The genre of urban fiction is rife with tales of pimps, hustlers, and boss bitches all looking to live the good life. Most of these stories are rote iThe genre of urban fiction is rife with tales of pimps, hustlers, and boss bitches all looking to live the good life. Most of these stories are rote in nature, following the same beats and giving us characters that are all about the dollar dollar bill, y’all. But it was with an open mind that I approached Platinum Dust, author K.C. Blaze’s recent contribution to the genre.
The protagonist of Platinum Dust is Rahiem Starz—and yes, that’s his real last name—and he is a piece of work. He self-describes as a pretty boy due to his light complexion, green eyes, and nice physique. While these attributes make him near irresistible to the ladies, Rahiem is also almost always on guard as he feels these qualities make him appear “soft.” His mettle is tested early on when he’s attacked in a seedy nightclub by a thug jealous of Rahiem’s prowess with the ladies. Little does Rahiem know, this seemingly random, insignificant, violent encounter will have consequences later on.
Furthermore, Rahiem, who fancies himself a manager for a couple of high-end escorts, has grown tired of the revolving door of women who constantly pass through his bedroom. His favorite is the beautiful, compassionate, and intelligent Felicia; and though he’s slow to realize it, Rahiem may actually be in love with her. Needless to say, despite her playing it cool and knowing her role, Felicia’s feelings for Rahiem run deep.
Complicating matters even more is Rahiem’s relationship with his mother, Janet, who’s serving time in prison for the murder of Rahiem’s father, Carlos. It’s not just the murder that has earned Janet the enmity of her son—she also kicked him out of the house and into the streets at a young age. Though he (and eventually his straight-laced, God-fearing brother Amir) is taken in by a loving relative, Rahiem is unable to let go of the anger and hurt his mother caused him.
What sets Platinum Dust apart from the pack is its emotional quotient. All the characters are believable and well-defined, and express a genuine range of feelings. Rahiem is dismissive of women (he refers to them by the day of the week he sleeps with them), but that’s only due to his mother’s treatment of him. Felicia truly loves him, and wants him to love her back, but she won’t risk playing the fool. Janet is slowly losing her sanity in prison, and though she schemes to use Rahiem to get out, she, too, discovers unexpected feelings coming to the surface. We even get a glimpse into the mind of Amir, who is remorseful over the feelings he has for a mysterious young woman he meets at church. “The flesh is weak,” he explains to God. “My lower half always willing to rise to the occasion betrayed me also.”
There is, of course, plenty of sex and action in Platinum Dust. Rahiem’s stable of ladies is plentiful, and he seemingly picks up a new woman at random on a daily basis, paving the way for a number of steamy sex scenes. And when Rahiem discovers he’s the target of a revenge plot, it’s a revelation that could endanger the lives of everyone he loves.
Platinum Dust is a sexy, fast-paced, entertaining read filled with memorable characters and situations. It’s the first in a series of books about Rahiem, and I, for one, am curious to see what happens next....more
I really like Lauren Weisberger — a lot. I had an opportunity to meet her a few years ago at Barnes and Noble for a reading of her novel Last NighI really like Lauren Weisberger — a lot. I had an opportunity to meet her a few years ago at Barnes and Noble for a reading of her novel Last Night at Chateau Marmont, and we chatted about everything from her non-Devil Wears Prada works to the fact that as children we both wanted to be astronauts. She was a very lovely person, and we even became Facebook friends soon thereafter.
But for as much as I love Ms. Weisberger, I cannot say the same for her main characters. From Last Night’s Brooke to Everyone Worth Knowing’s Bette, Weisberger asks us to follow the misadventures of shrill, privileged white women who tend to whine about the good fortune bestowed upon them. And in her pantheon of characters, there’s no bigger offender than Andrea “Andy” Sachs.
Of course, you already know who Andy is — the heroine of Weisberger’s blockbuster debut The Devil Wears Prada, the story about an awkward young woman who ends up working as personal assistant to the most powerful and influential person in fashion, the godlike editor-in-chief of the fictional Runway magazine, Miranda Priestly. What made the novel a success was the fact that it was a roman a clef, based on Weisberger’s tenure as assistant to Vogue EIC Anna Wintour. The Devil Wears Prada was titillating, salacious, the sort of tome that promised to expose the ice queen who lorded over all of fashion publishing. The novel’s stock rose further with the well-loved (and toned-down) film version starring the amazing Meryl Streep and Bland Anne Hathaway.
But here’s the thing: Andy Sachs, Weisberger’s author avatar, is a, quite simply, whiny brat. She is not at all appreciative of the job she’s landed — a job that a million girls would kill for — nor the opportunities and perks it affords her. Sure, Miranda is a sociopath of the highest order, but Andy’s constant “woe-is-me” rich girl bellyaching did very little to endear me to the character.
She doesn’t fare any better in Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, a needless sequel that was clearly conceived as a quick money-grab for all parties involved. The story takes places 10 years after the events of the first book: after a stint writing for a wedding blog, Andy and her former-nemesis-turned-BFF Emily Charlton have launched a high-profile, glossy wedding magazine called The Plunge. Despite the decline of print media, The Plunge has done exceptionally well, largely in part to Andy’s editorial skills and Emily’s behind-the-scenes cunning. Further, Andy is engaged to the handsome Max Harrison, scion to a media empire and one of The Plunge’s initial investors.
Everything seems to be going well for Andy, right? Well, guess what? In true Weisberger Heronie fashion, she complains about everything in her life. Everything is such an unmitigated disaster. Her future mother-in-law doesn’t like her. Her ex-boyfriend Alex, who now lives across the country, might have a new girlfriend. Oh, and a decade later Andy is suffering from PTSD after time working under Miranda. Her loving fiancé is always on hand to comfort her, and the non-nonsense Emily constantly tells her to snap out of it. But it’s just so hard for Andy to do so — can’t everyone see how tragic her life is?
The first half of Revenge is a slog, filling us in on the past 10 years of Andy’s life and letting her complain about everything from her fairytale marriage to the birth of her beautiful baby girl Clementine. Then, finally, a nascent plot begins to form: Elias-Clark, the media conglomerate that owns Runway, is interested in acquiring The Plunge. For millions of dollars. Everyone — Emily, Max, every fucking one — seems to be on board for this. Everyone except, of course, Andy. Why? Because Miranda Priestly now oversees editorial over all of Elias-Clark’s publications, and the sale would mean that Andy would, once again, be under her employ.
I will admit, the second half of Revenge is entertaining and contains plot twists (some predictable, others surprising) that eventually help wrap things up in a nice, tidy manner. And many of the characters, aside from Andy, are engaging and memorable. Especially Emily, who is appropriately catty, but that’s only because she sees the endgame. Shit must get done, and she will ensure that it does.
Those hoping to see a true clash between Andy and Miranda will be disappointed, however. Miranda appears maybe three or four times in the entire novel; her brief appearances are really when the story comes to life, and while she really isn’t the story’s villain (no, she really isn’t) one still feels a palpable sense of dread whenever she’s on the page. The dinner at her house is certainly one of the novel’s high points: tense and hilarious, it’s the sort of scenario you wished Revenge had more of.
Weisberger threw in a few lines that hinted at a potential third volume in the series, but I think it’s best to let these characters go at this point. After all, there’s only so much whining about good fortune that readers can stand. The Devil may return again, but then again, only the devil may care....more
When I was a kid, one of my favorite television shows was The Dukes of Hazzard. Now, at the time, I was too young to know that the Dukes were moonshinWhen I was a kid, one of my favorite television shows was The Dukes of Hazzard. Now, at the time, I was too young to know that the Dukes were moonshiners. I was blind to the fact that their car, the General Lee, was laden with cringe-inducing Dixie pride. (I was well aware, however, of how fine Barbara Bach was as Daisy Duke--talk about a childhood crush!) Despite all of that, I enjoyed The Dukes of Hazzard because it was a cool-ass show populated with cool-ass characters. Sure, there was a bit of action, but for the most part, we, the audience, got to chill with Bo and Luke, Daisy and Uncle Jesse, Cooter and Enos, and Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane. We got to hang out with them.
One of the major contributors to that "hang out" factor was the series' laid-back narrator, Waylon Jennings Jr. He described the proceedings of each episode in a down home twang that almost seemed to say, "C'mon, grab a beer, and look at the mess these kids done got themselves into now."
I got a similar sort of feeling when reading Talkeetna Trouble by George Angus. This edition billed itself as being Raw & Uncut, a markedly unpolished version filled with grammatical hiccups, plot holes, and the like, straight from the mind of the author without any thought given to editing. But even had Talkeetna Trouble been present to us unblemished, it would still retain its folksy vibe--and that's not at all a bad thing.
As with Dukes, Talkeetna gives us a lively cast of characters, most of whom congregate at an Alaskan truck stop/diner known as the Century, and allows us to simply "hang out" with them: There's Randall, the curmudgeonly owner of the Century who also serves as a de facto mayor of the town; Trooper Dan, who's got to be the most chill law enforcement officer ever written; Bett, the Iowan beauty who found herself in Talkeetna and decided to stick around; Jeremy, a nice yet dimwitted kid who has a major crush on Bett; and Sconcy, a lumberjack of a woman who's relatively new to the area. Believe me, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the colorful characters that populate this novel. And that is where Talkeetna Trouble's brilliance lay. We are given this group of characters to simply follow around, hang out with, have a beer or smoke a joint with.
Now, to be sure, there is a plot. A couple of ne'er-do-well hillbilly brothers, Darrell and Stew, have stolen some powerful lights from the Century; it's not difficult for Randall and Trooper Dan to figure out who committed the crime, and soon enough they're able to deduce why: the brothers are growing a massive crop of marijuana to sell during a very popular, upcoming festival. Randall and Trooper Dan enlist the brothers' neighbor Sconcy to infiltrate their operation, and what follows is a sometimes funny, sometimes tense sting operation that culminates in a rather exciting climax.
But, for most part, the plot is secondary. What makes Talkeetna Trouble a joy to read are the characters, three-dimensional creations who are all pretty funny and endearing. We care what happens to them, even the hillbilly brothers (despite the fact that they can actually be quite dangerous). I very much enjoyed Talkeetna Trouble. It'd be a world I wouldn't mind visiting again, flaws and all.