A darkly entertaining, raunchy road trip—New York City to Brazil—by hearse, from newcomer Mayle. Mayle figured the most sensible vehicle to pilot for the 15,000 miles to Carnival was a hearse, a raven-black, 21-foot behemoth, complete with heavy chroming, fins, and wheelskirts, a vintage '73 dreamboat, sure to ``sing like a bird, pull like a train.'' Narco-gangsters, banditos, the Shining Path, kidnappers: All would give wide berth to the slab of mobile bad karma. He drafted two weird characters—Lenny, the Artist, and Tarris, outlander and road warrior—to share the journey. Stereo pumping, in the guise of traveling morticians, they made their way south. And what might be expected to befall them does: The transmission blows a gasket, they run out of gas, again and again. They argue among themselves, they drink an ungodly amount, there is a minor confusion with a clutch of male prostitutes. Each border crossing is an exercise in bribery, each town sports a sour, stale bar. The boys hit every one of them, alert to the possibilities, fornication on their minds. They even fashion a few rules: Drunk driving is banned, as is drunk dancing on the roof of the hearse. But these fellows enjoy tiptoeing to the edge—fencing some artwork in Bogot†, falling into a police trap trying to score coke in Cali, sinking their testicles into bowls of ice to counteract the tropical heat (an old Sri Lankan trick known to Tarris). When Mayle loses his traveling companions in Colombia, he continues to play it light, the writing remains jazzy and impetuous, but by now there is a decided note of menace in the air, gritty and scary. A grade B movie on wheels, indelicate and noir. (Author tour- -with hearse)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)