FREE LOVE and the SEXUAL REVOLUTION is a joyous romp through the sexual revolution of the sixties. My life partner, John, and I created the first (and perhaps the only) commune for grown-ups where open sexuality was encouraged and fully embraced. We called it Sandstone Retreat. Nestled in the wooded splendor of Topanga Canyon, California, with sweeping vistas of the Malibu Mountains and Pacific Ocean, it was fifteen acres of beauty and pleasure, a retreat from artificiality. It was a community where a person’s mind, body,and sexuality came together in total abandonment. The dress code was total nudity, and the mind-set was acceptance of all things pleasurable, sensual, and sexual. Sandstone was a huge success from the moment we opened our doors, and dozens of celebrities came to stay and play. I can honestly say I saw more naked stars than any other woman of that era! We offered such a unique and tantalizing lifestyle that soon reporters and television producers were clamoring for us to go public about our amazing concept of shared sexual pleasure without jealousy or possessiveness. Gay Talese’s wildly successful best seller Thy Neighbor’s Wife was about life at Sandstone. Articles written about Sandstone are too numerous to list, but just a few highlights include Esquire (three times), Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine, Penthouse, and the Los Angeles Star. We were also prominently featured in television specials that aired on the History Channel, VH1, Lifetime, and the Sundance Channel. Presiding over all that free love and open sexuality was an experience of a lifetime. I came to recognize and embrace my own bisexual nature and to share it with others. When I look back on those years spent at Sandstone, I appreciate how truly wondrous it was, how amazing and unique, and John and I were the creators.
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Ronnie and Lennie are blood brothers in the realest sense of the word—as conjoined twins, they literally share the same circulatory system, connected at the chest for life. Set in the hippie days of 1960s and Woodstock, RonnieandLennie by Herb Schultz depicts the challenges (and sometimes the benefits) of being incredibly close to family at all times, along with the consequences of messing with nature. With a complicated backstory that provides some insight into the twins’ condition and emotional state, this novel takes the reader through a journey of understanding the prison of chronic adjustment disorder through the multitude of Ronnie and Lennie’s dangerous experiences.
Set in the 1950s through the 1960s, Ronnie and Lennie, the titular characters of Herb Schultz’s novel RonnieandLennie, are conjoined twins who grow up attached at the chest, held together by a band of skin that connects their circulatory system and their liver. Connie, their absentee mother, never figures out how the twins ended up this way, but she believes it was caused by fallout from an atomic blast that occurred close to her while she was pregnant. Schultz leaves out details of how the fallout may have caused their condition, but this sense of mystery also helps keep the plot from falling into a strict mystery novel format.
Instead of overcoming her struggles, Connie abandons her children in Statesberry, North Carolina, with her aunt Vera. The backstories of the minor characters throughout the novel left me wanting more, as questions about these characters (and the twins) do not feel resolved by the end. The jolty shifts between past and present made the novel feel more like a collection of vignettes rather than a fluid, linear read. Despite this, though, these backstories did provide a great foreshadowing for the dysfunctional futures of the twins.
While being a moody teenager is rough, Ronnie and Lennie make the best of it— they read and play music together and experience the drug culture of the 1960s. With numerous vulgar sex scenes and excessive drug use, the novel seems to exaggerate this culture; however, they help the reader with understanding the difficulty of being a teenage boy without independence. Resentment grows between the twins, but through fortuitous circumstances, the twins eventually end up separated, finally getting what they’ve always wanted: to have an unattached life.
This freedom comes at a cost— Ronnie is depressed while he’s off at school, and Lennie falls prey to destructive vices. When Ronnie learns more about his mother, he leaves school, only to find himself in perilous circumstances that cause him to go to jail. Lennie has a similar fate, ending up in jail for a period of time himself. Years later, they end up intersecting again in their hometown. Upon realizing they both have chronic adjustment disorder, which has been causing their impulsive behavior and depression for many years, they make a life-altering, permanent decision to never be separated again.
RonnieandLennie is carried by the unique titular characters who stumble through life experiences, sometimes falling really hard. But they ultimately blossom into introspective individuals with a future that will break away from the destructive habits of their pasts.
Pages: 238 | ISBN: 0982351607
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Rude Boy USA is a story about organized crime set in 1960’s New York City. What intrigues you about this time period?
I am a big fan of Mad Men. I was born in 1977 so the two decades before I was born, I always thought that there were a lot of things that were still innocent yet provocative. I loved the style and was fascinated by the history of New York City. I moved to New York fifteen years ago, and it has changed so much from the 1960’s and 1970’s. I think that even with the crime and issues the city had back then, New York City seemed to have a lot of soul, perhaps some of it lacks today because the city is so commercial now.
The characters in this story are diverse and complex. What was your favorite character to write for? Was there a scene you felt captured the character’s essence?
I loved writing Celia/Bunny’s character. She is a twenty-something that is in the prime of her life, but like many women in her age group sometimes she makes questionable decisions. Over the remainder of the series she gets to grow a lot, be strong, make some bold moves, stupid mistakes and yet still allowed to be vulnerable. I also loved writing John and Ben’s characters. John was something that was virtually unheard of back then and creating a character that is not perfect yet at the very end you want to cheer for was fulfilling. Ben’s character is complex. In Rude Boy USA (which is book 1 in the series) you see the beginnings of his unraveling. By the time you get to the end of book 3 (which is released in September), you will have a full understanding of why he is the way he is. What you think about him in book one may change by the time you finish the series, no matter what he does.
I felt that Rude Boy USA touched upon a couple of social and racial issues of the time. Was it important for you to deliver a moral to readers, or was it circumstantial to delivering an effective thriller novel?
When I started writing the series, I knew that it would hit a nerve with some readers. I wanted to stay accurate to the time period the story took place in. In the early 1970’s we had television programs like All in the Family and The Jeffersons who took on topics of race head on and without much filter. Some things said in the book, in today’s world, would never fly because many people are offended by something, anything that rubs them the wrong way. It was a time before political correctness took precedence in the social conversation. I wanted this book to challenge some things that we are socially conditioned to believe. One woman seems evil, but it is only because she feels like she is losing control of things. The other woman seems perfect (because the guy who likes her sees her that way) until you look at some of the decisions she has made. The beauty of these characters in the story is that by the time the series ends, you will root for some but love all of them even though they have flaws. Rival families and race differences are expected for the time period, but I wanted to discuss the elephant in the room type of subjects. There are infidelity, class, entitlement and hierarchy issues happening in the story and sometimes discussing these things make people uncomfortable. I thought that glossing over things and putting a 2016 light in the series would be a disservice to the integrity of the story. In the sequels, the social issues change along with the time.
This book is set in 1960’s New York, and I felt that you captured that period well. What research did you do to make sure you portrayed that time in history accurately?
I interviewed a few people and picked up a few books and magazines. Old videos were also helpful.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will that be available?
The sequel to Rude Boy USA is called BunnyWine, and the final book is The Tide is High. In BunnyWine, the setting is in the 1980’s and the main subject is still the gangsters, but the settings and circumstances change. We leave the era where the Mobster rules NYC and go into the period where they are hunted. In the Tide is High (Due September) we visit the aftermath of the gangster era and morph into politics. Most gangsters/mob bosses do not retire from the life, they just end up changing focus, and that is what happens here. A lot of the spirit of the life remains but the occupation changes.
Say good-bye to the era of godfathers. The Chimera Group has put a new face on organized crime. Mob boss Bernie Banks and his associates—John, Ben, and Jerome—differ from your ordinary Sicilian and Irish mob families. Two white, two black, they style themselves after the Rude Boy culture made popular in Jamaica. Operating as a shell investment company supported by illegal activities, the Chimera Group hopes to become as powerful as other crime families and gain respect from the Cosa Nostra. Bernie, a war veteran of Jewish and Greek descent, begins his business in his apartment and grows it into a multimillion-dollar empire. He and his crew resemble a more sophisticated subculture of urban street gangsters with their Ray-Ban sunglasses, loafers, and debonair style. But they want fear and admiration. Their efforts draw the attention of the rival Ambrosino family, and they face internal strife when one of the associates begins dating a former Playboy Club waitress who wants in on the group. Will they make it to the top, or will they fall?
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