On Wednesday, I informed my readers that my TBR pile had reached a section of trashy 1970s paperbacks. The first book was a spy book–definitely trashy, but also fun–and I’m happy to say that, today, I can add sleazy to the list.
I’d never read a Rosemary Rogers book, so I thought I was in for another thriller. The girl on the cover could easily be 1970s code for the bikini-clad jet-setting model that my international man of mystery falls into bed with, couldn’t it?
Apparently not. Rosemary Rogers is described by Wikipedia as having been the writer who brought romance into the bedroom… and boy does she ever.
The Insiders was my Rogers debut, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a seventies book in all its overdone glory.
Now, I’m not an expert on the romance genre by any means. I’ve written some stuff that appears in romance anthos, and I’ll also read classic erotic books to compare them to other classic erotic books, but I don’t go out of my way to court the genre, so when I do read one, I find it extremely interesting.
In the first place, romance is much more similar to the spy genre than its readers like to admit. At the risk of generalizing, women read romance while men read spy thrillers (I’m pretty sure the numbers back me up on this, but if anyone has evidence to the contrary, please drop me a line). What no one tells you is that they read them for precisely the same reasons–at least if you’re talking about 1970s examples of each breed.
What do I mean by this? Simple. Just as both heroes and villains are utterly overdone in the spy genre, making everyone a caricature of himself, the same thing happens in The Insiders.
Every single character in this book is a sexual paladin. From the heroine to the hero (who, at one point, actually leads a gang-rape of the heroine… imagine that today) to the secondary figures, sex is just something the characters do all the time, and which is worth little more than a passing thought. They have no hangups and don’t really think about sex as anything other than a cool way to spend some time… especially if their partner is skilled (and they all seem to be).
For those not used to the genres rules, it all seems a bit farfetched (anyone who has ever gone on a date with more than one person will know that, while scattered individuals may act the way the people in this book do, they are few and far between)… but the same can be said for a spy thriller from the same era.
Anyhow, this was a fun read. In our politically correct world, I think if this one sold the millions of copies it did in the seventies, it would be denounced from every social media pulpit on the planet (we live in the era of the new Hays Code – a character who is involved in rape can no longer turn out to be the sympathetic hero, no matter what he does to redeem himself afterwards), so it was doubly interesting as a cultural artifact.
This one did nothing to dispel my conviction that literature was just more fun in the seventies.
Gustavo Bondoni is the author of Outside, a novel that contemplates what it means to be human. You can check it out here.