At the beginning of his writing career, Robert Silverberg wrote several sleaze paperbacks for Midwood using the pseudonym Loren Beauchamp. Stark House Press has reprinted two of these early classics in one volume including his 1960 paperback, Meg.
As the novel opens, teenage Meg Tandler is losing her virginity in the backseat of a car with a sexually unremarkable local boy who plied her with beer before going all the way. Meg is a bombshell with full breasts and sensuous hips - a Marilyn Monroe type - and she knows she wants more from life than Idaho could ever offer. So, it’s off to New York to find her fortune in show business.
On Broadway, Meg visits a low-end theatrical agent named Max Bonaventura seeking representation. Max talks a good game and Meg signs with him in exchange for 25% of her future earnings. You see exactly where this is headed when Max has Meg get stark naked at their first meeting, so he can inspect the merchandise. After seeing what she has to offer, Max lays it out like this:
"I'll tell you what to dress and how to look. I'll teach you to sing and act and dance. I’ll tell you when to take your clothes off and when to put them on. I'll tell you when to go to bed with people. You're going to have to do some sleeping around, get me? Nobody gets to the top without paying for it. But you don't let anybody touch you who can’t do you some good."
Driven by ambition, Meg makes peace with Max’s plan to leverage her sex appeal and sleep her way into show business and up the ladder of fame. Despite his cynical amorality, Max is a delightfully colorful character and the main reason I kept turning the pages in this unlikely compelling paperback. The novel’s plot pretty much follows the ups and downs (and ins and outs) of Meg’s career as a sexpot. Because it’s a 1960 paperback, the sex scenes aren’t graphic at all, but Silverberg treats the reader to pages and pages on the allures of Meg’s impossible-to-ignore rack. The writing is predictably solid and Silverberg really knows how to make breasts come alive as central characters of a novel.
Meg rises through the ranks of show business thanks to Max’s never ending supply of publicity stunts, and this makes for a fun and quick read. It’s a predictable cautionary tale about the cost of uninhibited ambition and a pleasant way to kill a couple hours in the summer sun.
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