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About the author:
GALE MARTIN is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction who plied her childhood penchant for lying into a legitimate literary pursuit during midlife. In 2011 Booktrope Editions published her debut novel DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA, a humorous backstage story about an opera company trying to stage ‘Don Giovanni’, which was named a “Best Kindle Book of 2013” by Digital Book Today. GRACE UNEXPECTED (2012) features a professional woman with a heart of fool’s gold, who unexpectedly gets entangled in a love triangle. She regrets never throwing a single unmentionable at Sir Tom Jones or one of his tribute artists. She has an MA in creative writing from Wilkes University. You can find out more about her at her website: http://galemartin.me.
What inspired you to write your book?
My closest childhood friend married an Elvis impersonator. Though their marriage didn’t last the idea of trying to make a life with someone whom other women threw themselves at must have stayed with me and found expression in this book.
Here is a short sample from the book:
(An excerpt from Chapter 2: “Why, Why, Why?”)
“Ladies and . . . ladies,” a male voice announced over the loudspeaker.
Women hooted and cheered like they were attending a male dance review and not a specialty talent competition. “Please give a warm Pankey welcome to our first contestant, Stan McCann.”
Ellie pinched herself. She couldn’t believe she’d actually felt a spirit of foreboding earlier. The atmosphere inside the tent bristled with giddy expectation. Tonight was going to be more fun than shooting the moon during an online game of Hearts.
At the mention of the contestant’s name, the middle-aged woman sitting beside Ellie shrieked like someone had plunged a carving knife between her shoulder blades.
“What’s the matter?” Ellie asked, wondering whether she was to be subjected to agonizing cries like this all night. “Are you all right?”
The woman pressed a perfectly manicured hand to her chest, presumably to still her furiously beating heart. “Yes, well. I saw Stan McCann in Atlantic City. He’s fantastic. He won the contest there.”
The woman wore a lace-trimmed, low-cut sleeveless tee, jeans ripped across the thighs and knees, and rawhide boots. Though she had the ideal figure for her Gretchen Wilson-inspired look, she was dressed younger than she should for someone with crows feet lining
her eyes, which probably meant she was older than Ellie suspected or had lived a young life awfully fast. She tapped Ellie on the shoulder. “That competition was judged by Tom Jones himself.”
The woman’s wedge hair cut and heart-shaped face made Ellie think of figure skater Dorothy Hamill. A strange coincidence. Not only was her face the same shape as Ellie’s but when Ellie used to wear her hair shorter, her mother’s friends said she reminded them of Dorothy Hamill, too. Was this person who’d change her life, predicted by Ellie’s horoscope? She hoped not. Ellie wanted the stars to match her up with a desirable male. What lonely single woman needed more girlfriends, after all?
“Dorothy” groped the inside of her denim handbag, retrieved a pair of red lace bikini panties, and shook them in front of Ellie’s face.
“For Stan,” she gushed.
Ellie hadn’t packed any panties, preferring more tasteful and personal expressions of fandom. Not to mention that holey, dingy Jockey briefs were not to be tossed anyone’s way in public. If a romantic interlude was her destiny, Ellie figured she’d have to invest in some new undergarments.
How about that! The real Tom Jones had picked Stan McCann as the impersonator most like him? Ellie had underestimated the caliber of competitors in this contest. She could scarcely wait to hear and see them.
Piped-in music swelled in signature strains. One, two, three. One, two, three. The familiar vamping of a minor chord in three-quarter time. More of those same characteristic chords for four more measures. The entrance music was lasting far too long. McCann had missed his cue.
Then the music stopped completely, and the crowd rustled in their seats. A few began to boo because that’s what people did in Pennsylvania when the music or sound cut out during a show or a movie. Heck, Pennsylvanians would boo their own grandmothers if they missed their cues.
Pretty crummy way to start a show. The technician should have waited to start the music until all the performers were ready to take the stage. In less than a minute, the familiar waltz-tempo chords resumed.
One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two three. This time a resonant male voice—Stan McCann’s, she presumed—began belting out “Delilah,” one of Tom Jones’ biggest hits, and the crowd cheered him and the fact that the show had finally taken off.
“I saw the light on the night that I passed by her window,” McCann sang as he proceeded down the stage-right steps and strutted through the aisle, approaching Ellie’s row. All decked out in a black bolero jacket with a sequined lapel, starched white shirt, and satin
cummerbund, he could have doubled for a bullfighter on a dude ranch. He looked yummy. Good enough to eat.
“Stan? Oh, Stan?” Dorothy Hamill called in a high-pitched squeal. Dorothy hurled her panties towards him, and they sailed past Ellie’s face, landing in the middle of the aisle at his feet. “For you, honey,” she cried.
Between stanzas, McCann retrieved the panties, rewarding Dorothy with the attention she craved. Then he mopped his brow with them, causing a fresh round of squeals. Like a toreador, he bowed theatrically to the smitten panty-chucker. “Thank you, darlin’,” he purred, in a rich lilt that sounded like he’d been weaned in Wales instead of the U.S.A. Then he aped sniffing her panties. “We’ve met before, haven’t we?”
Dorothy screamed louder than the lovesick teenagers at the first (and last) Hanson concert Ellie had attended in junior high school. If Dorothy howled in her ear like that again, Ellie might have to stomp on her brown suede boots.
She groaned out loud at Dorothy’s antics, which caught McCann’s attention. He met her gaze, then cut his eyes to Dorothy’s face, giving her outfit a onceover. “Sisters?” he asked.
As if! Ellie thought.
Embarrassed, Ellie shook her head no, but Dorothy cried out, “Yes, yes!”
That one would say anything McCann wanted to hear.
As McCann strutted down the aisle toward stage left, Dorothy turned on Ellie. “Why didn’t you tell him we were sisters?”
“Why do you think?”
Dorothy pouted. “But he was looking for sisters.”
I’ll bet he was. Ellie thought. Or at least the persona he’d adopted was. But it was best not to scold Dorothy. If she wanted to behave like a fawning groupie, that was on her. But Ellie didn’t want to be sucked into that scene. It was common knowledge that in his prime, Tom Jones slept with 250 groupies a year. If one of his impersonators behaved like that as well, she wanted nothing to do with him. Nor did the situation require launching into an explanation of why Ellie was in the audience to begin with. Certainly not for a one night
stand with a Tom Jones impersonator, no matter how good he was. No, Ellie clung to a thread of hope that she might find (dare she even think it?) her soul mate here, not someone pawing at her between the sheets for a quickie with the very next quickie waiting in the wings.
As it turned out, a barrage of panties and one or two bras chased McCann all the way to a set of wooden steps flanking the stage. The stairs hadn’t been painted yet. In fact, the entire stage unit must have gone up hastily, from the slapdash look of it. McCann picked up one of the brassieres and swung it over his head as if preparing to lasso some lucky Double-D cup in the crowd.
“Oh, oh, oh,” Dorothy cried, as if pained again.
This was some serious fan crush, bordering on groupie pathology. Ellie was equally as enthusiastic a Tom Jones fan but prided herself on showing more restraint.
McCann swayed back and forth in front of the stair unit, in three-quarter time. Though his head and broad shoulders dipped right and left, his crisp white shirt barely moved. Extra starch, she supposed.
“My, my, my, Delilah,” he sang, his unrequited love for the two-timing Delilah infusing every grand gesture. As Ellie let the familiar refrain in a pitch-perfect imitation wash over her, she remembered a particular video of Tom Jones himself singing this song on some British version of “American Bandstand,” while hundreds of young people struggled to fast dance to a waltz-time ballad. Tom Jones warbled like a champ, but the crowd’s attempts at dancing put her in mind of gooney birds doing the time step.
McCann had cultivated the singer’s signature mannerisms—punching the air rhythmically, sliding from one note to the next in a dramatic portamento—and every bit of the swagger.
“He’s a great impersonator,” Ellie said.
“Tribute artist,” Dorothy scolded. “These days, they like to be called tribute artists.”
Ellie nodded sheepishly. Between the chorus and the next verse, McCann started up the stairs to the stage. As he ascended the third step, it was as if the show switched to slow motion. McCann lifted his left leg, poised to land on the next stair. Ellie watched in horror
as it crashed through the plywood plank, tearing McCann’s perfectly creased pants and reducing his left leg to an unsightly stump, at least from the audience’s perspective.
Festival-goers gasped. McCann stopped singing and clutched first at his thigh and then at his groin, unable to extract himself from the jagged plank.
“Help,” the baritone trilled in an agonizing register that rang out almost an octave higher. “Somebody . . . help!”
The piped-in accompaniment stuttered to silence.