Monday, October 24, 2011
Eve, by Angela Taylor Ames
July, 1979 Pocket Books
The Razzle Dazzle Novel of a Jazz Age Jezebel!
Once again I've been fortunate enough to discover trash gold; well, trash bronze at least. I was in a used bookstore several months ago and came upon this title; as soon as I saw the cover blurb as well as the copy on the back, which described a wanton showgirl in mid-1920s New York who liked to entertain men in her "deco boudoir," I knew I had a winner.
But as usual the fun began when I tried to research the novel and its author. Simply put, there's hardly any info about either on the web, not even cover scans. Three novels were published under this author's name, all of them Pocket paperback originals, released between 1979 and 1981. I discovered that the second novel, Joy, was about an actress in the 1940s, and given my predilection for that era of showbiz I ordered the book (these three novels are exceedingly obscure, it would appear)...only to discover that Joy was actually a sequel to Eve, Joy being Eve's daughter. So then, one can only assume that the third novel, Diane, is the third volume of this loose trilogy about three generations of women.
And then there's the mystery of Angela Taylor Ames. The novels are copyright Book Creations -- aka the domain of Lyle K. Engel, aka the publishing company that released a host of novels under a variety of psuedonyms, including the Baroness series. A series, by the way, which was also published by Pocket Books and which also concerned the sexual adventures of a female protagonist; in very fact, the writing in Eve is quite similar at times to that of "Paul Kenyon," the author of the Baroness books. Now that we know Donald Moffitt was "Kenyon," as well as that he wrote several other novels for Book Creations under various psuedonyms...could Eve and its sequels too be part of his output? I have no idea, and I can't find anything online.
Anyway, how about the novel itself? Well, I realized as I read it that Eve, more or less, could be considered a Romance. I mean, it also works as straight-up trash fiction, and it certainly has a few lurid touches, but otherwise it is pretty much like what I imagine the majority of Romance fiction is like, just a steady stream of glamorous and wealthy men coming into Eve's life, with a long-simmer "true love" storyline brewing in the background.
At the outset Eve is a small-town girl of ravishing beauty who comes to NYC when she turns 18. She happens to meet up with a girl trying out for Ziegfeld's Follies, and the two go together, both of them being offered jobs as showgirls. Eve also meets Kitty, Ziegfeld's number one showgirl, and the two become friends. All three of them share a lush apartment in Manhattan, and Kitty meanwhile gives Eve pointers on how to use her beauty and fame to get more and more money and gifts from rich gentlemen.
So begins a three-hundred-and-some-page odyssey in which Eve will meet some new dude who will shower her with praise and gifts, then finally decide to sleep with him, then go off on some adventures with him, and then ultimately lose him either through her own choice, something the guy has done, or merely the cold hand of Fate itself. There are millionaire bankers, heirs to great fortunes, dashing aviators, even an Attorney General just getting a start on his career -- one of his first jobs using Eve as an informant on the George Raft-style gangster she happens to be dating that week.
It all gets to be boring after a while, but occasionally something nice and lurid occurs, like when Eve lets herself be picked up by an uber-wealthy effete who takes her back to his Long Island mansion; a party ensues, complete with the effete's butch sister, who comes on rather friendly to Eve, and a host of miscreants who proceed to get roaringly drunk, including a pair of women. Gradually Eve realizes that these "women" are transvestites and that the effete was really just a cover for his sister, who is the true one who has deigns on Eve; the sister gets Eve drunk, takes her up to her room, and proceeds to strap on a "rubber penis," putting Eve through two pages of torment (torment for Eve, that is -- gold for the reader, and if only there were more of it!).
The novel spans from 1925 to around 1931 or so; along the way Eve gets pregnant (by the Attorney General character); she keeps the child, whom she names Lilith (aka the "Joy" of the sequel), and raises her on her own, not telling the father, who has gone on to his post in Washington. Also Kitty resigns her title as Ziegfeld's number one girl, thus bestowing the title upon Eve. Accordingly Eve is given even greater status and we must read again and again and again how beautiful and famous and wanted she is.
Those looking for a historical view of 1920s New York will be unsatisfied. Eve does not work as historical fiction and indeed I didn't get much feel for the era. It was more a flurry of men coming into and then leaving Eve's life. Also one won't get much of a feel for the life of a Ziegfeld Showgirl; other than a few vague mentions of Eve's various costumes and the dwindling audience during the Depression, there really isn't much to do with Ziegfeld the man or the entertainment world itself.
What's worse is the novel wraps up in anticlimatic fashion; after finally getting up the nerve to visit the father of her child, Eve confronts the man in Washington, hoping he loves her like she loves him, only to be spurned. So Eve heads back to NYC and marries some wealthy dude she just met a few pages ago. The end.
Joy was published around a year later; I checked the first pages and it doesn't appear to be much of a sequel to Eve (in fact we learn on page two of Joy that Eve died in a plane crash later in the 1930s!!...which proves that no matter how many millionaires you sleep with, when your number's up your number's up), so Eve then is the start of a "loose trilogy" -- well, a loose trilogy about loose women, I guess.