Life imitates soap operas and gay porn, but certainly not art, in this fast-paced, homoerotic whodunit.
Smith (Fly on the Wall, 2003, etc.) delves with tabloid-like fervor into the tacky world of B-level British celebrity. The Virgil in this murky underworld is Paul Mackrell, an effete, Ph.D.-endowed and sex-starved author suffering from the dangerous dual-pronged affliction of writer’s block and severe cyber-sex addiction. Paul masturbates much more prolifically than he writes. However, this changes when he unexpectedly receives a call from Six Books, a publishing powerhouse in search of a ghostwriter to fine-tune the forthcoming autobiography of Eileen Weathers, famous and reportedly transsexual middle-aged star of a long-running soap opera. Accepting the assignment out of financial necessity, Paul soon realizes it is going to be tougher than anticipated. Eileen’s manuscript is merely one long paragraph, and not even a complete one at that; he will have to rewrite the entire book from scratch. On research visits to her Essex mansion, he becomes the boy-toy of Eileen’s mysterious and excessively virile Maltese valet, Danny. The ensuing assignations are described graphically: “Power excited Danny; that much was abundantly obvious as he pushed Paul’s face into his crotch. Paul could barely breathe; the little air he managed to snatch was richly scented.” Even more grating than the cheesy sex-talk, though, are the inexplicable racial slurs. Smith uses the word “nigger” on three separate occasions to no discernable end, and Paul’s unpublished screenplay is bafflingly entitled Prancing Nigger. Is the author making some sort of postmodern statement about language? His rationale is never clear.
More than any reader wants to know about lowbrow writing.