Before movies, before trashy TV, before first-hand observation of psychotic behavior in trailer parks, malls and mansions, books were my passport into exciting new worlds. Here are some influences, favorites and all-time classics you might enjoy...
by Jerry Stahl
I was a huge fan of both PERMANENT MIDNIGHT, his stunning, hilarious autobiography, and PERV, his stunning, hilarious first novel... but this wild, nasty, riveting, stunning, hilarious neo-noir is the best yet — it makes Quentin Tarantino look like Randal Kleiser. Spyder Games fans may choose to envision the busty nurse heroine as Shawn Batten... I did! I really hope to be able to collaborate with Jerry on a TV project very soon.
by John Kennedy Toole
Recommended to me years ago by then-idol John Waters, this genius killed himself before his mother discovered the masterpiece A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES and had it published. Of course it went on to win a Pulitzer, but it was too late... Toole was dead and now the millions of us in his thrall have to make due by reading and re-reading his hilarious epic satire about an obese, cantankerous self-proclaimed genius named Ignatius J. Reilly who clashes with a modern world (it's set in '60s New Orleans but is really timeless) populated by an unforgettable collection of freaks, losers and wackos. It's easy to imagine Waters' superstars in key roles — how about Edith Massey as Ignatius's clueless mother and Mink Stole as evil barkeep Lana Lee? Toole's short novel THE NEON BIBLE is very different, but flawlessly crafted in the Truman Capote/Flannery O'Connor mold.
by Gore Vidal
Don't let the fact that Myra became the worst movie ever made (and not in a good way) stop you from discovering this fantastic, funny, wickedly sexy Swinging Sixties bombshell of a book. The expert digs at show biz, politics and sexual attitudes seem even more relevant today. The sequel Myron (which Back to the Future totally ripped-off, by the way) is possibly even more hilarious. No matter how much you love them, do not attempt to view the miserably pointless 1970 cinematic abortion starring Raquel Welch.
by John Fox
The only novel by AIDS casualty Fox — it's a slim, clever, heartbreakingly vivid, touching-yourself-on-the-airplane sexy story of a 16-year-old swim team hunk with a monster crush on a collegiate Italian stud in 1968. I have never read a better evocation of first love and will confess right here and now that I tried as hard as possible to duplicate Fox's chatty-but-overwrought, pop-culture-friendly style for Glamourpuss, then claim it as my own. Did I succeed? You be the judge!
by Hubert Selby
Another John Waters referral. To plunge into the twisted, emotionally raw hell of the characters in his two undisputed masterworks LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (amazingly both made into excellent movies) is to experience first-hand a dozen brands of fucked-up! His stream-of-consciousness style, unflinching graphic detail and miserable cast of degenerates make Hubie a tough sell — but if you can take it, he's a stunning talent. Also worth a peek, the much more obscure in every way: THE DEMON and THE ROOM.
by Hubert Selby Jr.
by James Robert Baker
Another dead genius, Baker committed suicide in 1997. An acid-tongued California faggot with an almost pathological hatred of Orange County right-wingers, his magnum opus was a bitter, brilliant Hollywood satire called BOY WONDER, the fictional biography of Spielberg-on-crack wunderkind producer Shark Trager. Also out-of-print but worth hunting down — FUEL-INJECTED DREAMS, a Malibu Gothic about a deeply sick Phil Spector-ish music producer.Baker's overtly gay novels were all variations on a theme — sexually charged lovers on the run from the law — and the freedom-ring-wearing West Hollywood "guppie" establishment Baker loathed. TIM AND PETE is more political, ADRENALINE (originally published under the pseudonym James Dillinger) more porno. TESTOSTERONE was released posthumously. I will always be sorry I didn't discover Baker sooner, so I could have told him how awesome he was.
by Jackie Collins
Every aspiring writer of hardcore glitzy trash should study this Baked Alaska of modern soap lit — it's flaming, elaborately constructed, and as much as you want to, you'll be unable to devour it in one setting. Jackie "exposes" the sex and power struggles of the Bev Hills set with short chapters, shorter paragraphs and a lovably vapid cast of 20 major characters who all get exactly what they deserve in one of the most ingeniously whipped-up climaxes you'll ever moan through. Jackie's written lots of books, full of sentences like "she was some horny piece of ass, and someday she would be all his," and "he was a fat old man, with liquid booze-filled eyes and the walk of a pregnant cat." I also recommend: The Love Killers, American Star, Lady Boss, Lovers and Gamblers, Vendetta: Lucky's Revenge.
by Anne Rice
Like everyone else in the '80s, I gave Annie a try and enjoyed Interview with the Vampire and parts of Lestat before becoming disillusioned with the increasingly leaden plotting and brain-numbingly baroque prose of her endless stream of bestsellers. Then I discovered Cry to Heaven, an overheated gem about hot-blooded castrati wreaking bi-sexy havoc in the Italy of yesteryear. Fast and kinky and gorgeous. Speaking of kink, if there's any doubt that Anne's a gay guy in a woman's body, check out the action in the steamy, XXX-rated Sleeping Beauty trilogy she wrote under the name "A. N. Roquelaure". Everyone's beautiful, bi and into bondage, and in one scene the heroine is slathered with fresh butter and orally pleasured by a fluffy white cat.
by Judith Gould
The nortoriously reclusive Gould has sold millions and millions of fat juicy paperbacks to horny housewives and jaded beach-goers, but she's never attained the mega-fame of a Sidney Sheldon or Judith Krantz. Too bad, cuz at her best, she kicks both their tired liposucked butts. SINS, about a little French girl who escapes the Nazis and goes on to become a filthy rich queen of international fashion, became a Joan Collins miniseries, minus the surplus of explicit sex, lovingly rendered in almost clinical detail— a Gould specialty. FOREVER, not to be confused with the Judy Blume teen sensation, is an unbelievably convoluted massive luxury overdose of murder and globe-hopping forbidden love. My personal fave is NEVER TOO RICH, in which a feisty street urchin becomes a supermodel against a backdrop of champagne-guzzling Manhattan society whores, graphic gay sex and Brian DePalma-esque serial slashings.Here's a sample from TEXAS BORN: "You know where that tongue hasn't been yet?" he asked with deliberate cruelty... She stared at him in sudden loathing, then nodded. "But you've got to like doing it", he said softly. "You've got to promise me you'll enjoy it." ... But later, when he lowered his bared buttocks down into her face, she had to struggle to keep from being sick.... As she vomited, Jenny realized for the first time just how much she had come to despise her husband." Stock up before your next cross-country flight!
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Christian McLaughlin
After penning beloved, best-selling novels Glamourpuss and Sex Toys of the Gods, Christian McLaughlin went on to create and produce the first nighttime cable soap opera, MTV's Spyder Games, and has also written for Desperate Housewives, Married: With Children, The Young and The Restless, Guiding Light, the Bold and the Beautiful, and One Life to Live.
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