Terry Brennan, hip freelance journalist for Rolling Stone and other big-time publications, is a straphanger riding oh-so-close to the fame he can touch but doesn’t quite have.
He’s got a seat at the table in the celebrity inner sanctum at Elaine’s, snorts coke with a hot actress in the restroom and can slide into Studio 54 because he’s glib, likeable and well-known by the stars he’s written about. But making the scene in late-70s New York is always on somebody else’s famous nickel, not his own.
Somebody like Thaddeus Bryant, a brilliant novelist who has written a blockbuster that’s also quite literary, a soulful book that Hollywood can’t wait to turn into a movie — back when Hollywood made original films instead of comic book rip-offs.
Bryant’s taken a shine to Brennan, a connective click dialed in during Terry’s interview for a profile in Rolling Stone, and serves as his big brother and mentor. He’s also Brennan’s entre into Elaine’s, where only the famous and their hangers-on get those choice table seats.
Brennan, a Baltimore boy, is almost famous, addicted to the limelight and anxious to be a star on his own merits. And that’s where author Robert Ward turns THE STONE CARRIER on a dime and pulls the rug out from underneath his semi-likeable, semi-slimy protagonist.
In quick succession, Brennan becomes a suspect in the double murder of another of Bryant’s entourage, a failed indie filmmaker and coke dealer named Joey and his older brother Ray. Cops also find a brick of coke and lots of cash hidden in Brennan’s storage locker, part of a larger pile stolen from a Harlem drug king styled after the infamous Nicky Barnes, who orders his gun thugs to track down Brennan.
What follows is a dicey fugitive run through New York, circa 1978, as Brennan, abandoned by everybody but his on-again-off-again girlfriend Kathy, try to stay one step ahead of two crooked cops and the drug king’s thugs while also on a hunt to find out who set up the fame hound as a patsy.
It’s a rollicking ride, deftly told by Ward, who keeps the action slam-bang and the tension high. But where Ward really shines is in his portrayal of the soul-sucking price of fame on those who lust after it. He shows you the tarnished glitter of this world and the gargoyles that lurk beneath the shine.
Some of those gargoyles perch on the best seats at Elaine’s. Pick up Ward’s winning book to find out who they are.