Category Archives: book review

More Than a Mouthful

Norman, Norman, Norman. If only you could taste the sweet and ripe fruit that blossomed with this tale. How dare you trifle her writing back in the day? If this book were a meal, I’d say I am fully satisfied–all the way through dessert.

Sure, all the ingredients are in the mix–humor, sex, famous encounters, awkward moments and certainly conflict. Like a great chef though–it takes skill to put it all together in a form, fit to serve on the “good” plates. Oh hell, for that matter, this could be slapped on a paper napkin and lose no luster.

The story grabbed me from the onset. Carole Mallory gets right to the meat. No elaborate staging or explanation–just a pure and direct look at a fascinating situation told in a most intriguing way–set in a period of history that seems as oxymoronic as her devotion to this complicated man/icon. Her skilled prose makes you that coveted fly on the wall.

While I mostly avoid “tell alls” or celebrity gossip reading, this is far removed from that genre–but who would know? Yes, there is explicit and raw detail which could put a few well-positioned men in hiding for awhile. That is only the dessert, however. Throughout is a back-story of pain, masked with the cover of humor. At the end of the road, we find bittersweet triumph fused with a down-to-earth class which (unintentionally, I’m sure, ha ha ha) puts Mr. Mailer in his rightful place. And so it goes…

Like that aforementioned great meal, though I have finished, I am wanting for more.

Review: Martha Frankel’s “Hats & Eyeglasses”

It’s been said that the average American is exposed to 3,000 to 5,000 marketing messages a day. From the blatant billboard for Big Bob’s Bail Bonds to a strategically placed can of Coca Cola in that movie you rented—it’s all around us. So what are the odds that a certain book, Hats & Eyeglasses would call my attention enough to read? 10 to 1? Likely as a Royal Flush?

As much as I hate puns, this time my demons overruled. That book, written by renowned journalist Martha Frankel is a raw and honest account of her destructive path to online gambling addiction.

“Come on Mike, not another one of those? I can tell you the beginning, middle and end.”

Oh no, it is definitely not “one of those,” my friends. Hats & Eyeglasses demonstrates in-your-face writing and leaves you satisfied, yet haunted.

The title itself is an insider poker phrase, which refers to a terrible hand. As the book describes, “It’s what happens when a ship goes down and everything sinks,” Broadway told me, lifting me onto his immense lap. “What floats to the surface is hats and eyeglasses. It means I have crapola, that I don’t have a prayer.”

From the vivid description of Aunt Tillie kissing on young Martha’s face and shrieking, “Four years old—what a big girl!” to that five night cruise in the Bahamas spent butt-to-seat at a poker table, you are right there with her. You will move in to Martha’s home and sleep in her bed, sit at the dinner table, play cards with the guys, laugh with her and feel the stress and pain of a life sucking addiction. Eventually this compromised her work, devastated the family finances and transformed her to a lonely woman, whose addiction robbed her family, friends and professional life of non-refundable life passages.

To be honest, I expected a commercialized “sell-out” recount of her story. After all, she spent much of her professional life interviewing big name celebrities, so certainly we would hear little quips about them. Right?

Well, Martha Frankel is no tabloid style; sell ‘em on the dirt, prose writer. Yes, there are celebrities in the story—but only where it affects her journey. Like the time she dragged Jennifer Beals to an inside poker game at Hollywood Park Racetrack. Wisely though, she stayed on track and left the Brangelina Meets Johnny Depp tales in the recycle bin.

There is a great bonus within this book, as well. So much of Martha’s world is filled with the same uncles, aunts, neighborhoods and anguish as yours and mine—and she spins it with the keen angle that turns a smile to a rolling laugh. More than once, I had to stop for air and then reread a passage to make sure she really said that. It’s that same wicked sense of humor that currently has many of her peers in a spellbound writer crush.

Is there a happy ending with an earth shaking moral that will change every reader’s life path? Does Martha preach wise testimonials and profess her wisdom, courage and then show us the light to a mystical tunnel of self-discovery?

Absolutely not. Instead, you will find a gritty, funny, poignant and brilliantly written memoir from a refreshingly down-to-earth writer, who is sure to be the next rising star in the literary world.

Am I biased or gush too much?

Perhaps, but I also have been known to gush about Kurt Vonnegut Jr., John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemmingway, when asked to provide a report on their early works.

Bottom line—Read this book!