Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Every Shade Of Black

Shade Runner

Every Shade Of Black
by Linzi Drew-Honey
Matador ISBN: 9781789013863

Every Shade Of Black is the third novel, that I know of, by former British glamour model and actress Linzi Drew (aka Linzi Drew-Honey). Among many other things she has done in her lifetime, she has published one autobiography, many years ago (and which really needs a sequel) called Try Everything Once Except Incest And Morris Dancing (which I reviewed here) and her fictional work Every Shade Of Blue (reviewed by me here), to which this is the sequel. Now this lady probably needs no introduction to UK people of a certain age but, if she does, I would urge you to read my previous reviews of her work first, to help fill you in a little on her famous background.

I bought her previous novel direct from her in a nice personalised copy at the Camden Film fair and, biding my time through the current pandemic, was able to remake my brief acquaintance with the lady at the recent Conway Hall Film Fair so, I'm glad I waited as I now have a signed copy of the sequel.

Every Shade Of Black continues the story of Suzanne (who I believe in my heart is, at the very least, partially based on the author herself), her new lover Sebastian, her soon to be ex-husband Edward, the treacherous young thing Tatiana (who stole Eddie away from Suzanne before the opening of the previous novel) and, just on the perimeter of their story and hovering like a slightly sleazier version of a Bond villain, appearing when required to make the drama of the book work at times, is Angelo, who kidnapped Suzanne in the previous book and who is concerned that one of his upper class sex addict, sex workers - namely Tatiana - is not back safely in the fold.

The story is a proper continuation of the various characters set up in the previous book and the majority of its fifty eight chapters, asides from an epilogue taking place in September of the same year, takes place between the 2nd and 17th of January, with each chapter once again including the specific date of the events ‘going down’ in that chapter and the name of one of the four characters. Each chapter is then told from the point of view of that specific character as Linzi takes us on a slow but deliberately paced journey to... well, okay, I’ll get there.

The story is fairly simple but, once again, this means the writer can take her time but also... much to the readers advantage... pepper it with liberal amounts of graphic, erotic content. However, it’s not just the copious amounts of sex which make this one an entertaining read but the general way the characters are explored. Sebastian especially is sketched out quite thoroughly and his personal story arc in this is the one which is mostly concentrated on. The majority of the novel takes place in the week of his birthday, when he and Suzanne take a trip to a five star hotel in Vancouver, with the now ‘fully employed again’ Suzanne doubling it up as a trip for her new job as a kind of hotel reviewer... and with Sebastian taking the opportunity to use it as a reason to finally catch up with the estranged father from his troubled childhood.

Once again, the characters are drawn as much by the small minutia of their lives in terms of the purchases they make, the clothes they wear, the perfumes they use and the wines they drink etc... as it is with everything else but, like the first novel which employs the same style of honing in on details to paint a broader picture, this works fairly effectively and at no point comes across as lazy writing (as it sometimes does with other authors who try to negotiate this kind of content).

As usual, every now and again (well, okay often) Linzi comes up with a very nice turn of phrase and one of them from early on in the novel in particular struck me, as she describes minor villainess (or perhaps expensive, nymphomaniac hedonist might be a better term rather than villainess) Tatiana as being... “Smug and contented like a pampered moggy...” Yeah, this made me smile because I knew exactly what she meant. She also, midst all the sexual shenanigans, comes up with a lovely description of snowfall, which heavily comments on the romanticism of the ice cold flakes (I know at least one lady who doesn’t share my love of snow but that’s because she lives in Switzerland, where it seems more of a bother when you’re living with it for long periods, I guess). But for UK based me, the sentence “The snow started to accelerate; a million wet kisses descending from the heavens as the sky darkened.” seemed pretty spot on to me.  I also now know what the word ‘sybaritic’ means so, yeah, glad my phone has a dictionary.

I mentioned the story was fairly simple but it’s also fairly effective in that there is a little twist which surprised me. I knew there had to be something the book was working towards in terms of the dramatic impetus of Sebastian’s character but I couldn’t for the life of me work out how. Then I discovered, the simple trick of using both the long form and shortened version of a name of a periphery character was the basis for a quite effective and somewhat serendipitous reveal of a plot point and, yeah, I really didn’t see that one coming at all... sometimes a simplistic structure is the best way to hide a secret and it certainly worked in this one. Hidden in plain sight, as it were.

There’s lots of nice little pop culture moments in the book too. I thought the reference to the Milk Tray Man might possibly date the novel against the purported age of the central characters but, after doing a quick Google on that, I found that those “All because the lady loved Milk Tray” style adverts were being made again. There’s also a nice, sneaky reference to the John Landis movie An American Werewolf In London, which of course featured Linzi as Brenda Bristols in the porn movie within the film, See You Next Wednesday.

My only real complaint... and this is probably not a criticism as such, is that the amount of sex the central four characters get up to each and every day is phenomenal. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting fairly long in the tooth now but the characters here put my stamina levels to shame... if I pushed things to these kinds of heights a certain body part would probably drop off me pretty quickly, I suspect.

All that aside though, Every Shade Of Black is another winner from the glamourous Linzi Drew-Honey who, like her central protagonist, has hair which is “a swath of golden sunshine” and, thankfully for this cynical, old reader... writing talents to match the binding. I definitely hope this isn’t the last thing she writes for sure and look forward to hearing more news about her as a writer in years to come.

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