Sunday, July 27, 2014

INSIDE by Charles L. Ross

This book had everything I want in a novel:  interior design, designers, publishing, publishers, murder, mystery and mayhem.  I had hit the mother lode!!!

Or so I thought...

It starts out intriguing enough:  the mysterious death of the Editor-in-Chief of a high-end interior design magazine.  Perfect! And the story is described as a "biography of a magazine," which was the real reason I bought it.  I am so enthralled with publishing I would have read it whether there was a murder or not.

But, the structure of the story is confusing.  We start with the death, which is quickly deemed a murder, then we jump back in time 5 years to the narrator's first day of work at the magazine.  Then we ride this slow moving train (very slow moving train) through 5 years of back story before we get back to the editor's death, 5 years later...


As I read along, I kept asking myself, "what does this have to do with the murder?"  It just didn't make sense because SO MUCH of the (back) story had NOTHING to do with the editor or the magazine.  I mean, why include that unless there is a purpose?  I just couldn't find it, and here I am, weeks later to give me time to ponder, I still can't find it.  Now, to be fair, the back story was interesting and in the end, it was the murder mystery I was disappointed in.  I think Ross did a great job of taking us thru the development of a magazine (altho it did seem to be a bit simplified), and the interactions, and relationships, between the key players were quite fascinating, but I feel like the magazine story with a murder thrown in to pique your interest, were really just a vehicle for Ross to write about what he really wanted to write about: the steamy and seamy world of homosexual life in the late '70s.

The gay lifestyle with graphic detail of sexual encounters the narrator had, pre-AIDS it appears, was borderline offensive.  Not because I'm homophobic or anti-gay, but because I'm a reader!  It dominated so much of the story and story was supposed to be about a magazine!  And the death of the editor-in-chief!  If you want to write gay porn, write gay porn, but tell us you're writing gay porn!  Don't disguise it as a murder inside the world of publishing mystery.  I mean, really, what is the point of that???

As I mentioned earlier, the murder ends up being the biggest disappointment.  Again, because I feel like the premise of the story was a disguise for what the author really wanted to write, there didn't seem to be much thought into how that was developed.  It was a joke, really, and a waste of time to include it.  Ross would have been better off leaving that out completely and just writing about the magazine publishing world from the perspective of its gay art director as he navigates the homosexual underworld of Los Angeles in the late '70s.

I would have still read it.

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