I bring you a funny book. I needed a change, and I thought you might enjoy it as well.
Five Times Lucky by P. David Temple The perfect antidote for these colourless times
In FIVE TIMES LUCKY, an intrepid traveler gets more than her share of tabloid celebrity. Who hasn’t wondered what life was like inside the velvet rope of the Hollywood in-crowd? In this fast-moving comedy by P. David Temple, the quest for fame has no boundaries…but celebrity has its downside. We follow ex-actress BunnyLee Welles, who returns to Los Angeles for her best friend’s wedding and finds that she is instantly recognizable. From the customs officer to the baggage clerk to the Lyft driver, everyone knows her single-dimple smile. They mimic her. They take selfies with her. They hand her unsolicited film scripts. In the four years she has been traveling abroad, her sole commercial role for Dial-a-Denture has recently become an online meme. Like it or not, BunnyLee is now famous.
It seems like everyone BunnyLee crosses paths with is seeking to exploit her notoriety. An old boyfriend from college is using material gleaned from their relationship to further his stand-up career. Another college acquaintance, a burgeoning local TV news reporter, trades on her friendship with BunnyLee for a scoop on the evening news. BunnyLee seeks shelter in the rambling estate of an aging Hollywood heartthrob whose own career has been derailed by a years-old altercation with Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street. He can relate to BunnyLee’s plight as others in his sphere—a duplicitous chauffeur, a social-climbing cook—vie for a piece of his fame. But as much as BunnyLee strives to keep things platonic, romance is a snake lurking in the underbrush. BunnyLee borrows Buck’s vintage Mustang and hits the road with her new puppy on what begins an odyssey through a culturally conflicted modern-day America. Along the way, car trouble leads to her rescue by an injured professional wrestler whose career is a cautionary tale about trading everything meaningful in life for the chance to bask in the limelight of fame.
“An engaging tale about celebrity, love, and the search for one’s place in the world. Temple’s prose is exact and full of color, capable of both madcap humor and wistful lyricism.” — Kirkus Review
“P. David Temple’s story provides numerous laugh-out-loud moments. Its special blend of humor, philosophy, romance and adventure will keep readers involved and guessing about the outcome to the end. The story ultimately questions the price and goal of fame and fortune, using a tongue-in-cheek observational style that is simply unforgettable.” — Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
“A delightful and skilled writer, I enjoyed every moment. The whole thing went down as easily as a glass of bubbly.“ — Mitchell Levin, Senior Script Analyst, DreamWorks.
“I love the way the characters are drawn. [Temple] has a way of crafting characters who are human—flawed and real and dimensional. And so funny.”—Shanna McNair, Founder of the New Guard
“A delicious comic novel through the underside of Hollywood’s fame game. With a sure hand for deft cinematic prose and a remarkable ear for dialogue, Temple has crafted vivid characters that are often zany, sometimes seedy and always hilarious.”—Jerelle Kraus, Art Director, The New York Times
About the author:
New York-based author P. David Temple has worked in the entertainment industry in numerous capacities including director and director of photography, was a judge for the Emmys, and traveled for a stint as a cameraman for the World Wrestling Federation in the days of Hulk Hogan and André the Giant. He is a proud member of IATSE Local 52 film union. Temple has witnessed scores of Americans scaling the steps of fame. One piece of advice that he learned early on and is willing to share with the dauntless: “Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you will be meeting them again on your way down.”
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’d like to have your book reviewed, check here), and I was provided an ARC copy of the novel, which I freely chose to review.
I didn’t know the author before I came across this novel but after checking a sample of it, I thought it would be the perfect antidote to the dreary mood that seems to hang over everything these days. I looked forward to a light read. This is a funny book (laugh-out-funny at times), but it comes with its share of serious moments as well. And I enjoyed both aspects of it.
What to say about the plot of this novel… Well, I’ve said it’s funny, and it is a comedy, or rather, it touches on several comedy genres at once: a soap opera; a romantic comedy (yes, there is a central love story and other possible ones hovering around the edges); a quasi stand-up comedy routine full of jokes; a madcap comedy at times; there are elements of physical comedy; we have big spectacle as well (and it’s easy to see how handy the author’s experience with the World Wrestling Federation has been); a more intellectual/phylosophical-style comedy, and everything in between. The description of the novel does a pretty job at providing some semblance of a plot, and the story starts with BunnyLee, a —no longer so young— woman who after trying to become an actress has been working as an English teacher in Thailand for several years and is on her way back to LA to attend the wedding of one of her best friends. She is also going to stay at her friend’s apartment for a couple of weeks while she’s away on her honeymoon, but as her luck (she’s been told by a shaman priest that she is five-times-lucky) would have it, through a series of misunderstandings (I forgot to mention the farce, didn’t I?), she ends up staying as a guest in the house of an ageing Hollywood star, Buck LeGrande, who isn’t quite ready to become a has-been yet, and their friendship/perhaps-something-else falls victim to further misunderstandings and more than a fair bit of paranoia and jealousy. Somehow, the novel becomes a road trip for a while, and a whole host of new characters join the motley crew of BunnyLee, Buck, Buck’s chauffeur (and aspiring scriptwriter), Buck’s Chinese cook (for whom popular culture, media, and his Chinese relatives seem to be the source of all knowledge), and Puddles, the dog, a labradoodle and a true star. Austin, a cowboy and WWF celebrity on his way down, is also on the road, running away from a couple of women on a pink camper van, and their paths are, of course, set to cross. Characters from the world of professional wrestling, a local cowboy, a waiter, a Native American fish and game warden, staff at a Zen spa… also come into the story, don’t ask me to explain how. If you want to know, I invite you to read the book.
Fame, the world of TV and acting, Hollywood, celebrity culture, grief and loss, philosophy and the search for meaning, family relationships… these themes and more make it into the novel as well, and as I’ve said, despite the comedic elements I felt quite touched by the story at times.
I’ve mentioned some of the characters we come across, and although a few of them play small parts, all of them are pretty memorable. The book might be written as a comedy, and we might laugh at the characters at times, but they are not mere caricatures, rather all too human, and no matter how distant they might be from our everyday experience, they are universally recognisable and have endearing and redeeming qualities, even when (or because of) they are making total fools of themselves. Because, who hasn’t been there, especially when there are toupees and tight Spandex leggings involved? (If I had to choose one character, I admit to having a soft spot for Austin, the wrestler, although it’s difficult to top Puddles).
The book is narrated in the third person from a number of different points of view, which are clearly separated in the novel, so there’s no risk of getting confused about whose perspective we are following. This is a very self-aware novel, and an omniscient narrative voice sometimes pokes fun at the whole enterprise, in an interesting exercise of metafiction. It is a very visual novel with scenes that scream to be turned into set pieces in a movie or TV series, and this is combined with digressions where characters and/or author wonder about all kind of weighty subjects, from fate, to the nature of love and life itself. We have contemplative moments interspersed with scenes that explode in a whirlwind of action, energy, and laughter creating a perfect combination of light fun and reflection.
I have highlighted many jokes, insightful and crackwise comments, and many of the scenes, but some are far too long to share. As usual, I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the novel before deciding if it is a good fit for them, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few examples of what you might find.
Like the reader of fiction, one needed to have faith in his or her author, faith in the belief that the narrator knew how best to tell the story, faith that what may have seemed like irrelevant philosophical digressions were in fact well-crafted artifices both necessay and sufficient to the telling of a compelling story.
He wasn’t afraid of heights per se. It was the depths surrounding them that gave him pause —gravity being the one law you should never tempt breaking.
Like so many icons afoot these days in the pantheon of emerging American heroes, Chief Tenaya was a confluence of mixed metaphors. He was an icon in search of a meaning.
The ending fits both the comedy and the romance conventions. It ends up in a high note, and that’s exactly what most of us need right now.
So, if you’re looking for a fun/crazy read, with a bizarre catalogue of characters, are prepared to put your faith in the author and his criteria, are happy to follow him down some unusual and unexpected paths, and are looking for a break from the grey and dreary reality, this is your antidote. I hope this turns into a TV series or a movie, because it will be a hoot.
Thanks to the author for his novel, to Rosie and her team for all their support, to all of you for reading, and remember to keep smiling, to keep safe, and to keep reading!