Further Reading: Porn Stars

 

While Stormy Daniels directs the national conversation, let’s take a moment to celebrate novels that put porn stars at the front and center of the (dramatic) action.

When compiling this list of recommended novels (linked to their excerpted Booklist reviews when available), I noticed the preponderance of crime fiction that features porn star characters of two distinct variations: murdered (often horribly) or reformed. It seems that many writers can’t reckon with the notion of a living, active sex worker as a person with feelings, agency, or depth. Some seem to feel that the corpse of a “fallen woman” (puke) makes for a compelling narrative device. To them I say to hell with that. Porn stars are making an honest living in an industry supported by millions of Americans. Also, get some new ideas, folks.

That’s why the following novels—note that I could only find three in our substantial database—are especially germane to today’s news cycle. Their authors are smart enough to imagine a porn star so thoroughly as to make him or her their protagonist, which shouldn’t be so uncommon. They’re just people, after all. People who can be elected officials of a national government (hey, Cicciolina) or have the power to royally mess ’em up.

 

 Debbie Doesn’t Do It Anymore, by Walter Mosley

Sandra Peel is having a rough week. Her husband has died, accidentally electrocuted in the bathtub (while in the company of another woman); she discovers she’s broke (Theon, her husband, was seriously in debt, and apparently she now owes a lot of money to some guy who might just kill her if she can’t pay up); and she’s decided to quit her job, reunite with her young son, and change her life. That’s a lot of good material to work with, but, maybe just to give himself an extra challenge, Mosley makes Sandra, better known as Debbie Dare, a porn star.

 

 

 

 The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson

Davidson’s stunning debut opens with a hedonistic porn star drinking bourbon as he drives, until a vision of burning arrows rushing at his car causes him to crash through a guardrail and careen down a ravine. He awakens in a hospital, burns covering most of his body. Friendless, he loathes the doctors who are working so hard to heal him and plots his suicide. Into this husk of a life walks Marianne Engel. Over time, she tells him the story of how they first met and fell in love 700 years ago at a German monastery. His initial skepticism over the improbability of her tale, given the fact that she’s been in the psych ward, gives way to curiosity and eventually love.

 

Money Shot, by Christa Faust

Angel Dare isn’t your average crime-novel protagonist: an aging porn star who now runs her own talent agency, she has a mouth like a sailor but worries about her gray hair and crow’s feet. When an old friend asks her to come out of on-camera retirement, she’s flattered and agrees—but soon finds herself locked in a trunk and left for dead. Her journey of vengeance, abetted by enigmatic bodyguard Lalo Malloy, is a trip through the dark side of sunny California and tests her devil-may-care view of the business of sex.

 

 

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About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the former Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist.

1 Comment on "Further Reading: Porn Stars"

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  1. stevenssandra4pdx@gmail.com' Sandra E. Stevens says:

    As a former sex worker pursuing a writing career, I must thank you for this post. I’d like to recommend a novel called ‘The Garden of Last Days’ by Andres Dubus III, published in 2008. It features a stripper who, while working at the “Puma Club for Men” is (of course) drugged and horrifically violated. However, she escapes the industry with money enough to create a good life for her and her little girl. A stripper who triumphs in the end, finally!

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