Book Review – The Other Side Of Oz

TITLE: The Other Side of Oz: An Autobiography
AUTHOR: Buddy Ebsen
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 1994

This book lets Buddy tell the story of his acting career.  I picked it up at the dollar store brand new a couple weeks ago  (who the heck is stockpliling quantities of Hardback books for twenty years?!), and it was a fairly quick read.

Fundamentally, I had a few issues with this – first of all, Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Tin Man and acted for just a couple weeks before the costume tried to kill him and he ended up hospitalized while his lung re-inflated.  So titling your book after the most famous role you never had seems weird.  Clearly he was trying to cash in on that fame, even though he never got to have any of it.  (I don’t think it’s much of an argument to say that The Wizard of Oz has way more staying power than any of the roles he ever had.  A lot of them are very dated to the time period they came out of.  TWoO seems to have a little bit better longevity as far as that sort of thing is concerned.)

Second of all, this book is not an autobiography.  An autobiography is supposed to cover your entire life up to that point.  A memoir, otoh, covers a specific aspect of your life.  So a book that barely says anything about his childhood, overlooks any aspect of his family life except for a few random mentions of things (“By this time I was divorced and had a new wife.  She suggested I take this role..”)  and doesn’t cover the duration, is certainly not an autobiography.  Honestly, I lose a little faith any time a publisher can’t manage to get those details right.  Then again, they couldn’t manage to sell this volume for 20 years so maybe that explains a lot.

With that said, the book is pretty much Mr. Ebsen telling stories.  Each chapter has a different focus (Shirley Temple, Vaudeville with his sister, acting without his sister, The Beverly Hillbillies, etc).  Unfortunately for a book about somebody that spent his time on the screen, there’s very little content about any of his shows.  “Walt Disney put a show on and there I was…”  isn’t really a description about Daniel Boone.  And if you’re covering fifty years in a career, maybe you *should* explain something or other about the shows because there’s a good chance your fans haven’t been around for all of it, and it’d be cool to get a better understanding of the show anyway.

The book suffers horribly from lack of content and organization.  At first it’s in order, then it skips around.  One chapter pretty much just exists to say that he worked with a famous but now dead actress.  I feel like somebody took a bun, added lettuce and ketchup, and then gave it to us before they put the burger patty there.  In other words, they forgot t he meat of the book.  Plus, don’t let the binding deceive you – the pages are thick and glossy, there are a ton of photos, and the font is large and much bolder than it needs to be.  In a more standard book format, this book would have been half the thickness.

I guess it’s not totally bad.  Some of the stories were entertaining.  It’s just not what I expected when I grabbed it at the store.

Over all, I’m only going to give it 2/5 stars.  If you like Hollywood or were a fan of Buddy, go ahead and give this a read if you come across it.  But just be aware that there’s a lot of fluff and it’s not as it appears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review- He Done Her Wrong: A Toby Peters Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky

Title: He Done Her Wrong: A Toby Peters Mystery

Author: Stuart Kaminsky

Format: Paperback edition by iBooks

Published: 2001

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If you’ve read my reviews, it’s no doubt that I am a massive fan of detective stories, particularly series.  It will also be evident to you, depending on how long you’ve been reading these, that I have already reviewed a Toby Peters book by Stuart Kaminsky, the one that precedes He Done Her Wrong in the series, by coincidence.  Even with that, though, this particular volume of Toby’s adventures left me less than satisfied, unlike almost every other Kaminsky book with Peters in it that I’ve read.

He Done Her Wrong opens with Toby in a room full of Mae Wests in 1942.  He has been invited to a party by the aging starlet who turned sarcasm into a career because West needs to get back a tell all manuscript that she’s penned from a blackmailer, who is to attend the party, a shindig that required all attendees to come as the hostess herself.  Toby encounters the bad guy, gets walloped pretty good, and the chase is then on. A chase that leads to two murders, Toby taking on protecting Cecil B. Demille as well, and even a short stint in an insane asylum for our hero.  Along the way, Toby uncovers family secrets, both of those he comes into contact with and even of his own family and takes quite a pounding, both physically and otherwise while doing it.

On the surface, this is a typical Stuart Kaminsky Toby Peters tale. Toby argues with his police officer brother, who is actually the person who involves Toby in this case, and he calls on his wonderful cast of friends, including the ever dapper little person Gunther Wherthman and the poetic giant Jeremy Butler, for help.  There is the requisite mix of classic Hollywood lore that Kaminsky is known for and Toby’s typical more bad than good luck is evident as well. Almost too much so, as a matter of fact.

He Done Her Wrong at best is just a typical Toby Peters tale.  Throughout the story, there is a heavy feeling that Kaminsky for some reason decided to put Toby through as much punishment as humanly possible, pitting him against a villain who seems to be one step ahead of him every step of the way. The twist at the end is good, but not enough to salvage the book from the feeling that this was simply and excuse to show in painful measures that Toby isn’t really that great at his job, but truly just does stumble through cases, as he is known for saying.

Another thing about this particular book that isn’t evident in other Peters stories is that Kaminsky spends pages on completely useless near interludes.  One of the running subplots in the Peters books is that Toby’s landlady, Mrs. Plaut, is writing her family history and she’s convinced Toby is an editor, so she delivers pieces of the book to him in different novels.  In He Done Her Wrong, Kaminsky actually spends 2-3 pages quoting Mrs. Plaut’s family treatise and this does nothing but slow down an already weak story.   He does something else similar when Toby is in the sanitarium, devoting pages to essentially a soliloquy that simply adds nothing to the action or the pacing of the tale at all.

He Done Her Wrong gets three out of five pages from me.  It is definitely one of the weakest entrants into the Toby Peters series and, if it’s the first one a reader picks up, will be the reason that reader doesn’t go any farther.  Something completists will want to read, but that’s about it.

This one gets three out of six bullets from me.  Read it if You haven’t and You like Toby. But don’t waste your time if you don’t already like the character from other better Kaminsky novels.

Writer Wednesday – Janie Franz

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1. Who are you?
Janie Franz
2. What type of stuff do you write?
I write fantasy and some archaeology-based adventure. I also have a couple of contemporary novels (romances for want of a better word)–one about Hollywood and one about the music industry.
3. What do you want to pimp right now?
My six-part Bowdancer series (The Bowdancer Saga and The Lost Song Trilogy).
4. What if your favorite book?
Besides my own? Seriously, unlike many writers I love reading my own work. As for other authors I love Stuart Clark’s Project U.F.L. trilogy and I really enjoyed NM writer Susan Slater’s Rollover. I’ve been a fan of Tony Hillerman and, yes, I LOVED the Harry Potter books.
5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I’m a retired freelance journalist, specializing in music. I’m currently a publicist for a NM music festival, and I do a lot of petsitting/housesitting in New Mexico. I’m a mother and grandmother. I used to be a radio announcer, taught yoga and relaxation, and was a booking agent and publicist for a jamband.
6. What link can we find you at? https://authorjaniefranz.wordpress.com
Words from the Author…
The first con I ever attended was a science-fiction conference in Fargo ND. The guest author at that con was Margaret Weis, the author of the Dragonlance Chronicles. Those were some of the first modern fantasy novels, other than Andre Norton’s work, that carved out a whole new niche for writers.
The thing that impressed me most about Margaret Weis was the fact that she was everywhere! She tablehopped when she wasn’t on a panel. She visited with everybody. When she came to sit at a table where I was visiting with a friend, I was impressed with how ordinary she was. She was a famous author, but she was also human and very funny.
For me as an aspiring writer, with a lot of starts in a drawer, I realized that being a published author was possible. People–real human people–actually did it. And that one way to market was by showing up and talking to people. It was a great eye-opener for me.
Many years later, as a published author with eleven titles out, I am following Margaret Weis’ example: Be Present. As a guest author of Imaginarium in Louisville this September, I hope to Be Present as much as possible.

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