Monday, February 1, 2021

The New Stewardesses #3: The Diary

The New Stewardesses #3: The Diary, by Judi Lynn
No month stated, 1975  Award Books

The New Stewardesses series loses the illustrated cover art for this third and final volume, going for more of a sleaze paperback-esque photo cover. But as with the previous two volumes, “Judi Lynn” doesn’t get overly explicit, and while there’s certainly a lot of stew sex in The Diary, it isn’t very graphic, usually over and done with in the span of a sentence or two. 

Whoever Lynn was, she(?) was certainly in a bad mood when writing this one – in chapter one a few main characters are casually killed off, then a few chapters later another main character is raped in her own apartment, and later on another of the stews is even involved in a shootout. Then there’s the stew who is arrested for smuggling diamonds, as is her airline captain boyfriend. All this is far removed from the soap opera melodrama of the previous two books. And whereas those two books followed one after another, The Diary occurs a year after the second volume; initially I thought this one too opened immediately after the previous book’s events, but a random comment that some of the stews opened their Cloud Nine clothing store in Manhattan “a year ago” proves otherwise, as they opened the store in the previous book. 

We’ll vaguely recall stew Cynthia, who was one of the main protagonists of the earlier books; in fact she opened the series, with the line “Cynthia was nude” being the first line of the first volume. The Diary opens with Cynthia in Paris, fully in love with her pilot boyfriend Dan. We get the first of many somewhat-explicit sex scenes as the two conjugate. Here we also have Esther, a stew who I think was only nominally mentioned before – they’re all so minimally described, and as ever Lynne doesn’t catch us up on previous events. Well, Esther is one of the owners of Cloud Nine, and there’s vague mystery as Cynthia wonders what’s taking Esther so long to show up for the flight back to New York. Esther arrives just in time, getting off a flight that’s just come in from London; Cynthia wonders what Esther was doing there, but Esther is vague about it. Then they’re off on the flight to New York, serving drinks, and somewhere “over the Atlantic” the right wing friggin’ explodes and the plane crashes into the ocean. Cynthia, Dan, Esther, and the two hundred passengers on the plane are all killed. And we’re only on chapter 1! 

Curiously this plane crash doesn’t seem to do much financial damage to the airline the stews work for. In fact, it’s never mentioned again, other than the ramifications of Esther’s death, as she is the author of the titular diary. While Cynthia was one of the most frequently-appearing stews in the first two books, she’s gone and forgotten this time, never mentioned again, and Esther gets the most focus. This is because another stew, Sandy, who also runs Cloud Nine, finds Esther’s diary in the store and begins reading it. I can’t recall if Sandy much appeared in the previous books, but she’s definitely the main protagonist this time. In fact The Diary has the most coherent plot in the series, as Sandy reads Esther’s diary, meets up with the man Esther was in love with, and also discovers that Esther had a big secret she hid from her sister stews. 

For once Lynn decides to actually describe a character; Sandy, we’re informed, is “almost plain without makeup” and doesn’t have a “rubber-doll inflated body.” I was shocked to see that Sandy had indeed appeared in previous books; checking my typically-overwitten reviews of the previous two books, I see she delivered a passenger’s baby in volume 2 (and also opened Cloud Nine with Esther), and she had a lesbian fling in volume 1. No mention’s made of any of that, this time; instead Sandy becomes solely focused on Chuck, a dashing young lawyer whose photograph inexplicably happens to be in Esther’s diary. Esther never mentioned him, and part of the hazy mystery which propels Sandy’s storyline is whether Chuck and Esther were lovers…and who the “Ellen” is Esther keeps mentioning, someone clearly dear to Esther who lives in London. 

Meanwhile, more dark stuff ensues; Laura, one of Sandy’s stew roomates, is raped in their own apartment; Sandy comes in to find her after the fact, Laura claiming that the rapist posed as someone from the phone company to get in. There’s no apprehension of the rapist, this minor subplot instead being about Laura slowly coming out of her shocked state and deciding to marry her doctor boyfriend. Jennifer is another of the roomates; checking my reviews she seems to be the closest thing The New Stewardesses has to a main character, but she doesn’t factor as much in The Diary. Jennifer’s storyline has her deciding to go Full Whore; as we’ll recall, she slept around the most of them all in previous books, even getting an abortion in the second volume. This time she breaks up with an airline executive who wants to marry her and decides to become the “kept woman” of a businessman who lives on Long Island. Even her fellow stews are shocked by the brazen hussiness, but Jennifer defiantly moves into an apartment the guy furnishes for her and becomes a happy mistress, for a time at least. 

Surprisingly the “stewardess stuff” is almost nonexistent this time; the novel is more about Sandy plumbing the mysteries of Esther’s diary while being courted by Chuck. This takes up most of the narrative; Chuck clearly likes Sandy, but she’s afraid he was doing her dead best friend and feels guilty about her attraction to him. Not that this prevents the eventual boinkery (minimally explicit as all the others in the novel, a la “he thrust within her” and the like). Humorously Sandy will ponder this or that mystery about Chuck or Ellen, then open Esther’s diary, and find herself on an entry that discusses that very topic. Also it becomes super clear who Ellen is, but Sandy is thunderstruck when she learns, toward the very end of the novel, that Ellen is (spoiler alert): Esther’s 8 year-old daughter. This causes more tension with Chuck, as Sandy wonders if he’s the father, but when Sandy finally confronts Chuck about the diary (which Sandy has kept secret from everyone), she learns that Chuck was more of a big brother to Esther, and also Ellen was fathered by some guy who knocked Esther up when she was a teenager. At Chuck’s recommendation, the girl was sent off to a convent in London to be raised(!).

I mentioned spoilers above, but The Diary seems very hard to find; I was lucky to come across a copy for cheap several years ago. So hell, I’ll tell you all how The New Stewardesses comes to a close. The other stews warn Jennifer she’s in for heartbreak – they say she’ll fall in love with this married guy and he’ll refuse to leave his wife and kids for her. And folks…this is exactly what happens! Things continue in the dark direction as Jennifer heads to Jones Beach to drown herself. But an off-duty cop named Jim happens to be there, saves her, and takes her back to his dingy apartment in Queens. Unsurprisingly, Jennifer will slowly begin to fall in love with this guy, even after Jim gets in a shootout during one of their dates. The novel ends with the new couple about to go off happily ever after together. 

Meanwhile Laura has gotten over her rape and is about to marry her doctor boyfriend, and Sandy at novel’s end decides to retire from the stew game, marry Chuck, and together they’ll raise Esther’s daughter Ellen. Plus she’ll continue to manage Cloud Nine, implying she’d still be a character if the series were to continue. But given how love and marriage is in the air throughout The Diary, I almost wonder if this one was intentionally written as a series finale. It certainly works that way. Overall The Diary was pretty much up to the admittedly-low standards of the previous two books, way too light on the sleazy stew thrills hyped by the cover copy, but the fact that this one actually had a plot put it above the other two.

1 comment:

Grant said...

I don't know about the rest, but the diamond smuggling sub-plot sounds like it must have come from the comedy-drama COME FLY WITH ME. In that film, a stewardess is tricked into helping do that by a passenger she gets involved with.