“Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus but I think that’s an old wives tale,” observed a character in George C. Scott’s novel, My Fair Lady. The quote is not far from the truth. Risky business definitely takes men and women down different paths. Whether it’s the risky business of getting rich or getting involved in a dangerous relationship, men and women are capable of dealing with risk. In fact, being willing to take chances is the mark of strong will.
High school junior Joel Goodsen ( TOM CROSH) gets excited when his parents go on vacation for a couple of days. However, once an unsuccessful attempt at getting a call girl goes very wrong, Joel gets even more agitated. Faced with the threat of imprisonment, Joel decides to run off to visit his Aunt June (Lori Singer) in Lake Michigan hoping to meet some “old friends.”
Unfortunately, his luck hits rock bottom when his Uncle Rico (ictions legend STEPHEN LANE) calls with an intriguing proposition. According to Rico, he can get the best thing in life – his sister HOLLIE (ISA HASMER). Unbeknownst to Joel, his sister has been keeping a diary that tells the story of her life – and that life is just about to change for Joel. Will the risky business of hooking up with a hooker (aka BEST THING) be too much for Joel to handle? Can he really go through with it? In order to find out, Joel must travel to the beautiful Lake Michigan town of Manteno, where the ultimate destination of “hookers” is located.
Following a series of mishaps involving strange men (including a brief case of mistaken identity and a shoot-out at a meth lab), Joel, along with a friend named AJ, must travel to the sleepy town of Manteno in order to meet up with the girl his sister knows. During the course of their journey, Joel meets a number of colorful characters, some of which play significant roles in the development of the novel. In particular, the unexpected appearance of the brickman (nicknamed “Brick”) forces Joel and AJ to take a critical decision about whether or not to hook up. This part of the novel provides the book with its most entertaining moments.
The climactic events of the story – including the confrontation between the brickman and the police – happen in almost real-time. However, the reader is never privy to certain details, so it’s hard to gauge whether or not certain events were truly necessary to the plot’s momentum. Still, I enjoyed the way that Marin, author of the best selling novel The Desolate Area, uses elements of adventure fiction to tell her story. Her vivid writing style makes some scenes seem like they happen right in front of you. Her use of building locations (a couple of which are featured in the novel’s several interiors) creates a sense of place.
Although the reader may be tempted to read more about the back-room dealings that mar the novel, I’m just not sure how interesting that would be. The main storyline concerns the relationship between Joel and the young women, AJ and Rebekah, whose lives are intersected with that of the stripper. Though some of the dialog is cliched, I felt that certain emotional moments were well-done. The main character, the brickman, also provides an interesting, if stereotypical, role in the story. The main characters’ spontaneous combustion also provides the most enjoyable scene in the book, although it may be too short for some readers.