Purgatory Garden, new novel by Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962-64)
Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962–64), winner of the 2006 Maria Thomas Award in 2006 for his novel The Manhattan Beach Project, has a new novel out this August entitled, Purgatory Garden.
In the novel Sammy Dee is a mid-level Long Island mafioso in witness protection. Didier Onyekachukwu was the corrupt minister of finance of the former Upper Volta. Both men find themselves in middle age, living in the Southern California version of genteel poverty in a down-market condo complex called Paradise Gardens.
Enter Marcy Gray, a “mature” actress barely getting by on a meager SAG pension. She is looking for a guy to help her through the duration and, frankly, at this point her standards are not as high as they should be; she’d settle for someone who doesn’t pick his teeth at the table and who drives at night. Occasional sex and some travel wouldn’t hurt. Her search has narrowed to two fellow residents: Sammy and Didier, who, being male, are mostly interested in getting into Marcy Gray’s pants. Though a little of the money they mistakenly think she has wouldn’t hurt either.
Once both men realize that the other is the primary obstacle to Marcy’s affections, each decides to put a hit on the other, and winds up unknowingly hiring the same father-son demolition squad. As the contract killers play both of their clients against one another, Marcy manages to keep both men out of her bed until one or the other of her prospects passes muster. Poisoned pizza, blown-up cars, sex in the sauna, and media madness ensue. It’s Elmore Leonard meets Carl Hiaasen as directed by the Coen brothers.
Peter’s bio reads:
Peter Lefcourt is a refugee from the trenches of Hollywood, where he has distinguished himself as a writer and producer of film and television. Among his credits are “Cagney and Lacey,” for which he won an Emmy award; “Monte Carlo,” in which he managed to keep Joan Collins in the same wardrobe for 35 pages; the relentlessly sentimental “Danielle Steel’s Fine Things,” and the underrated and hurried “The Women of Windsor,” the most sordid, and thankfully last, miniseries about the British Royal Family.
He began writing novels after being declared “marginally unemployable” in the entertainment business by his agent. In 1991 Lefcourt published The Deal — an act of supreme hubris that effectively bit the hand that fed him and produced, in that wonderfully inverse and masochistic logic of Hollywood, a fresh demand for his screenwriting services. It remains a cult favorite in Hollywood and was one of the ten books that the late John Gotti reportedly ordered from jail.
Subsequently he has divided his time between screenplays and novels, publishing The Dreyfus Affair in 1992, his darkly comic look at homophobia in baseball as a historical analog to anti-Semitism in fin de siecle France, whose film rights The Walt Disney Company has optioned twice and let lapse twice in paroxysms of anxiety about what it says about the national pastime and, by extension, Disneyland.
In 1994, he published Di And I, a heavily fictionalized version of his love affair with the late Princess of Wales. Princess Diana’s own step-godmother, the late Barbara Cartland, herself no slouch when it came to publishing torrid books, declared the book “ghastly and unnecessary,” which pushed the British edition briefly onto the bestseller lists. Di And I was optioned by Fine Line Pictures and was abandoned after Diana’s untimely death.
Abbreviating Ernie, his fourth novel, was inspired by his brush with notoriety after the appearance of Di And I. At the time he was harassed by the British tabloids and spent seven excruciating minutes on “Entertainment Tonight.” He was subsequently and fittingly bumped out of People Magazine by O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco media event of June, 1994.
Lefcourt’s research on a movie about the 1995 Senator Bob Packwood [R-Ore.] scandal was the germ for his fifth novel, The Woody. He saw the former senator’s battle with the Senate Ethics Committee as evidence of the confusion in America regarding appropriate sexual behavior for politicians. Packwood became a sacrificial lamb by getting his dick caught in the buzzsaw of the zeitgeist.
Peter’s subsequent book, Eleven Karens — an erratically erotic fictional memoir of his love affairs with eleven women, all of whom happened to be named Karen, was published in 2003. He is still defending himself in a number of law suits brought by several of the apparently insufficiently fictionalized Karens.
He followed that with The Manhattan Beach Project, a nominal sequel to The Deal, in that it follows the adventures of that book’s hero, the intrepid Charlie Berns, who finds himself broke and attending meetings of the Brentwood chapter of Debtors Anonymous. Charlie manages to sell a reality TV show about the daily life of a warlord in Uzbekistan (“The Sopranos” meets “The Osbournes”) to a secret division of ABC, named, appropriately, ABCD, charged with developing extreme reality TV series from a clandestine skunkworks in Manhattan Beach.
His book, An American Family, tells the story of an immigrant Jewish-American family on Long Island, beginning on the day John Kennedy was shot and ending the day before 9/11. This multi-generational saga, told from the point of view of five siblings born in the 1940’s, traces the Pearl family’s odyssey into the melting pot of twentieth century America.
He continues to dabble in film and television. He was the writer/creator of the Showtime TV series, “Beggars & Choosers,” a darkly comic send-up of the television business. More recently, he spent a season in the writers’ room of “Desperate Housewives,” where he helped concoct some of the Byzantine plot lines of that infamous dark suburban soap opera.
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