blog news, book reviews, business

Why reposts can really pay off handsomely…

Reposts can really pay off handsomely… I know this to be true. I’m sure some readers wonder why I recycle content. In fact, I’m reminded of Sting, one of my favorite musicians, who is quite adept at the rehash. Listen to his songs– often, you’ll find snippets of older songs within them. Sometimes, he reuses lyrics from another song, or maybe a riff. He’s also been known to completely redo his songs, even bonafide hits like “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” circa 1981…
Rehashed and revamped in 1986…
And yet another revamp… totally different.

It can be a good idea to revamp and rehash. Yesterday, I was reminded why, as I looked at my Amazon.com SiteStripe, not expecting any surprises. I have been an Amazon Associate since 2004. After all of those years, I don’t think I’ve so much as made $200 in commissions. I tend to get $10 payments every few months. My purpose in blogging isn’t to sell things, so it doesn’t bother me that I don’t make much money. However, it is nice when making money happens.

Lately, I’ve written more fresh book reviews. However, since I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress, I’ve been reposting old stuff. Old book reviews are very interesting to some people. Lately many people are hitting my review of Going My Own Way, a 1983 book written by Bing Crosby’s son, Gary. Some have also read my reviews of Debby Boone’s 1981 memoir, So Far, and Debby’s sister Cherry’s book, Starving for Attention.

The biggest surprise, though, was revealed yesterday. Within the past couple of days, someone visited my review of Dian Hanson’s 2011 book, The Big Book of Pussy. The person who visited used my Amazon.com link to purchase a copy of the book. Provided they keep the book (and I’m not holding my breath), I’ll get a $22 commission in March. That’s pretty cool!

I bought The Big Book of Pussy completely whimsically about ten years ago. It’s one of a trio of books I own by Hanson. I first noticed Hanson’s 3D photography book, The Big Book of Breasts, in 2009. It was when we lived in Germany the first time, and I was on a day trip to Munich. I was walking past a bookstore when I noticed Hanson’s book in the window. When I moved back to the States, I ordered it from Amazon.

This book isn’t as scandalous as it seems…

Amazon was doing its usual “suggestive selling”, and they also recommended The Big Book of Pussy and The Big Butt Book. Since I was ordering anyway, I decided to get those books, too. Then, I reviewed all three of them for the now defunct product review site, Epinions.com. Hanson also wrote books about legs and penises, but I decided not to order those. When we moved back to Germany in 2014, I left most of my books in storage. Dian Hanson’s books are big coffee table affairs, and we had limited funds for shipping our household items. Three big books that I don’t look at often would have taken up valuable space and weight.

At some point, Hanson’s artsy body part books went out of print, even though people are clearly still interested in them. I see that reasonably priced and sized “little” versions are available of her books, but not the big ones like I own. Now, I kind of wish I’d brought them with me, because there’s obviously a market for them. In fact, sometimes I catch myself missing other items I have in storage. I wish we had our curio/china cabinet, for instance. I also wish I had my karaoke disc collection, my photo albums, and my mom’s piano. Of course, mom’s piano is extremely heavy, and I don’t play well at all. But I could learn!

I know that sooner or later, we’ll eventually reunite with the rest of our belongings. I just don’t know when that will be. Right now, Bill wants to buy a house in Europe somewhere and settle here. If we do that, it will mean going to the States temporarily to settle our affairs. If we don’t, we’ll just move back home somewhere.

I do appreciate it when people make purchases through my Amazon links. I don’t expect people to do that, but it’s really nice when it happens. It’s a great feeling when someone finds one of my posts useful, especially when it’s a review. I wanted to share this news on Facebook but, given the recently draconian bot discipline over there, I thought better of it. I’m afraid someone might report me for being too “suggestive” when I crow about selling a rare copy of The Big Book of Pussy. Story of my life… I can’t be completely transparent to most people about exactly where I met Bill, either. 😉

Anyway, if you’ve made a purchase through my blog, thank you very much. Especially if you’re the one who bought Hanson’s rare book, which is going for a lot more than I think it’s worth. I hope the book turns out to be all you hope it will be! And if it doesn’t, and you return the book, I’ll understand. Still, I’ve definitely learned that reposts can pay off handsomely. Oh… and sex sells!

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book reviews, language

Reposted book review: Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing

While I’m reposting blog entries, here’s another book review I wrote for the now defunct review site, Epinions.com, on September 17, 2013. Just reposting it so I don’t lose it forever.

Mood music for this post… Fair warning that it’s not safe for work!

Yesterday, while hanging out on Facebook, I lamented to my fellow books top reviewers here on Epinions that my latest reading project, Melissa Mohr’s 2013 book Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, was taking forever to read.  A few hours later, I had finished the book after a couple of weeks of reading.  Though I did complain to my husband, Bill, about all the profanity in The Big Lebowski when we watched it the other night, I have to admit that I enjoy swearing.  I don’t understand why so many people get upset over so-called filthy language.  For me, the swearing in The Big Lebowski had gotten annoying because it was the same words uttered over and over again and had become boring.  It wasn’t so much because the “f-word” itself is offensive to me.

Melissa Mohr, whose book was introduced to me on Facebook by famously foul mouthed singer, producer, and radio host, Red Peters, has attempted to explain where swearing comes from.  In her book, Holy Sh*t, she explains the history behind some of the dirtiest words in English, linking history, literature, and even art and providing a comprehensive and scholarly explanation behind words like f*ck, c*nt, sh*t, and even the “n-word”. 

The curious student in me lapped up all this new information enthusiastically, though not without effort.  I appreciated the way Mohr married history and current events to write a lucid discussion of the origin of swear words and curses.  This is a great book for foul mouthed nerds. 

I was surprised that the overall negative attitude about cursing seems to have evolved relatively recently.  I was particularly interested in Mohr’s discussion about the so-called n-word, which has gotten a number of people in trouble lately.  We’ve become so sensitized to that word that even using words that sound similar, like niggle and niggardly, neither of which have any racist connotations at all, can get a person fired or forced to resign from their job.  Mohr relates that scandalous word to hate speech and provides an interesting discussion about court cases in which using that word could be considered “hate speech” that is not protected under the First Amendment, and when it’s simply rude.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, it took me a long time and considerable effort to get through this book.  While I did find Mohr’s writing scholarly and competent, I didn’t find it especially entertaining.  Holy Sh*t really is an academic look at cursing.  Mohr did an admirable job researching and providing notes so readers who want to study more about the phenomenon of swear words can read on in other scholarly books.  It’s not so much a book intended to entertain as it is to inform, although I’m sure many readers are able to be both as they read Mohr’s history of swearing.

Frankly, I have done a lot of studying in my lifetime and am somewhat less interested in academic books than I might have been when I was younger.  On the other hand, I can’t deny that I learned a lot reading Holy Sh*t and it was ultimately worth the effort.  There was a time long ago when people thought nothing of cursing.  Mohr explains why we suddenly had “words we couldn’t say on television” and why some people determined that people who cuss are “lazy”, “uneducated”, and “low class”.  She enlightens those of us who wonder why we have “bad words” and who determined that those words are bad. 

This is a good book for people who love language.  If you have any English majors on your Christmas list, this might be a great book for them to read; if they aren’t offended by profanity, anyway.  It certainly was good reading for this former English major, even though I’m trying to read less lofty books these days.

I give it four stars.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, mental health, narcissists

Repost: Sociopaths hiding in plain sight…

I wrote this post for my original Blogger version of The Overeducated Housewife on February 4, 2016. I’m reposting it today, because it included an old Epinions review of a very good book I read years ago. I anticipate that this post will be mostly reposted as/is– that is, minimal or no editing of the original content. At the time I wrote this piece, we were living in Stuttgart, and I noticed someone who appeared to be a bit of a sociopath. That hunch was confirmed the following year. I’m no longer in the Facebook group I mentioned.

A few years ago, I read a fascinating book by Dr. Martha Stout called The Sociopath Next Door.  I reviewed the book on Epinions and have included my review at the bottom of this page for your perusal.  It’s a very good book and I wish I had brought my copy of it with me to Germany.  I am reminded of it this morning as I consider something that happened in our local community the other day.

On the sociopathic guy’s Facebook page…

A father posted about a scary incident involving his daughter.  She was walking home alone when she was confronted by a strange man who said he wanted to talk to her.  The girl said no and kept walking.  The man continued to try to engage her, so she ran from him.  He chased her.  Fortunately, she was able to escape.

The father of this girl was very upset–  livid, actually– that his daughter would be harassed this way on a military installation.  Most people who were responding to his post were very kind and comforting.  They commented on how scary the situation must have been for the girl and expressed happiness and relief that she was okay.  The vast majority of commenters were outraged that this had happened in our community and were very supportive.

There was one commenter, though, who seemed to be taking a rather adversarial view.  He questioned the father’s version of events.  At one point, he even called the father a nasty euphemism referring to a certain part of the female anatomy.  When he was called out for being so contentious, the trollish commenter changed his tone to one that was superficially more supportive.  He commented that he himself has daughters and would be concerned about their welfare.  Then, curiously, he asked the father if his daughter had been able to tell if the person who had confronted her was a grown man or a kid.

I had noticed this particular commenter before.  He struck me as being intelligent, charming, and even funny.  My initial impressions of him were somewhat positive to neutral.  He didn’t make me suspicious.  In fact, at first blush, he seemed likable.  But then I saw him in action last night and my mind changed.

I’ll be honest.  I hadn’t been paying strict attention to this guy’s comments, other than noticing that they had turned the mood of that thread noticeably pissy.  The father whose daughter was confronted responded in a hostile way when the commenter asked him to clarify his daughter’s story.  Then I saw the way he changed his tone and it seemed to me that he was trying to knock the father off guard. 

A couple of ladies in another local group noticed some sketchy posts the commenter had put up in a different private group.  The posts did not suggest that he was a concerned father of three girls or even someone who respects women.  He posted a joke about how all of Taylor Swift’s songs are about guys leaving her and none were about blowjobs.  He also posted a picture of a woman in tiny bootie shorts and no top.  On the very tiny shorts was written “Fuck me like you hate me.”  I took a look at the man’s Facebook page and the photo that appears at the top of this post was once used as his cover photo. 

One of the ladies dared to ask, “Do you think maybe the commenter is the one who harassed that guy’s daughter?”  I have to admit, after weighing the evidence and taking a good look at the guy’s comments, I kind of wonder that myself.

Let me be very clear.  I have no idea if the commenter was the guy who harassed the girl who was trying to walk home.  I also don’t know if he’s a sociopath or a narcissist.  However, the things he’s posted are very suspicious.  One thing I’ve noticed about narcissistic types is that they usually don’t really hide.  They thrive on drama and get off on seeing what kind of havoc they wreak.  All sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths.  The fact that the commenter had once used a photo with a caption about sociopaths is very telling, even if it could be explained away.  Bill looked up the photo and said it came from Sherlock Holmes.  Even so, my question is why would a normal person even want to suggest that they might be a sociopath? 

According to The Sociopath Next Door, one out of every twenty-five people is a sociopath.  Our local Facebook group has over two thousand people in it.  Chances are good that there are a bunch of sociopaths lurking around in there.  I, for one, am going to keep my eyes peeled. 

Sounds like a few people I know.

And below is a reposted Epinions review I wrote about Martha Stout’s excellent book, The Sociopath Next Door. I wrote the review on January 29, 2010.

Last week, while I was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee looking for ways to occupy my time, I stopped by a Books-A-Million. If all else fails when I’m killing time, I can usually find some books to read so that I don’t go crazy. My stop at the bookstore looked like it was going to be unsuccessful until I happened to wander into the psychology section. It was at that point that I found the three books that have kept me busy for the past week. There, on the shelf, nestled between books about borderline personality disorder and narcissism, was Martha Stout’s 2005 book, The Sociopath Next Door. Since I’ve been doing some research about narcissism, I thought it was only logical that I do some reading about the narcissist’s close cousin, the sociopath.

Martha Stout, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice. She has served on the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard University for twenty-five years. Aside from being an experienced teacher and clinician, she’s also a very captivating writer. Using vivid examples presented in story form, she accurately presents a clear picture of what a sociopath is, constantly reminding her readers that they are much more common in our society than they might care to believe.

What is a sociopath?

Sociopaths are people who look just like you and me. The difference is, they have no conscience and no feelings, not even for their own psychological or emotional pain. They may be very good at acting like they have feelings, but acting is all they’re doing. They learn how to behave like a regular human being the way a normal person would learn a second language. Any tears they shed are “crocodile tears” and mean absolutely nothing other than to put on a convincing show. They’re somewhat similar to narcissists, except narcissists do have feelings for their own psychological pain and can get their feelings hurt. Sociopaths, by contrast, are completely cold and calculating. They will sell out their own mother or their children if it will help them get ahead.

How prevalent are sociopaths?

Martha Stout estimates that there’s one sociopath in every group of twenty-five people. That makes it more common than many major illnesses that we hear so much about in the media. And yet, a lot of people don’t know anything about this psychological phenomenon. Stout writes that we’re often too quick to dismiss antisocial behavior as a misunderstanding. Or we overlook it because we don’t want to “rock the boat”. Many Americans, as a whole, are often way too nice for their own good. Sociopaths count on that quality to further their agendas and get ahead.

Where can you find sociopaths?

Naturally, one can find sociopaths in prison, though Stout writes that most prisoners aren’t, in fact, sociopaths. The truth is, sociopaths really are everywhere.  The ones that end up in prison are the ones who go too far with their aberrant behavior and get caught.  Stout brilliantly provides examples that illustrate what typical garden variety sociopaths look like.

Take, for instance, that crotchety next door neighbor of yours who’s so mean to everyone and does everything in his or her power to make people miserable. Some people might dismiss that person as simply unlikeable. Stout demonstrates how, upon closer examination, that person might be a sociopath.

How about that spouse (or perhaps ex spouse) who is content to sit around all day and do nothing while you slave away at work and at home? Yes, it’s true that not everyone gets married for love. As Stout illustrates in another example, some people marry because it means they can stop pulling their own weight.  If they have no appreciation for their partner’s work or conscience about their own sloth, they might be a sociopath.

What about that seemingly competent professional who is suddenly very publicly embroiled in a scandal over their credentials, or lack thereof? In one shocking example, Stout shows how a sociopath might get away with not quite being qualified for a job and how that person might use their position to belittle other people.  

What causes sociopaths?

Stout explores what might cause someone to become a sociopath. Apparently, some factors are preventable while other factors aren’t.

My thoughts about this book

I really liked this book. Martha Stout has a very effective way of explaining the subject; it’s entertaining and informative. She not only explains what sociopaths are, she also explains how people might be able to spot narcissists and what they can do to protect themselves from them. Toward the end of the book, she also explains why it’s good to have a conscience. Sociopaths often die unpleasant deaths because of the terrible things they do to other people. They’re often either completely alone or they die violently, by murder or suicide. According to Stout, it’s somewhat rare for a true sociopath to leave this world in a mundane way, surrounded by friends and family. Strangely, I found some comfort in that revelation… wonder if that makes me a sociopath, too?

One negative I can come up with regarding this book is that there seemed to be a few sections in which Stout seemed to ramble a bit. A few paragraphs were a little longer than I thought they needed to be– she’d made her point and it seemed like she was reiterating unnecessarily. But even in those rare situations, the writing was interesting enough that I didn’t mind it so much. And I did learn a lot reading this book.

The other negative for me was that in a couple of chapters, Stout seeemed to be veering a little close to getting political and promoting an agenda. She mentions war and how it’s often based on “holy” principles, religion, and righteous indignation. I will agree that a lot of wars have to do with religion. But personally, I don’t think wars are all bad or unnecessary. It’s true that a lot of people die during wars and a lot of those deaths are senseless and tragic. But, in the same vein, a lot of people are also born because of wars. And in many ways, wars force cultural integration and innovation. She writes that until people start to recognize and contain the sociopaths in our midst, there will never be peace. I submit that permanent world peace is an unattainable goal. Even if world peace were attainable, I would think it would make things kind of boring here on planet Earth.  Imagine how dull life would be if everyone were good and had honorable intentions… we wouldn’t need books like The Sociopath Next Door.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend The Sociopath Next Door to anyone who’s interested in psychology or thinks he or she may be dealing with a sociopath.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through links on my site.

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bad TV, movies, narcissists, true crime

I just watched Secrets of a Gold Digger Killer…

About fifteen years ago, when Bill and I were still living in my native state of Virginia, I read a true crime book by Kathryn Casey. The title of the book was She Wanted it All: A True Story of Sex, Murder, and a Texas Millionaire. At the time that I read the book, Bill was serving a deployment in Iraq. As worried as I was about him, I was also freaked out about his ex wife, who had done some extreme things in the previous year to mess up Bill’s relationship with his daughters. In so many ways, Celeste Beard Johnson’s story reminded me of Ex, only there wasn’t a murder involved.

I reviewed Kathryn Casey’s book on Epinions.com, noting that the story of Celeste Beard Johnson reminded me a lot of my husband’s ex wife, and the drama she was visiting on us at the time. I got nightmares after reading that book. You can find my review here; when Epinions.com died, I managed to save some of my old reviews and have put them on my blog.

Last week, I noticed that a lot of people were reading my review of She Wanted It All. I am Facebook friends with Kathryn Casey, and she had posted about how Celeste’s daughters, Jennifer and Kristina, had done an interview for 20/20. I wasn’t able to watch the show because I live in Germany, and I wasn’t home when it aired, anyway. Maybe I’ll see if I can find it on YouTube or iTunes.

Anyway, when I noticed I was getting a bunch of hits on that old book review from the spring of 2007, I did some Internet sleuthing and discovered that last year, Lifetime put out a made for TV movie about Celeste’s story. The movie, Secrets of a Gold Digger Killer (2021), stars Julie Benz, whom I knew from Desperate Housewives. Julie Benz and I are about the same age, but she’s still very attractive. I liked her in other things I’ve seen her in, so I downloaded the movie and watched it yesterday.

One thing it’s important to remember, of course, is that a made for TV movie is really a movie that’s based on a true story. It also requires condensing a story so that it fits in a short timeframe. Celeste Beard’s story is a hell of a lot more complicated than the way it was portrayed in the made for TV movie. I think Julie Benz was a good choice to play Celeste, but the story is a bit watered down, as it would be. What’s kind of sad about it, though, is that Lifetime’s treatment of it is actually kind of campy. That’s too bad, because I think there are a lot of women like Celeste in the world… toxic, money grifting, narcissistic assholes who are not much better than vampires.

The official trailer for the movie… At this writing, someone has also uploaded the whole thing, so you don’t have to pay iTunes to see it.

At the beginning of the movie, Celeste (Benz) is shown flirting with an older man at an Austin, Texas country club, serving him vodka tonics. The lonely old man, Steven Beard, is a wealthy Austin area television mogul. He’s loaded with money, but since his wife died, he has no one to share his good fortune with. Celeste zeroes in on him, putting on the charm, batting her eyes, and quickly convincing him to fall in love with her and let her and her two daughters, Jennifer and Kristina, move in with him. The movie doesn’t explain this, but Jennifer and Kristina are twins, and products of Celeste’s first marriage to Craig Bratcher. She alienated the girls from their father, and they even wound up in foster care a few times, when she couldn’t foist them off on family. Bratcher eventually committed suicide, as Celeste drained her subsequent husbands of money and other resources. When she married Beard, Celeste insisted that he adopt her daughters, although in the film, it looks as if adopting them was Steven’s idea.

She would marry twice more before making Steven Beard her fourth husband. At the beginning of their relationship, Beard was very kind and generous, and he was patient and understanding when Celeste would spend his money recklessly. When he finally got fed up with her crazy spending habits, Beard brought up the “D” word. Celeste responded by threatening suicide, which led to her being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. There, she met Tracey Tarlton, who was an openly lesbian woman with anger issues and a history of depression. She and Celeste became buddies, and later, had a relationship.

Tracey Tarlton is played by Justine Warrington, who gives the character an almost comic treatment. She confesses to Celeste that she got in trouble for hitting an ex lover’s husband with her truck. When Celeste asks her if she really did that, Tracey says, with a conspiratorial giggle, “No… but I thought about it.” It was at that point that I realized how tasteless this adaptation of Beard’s story really is. Lifetime turned it into a salacious tale, seeming to miss that a man who had friends and family members who loved him was killed for Celeste’s selfish agenda.

Celeste talks Tracey into killing Steven Beard. She convinces her that he’s an abusive man who will leave her destitute and alone if they get a divorce. Tracey got it into her head that if Steven Beard was out of the way, she and Celeste could be together and live happily ever after. But after Steven died, Celeste took up with her fifth husband. That was when the real life Tracey spoke up. The movie makes it appear that the girls had talked her into confessing what really happened. Celeste had signed a prenuptial agreement that would have given her $500,000 in the case of divorce. But if Steven died, she’d get half of his fortune, as the other half would go to Steven’s daughter from his first marriage, a woman named Becky (Patricia Harras) who was older than Celeste. In real life, Celeste was 38 years younger than Steven Beard. Julie Benz is clearly older than the real life Celeste was when this was happening in the early 90s. The actors portrayed Celeste and Steven were too close in age.

One thing I noticed was the detective– Detective Rolands– who seems to pronounce the name so that it sounds like “Rawlins”, which made me think that’s a common name for cops and detectives on TV. Every time he referred to himself by name and flashed a snarky look at Celeste, I was reminded of cheesy 70s and 80s era cop shows.

I didn’t think the acting in this movie was particularly good, either. I remember thinking Julie Benz was so beautiful when she was on Desperate Housewives. I thought she was a good actress, too. In this film, she was all gushy and unconvincing. I came away with the idea that she did this movie strictly for the money. It’s not that I really expected a whole lot better from Lifetime TV. Most of the newest movies I’ve seen made by them are pretty terrible on every level, from the quality of acting, to the veracity of the stories presented, to the way certain things are presented, like crime investigations. They bear little resemblance to the truth and aren’t plausible. Some of it probably has to do with the budget and needing attractive people to star. I’m also sure some people like vapid, shallow, forgettable movies rather than detailed stories.

There was a time when they made movies that were of decent quality, but the ones I’ve seen recently have been disappointing. I saw one they made with Judd Nelson in it. I like Judd Nelson as an actor– I grew up in the 80s, after all. But that movie, Girl in the Basement (2021), which was loosely based on the Josef Fritzl story, was also very campy, salacious, and poorly acted. And both of these movies, made for Lifetime TV, barely scratched the surface of the complexity of the stories. In better hands, this could have been a very compelling movie. I would hope it would have been handled with more respect, too. Lifetime treats it almost like it should be a funny story. There’s nothing funny about what Celeste Beard did to Steven Beard, his daughter, or her daughters, who– thankfully– are much better people than she is.

When I reviewed Kathryn Casey’s book, She Wanted it All, my husband was very estranged from his daughters. As time passed, one of his daughters reconnected and has shown us that, like Jennifer and Kristina Beard, she’s a much better caliber of person than her mother is. Sadly, like Jennifer and Kristina, my husband’s daughters were basically turned into servants, serving their mother’s narcissism and need to take everything from everyone close to her. But when I first read about Celeste Beard, I literally had nightmares, because she reminded me so much of Ex. This movie is laughable and silly… just as Ex has become to me… even if she’s still not a laughing matter to her poor daughter, who still takes her seriously, because she’s still her mother, even if she is a lying, narcissistic twit.

I feel like this true crime story should have been treated with a lot more seriousness and respect. If you are truly interested in this story, I would definitely recommend taking the time to read Kathryn Casey’s book. It’s very comprehensive and well-written, and you’ll get the real story, rather than this appalling bullshit that attempts to turn a tragedy into a comedy show. It’s really not funny, and shouldn’t have been turned into a campy Lifetime TV story.

Celeste Beard is currently serving a life sentence, although she will be eligible for parole in 2042. Tracey Tarleton was released from prison in 2011 and has completed her parole. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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book reviews

Repost of my review of Stephen Collins’ Eye Contact… 

I wrote this review for Epinions.com in March 2013, and I’m reposting it here, because we were just talking about Stephen Collins last night. This book was definitely the “anti-RevCam”. It appears here “as/is”. He’s now living in Iowa with a German woman named Jenny. 😉

Yes… THAT Stephen Collins, the same guy who played Reverend Camden on 7th Heaven for 11 years.  He wrote two shitty novels.  I have read and reviewed them both.  This is my review of his book, Eye Contact.  Enjoy!

Pros: Not full of typos.  Reasonably well-written.

Cons: Implausible plot.  Unlikable protagonist.  Sleazy.

I recently made the curious decision to watch all the episodes of the old WB series 7th Heaven.  As I was watching the show, I learned that the actor, Stephen Collins, who played the Reverend Eric Camden, the patriarch of the large Camden brood, had tried to branch out into a career in music.  As I was investigating Collins’ music career, I learned that Collins had also made a foray into the literary world.  Because I just can’t resist a good snark fest, I decided to read his first book, Eye Contact (1994). 

On the cover of my copy of Eye Contact, there is a ringing endorsement from Stuart Woods promising a book that is “erotic, funny, and before long, terrifying.”  I finished this book last night and I think there’s a little false advertising going on.  Granted, I’m not really a fan of trashy novels to start with, nor am I generally impressed with Stephen Collins.  I wasn’t expecting this book to be very good and frankly, it really wasn’t.  On the other hand, it’s not as bad as it could be.  It’s not full of typos, for instance. 

The plot

Beautiful New York City based actress Nicolette Stallings (Nick or Susan Nichols to her friends) is a ho who really gets off on the thrill of the chase.  She enjoys one night stands with random men, much to her detriment.  One night, she’s in a restaurant dressed a skin tight peach cashmere dress.  She notices a Wall Street looking guy sitting across the room with his wife.  Despite the fact that the couple looks like they’re having an anniversary dinner, Nick decides she wants to do him.  She opens a window of opportunity, which the guy inveitably takes, and later ends up drunk on champagne.  She boinks the hell out of this random Wall Street looking guy in a hotel room she can’t afford.  And yes, despite the fact that she’s a struggling actress and he works on Wall Street, she is the one paying for the hotel.  Totally implausible, if she’s really that pretty and irresistible and he’s really that taken with her.

Over the next few days, Nick Stallings learns how damaging being a ho can be.  She suffers a series of inconvenient mishaps that land her in some serious legal hot water.  It turns out her random bed partner is a deranged, suicidal Wall Streeter who decides it’s not enough to traumatize Nick by killing himself in her home.  He has to try to ruin her life, too.  Luckily, Nick Stallings has a few brand new friends in New York City and occasional brain function to boot!  Will she be able to avoid being framed for a murder that was really a suicide?

My thoughts

As trashy novels go, I think Eye Contact is about standard quality.  As I read it, I pictured a B grade movie complete with B grade actors playing all the parts.  The story is implausible and takes place in much too short a time frame.  Within two days of meeting the Wall Street guy and witnessing him jumping out her window, surviving, and later coming back while high on Demerol to stab himself to death in front of her, Nick is being investigated for his possible murder.  The medical examiner is somehow able to determine the guy’s death is sketchy within a day or two of his death. 

Within that short course of time, Nick meets a couple who end up being super kind to her, even letting her move into their apartment after the lawyer’s bloody death.  I know that a lot of New Yorkers are much kinder than they seem, but what are the odds that this chick would find such a generous couple just when she needs them?  These folks really go above and beyond the call of duty for this woman they barely know, driving her around, hooking her up with a lawyer, and giving her food and shelter.  Collins also saddles these characters with irritating stereotypical New York accents heavily peppered with the f-word as if it’s very endearing.  I don’t have issues with the f-word, but when it’s used solely to effect a mood about a character and provide comic relief, it becomes a cheap gimmick. 

I didn’t think the character, Nick (or Susan or Nicolette), was very relateable.  I didn’t really care if she got out of her jam.  She comes off as someone with serious issues.  First off, there’s the name thing.  Her real name is Susan and half the characters call her that.  Her stage name is Nicolette Stallings, which the public knows her as and as some of her friends call her.  Her nickname is Nick, which is how Collins addresses her.  While I understand that actors often have stage names, the constant name issue was cumbersome and annoying.

Secondly, Collins makes Nick out to be a bit of an oversexed bimbo.  She’s portrayed as a sexy woman who can’t help herself, even if a man is otherwise engaged.  There are interludes within the text that have Nick doing things that are vaguely kinky, but not all that sexy or erotic.  As I read about them, I wasn’t turned on…  In fact, my exact reaction was a resounding “Eeeeeew!”  Collins adds annoying little asides in italics that are supposed to be Nick’s thoughts… her better judgment, really, warning against all the stupid things she does.  Sadly, Nick never listens to her better judgment and ultimately gets herself in a big mess. 

Collins tries to develop this character through a series of flashbacks to Nick’s younger years, when she was an “ugly duckling” child and the low self-esteem that tends to come with being a homely kid.  This is supposed to help the reader understand why she’s such an unrepetant ho as an adult.  However, instead of feeling empathy for Nick, I felt like she needed a competent psychiatrist with an open calendar who specializes in sexual hangups.  Any time a pre-teen goes rifling though her father’s dresser, tries on his bikini bathing suit and gets it “moist”, then puts it back in the dresser, I can’t help but think she’s got some serious Electra complex issues.

As I was reading Eye Contact, I couldn’t believe Collins the writer is the same guy as Collins the actor, who portrayed the Reverend Eric Camden, the 7th Heaven character who was obsessed with making sure none of his kids had premarital sex.  This novel is chock full of the f-word and sleazy sex scenes that I didn’t find all that erotic or interesting.  To me, Nick came off as someone very unlikeable, slutty, and shallow.  I wondered what or who inspired Collins to create her… and if he really thought his readers, most of whom are likely women, would think she was someone they would root for or respect.  I mean, even if you’re reading a book about someone very unlikable, you at least want to have some respect for the character, right?  To me, Nick Stallings came off as just a stupid ho who needed to keep her mouth shut and her legs crossed… and maybe stop by the doctor’s office for an HIV test and some penicillin. 

Overall

Like I said, this book is not as bad as it could be.  I’ve certainly read worse novels than this.  But I didn’t think Eye Contact was very good.  As much as I dislike Stephen Collins as an actor and a singer, I probably like him even less as an author.  But he did write another book in 1998 which I will read and review, just for the sake of completeness. ETA in 2022: I do remember reading the book, but I don’t know if I can still access the review. I seem to remember thinking it was worse than Eye Contact.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission on sales made through my site. But I wouldn’t recommend this book, anyway.

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