The faithful trope of the veteran persuaded to do one last job is given a neat twist in Christa Faust’s Money Shot. Here, it’s retired porn actress Angel Dare who is persuaded by an old friend to shoot one final scene. Dare’s justification for her decision is refreshingly bullshit-free. ‘The simple truth is, I had a girl boner. All the blood had run out of my brain and down between my legs.‘ However, it’s not long before both Dare and the reader realise she has been set up. Interrogated, beaten and left for dead in the boot of a car, Dare swears revenge and heads off in pursuit of her tormentors and a briefcase of cash.
Money Shot is a hugely entertaining read, and Faust writes in a confident, muscular way, very much in keeping with her central character. Angel Dare goes through hell in Money Shot; and one of the book’s most appealing elements is the main character’s transformation. When we meet Dare at the beginning of the book she is the owner of a model agency – financially comfortable (and perhaps complacent?), but unsettled by her ageing body and unsure about what the future holds.
All of this is quickly overturned. During the course of Money Shot, Dare loses everything: her home, her business, her reputation – even her sexuality. Framed for murder, Dare disguises herself as a man, cutting her hair short and bleaching it blonde. She wraps bandages around her body to disguise her shape, albeit reluctantly. ‘I knew being attractive was a liability… but I missed it like a dry drunk misses that warm, happy Saturday night buzz.’
What’s particularly engaging about the book is the way it draws you into a hidden world. In Money Shot’s case, it’s pornography. Dare is very matter-of-fact about the business; her partner and sometime protector Malloy takes the role of the innocent, as surprised and shocked as the reader. Dare describes an industry that isn’t glamorous, but is instead full of routine and the daily grind (literally, in this case). It also has its casualties: whilst Dare got out early, during the book she encounters many people still in the business, struggling with addiction and depression. Amusing as these scenes often are, they are not without their darker side.
Faust writes with a cool eye for the arresting detail. Taking a much needed shower, Dare describes the ‘rusty, lukewarm water [that] dribbled out of the showerhead like blood from the wrist of a reluctant suicide.‘ The manager of a strip club is referred to as ‘a burly biker right out of central casting… He looked like one of the first three guys the hero has to fight before he can get to the real bad guy.‘ It’s intriguing how often Dare describes what’s happening in the context of a film, and not surprising given her previous career. Money Shot would certainly make an exceptional movie.
The novel is a daring, sexy read, and I look forward to reading the follow-up Choke Hold, which shifts focus to the world of mixed martial arts. A third Angel Dare book is currently in development; Faust’s Twitter feed (@faustfatale) described a recent trip to Texas to research the world of the rodeo, although we’ll see whether this remains her subject. What isn’t in doubt – based on the evidence of Money Shot – is that the new book will be a thrilling ride, in all senses of the word.
Christa Faust’s website is at christafaust.net