The wisdom underlying Mharlyn Merritt’s very atypical novel THE ACTOR stems from two sources: the first is insight gleaned from old-time movie stars such as Ava Gardner who are quoted from liberally in each chapter (“Fame gives you everything you never wanted”) as well as analyzed often and at length throughout. According to the point of view of Merritt’s racially diverse cast of characters, for example, Ms. Gardner was a magnet for unwanted male attention due to her feral sexual presence that could not be tamed, which was the exact quality many a man found irresistible. The second source of subterranean knowledge offered comes from a mysterious spiritual realm.
Felicia ‘Babe’ Lake first meets The Actor she is destined to fall for at first sight in a scary dream that ends violently, where she is herself but in someone else’s body. Once Babe meets The Actor a week later through her gay cohort, Professor Raymond T. Pickles, the successful thespian on the one hand seems like everything Babe has ever wanted in a good-looking man, while on the other hand The Actor is kind of crazy and also subject to disturbing dreams, the kind where dream-people sometimes appear briefly in real life, only to disappear once the light is turned on. While there are humorous moments along with the heat of a certain type of BDSM omni-sexuality, in the story, there are also home invasions, constant imbibing of mind-altering substances for pleasure and avoidance, plus frequent references to the possible murder of people who have been important in The Actor’s life. This lends to a tense, knife-edged pace that leaves more typical issues readers might relate to, such as Babe’s and The Actor’s wish to wed (though she’s unfortunately still married to someone else), or the pain of The Actor sometimes being perceived as an ‘abomination’ due to his bedroom proclivities– somewhat lost in the commonplace dust. A sense of danger is reinforced often with lines like: “she had the kind of tough, blonde dame look and pouty mouth that made men want to slap her and then f— her” which are likely to be just some readers’ cup of tea, while not appealing at all to others.
In THE ACTOR by Mharlyn Merritt, movies are a source of entertainment, a bible of aphoristic Truths, a metaphor, and an escape from the drudgery of ordinary everyday life. With frequent exploration of the intersection between sex and violence, this is a story for those who are not faint of heart or stomach.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader