Author: Sidney Sheldon
Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, 1976
Genre: FictionDescription: Sheldon creates a collision course between two externally attractive and internally vile people whose yearning for acclaim and revenge takes them to Hollywood and the tragic price they pay for their ambition. Toby Temple grew up in 1920s Detroit, making his mother laugh despite her bleak existence by doing impressions and starring in high school productions. She smuggles him out of town when he gets a girl pregnant, and Toby pursues a show business career in New York without much success until he reaches Los Angeles after WWII. His lucky break is when agent Clifton Lawrence sees some talent and finances the development of Toby’s career. Although success follows, Toby has become a bitter vindictive person.
Josephine Czinski comes from a poor family in Texas, with a religious fanatic mother who works for the families Josie goes to school with. Her romance with seemingly-golden boy David Kenyon is doomed, and when she bitterly realizes he has let her down, she heads to Hollywood, changing her name to Jill Castle. Unlike Toby, her career never takes off, despite her beauty and, desperate, Jill does a lot of unsavory things trying to get her break but only gains a bad reputation. When Toby meets her and falls in love, they become a power couple – Jill wants to use this power to destroy anyone who doubted her but if Toby finds out about her past, his pride will require that she be obliterated from his life.
My Impression: Sidney Sheldon had a very distinguished career as a Hollywood writer so I had no warning that this would be the worst book I have read in years. He began writing for the theater after serving in WWII, won awards for musicals Easter Parade and Annie Get Your Gun, and wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer. He also created The Patty Duke Show, about identical twin cousins which I loved as a child, and I Dream of Jeannie which is silly but harmless. If you had asked me, I would have said I expected something like an early Mary Higgins Clark mystery. After all, the NYT called his first book “the best first mystery novel” of 1970.
Instead, I got a sordid Hollywood story with every predictable trope you can imagine, including nonstop mentions that Toby’s popularity with women results from his ahem - size.
- Brutal husbands
- Desperately unhappy wives
- Religious fanatics
- An influential spinster foolish enough to believe a younger man’s pretense of affection
- Pregnant teenagers and shotgun marriages
- A murderous racist attack on a Hispanic gardener covered up by fawning District Attorneys
- A teen sent to an insane asylum
- Casting couches
- And – worst of all – a man who would drug his girlfriend to trick her into performing in a porn movie and provide her real name to make it worse.
Clifton Lawrence lay in his bed that night, unable to sleep. He asked himself why he allowed Toby to humiliate him. The answer was simple: money. The income from Toby Temple brought him over a quarter of a million dollars a year. Clifton lived expensively and generously, and he had not saved a cent. With his other clients gone, he needed Toby. That was the problem. Toby knew it, and baiting Clifton had become a blood sport. Clifton had to get away before it was too late.Why did I go on reading, you ask? I guess I was a little curious about what would happen and the best thing about the book was that most of the characters got what they deserved. Also, I was in bed when I started reading, and it seemed like too much trouble to go find another book. I suppose I was hoping it would be more like a book that was a big bestseller when I first got into publishing, You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, which was funny. StuckinaBook and Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, in which bloggers are invited to read and review books that were published in 1976.
But he was aware that it was already too late.
Source: Library – and it’s going back there fast! However, although I call it a mistake, that doesn't mean it wasn't fun to shred it in my review.