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.
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?
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.
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.