Friday, November 13, 2020

Review: Kept Man

Kept Man Kept Man by Don Elliott (pseudo.)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In addition to being one of the most prolific of the vintage sleaze authors with more than 150 written under various pseudonyms, Robert Silverberg was also one of the best stylists. You can usually count on at least decent characterization of the protagonist and that is what we have here. David Starnes, the kept man of the title, is a playwright battling writer's block. His first play was a Broadway success and he lived high on the spoils for several years, but hasn't written anything since. He's scraping the barrel when Alicia Markell picks him up and offers to underwrite his next play. It's a business relationship, he thinks, even as she puts him up in a swank apartment overlooking Central Park. She covers all his expenses and encourages him to write the play. Silverberg does a great job digging into Starnes' writing block as he spends three months rewriting the 3-page outline over and over. Meanwhile, Alicia begins spending the night, and it is not too long before Starnes realizes that he is her paid lover: a gigolo. Doesn't bother him too much at first, but he does progressively lose more of his self-respect and his writer's block deepens as the relationship continues. Eventually he meets a young woman in a bookstore and pursues her. Alicia finds out and demands he end it or she will cut off the gravy train. Starnes resists and Silverberg completely delivers on his descent into a wholly insufferable and unlikeable character, to the point that Starnes' failure is actually welcomed. What will save him? Writing. He needs to free himself from being a kept man and then he will be able to write again. Just a minor detail, of course, that he'd already been blocked for years before becoming a gigolo. As far as sleazers go, this is a well constructed and written story, although a bit light on the sex scenes.

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