The Sporadic Beaver

My Wife, the Rock Singer

September 28, 2012

Tags: Mary Lyn Maiscott, Hoop, Ella Lounge

If you were at the Bloomsday on Beaver Street launch party in June, then you heard Mary Lyn Maiscott and HooP perform two sets of originals and covers in the service of helping me sell books. Mary Lyn, who happens to be my wife (and whom I call the Mistress of Syntax), is a singer-songwriter whose work you can hear on her album Blue Lights. HooP is a gifted guitarist whom you might have seen busking on the New York City subway. Tonight, September 28, along with bassist Peter Weiss, they're going to be performing downstairs at the intimate Ella Lounge in the East Village, beginning at 8:30. Tickets are $5 online (listed under HooP, top act Decadence) and $10 at the door.

I’ll be there too, in my usual capacity as roadie. Hope some of you can stop by. Below is an exclusive peek at the set list. You can hear some of these songs on Blue Lights.

Madame Olenska (Maiscott). Midnight in California (Maiscott). Crazy Girl (Maiscott), Things I Lost (Maiscott), Sweet Dancer (HooP), Crucified (Maiscott), Well-Adjusted (HooP), Time (Maiscott), Be-Bop-A-Lula (Tex Davis and Gene Vincent), You Can’t Do That (Lennon-McCartney), Brown-Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)

The Art of the Interview

September 27, 2012

Tags: The Bloodsprayer, Beaver Street


A classic interview with Kate Copstick and Jamie Maclean of the Erotic Review.

In my career as an author, I've been fortunate that a lot of journalists have wanted to ask me questions about the books I've written. With Nowhere Man alone, I've done approximately 300 interviews since the book was published in 2000. I found that after the first 50 or so, I was rarely asked a question that I'd never been asked before.

I'm still in the early stages of this process with Beaver Street; I've done about 20 interviews so far, and still find myself surprised by questions. What I like about interviews, especially with writers who've actually read the book, is that their questions give me a precise sense of what people are most interested in. Their questions provoke me and make me think about things in news ways. For me, this kind of communication is the entire point of writing books.

Last week, a writer who goes by the pen name J. D. Malinger posted on The Bloodsprayer a very positive Beaver Street review, “Memoirs of an Editor of Pleasure.” He was so taken with the book that he’s now in the process of interviewing me. Malinger, who in his real life is a trained historian, has been asking me the kind of questions that don’t lend themselves to glib, offhand answers—questions about such things as misanthropy and misogyny in the porn biz. This interview, in fact, has been taking up most of my time the past couple of days, and I’m sure the end result will be epic. So consider this advance notice. Someday soon, there’s going to be one hell of an interview posted on The Bloodsprayer. Look for it.

On the Radio with Shu

September 26, 2012

Tags: Shu-Izmz Radio, Core of Destruction Radio, Beaver Street, podcast

Over the past two weeks, Bryan "Shu" Schuessler has been paying a lot of attention to Beaver Street on his site, Shu-Izmz, which, as he delicately puts it, has an affinity for "boobs, blood, and bush." Apparently, my investigative memoir about the porn industry is just what he's been looking for. He gave Beaver Street his highest recommendation, calling it in his review "a fascinating peek inside a world of sex, indulgence, and exhibitionism."

Recently, Shu interviewed me for Shu-Izmz Radio. Our extensive conversation, originally broadcast on Core of Destruction Radio, is now available as a podcast, which you can download here. We talk about pornography, politics, John Lennon, Nazis, and writing.

It takes me about a half hour to warm up to Shu, and to relax. But once I do, listening to this interview is like listening to a couple of old friends talking on the telephone. It’s very cool, so please check it out.

Join Us to Celebrate Banned Book Week

September 25, 2012

Tags: banned books

Here's the complete lineup in order of appearance for the Banned Book Week group reading in the upstairs lounge at the 2A bar in New York City on Thursday, October 4, at 8 P.M. The event is FREE and the address is 25 Avenue A, on the corner of East 2nd Street.

Zoe Hansen: Contributor to The Heroin Chronicles reads from Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. Special guest Raffaele (The Ho and the Mo).

Lainie Speiser: Author of Confessions of the Hundred Hottest Porn Stars reads from Tales of Ordinary Madness by Charles Bukowski.

Eric Danville: Author of The Complete Linda Lovelace reads from Inside Linda Lovelace by Linda Lovelace.

Robert Rosen: Author of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography and Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon reads from The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

Shannon Conley: Lead vocalist Lez Zeppelin reads from Kurt Cobain by Michael Martin.

Puma Perl: Author of Ruby True reads from The Love Book by Lenone Kandel.

Rev Jen: Author of Elf Girl reads from Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller.

Lisa Ann: Adult film star who impersonates Sarah Palin in Nailin’ Palin reads from Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.

Kristin Davis: Author of The Manhattan Madam’s Secrets to Great Sex reads from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

This is a great group of people, it’s going to be a wild night and it’s going to be packed, so please arrive before 8. We hope to see you there!

What Price Beaver?

September 24, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Amazon

About a month ago, I noted that Amazon U.S. had reduced the price of the paperback edition of Beaver Street to $13.57 from its usual $19.95. This discount lasted all of four hours before Beaver Street returned to being one of the very few books on Amazon not discounted at all, not even by a penny. Why Amazon is doing this is hard to say. To call the decision-making process at this Internet monolith "opaque" would be an understatement. Most likely, they're trying to drive consumers to buy the Kindle edition, which is usually available for around $9.98, half off the cover price.

I also noticed that another significant discount briefly kicked in about a week ago, to coincide with my appearance at the Book House, in Albany. Perhaps this is Amazon's way of insuring that if anybody buys a copy of Beaver Street, it's not going to be from a brick-and-mortar store, where the book always sells for the full price.

I am aware that in these absurd economic times, a lot of people simply don’t want to spend $19.95 (plus tax) on any book, even one that they really want to read. So, if you’re one of those people who’ve been hesitating to buy Beaver Street due to the price, let this serve as a reminder that Amazon does occasionally offer the book at a significant discount, but the sale never lasts very long. All I can suggest is check the Amazon page often, and if you see Beaver Street marked down, grab it.

And if twenty bucks isn’t a big deal to you, please buy your Beaver at a real store, like Shakespeare’s or McNally Jackson in New York City, Powell’s in Portland, Left Bank or Apop in St. Louis, Quimby’s in Chicago, or the aforementioned Book House.

Memoirs of an Editor of Pleasure

September 21, 2012

Tags: The Bloodsprayer, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Core of Destruction Radio

The positive Beaver Street reviews keep coming from all sectors of the cultural spectrum, and the latest one, "Memoirs of an Editor of Pleasure," from The Bloodprayer, by (ahem) J.D. Malinger, can best be described as "intellectual lowbrow." The site's slogan is "all the filth that’s fit to publish" (lowbrow). But Malinger describes himself as "a historian by training" (intellectual).

Malinger says that I tell my story with "charisma and charm" and that Beaver Street is "incredibly thoughtful, engaging and entertaining." His only quibble, and he makes clear that it's simply a matter of taste, is my distaste for editing "plumper" mags. Malinger, you see, is a "chubby chaser," and he's glad that the porn industry has at long last acknowledged the existence of such women.

(Note to Malinger: in celebration of Banned Book Week, I’ll be reading from The Catcher in the Rye on Thursday, October 4, 8:00 P.M. at the 2A Bar, 25 Avenue A, in New York City. Thought you might be interested.)

In other Beaver Street news, this Sunday, September 23, at 1 P.M. Eastern Time, Bryan “Shu” Schuessler will be talking to me on Core of Destruction Radio about such things as pornography, politics, John Lennon, Nazis, and writing. Hope you can tune in.

Some Final Thoughts on "About Cherry"

September 20, 2012

Tags: About Cherry

Over the past two days, a lot of people have come to this blog to read my review of About Cherry, a film about a young woman's journey into the porn industry. (It opens in theatres tomorrow.) I enthusiastically praised the movie because of its realistic depiction of a business that few people understand, and because of the noteworthy performances of a talented cast that includes Ashley Hinshaw, James Franco, Heather Graham, Dev Patel, and Lili Taylor.

I mentioned, too, that I was taken aback by the venom that other critics have spewed at this film. One of their criticisms is that the plot is clichéd: girl from dysfunctional family escapes into the world of XXX.

In the 16 years that I spent editing “adult” magazines, I interviewed about 200 porn stars, and the majority of them told me the same thing: They came from dysfunctional families. Incest, rape, and molestation—which I wasn’t permitted to discuss in the mags due to censorship regulations—were, indeed, common themes. So, what may have seemed clichéd to a critic from a mainstream publication who knows little about porn seemed, to me, to be an accurate portrayal of a porn star’s life. Cherry represents Everywoman (and man) who, due to a lack of opportunity, education, and connections, seeks work in adult entertainment.

One Final Note: I’d like apologize to anybody who tried to participate in last night’s live chat on Talk Story TV. The event was again postponed due to technical problems. I may try again next week.

24 Hours

September 19, 2012

Tags: Shu-Izmz, Core of Destruction Radio, Beaver Street, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, About Cherry, Gail Dines, Lorelei Lee, Indies Unlimited, Talk Story TV

Here's a brief rundown of the events of the past day:

Last night, I talked to Bryan Schuessler, who'd recently posted an enthusiastic Beaver Street review on his site Shu-Izmz. In the course of our extensive conversation, we covered a slew of topics that included pornography, politics, John Lennon, Nazis, and writing. The interview will be broadcast this Sunday, September 23, on Core of Destruction Radio and will also be available as a podcast. Check their site for details.

The review of About Cherry that I posted here yesterday came to the attention of a number of people on Twitter, including the film's co-writer, porn star Lorelei Lee, who retweeted the last line: "Guaranteed to piss off Gail Dines." Among other things, I said that About Cherry was the best movie about the porn industry since Boogie Nights. Then, out of curiosity, I read a few other critiques, and was surprised to see how savagely critics had trashed the film. The Hollywood Reporter, for example, called About Cherry "dramatically feeble and fraudulent." Well, obviously I disagree, and I can say with some authority that this particular critic doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. Bring on the controversy, baby!

A site called Indies Unlimited asked me to write a guest blog about how my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, became an international bestseller. My essay will run on Lennon’s 72nd birthday, October 9, and you can read it here after it goes live at 2 P.M. Eastern time.

Finally, please remember to visit Talk Story TV tonight at 9 P.M. Eastern Time for my live chat with Julia Widdop about Beaver Street. The technical problems we experienced last week appear to have been solved.

About Cherry

September 18, 2012

Tags: About Cherry, Stephen Elliott, Lorelei Lee, pornography, Tickled Pink, Boogie Nights, Gail Dines

Cherry (Ashley Hinshaw) and Frances (James Franco) look for love in the world of XXX.
There was a time in the porn industry, about 25 years ago, when people spoke of X-rated films that had "crossover potential." I discuss this phenomenon in my book Beaver Street, in a scene where I'm asked to play a "nerdy file clerk" in Tickled Pink, which I describe as "a screwball comedy with hardcore sex." This is a historic film, I'm told, because, "never before had a porn movie employed fourteen paid extras in one non-sex scene."

Tickled Pink, like a lot of other pornos produced in this brief "Golden Age," had "upscale production values," a quality soundtrack, "performers who could act and fuck," and a well-plotted script written by a smart young director who just happened to be passing through smut on his way to respectability.

Tickled Pink never did crossover into the mainstream. Nor has any other porn flick. In fact, with the porn industry having degenerated into amateur exhibitionism on sites like YouPorn, and professional studs wired on Viagra engaging, as the inimitable adult-industry critic Gail Dines would put it, in “body-punishing sex” with a succession of anonymous starlets, the idea of crossover porno has been long forgotten.

Though it comes very close, About Cherry contains no hardcore sex and therefore cannot be called a crossover movie. It does, however, contain a lot of very explicit sex scenes, and is also the best and most realistic film about the porn industry I’ve seen since Boogie Nights. It’s certainly the best movie yet to be made about pornography in the 21st century, an age when the Internet has taken over and relegated what remains of the venerable “men’s magazine” industry to its deathbed.

This realism can be attributed to About Cherry’s co-writers, director Stephen Elliott, who has written extensively about sex, and Lorelei Lee, a porn star who plays a porn star in the film. Obviously, they both know the business, and their insider knowledge and experience comes across in such scenes as when Angelina aka Cherry, played by the gorgeous young actress Ashley Hinshaw, is interviewed by a porn production company before they hire her to make videos.

Realistically depicted, as well, is the arc of a porn star’s career—single-girl still shoot/single-girl video/two-girl video/boy-girl video—as is the nature of a porn star’s romantic relationship. Cherry begins dating Frances (James Franco), a wealthy coke-addict attorney who doesn’t hesitate to tell her what he thinks of her job: “It’s disgusting.”

The extraordinary ensemble of actors—notably Heather Graham as Margaret, Cherry’s lesbian mentor/director who’s dealing with a jealous girlfriend; Dev Patel as Andrew, Cherry’s supportive gay friend; and Lili Taylor as Phyllis, Cherry’s alcoholic mother—create a milieu of such verisimilitude it can, at times, border on queasy. But the porn industry can, indeed, be a very queasy place.

The plot is basic: Cherry, a high school student, runs away from her dysfunctional family and sleazy boyfriend, Bobby (Jonny Weston), accompanied by Andrew. She winds up in San Francisco, needs a job, and after waitressing in a strip club, finds her way into porn. What’s different is that About Cherry, unlike, say, Boogie Nights, ends on a positive note, if not necessarily a happy one.

Guaranteed to piss off Gail Dines, and that’s a good thing.

Media Events Past and Future

September 17, 2012

Tags: Book House, Julia Widdop, Talk Story TV, Shu-Izmz, Rew & Who?, banned books

Metroland acknowledges a literary event in the Albany area.
Back in New York City after a four-day stay in the Albany area, which included a lot of excellent food, an enlightening visit to a dairy farm, and a Friday-night reading at the Book House that I shall always remember for a clerk's intimation that my responsibilities included store security. I'm pleased to report, however, that nobody stole a copy of Beaver Street, and even if somebody had, busting shoplifters is not my job, man.

I have a busy couple of weeks in front of me, so let me take this opportunity to run down some upcoming media events, which I'll elaborate upon in future postings.

Last week’s live Internet chat with Julia Widdop of Talk Story TV, postponed due to technical problems, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, September 19, 9 P.M. Eastern Time.

On Tuesday, I’m recording an interview with Bryan Schuessler of Shu-Izmz, which will be broadcast on his Internet radio show. As soon as I have a date for that, I’ll post it here.

On Thursday, October 4, at 8 P.M., in celebration of Banned Book Week, I’ll be reading from The Catcher in the Rye at 2A Bar, 25 Avenue A, in New York City. Other authors will be there, as well, reading from a wide assortment of banned book.

On Wednesday, October 10, from 4-6 P.M. Eastern Time, in celebration of John Lennon’s birthday, I’ll be making an encore appearance on ReW & WhO?, which is streamed live on the Internet. If you’re in New York, you’re welcome to join the studio audience at Otto’s Shrunken Head, 538 East 14th Street.

In the meantime, happy New Year to those of you acknowledging the year 5773.

On the Road Again

September 12, 2012

Tags: Book House, Beaver Street, pornography, Julia Widdop, Talk Story TV

Since I tend not to write anything more substantial than a tweet when I'm traveling, this will be my last blog post until Monday. I'm leaving for Albany, NY, on the Megabus (who could resist the price?) tomorrow morning for my Beaver Street event at the Book House, on Friday, September 14, at 7 P.M. So, if you're in the Albany area and in the mood for a provocative discussion about pornography, please do drop by. I see that according to the "What's Happening in Literary Circles" listings in the Albany Times Union, I'm up against Vijay Prashad, at the Oakwood Community Center, where he'll be discussing his book Uncle Swami. He's charging five bucks. My event is free. It's a tough choice, I know, but I really do hope to see you at the Book House.

For those of you not in the Albany area, one more reminder about tonight: At 9 P.M. Eastern Time, I’ll be available for a live Internet chat hosted by Julia Widdop, of Talk Story TV. AMA, as they say, especially if you’ve read one or both of my books.

Distinguishing Characteristics

September 11, 2012

Tags: 9-11, Mary Lyn Maiscott

The fence across the street from St. Vincent’s Hospital. Photo by Mary Lyn Maiscott
Living a mile from Ground Zero, it's impossible to ignore the fact that today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Eleven years ago, I was sitting exactly where I am now, working at home, when I heard the first plane fly directly over my apartment building--the roar was deafening--and slam into the North Tower of the World Trade Center with a muffled crunch that I thought was two cars colliding on the street below. I looked out the window but couldn't see anything, so I went back to work, thinking that if I ever hear another plane flying that low again, I'm filing a formal complaint with the FAA.

What follows is an unfinished piece, "Distinguishing Characteristics" that my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, who was also working at home that day, wrote shortly after 9/11.

Part I

Dental implants. Old burn scar covering entire right knee. Gold tooth.

My idea at first was to write a poem about the distinguishing marks, which were at once lyrical and heartbreaking and overwhelming. To this end I carried a spiral notebook up to the armory. People gathered there to register their missing, and the walls outside were plastered with hundreds of flyers showing pictures, giving descriptions of their relatives and their clothing, telling where they were last seen. This is when we were calling them missing.

I also carried a cheap automatic camera that my credit-card company had given me as a gift (I found out why when I developed the pictures, which were hardly worth keeping). I took only a few pictures. The first was of a bride (at first I wrote “a bridge”; this seems significant) and groom in Madison Square Park. I’d always been leery of the whole institution of marriage, but something about the delicacy of the short tulle veil—lifting as the bride ran a little, smiling, her new husband right behind her, both of them of a dark-skinned extraction that would not help them in the coming days—tugged at something inside me, made me want to cry as so many things did.

I also took a couple of pictures of the flyers, which were ubiquitous, well before I got to the armory; they were on lampposts, on windows, on fences. I stopped so many times to read about this person, that person, to take notes, to stare at their faces, that by the time I got to the armory the light was getting very dim. One of the posters that stopped me cold—it was scotch-taped to a store wall—showed a photo of a thirtyish man with his family. That family now begged him, “Please come home!” This made me—inexplicably, guiltily—furious. Of course he would come home if he could! As though it were up to him whether he was dead or alive. And of course he was dead—didn’t they know?

Birthmark on hand in the shape of Puerto Rico.

In the shape of Puerto Rico? What shape was that? I had to look at an atlas. It’s not like Texas or Florida, not a really distinctive shape. Kind of an oblong island with a curl or a twist here or there. But this island danced every day on the man’s hand, or anyway his loved ones wanted to think so, even while he negotiated the mind-boggling island of Manhattan.

That morning I’d gotten an e-mail, among the flurry of e-mails sent in those days, that asked the receiver to add an item to a list of things about Manhattan to love. The woman who’d sent it to me—an old friend who’d moved to Colorado—had written something about bagels. I thought about writing in the Chrysler Building or the sunset from Hudson River Park but never did. It was odd in a way to remind ourselves; could we possibly have forgotten? It came to me, though, that everyone in New York who loves New York (and of course there are those who don’t) thinks secretly that no one loves the city the way they do. If I’m thinking that—even with the occasional fantasy of escaping to a less target-rich, as the military might say, place, some remote corner of Vermont maybe—then so are millions of other people. Which is fine, because otherwise how would we survive here?

Tattoo on left shoulder of whale/dolphins surrounded by starfish. Butterfly tattoo on lower back.

There were many, many tattoos. Imagine someone sitting in a tattoo parlor enduring the pain of that big needle for their own whale, their own dolphin, their own unique butterfly or rose or heart (one of these in the webbed area between the thumb and index finger). They are not thinking, here’s a good way to identify my body when I am crushed or burned to death. There were scars too, which are rather like tattoos that nobody asked for—an appendectomy scar, facial chicken-pox marks, a “bite mark on the chest.”

On the way home I passed by the Gramercy Park Hotel. My husband (domestic partner then) was staying in New Jersey, visiting relatives. It occurred to me to check into the hotel, even though my apartment was only a twenty-minute walk away. I wanted to forget everything, even who I was. To be somewhere clean and stark. I thought of the woman in the novel The Hours who checks into a hotel just so she can read. I didn’t have to be anywhere the next day because my office, like my home, was in the “frozen zone” below 14th Street. That meant no cars, no people who weren’t residents, and very little business going on. I had to show my ID twice to get home, at 14th Street and at Houston Street.

At 14th, I passed through Union Square Park. Amid the flowers, candles, and taped-up signs—“Osama bin Laden, look out” but also “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” …

Part II

I thought then that my idea for a poem—or, rather, a compilation in poem form—had not worked out, but when I recently looked back at what I had, I decided to finish it.

A birthmark in the shape of Puerto Rico
on his hand.
Scar between eyebrows.
A heart tattoo on her right hand,
between the thumb and the index finger.
Gold necklace with jade pig.
Mole at jawbone near right ear.
(Young man:) tattoo of tiger on right shoulder;
(his sister:) gold chain with key charm.
A circular beauty mark
on his right wrist.
Tattoos: dolphin on foot,
turkey on hip.
Right-hand ring finger severely bent;
gold neck chain with cross.
Yellow rose tattoo on right ankle;
orange-and-white sneakers;
two earrings in each ear.
Bite mark on his chest
just below left shoulder.
Appendectomy scar,
birthmark on one of his shoulders,
and a small dark mole in the center
of his back.
Black mole on each cheek,
black spots on his neck.
Has a Florida tan.
Chews tobacco, so first fingers
on his right hand may be stained.
Wearing a gold rope chain on his neck,
with a rectangular charm that says
“Jesus Is Lord.”
Faint birthmark on back of neck
under his hair
(may need to look real hard for it
since very faint).
Has thick hair on his chest,
a very hairy man.
A scar which extends from the
upper right side of forehead to the eyebrow,
which appears to be an upside-down V;
scar on left arm has a black tattoo
one-inch in width
that bands around left bicep.
Two gold bangles and one gold bracelet.
Wearing a wood cross.
Tattoos lower back tribal (dark green),
upper right heart and rose with initials LER.
Has on a silver fossil watch.
Has a French manicure on both her hands
and her feet.
No scars or tattoos.
Brown spot, right shin;
scar from hip surgery;
hammer toes.
Chicken pox scars on cheek.
Gold tooth.
Tattoo on left shoulder of whale/dolphins
surrounded by starfish.
Butterfly tattoo on lower back.
Skin tag on neck;
small scar on chin;
cast on right hand.
Tattoo of Puerto Rican flag
on right arm.
Dental implants.
Old burn scar covering entire right knee.
White gold ring with the letter C
in diamonds.

Brushfire in the Blogosphere

September 10, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Bookgasm, Rod Lott, Shu-Izmz

I knew from the outset that if Beaver Street was going to find an audience that went beyond the literary "underground," then I was going to have to bring it to people's attention reader by reader, blog by blog, event by event. And this is exactly what I've been doing since the book was first published in the U.K., in April 2011.

I'm happy to say that the past couple of weeks this strategy has been bearing fruit. A series of interviews and reviews have, indeed, sprung up in cyberspace, and today the deluge continues. Allow me to bring your attention to the two latest Beaver Street reviews.

The first is on a site called, appropriately enough, Bookgasm, the brainchild of Rod Lott, an Oklahoma City-based journalist who also writes for the alt-weekly there, the Oklahoma Gazette. In his appreciative critique, Lott, who says he’s fascinated by the porno world, calls Beaver Street “a smart book on a really sleazy venture.” I will vouch for the accuracy of that statement.

The second review can be found on Shu-Izmz, a site that takes you deep inside the id of its creator, Bryan Schuessler. Though Schuessler is primarily devoted to horror films, he’s also a fan of adult entertainment, and his enthusiasm for Beaver Street is infectious. The book, he says, is “a fascinating peek inside a world of sex, indulgence, and exhibitionism.” From the outset, I prayed that Beaver Street would find its way into the hands of a reader like Schuessler.

Before I go, let me again remind you to please join me for a live chat with Julia Widdop on Talk Story TV on Wednesday, September 12, 9 P.M. Eastern Time; and for a Beaver Street reading and signing at the Book House in Albany, NY, on Friday, September 14, at 7 P.M.

On Vicious Hacks and Conspiracy Theorists

September 7, 2012

Tags: reviews, Amazon, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Beaver Street, Fifty Shades of Grey, conspiracy theories

Even more common than the practice of authors paying for rave reviews, which I discussed yesterday, is the practice of authors anonymously trashing competitors' books. My John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man, seems to be a magnet for such attacks, probably because, for the most part, I'm competing with a collection of vicious hacks.

One such review, titled "Worst Book Ever!" was posted on Amazon U.K. soon after Nowhere Man was published. "This book is just a bunch of lies," the anonymous critic (whose identity is transparent) wrote. "If I could rate this book 0 stars I would, but the computer makes you rate it 1 star and up. I think Robert Rosen should read [name redacted]'s books. Maybe he will get some sense knoked (sic) into him." He then posted a similar review on Amazon U.S., this time referring to his own book as "masterful."

I learned a long time ago that such critiques can help sell a book, provided that there are enough positive reviews to balance them out. Hatchet jobs make books seem interesting and controversial. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, has 3,800 one-star reviews to go along with its 4,700 five-star reviews.

Yesterday, I also said that I never have and never will pay for a review. On one occasion, though, I have gone over to the dark side and anonymously trashed another author’s book. But it wasn’t a competing author and it was a special case, the first of its kind: A high-profile conspiracy theorist published a book implicating me in a CIA-backed plot to murder John Lennon.

I remember standing in a bookstore in Chicago, the week that Nowhere Man was scheduled to be published, reading this book in a state of shock and horror, and wondering how anybody who called himself a journalist could a) believe such a thing, and b) publish it without speaking to me first.

A few months later I got the brilliant idea to post an anonymous one-star review of this book on Amazon. What I wrote, though, was completely true: “Not only is this book so murkily written that it borders on unreadable, but the author offers not a shred of concrete evidence to support his paranoid fantasy—that the CIA was behind the death of every one of the [10 rock stars mentioned in the subtitle]. This is trash fiction masquerading as investigative journalism.”

Naturally, the author guessed who was behind this review and accused me on his blog of viciously attacking and ridiculing him.

Beaver Street has yet to be anonymously trashed by a competing author. Perhaps that’s because it’s usually porn stars who write books about pornography, and your average porn star has more integrity than your average conspiracy theorist or Beatles biographer. Or maybe porn stars just have better things to do.

My Book Promotion Philosophy

September 6, 2012

Tags: reviews, Amazon, Nowhere Man, Beaver Street, Talk Story TV, Book House

It happens to the best of them. Herman Melville, for example. Moby Dick, published to mixed reviews in 1851, didn't find a lot of readers in Melville's lifetime and wasn't recognized as a great book till long after Melville was dead. I've heard writers say (though not recently) that they're writing for future generations.

I was never much into the idea of "making it big" after I was dead. I mean really, what's the point in spending years writing a book that nobody reads when you're alive? Yes, I write for money, but the thing that keeps me going day after day, especially during those long stretches between fat (and not so fat) paychecks, is a primal need to communicate, which I'm not counting on being able to do from beyond the grave.

That's why I've always done everything possible to bring my books to the attention of people who might enjoy reading them while I’m still here. My philosophy has always been: Talk to anybody who wants to talk to you about your book for as long as they want to talk about it, and go anywhere people are interested in your work. I’m the only American writer I know who’s traveled to Chile to do book promotion, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself.

Since 2000, when my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, was published, I’ve done more than 300 interviews, treating journalists from the most obscure websites as if they were Oprah. Cause you just never know. In fact, I’ve turned down only one interview request ever—from a Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist who believes I’m the Zionist-funded CIA spymaster who gave the order to whack Lennon.

But there’s one thing I’ve never done and never will do to sell books: Pay for a positive review. A recent article in The New York Times pointed out that Amazon has been flooded with bogus five-star reviews written by critics who don’t read the books they’re reviewing and which authors are paying for: one review for $99, 50 for $999.

I wouldn’t do it because fake reviews sound fake; few people believe the reviews they read on Amazon; and even real five-star reviews (or rave reviews anywhere) don’t help much when it comes to selling books. (If they did, Beaver Street would be selling a lot better than it is.)

Which is to say, if I’m going to get more people to read Beaver Street while I’m alive, then I’m going to continue doing it the old fashion way—speak to anybody who wants to speak to me and go anywhere I’m invited.

So, I hope to see you next week on Talk Story TV and in the Book House in Albany, NY.

Fifty Shades of Beaver

September 5, 2012

Tags: Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James, Beaver Street, pornography, S&M, Book House, Talk Story TV

Say what you will about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Call it bloated. Call it amateurish. Call it Ishmael. The bottom line--and it's literally a bottom line--is that this series of S&M novels has sold nearly 50 million copies, and in so doing has made the book world safe for smut.

If it weren't for E. L. James, the British TV executive and mother of two, who began writing Fifty Shades as online fan fiction, I doubt that I'd have been invited to participate in a live Internet chat about Beaver Street on Talk Story TV on September 12 or to read from and sign my investigative memoir at the Book House, in Albany, NY, on September 14.

Fifty Shades of Grey and Beaver Street are both entertaining books about sex that contain explicitly pornographic passages. And there are, indeed, a number of S&M scenes in Beaver Street. But the similarities end there. Fifty Shades is fiction. Beaver Street is nonfiction that reads like fiction. Fifty Shades was written to arouse. Beaver Street, though arousing in many parts, was written to inform—to show the history of the late 20th century through a pornographic lens.

Ironically, critics have panned Fifty Shades of Grey and acclaimed Beaver Street across the cultural spectrum, from highbrow to lowbrow—which only goes to show that nobody cares what critics say. Which is to say, if, over the course of my lifetime, I can sell 1/100 of the number of books that James has sold, I’ll be a very happy author.

Scott Garrett’s October Surprise

September 4, 2012

Tags: Scott Garrett, Tea Party, Congress, Lou Perretta, hardcore pornography, Swank, The Record of Bergen County, New York Post, Popstar!, politics

Several months ago, I posted a series of articles about how, according to Federal Election Commission documents, New Jersey Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett had been accepting campaign contributions from my former boss Louis Perretta, one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America. In these articles I pointed out the irony and hypocrisy of one of the most conservative members of Congress, a politician who you'd think would be more at home representing the reddest redneck corner of Mississippi rather than northern New Jersey, taking money from a porn king who the Republican Party says they'd like to put out of business. I speculated that Perretta's attraction to Garrett, whose district office was once in the same Paramus office building as Perretta's porn factory, was simple: Perretta wholeheartedly agrees with Garrett on cutting taxes for the wealthy, shredding the social safety net, and undermining workers and women's rights.

What made this story even more interesting is that Garrett, who’s up for reelection, seems unbeatable. The Democrats couldn’t even find a credible candidate to run against him. Instead, they settled for a sacrificial lamb, Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen, whose campaign has raised little more than $5,000 to face off against Garrett’s $2-million war chest. Should both Garrett and Mitt Romney win in November, there’s a strong possibility Garrett will replace vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

I made every effort to bring the story of Garrett’s porn connection to the attention of the mainstream media. The only newspaper that expressed any interest was The Record of Bergen County. One of their reporters interviewed me and did additional research and investigation. In the course of the interview, the reporter told me that the Democratic Party was urging The Record to run the story. This was six months ago, and the story never ran.

The Record, most likely, was unable to prove to the satisfaction of their attorneys that Louis Perretta is, in fact, a pornographer. Outside of this blog and my book Beaver Street, there was nothing on the public record that tied Perretta to porn. He’d covered his X-rated tracks extremely well, and had succeeded in portraying himself as a respectable business executive.

That changed over the Labor Day weekend. The New York Post, in a column unrelated to Garrett, identified Perretta as a hardcore pornographer. The piece, “Popstar!’s porn kin/Source: Teen magazine has hard-core ties,” by Keith Kelly, said that Popstar!, “a popular magazine for teen girls… was bought by a New Jersey publisher alleged to have ties to the hard-core adult magazine empire headed by Louis and Stephen Perretta. The Perrettas, through their Paramus-based Magna Publishing, own a host of X-rated magazines with titles including Swank, Playgirl, Lesbian Licks, Cherry Pop, Just 18, Celebrity Skin and Fox—which is billed as ‘home of the world’s dirtiest porn stars.’”

Yes, Kelly does use the word “alleged.” But still, this is the first mention in the mainstream media of the Perretta family’s ties to pornography. Can The Record or the Democratic Party do anything with this information? Could this possibly be Scott Garrett’s October surprise? One can only hope.