|Pocket Books, April 1989|
Recently I've strayed from my typical reading cuisine to sample old bestsellers of their time that were marketed toward women. One of the titles that I’d come across now again is A Glimpse of Stocking by Elizabeth Gage. I distinctly remember seeing it often enough in used bookstores but would skip right past it. A post at The Sleaze Factor, kindled my interest in this one. Then finding the dang book turned out to be not so easy. That’s often the way it is, you hear about a book, decide you’re going to look for it and come up short at the local bookstore haunts. So, I put it down on that list of “want-to-reads” that I always lose and moved on to other things. Then about a month back I found it in a used bookshelf, shoved on its side, spine down, so that all one could see was a brick of yellowed pages. Yep, it’s a thick one all right, sort of like your typical Clive Barker paperback.
A Glimpse of Stocking turned out to be a pretty good find. I got pulled in immediately to the story, which starts out in late 60’s Hollywood. The novel kicks off with a prologue that, like most prologues could be skipped, followed by short chapter detailing a disturbing tryst between an unnamed man and woman in a hotel room in 1947. Jump ahead 20 years to 1967 and we meet hopeful young starlet Annie Havilland arriving alone at movie tycoon Harmon Kurth’s mansion. There’s no doubt that Kurth is one of those villainous bastards who has no good intentions in store for our heroine Annie. She quickly realizes that she’s been lured into Kurth’s digs under false pretexts and, as she tries to leave, is brutally beaten and raped by Kurth and his valet. Used and discarded, Annie attempts to press charges and discovers that Kurth is one of those guys who has friends in high places, and that her word against his isn't worth a used condom on a dirt road. After an offer of hush-money is made and rejected, Annie discovers that her name is poison in Hollywood circles. So, it’s back to New York for her, to lick her wounds and plot her next course in life which will ultimately include vengeance on Harmon Kurth.
Christine is brought into the novel as a call girl of stunning beauty matched only by her capacity of self preservation. After a childhood of terrible cruelty and abuse, Christine makes a life for herself hustling playboys and wealthy scions with kinky tastes. And if she has to kill a few dickheads along the way, well then, buddy, that's just what she'll do.
It doesn't take much of a genius to know that Christine and Annie’s world will soon intersect, and in ways that neither one of them could dream of. Along the journey we’re entertained by a parade of characters ranging from noble to sleazy. Included in the bunch is a private investigator who, while essentially honest, isn't above keyhole peeping to get what he needs, a movie star whose seething sexuality and rebel-good-looks mask the fact he’s really just another shallow douchebag, a larger-than-life writer who can buck the rules in Hollywood to get what he wants, a talented stage actor who spirals right down into the basement industry thanks to the needle and the spoon, a socialite with a secret past, and a powerful movie mogul with a taste for torture. There are plenty of scenes to please that little perv hidden within everyone, and just enough violence to counterbalance the melodrama.
Oh, my friends, it’s the stuff of the best kind of trashy fiction you can get. Just the kind of book that is supposed to smell like musty paper and Kent cigarettes. Maybe there should be an app for E-Readers that’ll replicate that…