FAME WHORE - Mike Hudson (212 pages, Power City Press)
I don’t recall reading a book before where the four primary characters are all intensely foul, shallow and stunningly dislikable. What’s more, Hudson’s narrative has made these four individuals sublimely real; they somehow get under the skin and leave a residue of distaste.
Set principally in Hollywood, Los Angeles, Fame Whore tells a scant chapter in the story of Tom Heaton; an alcoholic writer with an anger management problem who was a former Punk Rocker and is currently on his third wife. Heaton falls in love with Angie Roscelli, a self-centred, egocentric, superficial ex-groupie now a desperate model in possession of damaging mood swings. Into that mix, you can throw Harris, a bellicose burger chain manager with poor personal hygiene who also falls into implausible lust with Angie to the extent of quitting his job in get a job at the Starbucks that Angie frequents. He appears to suffer with confidence issues, paranoia (in fact, all these characters are prone to that too) and mild schizophrenia. Finally, in a more peripheral roll, is Heaton’s third and soon–to-be-ex-wife, Rachel. She wallows in self-pity and alcoholism.
At the book’s heart is a love story with each of the main characters possibly laying claim to the book’s title. Each is desperate to make a name for themselves, for wanting to be remembered. None of them prevent personal vanity override social civility in a quest for their own hedonistic desire. However, it is obvious that the fame whore the title refers to is Angie.
Hudson’s narrative is direct, biting, bold and laden with a clarity for 21st Century living. Besides graphic (although occasionally clumsy) renderings of sex, alcohol abuse, self-aggrandisement and violence, Hudson has infused the book with the latest depictions of social media via Facebook status updates and tweets of the main characters. He’s crafted a sense of reality throughout the book’s environs - be it the ambivalent ambiance of Starbucks or the plastic narcissism of LA in general.
There is certainly a number of parallels between Hudson and Heaton - both fronted 70s Punk bands, both were/ are writers for newspapers (to the extent where Heaton submits work to Paraphilia, just as Hudson has done) and both are novelists. Closer observations draw further parallels also.
The book has an explosive finale as the chaos of Heaton and Roscelli’s lives collide with a myriad of other, outside forces. It’s not an obvious finale, but one that is satisfying and in keeping with the rest of the book. Without writing a spoiler, I can tell you everyone involved finally gets their 15-minutes of fame.
As stated, none of the characters are remotely likable - Heaton probably comes over as the most accessible. However, there is no doubt the book has a strong narrative and a concise story. I doubt I’ll be re-reading it too often (at all?) - but the story is one that sticks in the head. If that is the mark of a good novel, Hudson has written a cracker. (17.08.14)