The Garden of Heaven
Mayflower, London, 1969
(price: 5/-; 224 pages)
first published by WH Allen, 1967
To my son Court, and to Gore Vidal
The blurb on the back:
The Garden of Heaven.
Eight ill-named, ill-famed apartments (one empty) on the wrong side of Hollywood.
1. Dick and Hugh, two young hairdressers living cosily together.
2. Kewpie Martin, at 26 still chasing a dream of childhood stardom, to the exclusion of her husband, Roger.
3. Maria, voluptuous, disillusioned good-time girl from Rome, and Bill, her much-adulterated husband.
4. Guy Staunton, a middleaged womaniser, concerned about his hair, his figure and his sex-drive.
5. Harvey Wentworth, a bully, and his frustrated wife, Lois.
6. Thelma Wilson, a self-pitying alcoholic.
7. Paul Weston, a would-be writer, and his gorgeous sex-preoccupied wife, Gloria.
Dick and Hugh, with their rich Lesbian friend Margot, decide to hold a get-together party for the residents. A party with all the ingredients of promiscuity, drama, disaster...
'The Garden of Heaven' in Hollywood was a group of eight apartments which never should have been built, clustered around a microscopic, chlorine-filled swimming pool.
Peter Dane (1918-85) was a Californian actor who had fringe roles in a handful of movies like Candy and who - as far as I am aware - branched out into fiction on just this one occasion. As you'll see from the sleeve notes, it fancies itself as the source material for one of those late-Sixties wild and swinging sex comedies. I suspect Mr Dane imagined that perhaps Blake Edwards might consider picking up the option and casting Peter Sellars and the like.
Probably would have worked, actually. Wouldn't have been much celebrated by critics, but could easily have turned a few pennies at the box office. As a novel, on the other hand, it simply tries too hard to be wacky, and ends up being irritating.
ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 2/5