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First, of course, check the reviews:

Front Cover and Bogus Reviews

Now, two out of three’s pretty good, don’t you agree? Mr. Steingarten often exaggerates for effect and he’s a notorious kidder. So I won’t get carried away. Ms. MacDiarmid, I note, remains North America’s Dominatrix-in-Chief of the breathless sentence. And while I deeply value her approval I can’t be held accountable for Ms. Pattanayak’s colorful language.



Yet one exists. Scarily, it weighs in at 8,500 words. But it provides a pungent and finer-grained sense of what the novel’s up to and could be forwarded as a PDF to any legitimate publisher or authentic literary agent who expresses interest. (Notice: Offer may expire at any time.)

What you’ll find here are (A) a formal pitch or tub-thump or blurb, (B) some remarks leading into a brief outline of the novel and (C) the brief outline.

Here’s the pitch (what you might see on the rear of the cover in the case of a paperback, or if its hardcover somewhere on the dust jacket):

“Raw and outrageous, THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT is the story of three deeply unconventional young people: the big sister-kid brother duo of Melody Keene and Damon McConnell, and Melodys childhood and lifelong friend Collie Poliakevich, who becomes the world-acclaimed but finally suicidal Colleen Clarke. Against all odds Melody, Damon and Collie scale the heights — discovering very different routes — of the same business: the brutal Hollywood film industry of the late 1950s and early ’60s, an era of both historic transition and rare opportunity. Melody is the Kooky Girl Next Door who ironically achieves her greatest successes portraying prostitutes and whose personal life is one of frustration and loneliness. Collie ends as an inwardly desolate sex icon chosen to be the mistress of a president. And Damon effortlessly invents himself as the golden youth whose real-life erotic triumphs exceed in quantity and variety anything ever imagined on the screen.

“As the trio’s lives grow fatally entangled within a vibrant tapestry of diverse and unruly supporting characters and treacherous locales it becomes clear that although Melody and Damon are siblings they’re not friends and the distance between them is both essential for him and deeply hurtful to her. We leave the two farther apart than ever, but with Melody aching for the impossible while the launch pad is readied for an even more disturbing sequel. Must she destroy him? There’s too much life in this pair for just one novel and the first finale won’t be the last.”

(End of pitch or blurb.)

Yes, perhaps high in empty calories. So stomp me to death. Yet ... diverse and unruly supporting characters and treacherous locales at least tries for something a bit different. Anyway, why “raw and outrageous”? This: sometimes the dialog transcends mere robustness. Occasionally you run into stuff that might be dubbed psychosexual. It gets ideological. Class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender politics are exploited and not always in principled ways. Brutal disrespect happens. Humor, tragedy, tenderness, slapstick, bad attitude and urbanity collide. SUN is a fast-moving mixed entertainment for self-confident readers who value good writing but don’t always demand good taste.

Something more. Melody and Damon, even though to a not inconsiderable extent composite characters, are undeniably provoked by two specific and actual individuals. Indeed, no few of the book’s inhabitants are inspired by real, readily identifiable human beings. Certain incidents in the novel reference events already in the public record, along with scuttlebutt from other sources. Maybe this means the author lacks imagination. On the other hand perhaps it doesn’t. There’s really only one way to find out.

And notice how I didnt say roman à clef.” Leave that for the precious littérateurs. They know who they are.

The two chapters available on this site kick things off, almost literally. In Chapter One — which unfolds in a Beverly Hills psychoanalyst’s office the day after construction of the Berlin Wall begins, and climaxes abruptly and violently as her session goes grotesquely wrong — we see Melody start to lose it. In Chapter Two, a flashback to early childhood, we get some idea of why she sought help in the first place.

Also on the subject of help, it’s helpful that the novel falls neatly into four parts, each with its own title:

(I.) The Analysand from Hell. Following a desperate confrontation with Jeffrey Gould, her formidable shrink, Melody experiences neurasthenic collapse over a period of roughly five hours, during which time she learns of the suicide of her childhood friend and fellow film star Colleen Clarke (née Poliakevich). Episodes from the early lives of Melody, Damon and Collie as they grow up in obscurity in the District of Columbia are interlayered throughout, including an account of how Melody may once have saved Damon’s life. (Also there’s a flash-forward to the sequel in progress. Damon is a United States Senator; he decides to run for the presidency. Melody has become a noted New Age prophetess.) Back in the present Melody views Collie’s body as psychic darkness descends. And more.

(II.) Childhoods of the Rich and Famous. The fancy cutting back-and-forth across time in Part One is jettisoned in favor of straight-line narrative. Countless events occur. Encouraged by Dorothea McConnel (she’s the siblings mother, and yes, only one “l” back then) — whose doggedness, focused intelligence and solid character we increasingly learn to appreciate, certainly more than her daughter does young Melody studies ballet. Damon and his buddy Mike Tully (the product of a reverse-Abie’s Irish Rose mixed marriage) become adolescent pornographers, albeit briefly. In the meantime they also discover politics. Melody and Damon learn their dad’s a philanderer. Collie is raped by her mother’s live-in boyfriend. Melody and Collie enjoy an amateur theatrical triumph. Collie metamorphoses into a pioneering centerfold, then a Hollywood starlet. Melody begins her career on Broadway with a summer job dancing in the chorus of Rainbow’s End. Damon’s own success as a high school scholar, athlete, politician and cocksman commences the erotic part inaugurated by an encounter thats not merely astounding but also disconcerting and in retrospect inevitable. And more.

(III.) Through Adversity to the Stars. Collie becomes a well, a star, followed by Melody (who in the meantime has married). Both, not surprisingly, now live in Southern California. Damon, still on the East Coast, has already enjoyed what some folks call sexual congress with an astonishing number of females. Melody gives birth to her daughter Kara. We follow her unusual (for that historical period) relationship with her husband Scott Gordon and her palship with Dan Podesta, a multitalented, Mob-connected megastar. Collie gets married too but learns she can’t have kids, then divorces and finds further unfulfillment as a secret presidential mistress. Damon, having dropped out of Columbia to become an actor, hunts down the acclaimed playwright Rawley Polk in Florida and, after coming on to this colorfully disenchanted person in a creative manner, makes a pitch for a film role. Back in L.A. Melody shoots a cop. And more.

(IV.) Means and Ends. We track Collie’s downward spiral en route to suicide. Melody’s frustration with her own career and tantamount-to-slavery long term contract with the producer Lou Freeman leads to increasing emotional anguish and actual physical agony. Damon’s career takes off. We learn of his relationship with Beth Goode, daughter of the iconic Tom Goode (whom Beth, that is Melody roundly dislikes and by whom she’s detested in return). Melody’s crackup in L.A. is followed by an apparently (never forget: nothing in life is certain) successful sojourn at a Swiss sanitarium … and in addition to the acceptable resolution of several important issues others remain undecided awaiting the sequel. And more.

VENUES: Washington, New York, Los Angeles, New Haven, Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Sicily, Rome, Tuscany, London, Paris, the Garonne and the Côte d’Azur, somewhere outside Zürich.

CONTENT ADVISORY: Expect content.

Copyright ©2012 by Nick Mann

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