I was pleased to be e-introduced to writer and model D.R. Hildebrand recently. Like me, he is a University of Chicago grad whose writing does not fall in the The Closing of the American Mind category—I did pop culture books and novels about hustlers and his debut novel is Walking Marina, a fictionalized exposé of the modeling industry.
Openly gay in real life, Hildebrand chooses to focus his story on a straight local yokel whose ridiculous skin and body and face land him on the fast track to becoming a working model in NYC. Danny shares an apartment with other male models (though the book says more than once that women are models and men in the industry are...something else) and immerses himself in the endless life of castings, yet finds time to form a romantic attachment to a girl also navigating the coke-fueled parties and hands-on photographers.
But the main focus of the novel is the relationship between Danny and Marina, an older socialite who hires him to walk with her—even if readers suspicious of her possible ulterior motives will be pleased with themselves for guessing. Marina is pretentious, pushy and knows how to emasculate young men whose looks and age should make them way out of her league and yet whose financial desperation makes them fair game.
I personally found Hildebrande's writing style to be verging on the purple—maybe let's call it lavender; some of the revelations in the book that are supposed to be shocking are not, or are somewhat melodramatically relayed. But the novel is consistently interesting, particularly knowing that the author was once a Danny Ward, so was probably privy to some of this stuff for real. And to his credit, Hildebrand did everything on his own, with no editor, publisher or publicist, making him a model of self-reliance.
If you check ou the book, let me know what you think. And keep reading to see a video with Hildebrand, who does indeed have a face for TV...