Monday, November 21, 2011

Rollo Makes Cents - 99 to Be Exact

A recent white paper circulated by Vook publishing advanced the idea that 99 cents is the ideal price point for ebooks. And "free," they say, is best for short-term promotions.

A lot of author-publishers tried this approach, but apparently Amazon is not thrilled with the zero-dollars option.

However, 99 cents is just fine with everybody, so now Rollo Hemphill's two misadventures, My Inflatable Friend and the sequel Rubber Babes, are at the magic price point in the Kindle library:

Read Rollo on Kindle for .99

But wait - as they say in those tantalizing TV pitches - there's more! The Kindle versions are also available now on SmashWords, where free is free. So My Inflatable Friend has been knocked down to zero bucks, for now and for how long, go figure:

My Inflatable Friend - Kindle and all other versions - free on SmashWords

Rubber Babes - in all formats - at the magic 99 cent price, all on SmashWords

So if you're gifting ebook readers for the holidays, finally treating yourself to one, or have one and just plain bored and craving a laugh, catch up on where Rollo has been and where he's going.

Because... his third misadventure Farnsworth's Revenge: Rollo's End is coming out in a big way sometime soon, and you'll want to know why on Earth you'd bother to pre-order that one, much less fork over its cover price.

Audio preview of Farnsworth's Revenge

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Review: "From Russia with Love" by Ian Fleming

From Russia with Love was the fifth of Ian Fleming's 007 books, published in 1957. Apparently he wasn't sure whether he wanted the franchise to continue, and you have to read the sequel, Dr. No, to find out how some of the plot points in this one were resolved.

Interesting, I think, is that the movie Dr. No (based on the sixth book) was the first James Bond film, and From Russia with Love was the second. Swapping the order of the plots actually necessitated some changes to the stories. In the movie, Dr. No is part of an international crime syndicate, SPECTRE. However, the Russian coding machine (based on the German's WWII Enigma device) was called Spektor in the novel and apparently renamed Lektor in the movie. SPECTRE is nowhere mentioned in either of the novels. In the novel From Russia with Love, it is the Russian assassination bureau SMERSH that hatches the plot to kill Bond using the Spektor and a beautiful woman as bait. In the movie, the planner Kronsteen instead works for SPECTRE, which intends to steal the Lektor along with luring Bond, then kill him and return the machine in return for a big SMERSH ransom payment.

Bond is a somewhat anachronistic character now, a gentleman bad boy back when most heroes played nice. Now they're all bad boys, and worse. And he was an unabashed male chauvinist. I'll leave it for the reader to marvel at rather than explain too much, but Tatiana Romanova is a rake's pipe-dream of a character, like all of the Fleming babes. She lives to serve the fantasy image she's created of Bond in her mind, and she commits the spy's cardinal sin of starting to believe her own cover story.

This book starts very slowly, with much more expository heavy lifting than you'd expect from a spy thriller. The action only accelerates about two-thirds of the way through. Fleming's literary predecessors included Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene, and his slow storytelling pace seems like a throwback.

Also odd, it seemed to me, were his opinions of Istanbul. Fleming hates the Turkish food and finds the city dirty and under-lit at night. Contrast this image with today's Istanbul, which has a population of fifteen million and growing (larger than Los Angeles) and world-class amenities.

[Cross-posted on

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes

[Cross-posted on]


In terms of overt clues and Adrian's equation, Adrian had an affair (perhaps not so brief, near the end of his life) with Veronica's mother Sarah, who bore the child, also named Adrian, who was later sent (after Sarah's death?) to a caregiver facility.

I think what nags at Tony at the end is that there are other possibilities that could fit the evidence better. Unless Veronica spills it, or Adrian's diary is not burnt after all, Tony can never know for sure. In all scenarios he's guilty, in some achingly more than others.

The child could have been Veronica's by Adrian or by Tony. The memory of the trip to the river seems to imply a night of unprotected, romantic sex. Sarah might have cared for the baby when Veronica couldn't, or wouldn't. Veronica's pregnancy would have been when she and Adrian were newlyweds. He might have died thinking the baby was his. Or sure that it wasn't.

Tony says the child (seen now as a young man) looks like the presumed father, his old friend Adrian. But did Tony look like Adrian? Is Tony looking into a mirror and denying the familiarity he sees? Is Tony's remarking on the resemblance a clue to throw us off the track?

The child could have been Sarah's by Tony. This strange possibility best explains: 1) Sarah's bequest, 2) Veronica's rage, and 3) Sarah's enigmatic parting gesture to Tony, implying a secret they shared (that she'd seduced him during the visit). The fact that Adrian has repressed the memory of the sex act (but not the washing up after) would seem totally implausible, except in the context of this book which is all about how our minds rewrite history to suit our opinion of ourselves.

It's a mind twister, and credit Barnes for giving plenty of clues but being brave enough to perplex his readers by providing only the sense of an ending.

Book Review: "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides

[Cross-posted on]
The Marriage Plot is masterful on many levels. At first I wasn't drawn to any of the three characters in the love triangle - Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell. Each seemed deeply flawed, and they are. Except you read along and find that Eugenides thinks we all are, just as deeply in our unique ways, and are none the lesser for it. That's the way people are, and the way life goes. We stumble through it, thinking we are somehow in control, and it's what happens nevertheless while we are furiously busy making other plans, or simply fretting about making up our minds.

This is a literary novel, in the best sense, and I was surprised to read some critics cramming it into the diminutive genre "campus novel." That would be like classifying Pride and Prejudice as a rom com, which is not as irrelevant as it sounds. The marriage plot, you see, is the genre form of which that work is representative. Eugenides wants to know whether the marriage plot is dead as a meaningful literary form, now that marriage seems hardly worthy as the ultimate goal of youthful aspirations.

Then there's the theme of semiotics. I studied with Roland Barthes (yes, I'm that old) and back then I don't think the term semiotics even existed. At least, I don't recall his ever having used it. But he talked incessantly about structuralism, that a novel is a long sentence spoken by its author, a literary construct waiting to be parsed. Understand, I didn't get any of this from him back then, just from what others, including Susan Sontag, have written about him since. His lesson plan was built around Balzac's short story "Sarrasine," which is the engrossing tale of a man obsessed by an opera star who turns out to be both a castralto and the "kept woman" of a powerful priest. But why Barthes chose that story for his criticism totally escaped me at the time, and I can only surmise now what his intentions were.

But back to Eugenides. The characters meet in a semiotics class at Brown, and the author gives a lot of detail about the subject and its impact on their personal thoughts. Semiotics claims, for example, that humans would not experience love as we have come to understand it unless we had read about it (or seen movies about it) first. There's a similar concept in Stendhal's The Red and the Black, in which the narrator comments that peasants in the French countryside cope with life less well than the sophisticated citizens of Paris, who have all read novels that give them models for how to act in society.

Ultimately, this is a novel about perception, what we make of reality as it is happening to us, and our inability to make meaning of events in time to control their outcome. Things happen or they don't. Things work out or they don't. They mostly don't, and we move on.

Perhaps significantly, the character in this book who understands himself best is the one whose grasp on reality is most tenuous, because he has to work at staying sane. In his acknowledgements, Eugenides credits several experts and sources for genetic research (another theme), but he thanks no one for his extensive detailing of bipolar disorder and its treatment. So naturally I wonder how he came by this information, and at what personal cost

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: "Black Cow" by Magdalena Ball

Friend and colleague Magdalena Ball sent me an (electronic) advance reading copy of her new novel Black Cow. Maggie is a contributor to the Boychik Lit blog (helping provide sensible sexual balance), and she is the founder and editor of the Compulsive Reader book review site. I previously reviewed her debut novel Sleep Before Evening, a painful coming-of-age story about a nice, bright girl (Marianne) from the Long Island suburbs who gets lost in the New York subculture of drugs and rock 'n roll. In Black Cow, the female protagonist (Freya) is all grown up, pushing middle age, settled down with her mildly dysfunctional family in Double Bay, one of the trendier suburbs of Sydney, Australia. Freya is married to the charismatic but now underperforming James. They are both busy striving to be capitalist overachievers after having long ago abandoned their youthful hippie ideals. Freya is a harried residential real estate agent. James is CEO of a nameless firm that seems to be engaged in nothing in particular. As a result of the global Great Recession malaise, Freya's house hunters aren't buying and James's shareholders are blaming him for, well, everything. Their teenage children Cameron and Dylan, once sweet and precocious, have turned cynical and introverted. No one is getting any satisfaction.

Freya's family reminds me of Katie's in Nick Hornby's  How to be Good, and it's almost the stereotype of middle class home life these days, the nuclear family of reality TV and sitcoms alike. It's somewhat depressing to realize that life is so much the same from Bloomsbury to Darien to Santa Monica to Double Bay. Ho hum. What to do?

Freya and James decide, after a long sequence of mishaps and arguments, to sell out, move the family to rural Tasmania, and take up organic farming and cattle ranching.

In so many novels, perhaps because of the authors' strong desires that blockbuster movies get made from them, some horrific, extraordinary event suddenly disrupts the mundane flow, triggering a hell-bent plot. An example would be Ian McEwan's Saturday, in which the daily middle-class routine of London neurosurgeon Henry Perowne is upset when a terrorist breaks into his home.

Although Black Cow is full of the aforesaid mishaps and arguments, it lacks that exceptional, catastrophic inciting incident that would transform it into a horror story or a family adventure movie. Assuredly, shit happens. But you may find Freya's dilemmas no worse or more dramatic than you experienced in your own dysfunctional family last week. This lack, in my opinion, is to the book's great credit. Black Cow is to be commended for its realism and its honesty. It's not a thrill ride, not an entertainment to divert us momentarily from the challenges of daily living, but a meditation on how life should be lived, on what we value and what we don't.

Having at least two meanings, the title suggests a theme.  The first is a confection made from root beer and ice cream. It's the treat Freya used to offer Cameron and Dylan when they were younger, the one sure-fire way of bringing a smile, a trick that no longer works. The term also refers to the Tasmanian Wagyu, a breed of black cattle prized for its marbled beef.

Those two meanings book-end the story.

So, does chucking it all and moving to the country resolve the family's unhappy issues? Remember, I praised Maggie for her unflinching realism.

All this said, they could well make a movie out of Black Cow, and I'd buy a ticket.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


There's a lot to be said about chemistry.

But you can't tell teenagers anything. Or can you?

The short story "Chemistry" is licensed for redistribution to anyone, with attribution to Gerald Everett Jones and without modification.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Guest Post: The Jig Is Er ... Down! by David Drum

One of the boychik's longstanding colleagues posted this book review of the Rollo Hemphill misadventures on Associated Content:

The Jig Is Er ... Down!

(ebook versions still free on until July 31)

Friday, June 17, 2011

MP3 Clip of Vroman's Reading: Farnsworth's Revenge

Listen now

This reading is from the third of the Rollo Hemphill misadventures, Farnsworth's Revenge: Rollo's End. In the first two books*, Rollo has masterminded a plot with a life-sized rubber doll made in the image of a famous soap star, Monica LaMonica. Rollo’s former boss, old crusty Hugo Farnsworth, has developed a passionate fascination for the doll. He is currently entertaining “her” as his sole guest aboard his private yacht Shameless Palms, currently anchored at St. Tropez. Meanwhile, Rollo has also fled to France to avoid being arrested for a money-laundering scam he didn’t do. As the book opens, Farnsworth secretly summons Rollo and pleads for his help because the doll has mysteriously disappeared from the boat.

Listen now

* Rollo books in softcover:
eBook formats:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gerald Reads at Vroman's Bookstore on Sunday June 12 at 3pm

Author of the Rollo Hemphill comic misadventure novels Gerald Everett Jones will read from the forthcoming third book in the series Farnsworth's Revenge: Rollo's End. It's the sequel to My Inflatable Friend and Rubber Babes.

In the first two books, Rollo has masterminded a plot with a life-sized rubber doll made in the image of a famous soap star, Monica LaMonica. Rollo’s former boss, old crusty Hugo Farnsworth, has developed a passionate fascination for the doll. He is currently entertaining “her” as his sole guest aboard his private yacht Shameless Palms, currently anchored at St. Tropez. Meanwhile, Rollo has also fled to France to avoid being arrested for a money-laundering scam he didn’t do. As the book opens, Farnsworth secretly summons Rollo and pleads for his help because the doll has mysteriously disappeared from the boat.

Vroman's Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA
3 - 5pm, Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wodehouse Is Papa of the Boychik

P. G. Wodehouse, author of the Jeeves and Wooster stories,
and a whole lot more. (Image from The Guardian)

Right Ho, Jeeves should be a mandatory course of remedial study for modern fratirists, as well as would-be authors of boychik lit or any male-centered comic fiction.

I hereby enter the name of P. G. (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse into nomination for Papa of boychik lit, the humor genre about young men with more chutzpah than brains. Bertie Wooster, protagonist of the wacky Right Ho, Jeeves and other stories, most certainly fits that bill.

Notice I'm not proposing that Wodehouse is somehow the godfather of fratire. The genre of fraternity satire, as columnist Warren St. John first defined it, centers on college-age bad boys who are preoccupied almost totally with scoring, or sexual conquests numerically touted. Its most notorious practitioner has been Tucker Max. My point, if you can find one in this thoughtful essay, is that Wodehouse has what fratirists lack and what boychik authors should emulate - namely, a hipper sensibility. Class. What Bertie Wooster would call "the real Tabasco."

The "Papa" of twentieth-century literature, of course, was Ernest Hemingway. His biographer Carlos Baker says the nickname had something to do with his wanting to be regarded as an authority. And indeed Papa H was the high priest of clean, modernist writing style, the fabricator of sentences that slip out as effortlessly as a good bowel movement. As I've said in other posts and rants, his was an estimable contribution as to nonfiction, and particularly journalism. But to the extent that he killed style in narrative fiction, the ghosts of Peter Benchley and Heywood Hale Broun are still reviling him at some great Round Table in the etheric realms.

Also at that table, and possibly chairing it, would be Wodehouse, cackling as he explains how prose should come in other flavors besides vanilla. Note to Ben and Jerry: How about "Boychik's Banana"?

My comic novels about boychik Rollo Hemphill have attempted a world view inspired by the Wooster ethos: Avoid responsibility, romantic entanglements, and financial conundrums. Fear marriage and anyone in uniform. Pursue amusement, particularly if a practical joke will end in a "good wheeze." Fraternize with like-minded adult males who, despite their social standing, aspire to remain boys. Encourage food fights, but only with dinner rolls so as not to create a mess for which responsibility would have to be assumed. Coordinate rugby scrums in the clubroom, but only if fragile crockery has first been cleared. Solving real-world problems (such as romantic entanglements) by way of practical jokes and stratagems might not work but it's always worth a try.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meet Gerald Everett Jones at the Book Fair in LA

Where: Booth #76 Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC)

When: Saturday, April 30, 12 - 1pm

Topic: IWOSC membership, the writer's life, my straw hat

When: Later that day, 2 - 3pm

Topic: Book signing, My Inflatable Friend and Rubber Babes (first two comic novels in the Rollo Hemphill series) - and wide-ranging insightful discussion on "Boychik Lit is Hipper Fratire." 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

E-Book Blowout Madness One Week Only!

Do you think Darwin was more of a Kindle or an iPad kinda guy?
Read an E-Book Week on

It's that time again - basketball playoffs, baseball spring training, LA book fair anticipation, and best of all, the greatest annual electronic clearance sale while digital supplies last - Read an E-Book Week on

Just follow these links and enter coupon code RE100 to get free (while they last and our accountants don't find out) e-books in your choice of format, including HTML, LRF, EPUB, and others:

My Inflatable Friend: The Confessions of Rollo Hemphill

Rubber Babes: Further Misadventures of Rollo Hemphill

This streaming, screaming extravaganza runs one week only - from March 6 to 12 (or until the last electron is out the door!).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Opera Review: The Turk in Italy at LA Opera

Okay, boychiks. What would you do if you were married to her? And imagine that you're overweight and almost twice her age.

Your name is Don Geronio, and you are coping with the challenges of your May-September marriage when a dark male stranger floats into town on a flying carpet...more

Photo by Robert Millard courtesy LA Opera

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: Cleopatra

The subject of my blog is the unfortunate life choices made by young men who have more chutzpah than brains. Tyros, if you will. But it seems to me legitimate, if not downright inclusive, to also muse about young women who likewise show brashness, lack of respect for authority, and the propensity to occasionally throw up on their own shoes (c.f., Tucker Max et al).

I was drawn to Stacy Schiff's new biography of Cleopatra not only because I saw her (the author, that is) on Jon Stewart's show, but also because I've devoted considerable study to another Greek-speaking ancient Egyptian babe, Hypatia of Alexandria. (As with most women, ancient here is a highly relative term, unless you're blood relative and you know for sure. Hypatia was almost 500 years younger than Cleo - being a young adult in 415 A.D. versus 45 B.C. - but I calculate about 1,363 years older than me, and I leave it to the brighter boychiks to do that math.)

About the book I would say it's an engaging account and a worthy contribution to the topic. Schiff admitted (on camera to Jon, as I can attest) that not much is known about this last of the pharaohs. As a result, this book is mostly conjecture - scholarly and informed conjecture - but speculation nonetheless. Imagine you are reading a rather well-written history text, clicking along about tenth-grade reading level, and every sentence begins (or could begin) with "She would have..." or "It is likely that..." That is, Schiff argues mostly from circumstantial evidence and logic.

Her opinions are therefore not necesarily more factual than anyone else's, except when a bona fide scholar expresses an opinion, we tend to give it more weight than amateur conjectures like mine. Especially when a lot of people these days who are struggling to read at tenth grade level could not identify Cleopatra's role in history unless they recall seeing the oft-derided Fox epic on Turner. Schiff points out that we don't even know what Cleo looked like, except for some profiles on ancient coins. The author astutely points out that those likenesses would have been subject to royal approval, and therefore are probably pretty good. Unfortunately for the sake of Cleo's reputation, they are not all that pretty.

To paraphrase Schiff's conclusion, "She would have had a helluva mind." Plus, of course, political power, the world's largest personal fortune (far surpassing anything in Rome), and -- let's take a wild guess -- a helluva body and some hard-earned skills.

Schiff's arguments point out the varying political biases of historians such as Herodotus, Dio, and Josephus. After all, that's most of the written evidence we have. From a scholarly standpoint, hers is a significant contribution simply because of that dose of objectivity.

But life is not all that logical at times, and although Schiff takes emotions and even passions into account, arguing what Hitchcock called the "plausibles" could easily get things wrong. Life doesn't always make perfect sense. Read our recent history, about which we have more information than anyone could digest, and then ask yourself how you'd explain its seeming lack of logical progression to some (hopefully benign) intelligent space alien.

With all its focus on the pharaoh, this book called Cleopatra is mostly about Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, and Schiff seems genuinely in awe of both. Perhaps rightly so, but you wonder which of the three she'd rather have dinner with.

My favorite parts of Cleopatra are Schiff's descriptions of the royal barges (imagine something almost the size of a Royal Caribbean being paddled around by a thousand slaves, enclosing a theater, a gym, a banquet hall, plus the royal suite and staff quarters). Then there are the luxurious decorations and feast days in the city of Alexandria. Romans - yes, the Romans - thought the Alexandrians celebrated to excess!

And my favorite of her many observations: Since Cleopatra was descended from Macedonian Greeks (generals in Alexander the Great's army), she was "about as Egyptian as Elizabeth Taylor."

This was the first book I read on Kindle. Get two Kindles. One for yourself and one for your wife or girlfriend. Because if you don't she will borrow it and you will never see it again! If you live under the same roof, maybe only one needs to have 3G. Make it yours!