Hot damn! No it's not a horror novel. Just a couple of hot-blooded characters doing what comes naturally in Marina Tower, the 1978 pot-boiler by Charles Beardsley. The cover blurb promises "The heat of FIRE ISLAND" and "The excitement of ASPEN" and features a couple of bikini-clad babes, a bearded guy in a Speedo and an old fart in a three-piece smirking self-righteously. If you think I was going to leave that in the store, my friends, you just don't know me that well.
|Popular Library paperback, 1978|
As I get older, I have developed something of a fondness for trashy pot-boilers from decades past. I always liked camp and genre-lit, but I never really gave these kinds of novels a chance when they were lining the shelves at Waldenbooks and B. Dalton in the malls. Charles Beardsley is an author I know nothing about. I don't remember ever seeing his books or having heard of him before picking up this novel of his. The synopsis on the back promises "the heady heights of passion and the darkest depths of decadence." Marina Tower is a place "where the oddest couples, the weirdest cults, the most far-out practices are tolerated..." In other words, this ain't Fountain Hills Arizona, pardner! (I'm leaving Mesa alone...)
The action of the novel takes place over the Bicentennial Fourth of July weekend celebration in a resort community named Marina Towers. Marina Towers is sort of a luxury condominium village on the southern coast of California, and is home to a lot of those types that today's asshole wannabe millionaires partying in the pool at the W aspire to. Only back in the 70s, they didn't waste time posturing for selfies when they could be moving in for the score instead. The cast of characters in Marina Towers include a retired madame who ran one of L.A.'s most successful brothels, a porn-star with a ten-inch dick with a bumblebee tattooed on it, an aging call girl looking for a big score, an arrogant playboy TV star trying to find meaning in his life, a beautiful parapsychologist discovering her untapped powers, a lesbian real estate tycoon with a penchant for blackmail, a shock artist tired of trying to outdo his last masterpiece, and a couple of thugs with kidnapping on their mind, each with their own plot-line interwoven into the long holiday weekend. Balancing out the story is a government conspiracy involving radioactive waste, leaking into the waters just off the coastline by Marina Towers.
Charles Beardsley definitely had a knack for putting together an entertaining novel and balancing a lot of characters at once. Like any novel of this type, some characters are more compelling than others, but taken as a whole, the novel was never boring. I've read a few of Burt Hirschfeld's novels, like Acapulco and Fire Island, referenced above, and find the comparison not out of line. Charles Beardsley knew how to write a sexy scene, how to flesh out a character, and how to move the plot forward. This is commercial fiction worth devoting a couple hours to if you're so inclined. I also picked up The Apartments by Charles Beardsley and am looking forward to finding out if it's as good. It looks promising.