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  1. #1
    smark21 Guest

    #1 With a Bullet

    Has anyone else here read #1 with a Bullet? What are your thoughts/opinions?

    I just recently read it after a friend loaned me her copy. Earlier this year, Stephanie interviewed the author Elaine Jesmer for her
    internet radio show. Jesmer admitted the book wasn't very well written and she
    wasn't kidding! True, it's a trashy book in the vein of Harold Robbins,
    Jacqueline Susann and Jackie Collins, but the plot construction/execution and
    the pacing left a lot to be desire. At times, the book was a slog to read.
    Also, trashy novels in which characterization is best conveyed through quick,
    flashy means rather than through nuanced observation. Jesmer opted for the
    latter approach but she doesn't have the talent to make it all that compelling. Matters
    aren't helped much that Jesmer has many of her characters speak in what she
    depicts as a Texas African American dialect. Fortunately almost all of the
    main characters in the book are based on Motown and show business personalities
    so the reader is playing "guess who" as they read the book.

    That being said, if you know the Motown personalities, it's a worthwhile enough
    read. The main characters are Kate, obviously based on Jesmer herself, a white Press
    agent who is unhappy working as a PR person in the sleazy, shallow, cutthroat
    world of show business, and Daniel Stone, [[aka Marvin Gaye) a troubled and
    talented soul singer. The two meet as Stone is preparing for a show that will
    open a glamourous new club on the Sunset Strip. Stone is married to the sister
    of the President of his record company, Finest Records of Houston Texas. Finest
    has become very successful producing assembly line pop soul records. The head
    of Finest is Bob Vale who has allowed the mob to become involved in the running
    of Finest. Bob has an appetite for sadistic sex and he beats a female singer on
    his label until she is bloody and near brain dead while having sex. Bob's two
    sisters are just as trashy and decadent and nearly everyone else who appears in
    the novel is either trashy and sleazy, or just a pathetic victim. There's
    really no one to root for in this book. Though melodramatic, Jesmer does seem
    to capture some truths about the seamy side of the music industry, but the book
    is so cynical and ugly in its depiction of nearly all aspects of humanity, that
    it is a very unpleasant read. Nearly all of the sex scenes depict ugly,
    humiliating, or degrading couplings or orgies.

    There's no Diana Ross type character in the book. There are a few mentions made
    of "The Violets" a 4 woman vocal group who is Finest top act and making top
    dollar doing club gigs and television appearances, but the Violets don't factor
    into the story.

    Though I'm sure Motown and the Gordys weren't pleased about the book, given the
    quality of the novel, I think it's safe to say that the reason the book didn't
    do that well wasn't because Motown had it spiked, but because in comparison to
    the slick quality trash of contemporaies like Susann, Robbins, Sidney Sheldon,
    Irving Wallace and Mario Puzo, #1 With a Bullet just doesn't compare. But
    again, if you're a Motown gossip connesieur, then the book is worth a try.

  2. #2
    miss_lish Guest
    If there is no Diana Ross character; then what is the point of writing a book?

  3. #3
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    I read this years ago. Absolute crap. Wish I had kept my copy though. Sells well on E-Bay...Paulo XXX

  4. #4
    smark21 Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by miss_lish View Post
    If there is no Diana Ross character; then what is the point of writing a book?
    Elaine Jesmer did Ross a favor by not basing a character on her in #1 With A Bullet

  5. #5
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    Well, I have a copy of the U.K edition of the book [[ Futura Publications ) though I've not read it in about 30 years.

    I would say that the reason the book didn't do well was to do with the subject matter, which I'm sure Mr Gordy and others at Motown did not approve of at all ..

    It starts off with the following disclaimer ..

    "The characters in this novel are accumulations of bits and pieces of many people I've known during my life, and have been run through my imagination so many times that even I have forgotten their origins. No one of the characters is based on a living person, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

    However, as I recall, there are so many parallels with the events that involve the leading character in the book.. "Daniel Stone" .. and with events that involved MARVIN GAYE .. notably the tragedy that befell TAMMI TERRELL, and the difficulties he had getting Motown to release "Whats Going On" .. that the disclaimer doesn't quite ring true to me, and it is all to easy to, rightly or wrongly, conclude that some of the sordid events that involve the fictional characters in the book might also have basis in fact.

    Indeed the following profile of Tammi Terrell ends doing just that!!

    http://thesoulsurvivor.co.uk/profile_page.htm

    Roger

  6. #6
    smark21 Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by roger View Post
    Well, I have a copy of the U.K edition of the book [[ Futura Publications ) though I've not read it in about 30 years.

    I would say that the reason the book didn't do well was to do with the subject matter, which I'm sure Mr Gordy and others at Motown did not approve of at all ..

    It starts off with the following disclaimer ..

    "The characters in this novel are accumulations of bits and pieces of many people I've known during my life, and have been run through my imagination so many times that even I have forgotten their origins. No one of the characters is based on a living person, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

    However, as I recall, there are so many parallels with the events that involve the leading character in the book.. "Daniel Stone" .. and with events that involved MARVIN GAYE .. notably the tragedy that befell TAMMI TERRELL, and the difficulties he had getting Motown to release "Whats Going On" .. that the disclaimer doesn't quite ring true to me, and it is all to easy to, rightly or wrongly, conclude that some of the sordid events that involve the fictional characters in the book might also have basis in fact.

    Indeed the following profile of Tammi Terrell ends doing just that!!

    http://thesoulsurvivor.co.uk/profile_page.htm

    Roger
    The way that Jesmer depicts how the character based on Tammi Terrell became brain dead was truly disgusting, depraved and pathetic. The character Cindy slips into unconsciouness and a come after being beaten mercilessly by Bob Vale [[the Berry Gordy character) during a session of S & M sex she reluctantly consents to in order to get her solo career off the ground.

  7. #7
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    I finally found a copy after a long search, I would say that as a collector of all things Motown, it was a good purchase. Admittedly, it was not a great book, however it was written 30 years ago and unlike fine wine, it did not age well, but it was on par with the fiction of the times. I think I read somewhere that Motown purchased the movie rights, so I would not look for anyone adapting it to the big screen.

  8. #8
    miss_lish Guest
    Ms. Jesmer may have done Miss Ross a favor by not making her the focus of the book; however, her publishers might take a different position.

  9. #9
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    Every Motown book needs to take a jab or stab at Diana for a host of reasons ~ to give it legitimacy, to keep up tradition and most of all, if it wants to sell anything. It's like a book about Capitol not referencing The Beatles, about Sire not talking Madonna and Arista not talking Whitney Houston. Just no point. No wonder the book was only a footnote.

  10. #10
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    Nelson George's book Where did Our Love Go and Motown Hot Wax City Cool by R Taraborelli were two good Motown books that didnt take a stab at Diana.

  11. #11
    topdiva1 Guest
    NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET - is an interesting read.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Motown4Ever518 View Post
    Admittedly, it was not a great book, however it was written 30 years ago and unlike fine wine, it did not age well, but it was on par with the fiction of the times.
    I respectfully disagree. Loving everything Motown at the time, I searched high and low but found a copy very near the time of its original publication. It was interesting because of its Motown theme, but even then I was surprised at how amateurish the whole project felt. I haven't seen my copy in many, many years, but I recall feeling that I was left hanging at the conclusion with plot endings loosely contrived.

    The Tammi-based character served no purpose other than to be a most pathetic, senseless victim. This disgusted me because even then I knew that Tammi Terrell was in reality a very strong individual, although she had endured major heartaches. Had Tammi vibrantly survived her bout with cancer, she would likely have grown through the years into a very powerful woman, with or without Motown. She and the public would have put the abuse history into a more accurate perspective, similar to the way Diahann Carroll did regarding her volatile and adulterous relationship with Sidney Poitier. The respected actress has accomplished so much professionally that no one even thinks of that situation when her name is mentioned.

    Had Diahann been permanently disabled, or worse, as a result of a fight with Poitier, then not only would this tragedy have nearly defined her legacy, but every aspect of her very full life would have been tainted and interpreted as directly connected to the tragedy. This is what happened in large measure to Tammi Terrell and part of the reason for this is due to Jesmer's book.

    There was such a shroud of secrecy placed upon Tammi's travails by Motown. That simply was the way back then... kill any negative publicity. Meanwhile, the public was thirsty for any news about Tammi, and until her death, desperately hopeful for her full recovery. After her death, this book not only lent credence to the real tragedies in Tammi's life, but to every blown up exaggeration by some who simply wanted to appear in the know. Others added to the exaggerations out of a sincere sense of outrage over what happened to Tammi. Although attempting to make her book more marketable, to her credit I believe that Elaine Jesmer falls more in the latter category based upon her loving comments over the years.

    These outraged ones didn't foresee the damage that would occur to Tammi's professional legacy by removing so much of the focus from her incredible talent where it should have remained and even grown. The LONG overdue release of her powerful and comprehensive Solo Collection is helping to correct this. Many are so blown away by the level of talent in that package that again the SINGING demands more of the spotlight.

    After the airing of the Unsung episode, there have been some online comments criticizing even Tammi's sister for "coldly downplaying" the violence that occurred in her life. I think in actuality, if there's been downplaying, it's to help the public to see that there was so much more to this very real and soulful woman. Tammi Terrell's life was not DEFINED by her being a victim as in the limited manner that Number 1 With A Bullet depicts the Tammi-based character. This book was not considered a "quality read" even when first published. It wasn't even up to par with most works of fiction at the time. It merely filled a void.
    Last edited by positivesoul; 12-21-2010 at 04:41 AM. Reason: omission

  13. #13
    topdiva1 Guest
    Positive soul - Very interesting view - especially on Ms. Diahann Carroll - BUT - Number Onw With A Bullet was only a novel and should not ever have been taken so seriously and compared to motown like a clue game.

    I did however enjoy and learn from your post - thanks

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by topdiva1 View Post
    Positive soul - Very interesting view - especially on Ms. Diahann Carroll - BUT - Number One With A Bullet was only a novel and should not ever have been taken so seriously and compared to motown like a clue game.

    I did however enjoy and learn from your post - thanks
    You're welcome and thank you for your view. I thoroughly agree that such novels shouldn't spill over into the accepted perceptions of the masses, but the truth is that it does happen. This is especially true when the facts are not widely known or understood. Also, while I believe a writer can take creative license when clearly asserting that her work is fiction, it is apparent that Ms. Jesmer intended for her audiences to connect the dots. I just don't think she could have fully anticipated the longterm fallout beyond Mr. Gordy's angst or anger.

  15. #15
    topdiva1 Guest
    Your are right - it was a mission in connect the dots - and the guessing game - which made an ordinary novel fun, I guess at that time. I also agree that the writer is likely surprised that new readers are seeking out her book after all this time.

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    This Book is going for 125.00 on amazon...Does anybody know why???

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dvus7 View Post
    This Book is going for 125.00 on amazon...Does anybody know why???
    I can not even imagine why it would be that much. I bought it so many years ago in a cutout bin for $1.99 and paid too much for it!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by thommg View Post
    I can not even imagine why it would be that much. I bought it so many years ago in a cutout bin for $1.99 and paid too much for it!
    I paid 4 dollars just 4 years ago...I think I might let it go for 125.LOL!!

  19. #19
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    I bought "Number One With A Bullet" upon its release in 1974. I knew it was supposedly based on Motown which was the reason I bought it. Rumors had already been spreading about the shady goings-on at Motown [[the alleged Mafia connection, David striking Tammi in the head, etc.). The book made it easy to identify their fictional characters with the real-life people at Motown. Unsure of which occurrences in the book were real and which were fake, I remember being shocked at some of the action, but not enough to make me turn against one of my two favorite record labels in the whole world. I remember picking up the book and not being able to put it down until I finished it.

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