Scott Phillips, the author of "The Ice Harvest" that was made into a movie starring John Cusack with a screenplay by Oscar winner Robert Benton, has written a new novel, "Rake." It's about an actor who plays Dr. Crandall Taylor on a daytime soap opera star, who travels to his beloved Paris where his latest American soap, "Ventura County," watched by the loneliest and horniest housewives, is being broadcast on primetime.
"Crandall" (Phillips never gives our badass antihero a name other than his name on his soap) is a star not only to television audiences but to women who want to experiment in their boudoir. His appetite for kinky sex combines with Phillips' talent for writing the unthinkable. One character is having sex with his sister so that he can give her VD. ("Rake" is not for the faint of heart).
French stardom on the telly does not satiate Crandall's narcissism. He wants to produce a movie. On a visit to the Louvre to see the "latest hits," he comes upon the idea of writing a movie about what happened to the arms of Venus de Milo?
Four affairs later, Crandall has landed a backer. This would-be-producer wants his wife to star. Natch. Meanwhile, Crandall is having an affair with the producer's wife. "She found extramarital sex just as exciting in the marital bed," Phillips writes.
His keen cultural observations echo his raison d'être. "I always forget the French reluctance to speak about money, even to discuss what one does for a living. Whereas for Americans, it's matters of sex, we don't discuss," he writes.
How true -- and thanks for novelists like Phillips for getting down and dirty, which he does with aplomb. Yet as wicked as Crandall is, Phillips manages to have the reader care about him. Shades of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler abound in this masterful tomb.
Soon Crandall's sexual appetite bites him in the behind and his psychopathy takes over. Laughs end as you eagerly await Phillips' next foray into the absurdity of the twisted, the sexually bent and the noirest of noir.