New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey returns to the life of Nia Simone Bijou (of Pleasure fame) as she embarks on a quest to enhance her artistic gifts through heightened sensory experience, Hollywood-style.
Four years have passed since the events of Pleasure, and Nia’s success as a writer has grown, bringing her from Atlanta to Los Angeles. But she remains on a quest to quiet her inner storm, to draw on her well of emotions and explore them fully before leaving this season of her life and moving on to what could be the next stage: marriage and motherhood.
Drawn to an exclusive pleasure palace, where patrons try on roles as they actively shun their respective realities, Nia’s ability to balance truth and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred. What has happened to the compartments she has so carefully created for the different aspects of her life? Will her relationship with the mysterious, often unavailable Prada survive the countless temptations? Will her successful literary career be given over to impulse indulgence? Does decadence know any bounds?
When Nia’s past comes back to mingle with her present, and when her staid public persona clashes with her fantasy life of decadence, readers will be stunned by the outcome. Eric Jerome Dickey’s newest tale of excess—and its sky-high costs—is a thrilling portrait of a glittering world.
The Regent Showcase Theatre is one of the older art houses in Los Angeles, Hollywood-adjacent, a half block away from the world-famous Pink’s Hot Dogs at Melrose Avenue where the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin loved to pig out whenever she came to town, minutes away from the swank high-rent area that housed the Grove. It is a horrible area for parking in a busy New Yorkish–type of district, at least a hundred restaurants and wine bars and marijuana medical shops within its reach.
Photographers and the paparazzi were in full force.
“My God, so many people. You pulled it off, Mommy.”
“All six hundred seats will be filled. SRO for the latecomers.”
A section right outside of the entrance was set up with a backdrop from the film. It was far enough from the curb, so that area was dry and lit up like it was the set for a shoot. The photographers were stacked up front and the scum that comprised the paparazzi were off to the side at four levels, at least fifty of them stacked on top of one another, calling out the celebrities’ names all at once, each trying to get the best shot. Controlled madness. Not only were the photographers and paparazzi in full force, but most of the patrons had out their camera phones and were taking shots and recording too. The posters for the movie showed toned, shirtless men, and three generations of exotic women.
Actress Lola Mack was featured on the advert poster here. When they sold it abroad, as they had done in so many movies, her blackness would be removed. A black face diminished sales abroad, retarded profits, so like they had done in the film Couples Retreat, as they had done with the adverts for The Hunger Games when it went to DVD, the black- and brown-skinned portion of the cast would magically disappear from all advertisements. After I had signed the contract, my work belonged to the system, as did the power. In the islands the Indian actress in the film would be moved closer to the star. In some parts of the world she would vanish. Actors of color were still begging Hollywood for integration. Begging for acceptance. Silently I hoped that I was part of the solution, and not another part of the problem. And if I weren’t part of the solution, I hoped that I wouldn’t be seen as part of the problem. That interview with the Quash bitch had rattled me.
Some of the male power makers were in stylish suits. LA kept it casual, trendy, smart. Of the four hundred people who were out front and in the lobby, people of color were hardly represented. The film was sold using white actors. A black sci-fi would still be sitting in my computer. Again, the politics of Hollywood. I had been taught that you had to work the system to beat the system. Hollywood was a business, not an extension of the Civil Rights Movement. I had learned.
My mother said, “What’s that terse expression all about?”
“Was looking at the movie posters and...nothing.”
“You grew up here. You know how it goes. Again, it’s about the bottom line. Some say that it’s a slow-changing system, but in reality, sadly, it’s an unchanging system. Those who have tried to scream and shout and force integration on the system are blackballed in this business as if they were the spawn of Mel Gibson.”
“This is a world that continues to choose Regina Baptiste over Regina King.”
“Baptiste is talented. You can’t take that away from her.”
“So is King. If she were White, she’d be a superstar.”
The theater was large with an art deco vibe from days gone by. Not even the forward-thinking people in Hollywood could let go of their past. The historic edifice was perfect for foreign or indie films, or tonight, a screening. It was like the theater that was used in the movie The Artist. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t the actual theater they used during the shoot of the Oscar-winning silent film.
My mother told our driver to open our doors in thirty seconds.
Panther placed a call and said, “Driver. Thirty seconds. Are you in position?”
A powerful male voice said, “I’m standing right here at the back door.”
My mother said, “Make that a minute. One more minute. They are cheering for someone. Never step on anyone else’s laughter or applause. We could upstage them, but let them have their moment.”
I said, “Lola Mack. They are cheering for Lola Mack. She’s singing for the crowd.”
Panther said, “Make it a minute, Driver.”
“Copy. One minute.”
I gazed at the controlled madness.
I gazed at a world that thrived on living in the realm of fantasy.
As a writer, there was bliss in creating, but there was no pleasure in this part of the occupation. I loathed insanity. I smiled at what my mother enjoyed. The madness testified that the fruits of her labor hadn’t gone unnoticed. I didn’t need the crowd or champagne or caviar. My paycheck was my reward. It had been that way since I was in college.
Ironically, I was more comfortable being nude at Decadence than I was fully dressed in this plastic world. Being gone so long, having lived in Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia made this feel like a foreign country. Someone tapped on the curbside window and we jumped. I assumed that Panther hit the unlock button because the rear locks stood tall. The curbside door was opened by an Italian-suited tall, bald, well-built, and very handsome man who wore fashionable glasses. His skin was rich and dark as if he had been created from the finest of wood and rubbed with tung oil. He was a man made for pleasure and breeding.
Huge black umbrella in hand, he said, “Miss Bijou. Mrs. Bijou. My name is Driver.”
My mother nodded. “You usually drive Thicke and Baptiste.”
“I drove them tonight. They’re already inside.”
“Did Baptiste walk the red carpet?”
“She did. She posed for photos. She chatted.”
“Wonderful. That will be great for publicity.”
Driver the driver was going to see us through the ruck of boisterous people while Panther stayed with the car and waited for us. I exited first, to pandemonium, to overwhelming chatter. Driver held the umbrella up high. Rain pitter-pattered on it as he rushed me to the dry area. On the billboard I saw my name in sizable letters. It wasn’t as large as the name of the principal actors, but by contract it was noticeable, it looked important. There was some applause. The chatter paused when my mother was escorted from the town car and stepped her dazzling high heels and Trinidadian high fashion onto the sidewalk. On this dank winter night we pretended that we weren’t cold. We had taped down our nipples so they wouldn’t betray us. I wanted a coat on so badly, but this was all about us looking invincible. The world cheered and applauded. Like libertines at Decadence giving approval, all applauded. I was no longer Nia Simone. I was the daughter of Hazel Tamana Bijou. Or at least, I was N. S. Bijou. That was the name I had used. I employed a neutral name that could be assumed to be the Christian name of a man. It also prevented lunatics from finding me on Facebook and Twitter and somehow getting my phone number. If they Googled N. S. Bijou, what came up, for now, was N & S Bijoux jewelry and watches. That made sense, especially since my surname meant a small, exquisitely wrought trinket. Cameras and handshakes and kisses on the cheeks came and Driver guided us to the red carpet.
We moved through the crowd that had paused traffic that was Hollywood bound on La Brea, moved by women in short dresses and high heels, and right away I saw that most of men who were in the business, most of the executives, were accompanied by youthful eye candy. Blondes. Brunettes. Tanned. Big kiss-ass smiles. We greeted people and passed by powerful men wearing pointed or box-toe shoes, skinny jeans and Maddens, even Converse. And I thought that I saw Quince Pulgadas in the mix, but the crowd shifted. I looked for Rosetta and Chandra. I followed my mother to the section beyond the velvet rope. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed, so very nervous, so many noises and faces. The photographers shouted commands as cameras flashed, yelled for us to tell them what we were wearing, and in unison my mother and I proudly spoke the name of our Trinidadian designer. We said it the same way at the same moment and we both laughed because it was unrehearsed. They wanted to know the details of everything from our clothing to our hair stylist to nail polish. It was overwhelming, it was obsessive, but I smiled. The photographers competed for the best shots. We gave red-carpet smiles as hundreds of flashes blinded us, as a gaggle of energetic cameramen yelled out our last name: Bijou look here; Bijou now here; Bijou, Bijou, Bijou, look this way for me. Moments later most of the cast joined us for another round of photos. The predominant actress of color in the film, Lola Mack, stood next to me. She wore an adorable pink-cropped jacket, which she paired with jeans, bright blue Burak Uyan heels, and funky, colorful, futuristic, geometric jewelry. Her skin was a deep brown and her hair was a perfectly volumized blowout. I loved her complexion, and it looked better in person than on camera. She owned brownness that was coveted in the film by the men of all ethnicities. But her character had sacrificed herself for her two lovers, for twin brothers, and died early on. She came from theater and was struggling to turn herself into a Hollywood actress. My mother said that this was Lola Mack’s first big role, but she had as much screen time as Rue did in The Hunger Games, her part equally as powerful. She was excited.
I said, “TMZ is here. I just threw up in my mouth.”
“Publicity is publicity.”
While we stood there I searched across the ecstatic faces in the crowd, sought out Rosetta in that multitude of parishioners of the cinema, I looked for other acquaintances from my hidden compartment. I’d find comfort in their faces. I even spied for my past. If Chris had shown up, it wouldn’t have surprised me. The same for his wife; the same for Siobhan. In the middle of the crowd, beyond the shoulders of the cameramen I saw a pair of men watching me. Both had been waiting on me. The two men weren’t together. Both were focused on me. Both loved me. Surprise registered on my face. It was too abrupt to mask. But I pretended that the flash from the cameras had blinded me, and used that as an excuse to look elsewhere. This felt surreal. When I looked again, both men were still there. This wasn’t a hallucination.
One man was tall. In his very early fifties. French. Lean, six foot two, he, too, with a face that would make hearts swoon if ever it were on the silver screen, a man with the looks of Jean Dujardin. His silver-and-dark hair was cut short. The additional gray made him very distinguished and sexy. He wore an Italian blue suit, dark shirt and dark tie. My stepfather. Francois Henri Wilson. The man who adopted me when he married my mother. This moment had brought him back to Los Angeles. I waved at him, blew him a kiss. My mother looked to see to whom I’d shown affection, and she almost lost her smile.
He blew me a kiss in return.
He blew two kisses.
The surprises didn’t end with my stepfather’s unexpected presence. A different man smiled at me. His eyes were focused on me, on my every move. Hauntingly handsome, like an international model, clean-shaven, beautiful eyes, unblemished brown skin, he too in a dark tailored suit, his chic, as stunning as Billy Payne. He had flown at least twelve hours to come here and surprise me. I saw the mysterious businessman named Prada. I saw the well-learned man who told me that he loved me. I saw my lover, a compartment that I had done my best to keep segregated from this world. He held a dozen red roses.
“Eric Jerome Dickey brings to life the heartache of betrayal with the skill of a mastercrafter… Dickey's imagery, the word choices, the rhythm of the sentences, his ability to create a vibrant, tormented sea in which Nia and her support cast bob along make this book one for the keeper shelf.” - USA Today, Happy Ever After
Praise for An Accidental Affair
“His latest page-turner, An Accidental Affair, is just as decadent, funny and juicy as its predecessor… Mmm. Hmmm.” --Essence
“It’s hard to top his earlier works, but Dickey doesn’t disappoint.” --Ebony
“Another one of Dickey's future classics” –The Bakersfield Californian
Dickey has, once again, made me stay awake until all hours of the night . . . Reading An Accidental Affair is, in fact, like chewing on ambrosia-coated sandpaper: it's gritty, but oh-so-very tasty.” --Terri Schlichenmeyer, Killeen Daily Herald (Texas)
“Dickey has a rare ability. . . . Right away the reader is forewarned: you are in for a hardboiled, fast ride.” –Seattle Post-Intelligencer
PRAISE FOR Dying for Revenge
“Intrigue, deception, murder and sex in exotic locales with a noir sensibility and keen attention to setting. . . . another highly entertaining page-turner.” –Publishers Weekly
“With action scenes that take your breath away, characters to hate instead of cheer for, devilish details, and a speed-of-light plot, Dickey proves once again that he is a master of the genre.” —Booklist
PRAISE FOR SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS AND WAKING WITH ENEMIES
“Taut, fast, and bold – total blockbuster entertainment.” –Publishers Weekly (starred)
“A serendipitous mix of lust, longing, and murder… the pacing is amazing… Not only will Dickey's many readers be thrilled to see a new novel, this one is also sure to create new fans.” –Booklist (starred)
“One of Dickey’smost satisfying reads yet.” --Essence
"An action-packed classic noir thriller that draws you in from the first page. … With its crisp Raymond Chandler-like dialogue and colorful writing, STRANGERS literally leaves Dickey fans wanting more." --Ebony
PRAISE FOR ERIC JEROME DICKEY’S PREVIOUS BOOKS:
“No one does it like Eric Jerome Dickey!” (Black Expressions)
“King of African-American Fiction.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“No one does it like Eric Jerome Dickey! And his latest novel, Genevieve, is sure to be another bonafied hit.” – Black Expressions
“Dickey’s fans flock to his readings … he’s perfected an addictive fictional formula” – The New York Times
“Dickey has earned his place as king of African-American fiction for women.” – Entertainment Weekly
“Genevieve. . .pushes romance and deceit to the next level” -- USA Weekend
To keep up-to-date, input your email address, and we will contact you on publication
Please alert me via email when: