The crafting of a good book review is a thing that has always eluded this scribe.
Give me the documents, the facts, and immerse me in the tawdry world of the powerful. Let me expose the unjust, the ne'er-do-well as they attempt to crush and sap the lifeblood out of the weak and vulnerable.
And leave the heady, nuanced world of literature, I've always said, to the learned men and women of letters.
That was, until the Bossman flipped me an advance copy of Mike Jones' memoir. It's barely been six months since the male escort from Denver brought one of the nation's most powerful evangelicals to his knees for the last time, and already the book version is about to fly off the shelves into the eager, upturned sweaty palms of the masses.
So it was with great resolve I determined to explore the world of male escort Mike Jones and his buddy "Art" the guy the rest of us knew as Pastor Ted Haggard.
The tried-and-true technique of the greatest book reviewers, I am told, is to mix up a good hot chocolate, or a toddy, and climb under the covers. This is, I am told, where the term "crawling in bed with a good book" comes from.
I admit, I didn't stay there long. Call me inexperienced,but I quickly determined that between the sheets with this book, and this crowd, was a place I simply did not belong. From my new perch at the kitchen table, I absorbed all 256 pages of Jones' expose, I Had to Say Something: The Art of Ted Haggard's Fall.
I carefully analyzed the plotline, assessed the narrative and dialogue, critiqued the nuance and symbolism. Not to sound too boastful, but I think I really started to get the hang of that intense-but-detached way that distinguishes the best reviewers.
Jones wastes no time getting started. The opening lines of his book introduce us to the guy who calls himself "Art from Kansas City."
"Within minutes, the man with the light brown hair lay naked on my massage table. Silhouetted by the light from just one candle, he lay on his stomach with his arms at his sides ... He was both excited and nervous about what was going to happen ..."
Over time, there is French kissing, enjoyment of porn, and talk about intimacy and how being gay isn't just about sex. The part about how "Art" really likes trying on Jones' "Stars 'n' Stripes" thong is a nice touch. Then there's the meth, and how Art really seems to dig it. Out come the sex toys. Eventually, "Art" becomes emotionally needier.
Ultimately Jones discovers Art's true identity (Haggard's middle name is Arthur), and Jones gets madder and madder about the hypocrisy of the politically anti-gay evangelical lying on his massage table. Then the crescendo: how Jones calls several news organizations and pitches the story around until it finally busts wide open.
Interspersing the tale is an autobiography in which Jones writes poignantly about his childhood and his brothers. His dad is a really neat-sounding guy, and his mother her name was Shirley Jones was utterly lovely. Her recent death was a tremendous, shattering blow.
There finally comes the post-outing, with Haggard resigning his position as the leader of the 30-million member National Association of Evangelicals, and for Jones, the photo shoots, the endless interviews, his bizarre visit to New Life Church.
How credible is the book? This is a badly written, sappy potboiler with lots of torrid passages about gay guys getting it on. Yet, Jones hasn't been proven wrong in his past revelations, either.
Unfortunately, I couldn't seem to push beyond the parts where Art "scurries" to the bathroom after almost every time.
He never bounds off to the bathroom. He never lopes, he never saunters, he never strolls, he never strides. He never ambles or totters or swaggers or scampers or darts or dashes to the bathroom. He never crawls.
No, for some reason, Art always "scurries." And that descriptive verb, so oft-repeated, has left an indelible mark a post-coital visual that, to this virgin book reviewer, is indeed troublesome.
I'm not sure what to make of my hang-up. Sadly, I fear it's enough to send me back to the other side of rough-and-tumble the traditional, tangible search for truth, justice and Snickers bars.