Having gotten my Christmas duties done for the holidays, I found I had the whole day yesterday to do nothing but read another trashy bestseller from the typewriter of Harold Robbins. Dreams Die First, was the third book I started in the past week, and the first one finished. I don't know if that says more about my reading skills, my tastes, or just my state of mind for the holiday season, that I was able to knock this 408 page novel down in less than two days.
|Pocket Books, September 1978|
The plot concerns an ex-Green Beret who decides, through the "help" of his shady uncle, to get into the publishing business. We meet our hero, Gareth Brendan, as he wakes up in his apartment next to a naked young man, with no memory of the night before. Gareth is unemployed and out of prospects. He tells us he's a Vietnam veteran who was forced to pull an extra year in the military to keep from bad mouthing the war, or something like that. Gareth's bio is sort of made up along the way, as if Robbins wasn't exactly sure himself. Gareth gets a ride from his loan-shark, referred to as "the Collector" to the unemployment office where he flirts with pretty clerk named Verita. Outside, Gareth gives his last unemployment check to The Collector, and is offered the possibility of a job by the Collector's boss, Lonergan. With no other means of support forthcoming, Gareth agrees to meet Lonergan personally after midnight that night. Until midnight, he'll spend the evening in Verita's bed giving her multiple orgasms.
Lonergan's offer to Gareth involves taking over an underground street rag named Hollywood Express that's fallen on hard times. Lonergan figures that he'll use the Hollywood Express for a money laundering operation. Gareth decides that he might as well turn the Hollywood Express into a porno rag and make a lot of money. Oh yeah, and it turns out the Lonergan is Gareth's uncle. Oh yeah, and Verita is a CPA, but can't work as an accountant because "Chicanas" can't get work as Accountants. Oh, and Verita also has a law degree, but that isn't needed until later on in the plot. Also, Gareth is the son of rich mother living in Bel Air. Anyway, all that comes in handy as Gareth turns the Hollywood Express into a successful weekly porn magazine, with the help of some shady characters connected to a group "back east." Also, it turns out the boy Gareth woke up next to on page one of the novel is the son of a Christian guru type celebrity named Reverend Gannon, who is okay with all the hedonistic life-styles practiced by his son Bobby (who is gay) and his youth group, as long as they're cool with Christ in the meantime. The whole plot is a "seat of the pant's" ride with the distinct feeling that Robbins was literally making shit up as he typed. There is the insider's look at the business of publishing porno, a sex cult, tons of pure coke inhaled, Mexican drug lords, a gay "terrorist" organization, a Latino gang run by Verita's cousin, who also happened to serve with Gareth in Vietnam, and some shootouts, lots of sex, sex therapy, a couple of karate chops, some gay torture, and yes, by the end of the novel, true love overcoming all.
All the characters display the compulsion and self control of your average teenager, only with lots of money and freedom with which to pursue their whims. Everyone falls in love instantly and has explosive orgasms throughout.
Now that I think about it, maybe all those readers back in the 70's were teenagers between Stephen King novels...who knows. As for me, will I read anymore Harold Robbins? Yeah, you can probably bet on it.