MATERIAL THINGS by Larry Spencer


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In this novel, a fashion salesman finds himself caught up in the tendrils of crime and betrayal in Los Angeles.

It’s 1969 and Matthew Street’s marriage has fallen apart, forcing him to crash on Chris Styles’ couch—where he pines after his friend’s Israeli girlfriend and becomes the victim of a home invasion at gunpoint—and then to room with Logan Alexander, an insufferable drunk who lives off his parents’ wealth. The one bright spot in all this is that Matthew’s barbershop has experienced a bump in revenue ever since he started selling stylish shirts in the front window. This gives Matthew an idea: to turn his shop into a clothing boutique aimed at the young, radical generation. As he pitches his idea to Chris, Logan, and a third friend, Jon Lewis, while sitting in a north Hollywood diner, he finds himself getting counter-pitched by a stranger in the next booth. The man works for a company whose “specialty is selling and marketing bell-bottom pants to retailers. He wanted their business when they were ready to move forward with their plan.” How hard can it be to sell pants in LA? Pretty hard, as it turns out, especially when egos, sex, drugs, the Mafia, the FBI, and the chance at a whole lot of money get involved. Spencer’s (The Tipping Point of Oliver Bass, 2017) prose perfectly captures the seedy, hedonistic LA of bygone decades, where everything good or bad seems not only possible, but also inevitable. Matthew is a character who is never quite satisfied, with his arrogance and cynicism shining through even when he means to praise: “He loved her look. She looked healthy, but not athletic-healthy. Like the kind of woman who’d once had an eating disorder and learned the dangers, but there was no way she was about to get fat.” This makes him hard to like, and the author’s attempts to give the story a neat frame do not quite work. Even so, as a Scorsesian tale of bad people in over their heads, the novel effectively provides a rise and fall saga set in a colorful time and place.

An engaging tale about the sleazy, aspirational culture of 1970s street fashion.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-578-21232-6
Page count: 374pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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