Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Book Review: 'Sycophants' by Linda Gould

Sycophants by Linda Gould

“We’ve mastered the independent movie business as well as it can be mastered.”

Maryland author Linda Gould earned a bachelor's degree in English from Western Maryland College and a master's degree in political science from American University in Washington, DC. She terms herself `a career bureaucrat.' SYCOPHANTS is her fifth novel, her others being HANDMAIDENS OF ROCK, SECRETARIAL WARS, THE ROCK STAR'S HOMECOMING, and LET'S PLAY BALL. In her words, `I write chick lit novels with a social satire and/or political twist.'

Before entering Linda’s fine new novel, a recap of the meaning of the title – Sycophant – is helpful: ‘an insulting word for someone who praises rich or powerful people in order to gain an advantage.’

It is not unusual for Linda’s imaginative stories to have a twist of fate and a dollop of parody and SYCOPHANTS is no exception. She summarizes the plot well without giving away important secrets – ‘Imogene, a country girl by birth, has always longed for the bright lights of New York City. After graduating from a small-town college, she moves to the big city with her husband Steve and supports him through law school by working low-level publishing jobs. An aspiring writer herself, Imogene struggles with both marriage and career. Then her former college roommate, Sara, arrives in town with plans to establish a film production company. Sara takes over an outfit previously run by her brother, a semi-retired rock star, and Imogene jumps at the chance to join this exciting new venture. She becomes Sara’s confidante and assistant in an ambitious movie project about a youth revolution that threatens to engulf the nation’s capital. As the cast expands and the script evolves, the story line flirts dangerously with reality. The filmmakers can’t predict whether the project will make their fortunes or shatter their lives.’

But the joy of Linda’s coming of age book is evident in her opening lines – ‘When Imogene Taylor Wittier, a country girl by birth, was forced to abandon New York City—her adopted home and the place of her dreams—she considered herself an abject failure. Her six years in the big city, from 1982 to 1988, had been exhilarating at times but also brutal, both personally and professionally. The first time she separated from her husband, Steve, the breakup proved tougher than the marriage. She’d picked a screaming fight, accusing him of plotting to leave her for his brassy legal partner . . . or maybe his sexy paralegal. It was a mere suspicion, with no real evidence to support it, until he took her up on her suggestion to pack up and leave their condo. While Steve was gone, Imogene signed up for a dating service, but five months of entertaining what she called “a parade of jerks” made her husband look good by comparison. She and Steve had been soul mates since college, after all, with their joint dream of “making it in the big city….” 

Fine writing, well crafted characters and a fresh look at the film industry lead to a mystery that tosses a terrific path for a conclusion. This is another solid book from a lady who continues to share her talent.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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