The explosion of social media and the Internet has changed the world as we see it. Gossip about celebrities is one of the most popular items on the web and can spread like wildfire with just the click of an iPhone camera. In chapter one of Eric Jerome Dickey’s latest novel, popular movie star Johnny Bergs has just been beaten up by Hollywood screenwriter James Thicke because of an “accidental affair” between James’ wife and Johnny that was caught on video and is being spread all over the Internet, thanks to an unknown source. James’ wife is none other than the world-famous actress Regina Baptiste, who claims that the on-screen sex act was an accident, due to her being “in character.”
"In the real world, at least in the world of Eric Jerome Dickey, the choices you make can wreak devastating results. AN ACCIDENTAL AFFAIR is a fast-paced, action-filled novel that is not for the faint of heart."
To the rest of the world, the YouTube video looks like a scene out of a porno flick. To James, that one clip has destroyed his marriage. He reacts to the video with violence against the actor who dared to have sex with his wife in front of the cameras. Unfortunately, it is difficult for James not to be reminded of what his wife had done, because everywhere he goes he sees billboards and ads depicting her, adding fuel to the fire.
James commits the shocking crime and goes into hiding. He seeks refuge away from the Hollywood lights in the town of Downey, miles from the gossipmongers. Because he is “just” a screenwriter, his face is not easily recognized by most people, so he is able to pretend he is someone else and escape the world of movie stars, sex and drugs. Regina and Johnny do not exist here. He gets involved with a few of his new neighbors, some of whom are suspicious or curious about him, others of whom want nothing more than to spend time in his bed. They do not know who he really is, and he prefers it that way. He can pretend he has nothing to do with that former life.
In the meantime, the gossip magazines, television entertainment shows and Internet blogs continue to speculate as to what’s next for the beautiful Regina Baptiste and her new “love,” Johnny Bergs. Regina’s ex-husband, Bobby Holland, is yet another negative aspect of James’ life, a constant reminder of Regina’s past. The fact that Johnny came from a family who believes in retribution is another problem. James has every right to be afraid for his life.
Eric Jerome Dickey creates a story that is filled with erotic sex scenes and violent confrontations that could easily fit in a Quentin Tarantino film. Dickey never holds back; he is as descriptive as one can get. His writing style has always been about the senses; you can hear, feel, taste and see everything that is going on.
As a reader, I felt the most important thing Dickey has done for the book is to write the story in the first person. We see everything from the protagonist’s point of view and sympathize with James from the beginning, as he was the one who was supposedly wronged. But as the story develops and progresses, the reader may start to question James’ motives and actions. Throughout the first half of the book, I had empathy for James, but my sympathies for him changed by the end; I felt more ambivalent towards him. When I finished that last page, I experienced a bit of sadness and questioned the choices he had made in the name of love. Did things have to end the way they did? Truly, James could have made better choices. But that is what life is all about: the reactions our actions cause because of the choices we make. In this case, one event (the on-screen sex scene) resulted in a series of reactions that quickly snowballed to destroy a lot of lives and change others.
Dickey does an excellent job of creating a flawed character with whom the reader will want to sympathize. But as with all real people, no one is perfect, least of all James Thicke. Having the story in the first person allows the reader to see everything from James’ point of view, expecting to see a husband who rights what was wronged in his life and lives out his happy ending. In the real world, at least in the world of Eric Jerome Dickey, the choices you make can wreak devastating results. AN ACCIDENTAL AFFAIR is a fast-paced, action-filled novel that is not for the faint of heart.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton on April 19, 2012