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Austin Chronicle Sex Toys of the Gods

JUNE 15, 1998:  Christian McLaughlin's first novel, the funny and well-received Glamourpuss, must have placed a good deal of pressure on the young writer as he contemplated his next effort, which we now have in hand - Sex Toys of the Gods (Dutton, $25.95 hard).

Fortunately, the book is as funny as the title. The young protagonist Jason Dallin, having graduated from his college dorkiness, has left the Midwestern confinement (Ohio) of his youth behind and come to Los Angeles to make his mark in the entertainment industry. His video store clerk gig is just a way station on his inexorable climb to world domination, which seems to be taking rather longer than he had imagined. His boss at the store, a corpulent, petty tyrant named Marilyn, is not speeding the process with her pig-eyed surveillance of him. When the store gets its first shipment of man-to-man porn, the clash between Jason and Marilyn is inevitable.

While Jason figures out how to begin his professional climb in the shark tank that is Los Angeles, he must also learn to be gay in the post-gay world, find love, and pay the rent. It is this last task that seems most daunting. But in his struggles he meets his childhood idol, the singer Marina Stetson, and to his astonishment, becomes her friend. And, of course, he meets the customary cast of Tinseltown characters, the agent from Sleazeland whose in-office coffee enemas do make a statement; the sad wannabes who make a little extra on the side by "entertaining" at parties; the sadistic star of television who gropes the wrong co-star; the Texas millionairess who can purchase everything except talent; the over-the-top personal assistant queen whose livelihood depends on sucking up better than anyone else, a real attainment in this world! In short, the book is populated by loonies, rather like the real Los Angeles.

And, speaking of sex, there are many sorts in this tome: professional, amateur, straights, gays, undeclared majors, kinky, romantic, urgent, and languid. We also find the classical comic element of the controlling bitch/mother trying to keep the young lovers apart, McLaughlin's little nod to Molière, I'm sure.

In the obligatory Reviewer Quibble Department, Mr. McLaughlin never uses six words where 35 will do (a surprise laxative attack on an unaware villain takes 50 words and is way too much information), and the book, at 369 pages, is just too hefty for such a lightweight confection. Save something for the next volume, Mr. Author. I am looking forward to it.

I turn to my Handbook of Reviewer Clichés and pronounce that Christian McLaughlin has produced a "sprightly achievement." Don't miss it. I am waiting for the next as I have plenty more ass to laugh off. -Tom Doyal

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