though he'd have had to write a different ending! But CM picked the right way to go and did it as a sexy gay comedy -- right down to the last line in the book, which makes anybody who knows anything about romance novels break a rib.

Let me explain. Mills & Boone (Harlequin) actually run night school courses in how to write the glop they publish. The DIY romance of the month course is called, And Then He Kissed Her.

The last line in Glamourpus is, "And then he kissed me." I laughed and laughed.

In fact, I laughed right through the whole book. I'd recommend this for anybody who's looking for a funny, sexy gay read; anybody who knows for a fact Hollywood is gay-controlled and wonders why there aren't more gay TV shows; anybody who likes contemporary books; and anyone who enjoys those movies where Hollywood makes films about itself (Hooper is still the best one I know).

The characters are numerous and well drawn. The book is written in the first person ... which is a neat trick, if a writer can pull it off. CM does, and the first person style gives him the opportunity to keep up a banter between writer and reader that far outstrips anything that can be done plausibly in third person.

If the book has a downside, it's only that the narrative is VERY American. If you're a fan of all things USA, you're going to lap this up. If you're not that far into American culture, you might find the narrative a bit abrasive. I don't call this a downside ... because it's a story about Hollywood, and how are you going to tell it without Americana? (Some critics and readers are not so understanding. Example: the stupidest criticism I ever read of the Lord of the Rings movies was that all the characters have English-type accents. How ludicrous would an American or French or German accent have sounded in Middle Earth?!) Personally, I don't have a bone to pick with Americana. I like reading about other people's cultures.

Highly recommended. AG's rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Here is CM's website: -- you can get copies of his two books via the site. Unfortunately they don't seem to be available at Amazon right now, so I can't make it "one click easy" for you!