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Johnny Porno ()

Currently cruising just beneath mass media radar is the next big thing in crime writing, Charlie Stella. When critics and readers describe him they invariably resort to comparisons with the greats of the genre--Elmore Leonard, George V. Higgins, and Donald Westlake. [That would be Westlake writing his Parker series, as Richard Stark, making it appropriate that Mr. Stella's latest is the first original title from Stark House Press.] But, at least here in Johnny Porno, you might also compare him to a historical novelist, because what he's offered up is a pitch perfect look at 1973 and the birth of the mainstream porn industry in a book packed with a wide cast of characters, numerous subplots, entertaining dialogue, enough factual/historical context for a documentary, and plenty of action. And if that's not enough for you, the novel is leavened with healthy doses of humor.

At the center of the tale is John Albano, an essentially decent guy who lost his union carpenter card when he punched out a foreman. Nor is that the only trouble his fists have caused him. He got a job collecting receipts from local porn theaters when he decked a corrupt cop in a local mob bar. Once that would have been a really minor job, but Deep Throat has just been banned in New York, so, of course, everyone wants to see it. Suddenly, the seedy movie houses are doing brisk business. At the same time, John made an enemy of the mob boss's nephew when they fought over a supposed pass John made at the hood's wife. And if Johnny Porno--the unwanted nickname that his current employment has won him--didn't have enough problems, he has to deal with his bitchy ex-wife if he's going to see his son and her first husband has hatched a plan to rob him of the cash he's collecting for the mob. Those are just the storylines that touch John directly, percolating along in the background are additional subplot ranging from a pair of honest cops trying to bust the crooked one to an effort to track down a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado that features in the film, for a mobster who just has to own it.

By the end of the novel there are so many guys gunning for each other that it's an impressive performance on Mr. Stella's part just to be able to orchestrate all the action coherently. That narrative dexterity, the entertaining dialogue, and the likable title character, in particular, not only make this a novel you'll want to read, but Charlie Stella an author to watch.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Charlie Stella Links:

    -BOOK SITE: Johnny Porno (Stark House Press0
    -INTERVIEW: Pro-File: Charlie Stella (Ed Gorman, March 19, 2009)
    -PROFILE: Charlie Stella Books a Winning Title With Cheapskates (Bookselling this Week, Mar 22, 2005)
    -INTERVIEW: Charlie Stella (John Kenyon, Things I'd Rather Be Doing)
    -INTERVIEW: Charlie Stella (Keith Rawson, Spinetingler)
-REVIEW: of Johnny Porno by Charlie Stella (Bill Crider)
    -REVIEW: of Johnny Porno (Spinetingler)
    -REVIEW: of Johnny Porno (BookChase)
    -REVIEW: of Johnny Porno (Dirty Sexy Books)
    -REVIEW: of Johnny Porno (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Johnny Porno (Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm)
    -REVIEW: of Johnny Porno (Michael Scott Cain, Rambles)

Book-related and General Links: