Material Things: The Untold Story of a Young Entrepreneur Who Made a Killing in the Jeans Business
By: Larry Spencer Publication Date: March 2019 ISBN: 978-0578212326 Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott Review Date: January 29, 2019
Young and avid for sensation, three young men start a business selling clothes at the height of the hipster years in California, and wind up with a very different kind of business on their hands, one that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Author Larry Spencer (The Tipping Point of Oliver Bass) has created a small, at times cozy, mostly crazy universe as the setting for his colorful cast of characters.
It starts with a funeral. As might have been predicted nearly 40 years before, when alcohol addicted Logan Alexander was thrown out to fend for himself by his wealthy parents, the old guy has finally taken his own life. Hearing of his pal’s suicide, Chris Styles calls their mutual buddy Matthew Street who now lives in Scotland. Matthew surprises himself by agreeing to fly across the pond and attend the funeral with Chris. There they meet Logan’s daughter who demands to know more about her mysterious father.
As the three friends recount their story, we watch Matthew, Chris, and their friend Jon Lewis decide, on rather flimsy pretext, to turn Matthew’s small but chic hair salon into an emporium selling bell-bottom jeans. “Jon’s Drawer” takes off, riding a wave of hip fashion, and for a few years the guys enjoy a flourishing business, a few puffs or snorts of illegal substances, and not a few encounters with sultry, sexy ladies. But it all comes crashing down when Jon allies himself with a friend who shares his passion for expensive cars and designer drugs. There’s a major bust and everyone runs for cover. But where’s Jon? And how can Matthew bail out while a presumption of guilt hangs over them?
Spencer is at home with his hippie heroes - their drugs, desires and devices. The reader will assume he’s been there from the authentic way that he lives inside each of the young men, but most especially in the mind of Matthew. Too, young women like lonely Linda, unfaithful Andrea, and Sage the shoplifter have their parts to play in an era when love and lust were suddenly free and everyone seized the moment. The author writes with confidence and builds his plot with notable skill. There’s never a dull moment as the companions move from a laid back ethos that takes life as it's thrown at them, to the frantic requirements of real commerce, to a sad realization that it's all gone down the tubes and everyone has to find his own way out of the rabbit hole. Along with a zesty helping of steamy sex, crime is an insistent counterpoint all along, as those who enjoy recreational highs have to deal with lowlifes and the law.
Quill says: This tightly plotted 60s/70s subculture saga will provide tangy memories for those who were there, and understandable envy among those who wish they had been. Exuberantly recommended.