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Turnpike Flameout
     

Turnpike Flameout

4.0 1
by Eric Dezenhall
 

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In the tradition of Get Shorty and The Player, Turnpike Flameout pierces America's veil of celebrity and asks: When does fame become a crime?

Early praise for Turnpike Flameout:

"Turnpike Flameout is one of the funniest, smartest novels I've ever read. Everything about the book is

Overview

In the tradition of Get Shorty and The Player, Turnpike Flameout pierces America's veil of celebrity and asks: When does fame become a crime?

Early praise for Turnpike Flameout:

"Turnpike Flameout is one of the funniest, smartest novels I've ever read. Everything about the book is top-shelf—the characters, the humor, the writing, the satire, the slick plot. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but Eric Dezenhall has written a novel that leaves the rest of us mumbling and shaking our heads, wondering how in the world he pulled it off."

—Martin Clark, author of The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living and Plain Heathen Mischief

"Turnpike Flameout is what's really going on while the rest of us are watching the spun-for-the-masses version of star meltdowns on Entertainment Tonight! A fast-paced trip behind the facade of celebrity persona into the rarely seen reality of what it means to be a fading star. The ultimate celebrity tantrum, totally outrageous and totally believable."

—Lisa Brandt, Celebrity Tantrums: The Official Dirt

"With snortworthy humor, Eric Dezenhall takes you to a messy, sinister realm - the weird world of crisis-managing a retrograde pop idol who's gone right off the edge. Finally - an irresistible mystery for people who hide their copy of Us Weekly inside a copy of Vanity Fair inside a copy of the Economist. Smart, bizarre, and oddly danceable."

—Hank Stuever, author of Off Ramp: Adventures and Heartache in the American Elsewhere

Praise for Eric Dezenhall and Shakedown Beach:

"A cheeky political satire...Here's proof that politics is funny when it isn't even trying."

—Marilyn Stasio, NYTBR

"Reads like a Carl Hiaasen novel hijacked from South Florida and plopped down in South Jersey...a well-observed thriller."

The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Dezenhall is the most mordantly funny writer not named Westlake, with an ear for the zinger, a lie detector that makes mincemeat of politicians and spinmeisters, and the ability to plot like Machiavelli."

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for TURNPIKE FLAMEOUT:

"[A] funny and fast-moving novel." —Dallas Morning News

"An entertaining ride." —Philadelphia Inquirer

"First-rate." —Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Eric Dezenhall and SHAKEDOWN BEACH:

"A cheeky political satire...Here's proof that politics is funny when it isn't even trying." —Marilyn Stasio, NYTBR

"Reads like a Carl Hiaasen novel hijacked from South Florida and plopped down in South Jersey...a well-observed thriller." —-The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Dezenhall is the most mordantly funny writer not named Westlake, with an ear for the zinger, a lie detector that makes mincemeat of politicians and spinmeisters, and the ability to plot like Machiavelli." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Publishers Weekly
In Dezenhall's mildly diverting fourth mystery (after 2004's Shakedown Beach), Jonah Eastman, grandson of a late Atlantic City Mafia bigwig, agrees to assist a public relations colleague handling Turnpike Bobby Chin, one-time child star turned '80s rock star ("For a fleeting moment Bobby had become Jersey's second-favorite rocker after Springsteen"). Chin, who's trying for a second comeback, has somehow survived a private plane crash and become the lead suspect in the disappearance-and possible murder-of a local sculptor. Eastman, simultaneously repelled and fascinated by Chin's near-pathological narcissism, soon realizes that his new client is his own worst enemy, though Chin is ably assisted by investigative music journalists after his scalp as well as the not-especially-bright star's own supporters and hangers-on. While the author's narrative skill suffices to keep the plot rolling and tumbling, his would-be colorful characters come off as rejects from one of Elmore Leonard's lesser novels, and their snappy patter sags more often than it snaps. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Pollster Jonah Eastman (Shakedown Beach, 2004, etc.) gets a job kissing a comeback king's backside. Bobby Chin was a child star and then a rock idol in the '80s, but he can't buy an audience for his latest act despite the efforts of his crack management team, former porn star Tic and disgraced proctologist Kadaborah. Media consultant Cindi Handler wants Bobby's name and image bandied about 24/7. So when he can't fill the little Golden Prospect Casino, gangster Mickey Price's old stomping ground in Atlantic City, and rumors circulate that he's died in a plane crash in the Pine Barrens, the public and the ACPD smell a publicity stunt. The scent grows stronger when Bobby reappears and is sequestered in his hotel suite. Through an outrageous misunderstanding, he hires Jonah, Mickey's grandson, to find out what became of a vanished sculptor who'd been casting him in bronze. Despite allies like Chief Willie Thundercloud, stripper-turned-psychotherapist Mustang Sally and his elderly gangster pals, Jonah gets kidnapped twice, mugged once and lied to continually. When Bobby's pushed off the tabloid pages by the Kaylee Hopewell abduction, Jonah can salvage his job only with lies and misgivings. Bobby will get his full-color spread but won't live long enough to savor it. A couple of suspect plot twists, but the jabs are first-rate. And who could resist one gangster named Doo-Wop and another operating out of an ice cream truck?

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312340612
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
12/27/2005
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.42(h) x 1.12(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Turnpike Flameout

book one

MEGA BOY

In the superstar world the most corrosive virus is permission.

-TINA BROWN

Prologue-impale the Children

july 4, margate, new jersey

"Shamelessness is the lubricant of damage control."

I'm the pollster you hire when you can't win on the merits. My clients don't have merits. Case in point: The borough of Hopkins Pond, New Jersey, just fired me because I couldn't persuade their community to demand more hazardous waste burial at the KinderTots Day Care playground. They also stiffed me on eighty-three grand in polling fees. Had I done my job right, the logic goes, mommies and daddies would be clamoring for jagged, blood-caked syringes from Lenape Hospital to be entombed on the playground where their urchins played duck-duck-goose every day.

While I'm not responsible for the defeated bill that would have boosted the dumping of nasties in Hopkins Pond, I am responsible for my career choice. I am a rare breed of pollster: unlike the cavalcade of academicians and smartass pundits who make their livings passing judgment on how those of us in the line of fire screwed up, I am hired to actually impact the direction of events that are already heading south.

When you've got a case that has no merits, the trick is to speak with force about things you know nothing about. Shamelessness is the lubricant of damage control. My latest feat was getting a priapic nimrod elected to the United States Senate by creating a campaign for hiseffete opponent that riled New Jersey voters. I conjured up thirty-second TV spots ostensibly supporting our blueblood adversary (I showed the poor bastard playing squash) using slogans such as STRENGTH THROUGH PANACHE and LEADERSHIP WITH ELAN. As one Camden bricklayer said in a focus group, "I dunno what it means, but I can't stand that guy's ass."

Sometimes, as in the campaign to impale preschoolers with contaminated hypodermics, nothing works, even if it's damned brilliant. The work I did this summer for the rocker Turnpike Bobby Chin was spectacular (forgive my swagger), but it ended in abject disaster. As depressed as I am about his immolation, I feel compelled to confess to how I almost pulled it off even if I'll be accused of spinning. Which is what I do.

I used to pride myself on my lack of shame, but after a quarter-century in the spin racket, I've come to feel as if a balloon payment of compunction is due. After enduring the occupational hazards of a renegade pollster—my debacles have been showcased at Princeton, my successes go unsigned—I had the good fortune to begin slowing down. I had no remaining fuse for getting fired, blamed, and stiffed on invoices; traveling to the outhouses of America on prop planes; subsisting on vending-machine cuisine; cloaking my improvisational hucksterism in the chin-scratching respectability of "public opinion research"; and enduring media exposes placed by enemies that inevitably contained footnotes about my gangland lineage.

These days, I took only cases that I either believed in, or paid very well. Still, getting rooked for eighty-three grand was a problem because I had subcontractors to pay.

Raised in Atlantic City, I had lived in the Washington D.C. area for sixteen years after graduating from college. I knew I had to leave Washington when more and more of the advertisements in the real estate section of the Post described homes for sale as being "just minutes from the White House." As if you'd have to get there REALFAST. This grandiose posturing sent me over the edge, the way a couple that's been married for twenty years finally decide to get divorced because they hate the way each other chew. I had worked in President Reagan's White House when I was in my twenties, and did not need to be reminded that my proximity to the big time was in the distant past.

The main reason why I moved my wife, Edie, and our kids back to South Jersey a few years ago was because Edie's dad had hip replacement surgery, and hadn't healed as quickly as we would have hoped. Edie wanted to be near her parents as they aged. I, having lost my parents as a little boy only to be raised on the lam by my grandfather the mobster, understood the need to nest. We moved into a cottage on the grounds of my in-laws' farm in Cowtown, about forty miles inland. My business, Jonah Price Eastman & Associates (the "associates" were a laptop and cell phone), could be operated from anywhere. I began to teach a course in Postmodern Deceit at Rowan University a few days a week during the school year, taking on the occasional corporate assignment or speech, and enjoying—more than I ever imagined—raising my family.

As a compulsion, I compile my Big Theories on life, which I record in a diary that will probably be worth nothing someday. Nevertheless, I share them with my students when the opportunity presents itself, which I always make sure that it does.

 

 

I came up with my Big Theory on terrorism while watching TV at a bar overlooking the Margate beach: Terrorism works because everybody needs it to work. The terrorists need to terrorize, the public needs a vessel in which to pour its free-floating anxieties, and the news media need to fill a geometrically expanding universe of time and space with something.

Since the blockbuster of September 11, 2001, the Armageddon industryhad been predicting that the next big U.S. terrorist strike would come via private aircraft on an important date at a significant place. So it was that two F/A-18 Hornet jets from Maguire Air Force Base in South Jersey were commanded aloft when a Gulfstream V approached the twin Liberty Place towers in Center City, Philadelphia. The very spectacle of stray jets and twin towers in the city of our nation's founding swung the lens of the global media to the Pine Barrens—those haunted woodlands and birthplace of the Jersey Devil comprising one-fourth of our state—where the aircraft appeared to be heading on a jubilant Independence Day about two hours before the evening news.

I was on the beach with my children, Ricky, seven, and Lily, five. I liked to watch them play in the water, but I rarely went in. Not one of life's big enjoyers, I preferred playing scout. Chief Brody in Jaws. As the kids attempted to bury each other in the wet sand, I read a special edition of Philly! magazine, which ran a feature on the "Top 100 Philadelphia Bar Mitzvahs." (According to the feature, Jared Shandel-man of Ardmore "won" with his parents' rental of Veterans Stadium—and the entire offensive line of the Philadelphia Eagles—for his affair. The giant Torah scroll unraveling from the goalposts was a nice touch, I thought.)

Lily emerged from a sandy hole she had dug for herself and announced, "God needs me to have a Coke or some-ping." Never a man to provoke the Old Testament, the three of us walked toward the indoor-outdoor bar to fulfill the Almighty's will.

As we approached the bar, I noticed a crowd slowly migrating toward a television that was suspended from one of those fake palm trees indigenous to the Jersey Shore habitat. As I ordered our sodas, KBRO-TV in Philadelphia broke in with the wobbly footage of the Gulfstream V tickling the towers of Liberty Place. The aircraft vanished behind one tower.

God, no.

But there was no sound. A primal groan of relief could be heard around the bar as the plane emerged from the shadow in between the buildings, and whispered across the Delaware River into South Jersey. The news talent, a fossilized local hack named Al Just, Lord of the Furrowed Brow: "We must take pains to underscore that at the present time, we have no evidence that, in fact, we are confronting ... an act of terrorism on America's birthday."

Bless Al's heart. He had managed to inject the flashpoint words into the region's bloodstream: EVIDENCE. FACT. TERRORISM. AMERICA.

"Is it the bad people again?" Lily asked. A 9/11 reference.

"Nobody knows yet," I said, self-satisfied with deliberation.

"I just know it's the bad people," Lily decided. Ricky studied me for cues of affirmation, having long ago accepted that the Drama Queen would reach the most hysterical conclusion available. I winked at him.

Within minutes, the Liberty Place vaudeville had bounced from local KBRO to global Fox News and CNN. By the time we finished our drinks, Fox News had secured data from the tail number of the aircraft. The plane did not, in all likelihood, belong to a terrorist. In fact, it was entirely possible that something even more culturally seismic was happening:

The plane belonged to a celebrity, and a cranberry farmer in Tabernacle had called KBRO to report an engine flameout, then a fireball in the Pine Barrens.

TURNPIKE FLAMEOUT. Copyright © 2006 by Eric Dezenhall. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10010.

Meet the Author

Eric Dezenhall is the president of Dezenhall Resources, one of the nation's leading crisis management firms. He is the author three other novels, and the nonfiction study Nail 'Em! Confronting High-Profile Attacks on Celebrities and Businesses. He lives in Bethesda, MD.

For more information on Eric Dezenhall and his books, go to www.dezbooks.net.

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Turnpike Flameout 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Jonah Eastman is a special kind of pollster. He does not just collect data and report ad nauseam as to what average American believes. Instead his job is to impact the polls in favor of his client whether it means obtaining support to place a hazardous waste dump inside a child care facility or insuring the election of an idiot to the senate (obviously will fit in nicely with the standards of that club) by painting an even more moronic portrait of the opposition. Truth or ethics are not factors only wins are important regardless of the means count if you need a reference just ask the Reagan White House. --- Public relations ¿Practitioner¿ Cindi Handler hires Jonah to help her client former TV child star turned into New Jersey¿s number two rock star after the Boss, Turnpike Bobby Chin. Recently his private plane crashed nearby, but he walked away. Now, he is the prime suspect in what is considered a kidnapping and probably a murder of a vanished sculptor Christian Josi, who was creating an unflattering statue of the former star. Trying to help an egotistical dope surrounded by has-beens and never-beens and chased by music journalistic vultures makes working the Reagan White House seem simple. --- The fourth Jonah pollster tale is an starring an intriguing individual whose expertise is an interesting spin. The story line is owned by Jonah as he reflects on life while trying to turn opinion in favor of pathetic Turnpike Bobby who instead thinks he needs an upholsterer and a lawyer more than an impact pollster. Though the support cast including the Turnpike behaves like aging garage band members seeking the Fountain of Youth (except for Jonah¿s intelligent wife and Cindi), Jonah¿s endeavors make for an intriguing look at how images and icons are created. --- Harriet Klausner