Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Money Shot by Christa Faust (Hard Case Crime)

And here we are at the final day of Hard Case Crime Month, ending somewhat appropriately with a ground-breaking novel, the first (and, to date, still the only) female-authored HCC novel. Thanks for coming along for the ride; I hope it has been as much fun for you to look back at all these books as it was for me. There are over a dozen more Hard Case Crime reviews here on the site, so if your appetite has not been sated, just go searching.

Retired porn star Angel Dare — who now runs an adult modeling agency called Daring Angels — was having a bad body day. So when she was called back to the set by her favorite director Sam Hammer ("kind of a cross between Santa Claus and John Holmes"), the prospect of working with new, hot talent Jesse Black ("twenty-one, Hollywood handsome, and legendary below the belt") for a quick $2,500 and her picture on the video cover was a big ego boost and impossible to resist.

What happened next was a surprise only to Angel Dare herself (and just goes to show that even women sometimes think with their genitals — and it gets them in trouble, too). As she begins Money Shot: "I'm sure you're wondering what a nice girl like me was doing left for dead in the trunk of a piece of shit Honda Civic out in the industrial wasteland of downtown Los Angeles. Or maybe we've met before and you're wondering why it hadn't happened sooner."

Christa Faust is the first female author to be published by the previously all-boys club known as Hard Case Crime, and it's easy to see why this book was chosen as the inaugural feminine entry: Money Shot starts off with attitude and never lets up. Those who may be concerned that it won't match up to the other "manly" books in the catalog need not worry. Faust plays hardball.

Her influences may be readily apparent, at least at the beginning (Boogie Nights and Kill Bill leapt immediately to mind), but Faust has a voice all her own, and she combines those influences along with a heavy dose of knowledge regarding the sex industry (including the "airtight reverse cowgirl" — which you can figure out if you think on it for a time) to create a novel that feels completely original and yet totally familiar. I haven't had this much fun reading about sex since Terry Southern's novel Blue Movie.

With Angel Dare, Faust has created a character who is unforgettable. However, she is not yet in a book that is quite her equal. Money Shot's fantastic start does not translate to a bang-up finish, and this is a story that wanted — no, needed — a strong ending to match the stellar beginning and middle. The solution and conclusion are simply disappointing in comparison. Still, Faust is a powerful writer and one who will definitely produce greater works in the future. She's fierce, and I have no doubt she's here to stay.

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