Monday, June 12, 2017


Angelface, by Monica Jordan
June, 1976  Dell Books

Proving once again that there’s no sleaze like ‘70s sleaze, and no ‘70s sleaze like Dell Books sleaze, Angelface is a novella-length yarn about one woman’s descent into “flesh on film,” and it’s basically just a string of graphic sex scenes with the occasional “have I become a whore?” moment of self-doubt. In other words, what’s not to like?

The book is credited to “Monica Jordan,” but it’s copyright Alan Carbua. A little research shows that Caruba published a poetry book or two in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, as well as a few nonfiction books. The novel is written in third-person and details the plunge into “sex on camera” experienced by Norma Diamond, a hotstuff advertising agency babe who, when we meet her, has just gone back to the penthouse apartment studio of Jerry Slade, world-famous photographer.

Jerry is known for many things, one of which is the discovery of a lady named Martha Garnes, who is now known as “Angelface,” a supermodel before there was any such thing. Her face is known all over the globe as the “Ondine Girl,” after the company she represents. But in a brief prologue from Angelface’s point of view, we learn that the megababe “escaped” Jerry, and now to avoid him she refuses any jobs in New York. She wonders what young woman Jerry has in his spell now… 

Surprisingly, Caruba never really gives us a good idea of what Norma looks like. I mean, I don’t think her hair color is even mentioned. But we learn she’s at least “leggy,” with “nice breasts.” An interesting thing is that in the many ensuing sex scenes, Caruba has no qualms about describing Norma’s nether regions with the well-known “see you next Tuesday,” but yet for the men, it’s always “phallus.” It’s very strange to read an otherwise uber-explict sex scene that uses the word “phallus” for the sexual equipment of the dudes.

Anyway, Jerry and Norma go at it full-tilt, despite the fact that Norma doesn’t normally do this sort of thing; if you’re in doubt, Caruba occasionally has Norma ponder her past sexual experiences in page-filling detail. But she’s young (late 20s), successful, and on the Pill, so why not? Hell, she doesn’t even seem to mind when Jerry slips his “phallus” into her “anal passage,” the first time any such thing has ever been done to her. Why? Because he’s capturing it all on remote-controlled cameras. (Jerry would’ve gone nuts over video recorders!)

Jerry claims that Norma has that special something which separated Angelface from run-of-the-mill models: the look that she’s burnin’ yearnin’ for a good lay when she poses for the camera. While most women have affected looks of sensuality and whatnot, Norma’s sultry stare is 100% real – of course, the fact that Jerry’s “phallus” might be inserted into her “anal passage” at the time might account for that, not that this is ever noted. So the two begin a torrid sex-based affair, with Jerry creating scrapbooks with photos of all the various positions and sexual pursuits the two engage in, books that are just for Jerry and her; he now makes his living doing regular photography.

The sex becomes more kinky as Jerry next introduces another man into the mix, photographing the resultant three-way. Norma meanwhile goes on a few dates with a regular guy, one who would be great marriage material, but she finds that he bores her – she can now only become sexually excited if there’s a camera documenting the act. Jerry goes too far when he breaks out the whips and chains and does a bondage session; he gets off royally on it, but Norma freaks when she’s nearly strangled. Regardless she finds herself falling in love with Jerry: there are many scenes of the two talking about how they care for one another, and how this might just be more than a “casual sex with photography and the occasional second or third dude” sort of thing.

Throughout Norma has many moments of self-doubt, questioning her descent into harlotry. She even rushes back to her parents’s home for a weekend to regroup, only to find she’s gone too far and can’t live without all that on-camera sex. She’s full-blown ho at this point, picking up a random dude in a bar and letting him think she’s a prostitute, even taking money from him. She also manages to scare the guy off, demanding constant sex and debasing herself to his increasing horror. But when Jerry’s next filmed sexcapade features Norma the star feature of a gang-bang, Norma realizes she has “become a thing,” just something for Jerry and the other men to screw while it’s all captured on film. 

Meanwhile Norma’s boss has noted her strange behavior and recommended a psychiatrist. In these brief sessions Norma casually describes her countless illicit adventures with Jerry, even showing photos to the old psych, who admits he feels a “stirring” when he looks at them. But through him Norma manages to pull herself out of the wanton descent and realizes that Jerry is ultimately no good for her.

The novel is titled Angelface, but while the titular character barely appears in it, her presence looms over events; Jerry’s apartment is filled with photos of the supermodel, and he admits he still has a “thing” for her. Like Norma, Angelface starred in a series of porn-scrapbooks with Jerry and other men, including the occasional extra woman. Angelface finally appears in the last pages, having come to New York – an unexplained plot development, given her fear of Jerry Slade in the opening pages. 

Norma has been ignoring Jerry, thus she refuses to answer his calls to come over and spend some time with Angelface and him. Eventually the two come over to her place, and Norma sees that Angelface is practically Jerry’s slave, crawling on her knees for him and accepting his abuse with happiness. This is all very strange, as suddenly Jerry is a straight-up bastard, whereas he’s been very kind to Norma throughout (other than the bondage thing), even professing his growing feelings for her.

But the novel’s only 125 pages, so the brevity must account for this last-minute switch to Jerry’s personality. Suddenly he’s a raving lunatic, threatening Norma to drop her panties and get involved with some lesbian sex with Angelface right now, or else. He even uses those pornographic scrapbooks as blackmail, claiming that’s how he has such control over Angelface, too. But when the three go back to Jerry’s studio, Angelface takes care of all that – she snatches a revolver from a drawer and casually blows Jerry away. Now she and Norma are free – the end! Yep, it’s a rushed finale for sure, and all the various subplots about Norma being a modern, free-spirited woman are sort of swept aside…she realizes she needs normalcy in her life. Whether she gets it or not Caruba leaves unstated, as here the novel ends.

Given the scarcity of Angelface, my assumption is it must’ve received a low print run, and it doesn’t look like Caruba wrote any more trashy novels, under his own name or the Monica Jordan name. Overall though his writing is good, very precise and economical, with a willingness to go into full-bore explicitness. His dialog is also good. So overall, I’d recommend Angelface for those who like their ‘70s sleaze, though be aware the book has less topical ‘70s details than you might imagine; while I figured there would be a lot of shaggy details, about the only bit we get is the fact that Jerry wears a Brick Mantooth-esque blue jumpsuit with nothing beneath.


Stephen Mertz said...

Hilarious review. Ya gotta admire a poet who writes a Bee-Line novel and then sells it to mainstream Dell. Nicely played, Caruba! And thank you, Joe, for reading and then commenting on this crap for us. You rock!

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks a lot for the comment, Stephen!