The Gold Diggers: A Novel

The Gold Diggers: A Novel

by Paul Monette


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Paul Monette’s uproarious, sexy novel takes us deep into the glamorous world of vintage Los Angeles

Perched on top of a hill in the oldest part of Bel Air, Crook House is the grand mansion that gilded Hollywood dreams are made of. It seemed like the perfect place for the exhausted and neurotic Rita to take time away from her life and catch up with her old friend Peter and his lover, Nick. What she didn’t count on was her friends’ emotional baggage, not to mention the suspicious tales of a buried treasure underneath the house.

This second novel from Paul Monette puts a tender focus on the ways in which money and time can distort relationships, while also demonstrating how the ties between friends can endure—and even grow stronger—no matter what the distance or history. As Rita, Nick, and Peter get closer to unraveling the mystery buried underneath Crook House, they begin to learn that what they are searching for could be the key to their very survival.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Paul Monette including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the Paul Monette papers of the UCLA Library Special Collections.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480474130
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 04/22/2014
Pages: 494
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Paul Monette (1945–1995) was an author, poet, and gay rights activist. Born in Massachusetts and educated at Yale University, he moved with his partner Roger Horwitz to Los Angeles in 1978 and became involved in the gay rights movement. Monette’s writing captures the sense of heartbreak and loss at the center of the AIDS crisis. His first novel,  Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll , was published in 1978, and he went on to write several more works of fiction, poetry, and memoir.  Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir , the tender account of his partner’s battle with the disease, earned him both PEN Center West and Lambda Literary Awards. In 1992, Monette won the National Book Award in Nonfiction for  Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story , an autobiography detailing his early life and his struggle with his sexuality. Written as a classic coming-of-age story,  Becoming a Man  became a seminal coming-out story. In 1995, Monette founded the Monette-Horwitz Trust, which honors individuals and organizations working to combat homophobia. Monette died in his home in West Hollywood in 1995 of complications from AIDS.

Read an Excerpt

The Gold Diggers

A Novel

By Paul Monette


Copyright © 1979 Paul Monette
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-7379-9


Rita was a mess by the time she got to LA. It wasn't enough that she hadn't had a real meal in two and a half weeks. Since the day she gave up men for good, in fact. The very day she called Peter and announced she was coming West. Because she was too fat to go anywhere, for days she ate bran muffins and little cans of grapefruit sections until she couldn't taste them anymore. Then she went on half-rations. The meal on the plane menaced her, it was so plentiful, and she handed it back untouched. The twelve lost pounds hovered in the air about her like stinging bugs. She'd seen the movie. Then, over the heartbroken mountains, the boy beside her lit up a joint and passed it to her. He looked about fourteen.

"Not on a plane," she said, shaking her head.

"But this is the safest place," he assured her. "We're in international waters. Besides, you get higher this high up."


"It's to do with the ozone," he said, going into something of a trance.

Interpol made no immediate move to eliminate them. She smoked away, if only to get her mind off the flaming nose dive into the Rockies. The boy, so seedy he looked as if he'd hitched the ride, apparently didn't want to pick Rita up. Now and then he narrated bits of the movie in her direction, though he didn't have the earphones and did a lot of guessing. He hadn't seen the movie before, so he got it all wrong. Rita tuned out, glad to slump by the window and wonder if LA wasn't a terrible mistake. She decided it was. Then the dope circled round from behind and socked her in the belly, and the next thing she knew, she was eating everything in sight. The boy had beef jerky in his pocket and a package of cloves Life Savers. That wasn't enough. Rita pleaded with the stewardess for a second chance at her dinner and got it, the chicken congealed and the cake like a frosted cardboard box.

"You shouldn't eat," the boy said as they began their descent. "You'll just come down."

"I've never met these people," she said. "I have to be normal."

"If you get high enough, lady, you can act normal. Just don't do anything that might attract their attention."

She stood now in the terminal feeling fat, attracting the critical attention, she sensed, of anyone pretty and tan and young. It wasn't enough that she'd sunk without a trace in New York, she thought, her accounts closed and all the signs of her tenancy flung to the four winds. She had to get smashed in flight and land without a brain in a future that called for the hawk eyes of an Indian scout. Swell, she thought, opening her bag to look for her keys and then recalling with a pang that they were all gone. She hadn't anything left that she needed a key to.

But she wasn't fat. That was just nerves. Nick, who was the first to see her except for the driver, would be struck by the full moon of her face and a rosy body like a duchess at the French court, the lines soft as a watercolor. No angles, no edges. And thank God she knew how to wear clothes. A Kelly green shawl and wheat-colored sweater, a scarf and a watch and locket around her neck, and cocoa satin pants with billowing legs like parachutes. Her hair did what it wanted, but it knew what it was doing. She didn't look ready for any one thing, not an office or a luncheon out or a lot of children. Because her time in New York had alternated between near careers and debilitating romance, she'd never been in one situation long enough to look like anyone else. She was almost forty, and she had the whitest skin. She had really gotten over not being thin long ago. The diet merely filled up the time before she left, and it impressed her as something constructive to do, now that she wasn't going to fall in love anymore.

She was trying to remember how she and Peter had left it when a dark, exhausted man appeared in front of her. He was fifty, maybe, and in one hand he had a ring of keys that he shook like a bell. It was a toss-up whether or not it was a voluntary motion.

"I'm here to get you," he said.

Even on easy days, Rita wasn't good at transitions. A moment since, she was in midair, and part of her was back there still, bracing for the crash, her whole body rigid as the foot she held to the floor in a speeding car. Where did the boy with the dope go? The fear shot through her that she was caught now in a drug ring. The boy had planted little packets all about her person while she sat unguarded. She was the middleman, and she had to go and deliver. She wondered what to do about her luggage.

"I have to wait for my friend," she said, clicking her locket and her watch together to drown out the jingle of keys. She tried to make the friend sound armed.

"Peter sent me," he said, tense because he wasn't getting through to her, and as if he couldn't do a thing unless told to.

She suspected it all along because he didn't look tough enough to traffic, in spite of an accent she couldn't place. She was just making sure. She followed him out the door to a Mercedes parked in a tow zone, and he made her get in the back seat so she could be properly driven. Then he went back to the luggage bay, and at last she sank back and gave herself up to the woozy stage. The winter sky was milky here with haze, the air thick with the aftershock smell of gunpowder. But it came to her only faintly, because the bourbon smell of leather in the back seat knocked her over, too. She peered out a gray-tinted window that made things look separate and glazed, as though through a camera. After a bit, she heard behind her the reassuring thump of her suitcases being stowed in the trunk. Then the driver got in and turned the key. As the spark leapt, the car was filled with disco music and arctic air. There must have been extra speakers in the ashtrays and armrests.

They pulled out into traffic, and the phone rang. Or actually it buzzed. It was in a wooden case next to her on the seat, which she hadn't touched at first because it looked like the box with the button that the President's men carried around.

"I'm sure that's for you," the driver said.

It was like picking up the receiver in a random telephone booth. No one ever knew where she was, she thought. Assuming anyone ever looked. She said hello.

"How was your flight?" Nick asked. "I'm sorry the weather's lousy, but you can't have everything."

"I have everything I can think of right now," she said. Out the window she saw they were traveling fast along the flats. Bungalows all the way to the horizon on either side of the freeway. She knew Peter lived in the hills, though she couldn't see that far in the chalk-white air. "I feel as if I could take a bath in this car. All I have to do is find the right button. Are you Nick?"

"I am. Finally we meet."

"Is Peter with you?"

"We're going to meet Peter at the party." What party, she wondered. She hadn't been invited to a party. "He's had to do everything himself, because he's got photographers coming. So he won't even talk to us. But a party's a party, right? You'll be here in about twenty minutes. Do you want anything?"

"Give me a hint," she said.

"A drink. Or dope."

"No thanks. What I'm going to need is a little advice, Nick. I mean, about how to proceed here," she said, deciding she sounded awful. She should be letting him know she could go to a party in her sleep. She was afraid she sounded as if she ought to be left at home.

"Of course. You've come out to make your fortune, haven't you?"

"Oh no." She felt the heat on her cheeks. "I just meant I don't know what people expect. At a party, I mean." When the truth was, she didn't know what she meant. Would all the important things, she thought, have to be said from now on in cars? She had enough trouble with telephones that stayed in one place.

"Don't be sorry," Nick said. "It isn't considered bad form out here. Always remember that—you can't talk too much about money." She could barely hear him, and she had to raise her own voice unnervingly to get through. But the bad connection had done this for them—it heightened the moment, like a call across the ocean. "Nobody ever died of talking about it. If they did, this whole place would go back to the desert."

She was putting the place together as fast as she could. The only time she'd ever seen palm trees before was when she'd fled to the Islands, to try to rest up after one thing and another. Then she'd liked best to sit underneath and listen to the branches flutter dryly in the Gulf breezes. Here they had them any old place, as if they were just trees. And already she had the sense—picking them out here and there as they drove by, because they looked so odd—that no one sat and listened. If she'd said it out loud, Nick would have had her remember something else, that everything in LA was as shimmering with meaning as the palms, and, more to the point, that people couldn't help saying what the meaning was. If she'd thought about it, she would have said it wasn't much different from New York, as far as that went.

"Maybe on the way to the party," she said, "I'll let you talk about money and see if lightning strikes."

"It won't," he said. "The gods don't care. I'll see you."

She's stoned, Nick thought as he hung up. But he was relieved too, because he thought he was going to like her; and they both knew they had to for Peter's sake. He walked out onto the terrace now and lit a cigarette and stood on the lip of the pool. Below him, the hills of Bel-Air gentled down to the outside world; and he could look onto several houses tiered beneath his own. He also knew there was a line of houses at the very top that looked down on him, but he didn't think about it. It was part of the process of living in the hills to look down on, not up to, unless you were in the market for something. Besides, his house was so old it hid in the trees, and so it was just as good as living further up. There were unspoken borders between old Bel-Air and new Bel-Air, and Nick held the jigsaw of it all in his head. He knew his place was as old as you could get.

What about Rita, he wondered. He supposed he'd always heard the nice things about her, since Peter was so loyal to his past; and he suspected Rita had mostly been told how he could be a bastard. Peter phoned the Upper West Side like clockwork whenever he and Nick were fighting. Rita was always there. Nick knew that, six years ago, Rita picked up Peter in a taxi at his lover's apartment on Washington Square and raced him out to the airport. He was running away. And it was a secret. Nick was never sure whose idea it was, Rita's or Peter's. As Peter boarded the plane, the last words she said to him were, "Always order veal." She thought Peter should be taken care of. Nick knew, too, that Rita was the one who had tried to coax Peter back to his grandfather, the only one in his family he spoke to then or admitted to now. In a way, Nick thought, Rita invented Peter. All he needed was someone to give him ideas. The rest was just money.

Nick thought about Rita only briefly, until the sound died out from the phone call. He didn't have to think about her for twenty minutes yet. So he went back to Sam as if nothing else had happened all day. He had that morning sold a four-room house in the Hollywood Hills for a hundred and ninety thousand. He had sold it seven months before for a hundred and fifteen, and he scarcely paused to figure out what a good deal his day was turning out to be. All he knew was, he had to get over to Venice by one-thirty to meet Sam at the beach. The girl who lived in the house had cut a lousy album in November, and now she wanted something in the three hundred range. She would have liked to spend all day just telling Nick what to look for. He said he'd get back to her. She was on hold now, along with everyone else.

At least Sam was waiting at the café. He hadn't wanted to come, and he'd warned Nick that he didn't see anyone three times. It was forty dollars the first time and went up to sixty the second, but more and more money didn't make the third time worth it. Sam said he wouldn't need anything steady until he was twenty-eight or nine, and he was willing to make less now to stay unattached. He sat at an outdoor table, leaning back in his chair against the low stone wall, denim shirt open all the way to his waist and his face turned up to the feeble winter sun. His hair was black like Nick's, and his body was slim and taut, no bulk to his muscles because he moved like a runner. He always seemed about to leap away, even now, balanced on the chair's back legs and lost in the stars. It was as if he had enemies that preyed on more than him, that preyed on all his kind starting back in the caves, and they wanted him removed, but not for personal reasons. It was as if he didn't know who they were until they sprang. He was twenty-five, so twenty-eight was still far off, at an impossible remove.

Nick didn't know where to start. Until he got there, he hadn't really believed Sam was going to show up. Then he was afraid he'd waste the whole time convincing Sam to see him again. Why am I doing this, he thought as he walked up to the table, and he realized the question came up only when they were together. The rest of the time in the last two weeks, all he thought about was being in bed with Sam. He felt the knot in his stomach lift as he let go and pulled away from the shore. He knew he wouldn't have a moment to think until it was over. And he wished he weren't wearing a suit. He was afraid it made him look like a fool.

"They say this beach is littered with kids who want to be stars," he said, and sat down. "I wonder where they are today."

"Hey, coach," Sam said, stretching his arms in a yawn and rocking forward to face Nick at the table. "Maybe they all went home to Iowa. Besides, this isn't the beach anymore. The beach is up in Santa Monica."

Nick looked over Sam's shoulder at the wide lawn fronting the beach, where someone was flying a kite and a woman walked her dogs. There was not enough sun for much else, and the ocean was hidden in haze. Sam meant State, the gay beach. But the beach at Venice, because he had known it all his life, was for Nick the true point where the city met the Pacific. From the café terrace on a clear day, he could see north to the range of the Malibu highlands, blue above the blue water. And the odd stucco houses and cast-iron arcades of Venice still moved him with their waterfront gentility and foreign airs. Rust streaked the peeling pastel walls, and the new Bohemians had painted some houses burgundy red and electric green. But something had lasted here. All up and down the front, the wooden, parasol-roofed pavilions marked the course of the promenade. On nice days, it was still the perfect place to walk. Nick used to coax Peter to come in the middle of a workday, but Peter didn't want any part of Venice. Down on its luck. No money.

"My mother and father rented a place here every summer. For just two weeks. I used to think about it all year."

"That was in the forties, right?" Sam asked a bit tightly, as if Nick were in his forties, too.

"I was eight in 1950. It was more in the fifties."

Sam nodded. He wasn't very interested. Because the café wasn't open, they had nothing like coffee to turn to and no one other than themselves to watch. It was too late now to move somewhere else. Irrationally, though he knew Sam was going to care less and less, Nick felt he had to keep defending the old Venice. It had been years since he'd thrown in his lot with someone who always made him say the wrong thing. He knew he was going to ruin everything, and he went right ahead.

"My first love was a lifeguard in Venice. I must have been ten, and he was about your age. He had hunky shoulders and a hairy chest, and I'd sit for hours and watch him. He'd be high up in his chair, putting on oil and rubbing it in. It was a one-way thing—he didn't know—but I was so happy I could hardly breathe. Otherwise, I didn't do anything but go in the water. I was in the water all day."

"Do you live with someone?" Sam asked.

"Yes," Nick said, as if he hadn't been interrupted. Perhaps he hadn't been.

"I thought so. Is he older?"

"No. We're both thirty-five. Why?"

"You're like hustlers I've met who've settled down with someone," he said, then shrugged because Nick didn't prove the point. "Usually they pick some old queen."


Excerpted from The Gold Diggers by Paul Monette. Copyright © 1979 Paul Monette. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Gold Diggers (Alyson Classics Library) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
rsm_bedford More than 1 year ago
The Gold Diggers a work of fiction by Paul Monette was hard to put down. The two main characters a gay couple, and  their two sidekicks, discover a secret in the old Hollywood house which they reside in.  The twists and turns, and character development, make for a page turner in this fun light read.  This tale is as contemporary today as when it was written.