Death in Eden by Paul J Heald

published 2014

Death in Eden

[Angela and Stanley, researchers, have been invited to a celebratory porn industry banquet marking the launch of a new porn film, Toys in Babeland]

There was a red carpet, and Angela felt more than a little self-conscious…. They started down the carpet past the phalanx of cameras and microphons with logos from Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, VH1, Bravo, and the Playboy Channel. She shaded her eyes from the glare of the lights.

“If anyone asks,” Stanley turned and whispered back. “I’m Long Dong Silver, scourge of Pleasure Island.” Two more steps and they slipped into the refuge of the studio lobby where they were met by a beaming man in a tuxedo. [He said] “I’ve seated you with Layla Di Bona and Kristy Page.” He gave them both a quick smile of dismissal and turned to face two beautiful women in sequinned gowns who had just finished running the gauntlet of reporters…

They were the last couple to arrive at the table…Kristy, a petite brunette in a low cut dress, nodded and passed them a bottle of white wine.

Angela began to relax as she noticed many other couples dressed as conventionally as herself and her mate. There were some, however, who flaunted the attributes that made them top earners. A gorgeous blond wore a toga-like outfit that exposed one breast covered only by a small sequinned fabric flower.

commentary: This one is to make Col of Col’s Criminal Library happy. He dutifully visits my blog in the hope of seeing entries on the kind of books he likes (noir and heavy-duty crime fiction) and just occasionally he finds them – but lately it has been very slim pickings, there’s not been much for him. But this one should be to his taste. 

I always like books that tell you something about a different world: a geographical place or an unfamiliar trade or profession. There are many murder stories based on this premise, often cozies, and there are endless themed crime series – with settings as varied as catering, bookstores, teashops, teddybears and vicars.

Well you might file this book along with them, but the theme is the porn industry in California, and very informative it was too.

Stanley is an academic sociology researcher: he needs to study a world with a high proportion of female employees, and an old college friend running an adult film studio gives him the perfect in. He turns up with his wife Angela, and gets caught up in a murder case.

The book is an odd, but on the whole enjoyable, mixture of academia, porn and murder. You don’t find this kind of consideration in most books:
The professor was a comparativist by nature… he realized with a start that he was more of a relativist that the pornographer, who at least purported to have a single reference point against which to weigh the value of his occupation.
And there are several light-hearted moments – Stanley realizes that he has met very unpleasant people in other areas of his research:
At least two of the carnival workers and one termite exterminator had struck him as sociopaths, if not psychopaths.
And there’s a great exchange with one of the actresses:
“Do you still want to help me out [with the investigation]?”
“Absolutely,” she exclaimed, “I haven’t had this much excitement in years.”
This was something he had never expected to hear from a porn star.

The book is something of a mish-mash, with some unnecessary sex scenes (yes honestly) and a weird Hardy Boys note to the investigation, and a most unlikely ending. But I did enjoy it, and found the long interviews with the women from the film industry absolutely fascinating – I am guessing that they were only lightly fictionalized, and Heald implies they were real research documents, though not, I think, his own work. I would like to have read more of them.

So I am sure that Col will like this one – no, no, not because of a personal interest in the porn industry but because he introduced me to the book. You can see his review here, and his Q and A with the author here. Thank you Col. 

The picture was taken on the Adult Film Industry Awards red carpet in 2011, and features Jaded Dawn and Shay Lynn. It comes from Wikimedia Commons, and I can’t tell you how glad I was to find it quickly, as the idea of searching for illustrations for this particular book was quite worrying for me.


  1. Hmm...academia and the porn industry... You know, it is an odd combination, Moira, but I can see it. How interesting, even if the book is a little odd. I'm honestly not sure this one's for me, but I do know that there are many academics who study the sociology, psychology and so on that makes that industry 'tick' and that draws people to it.

    1. It won't be for everyone, that's for sure, but Heald is really trying to be informative as well as entertaining, I think, and I found the long interviews with the workers made the book worthwhile just in themselves.

  2. Nice to know it has a sense of humour! I've had Christa Faust's MONEY SHOT on the TBR for ages but somehow can't quite pluck up the courage, though John F Norris says its well worth the trouble and he always knows what he's talking about. Thanks for this addition to the crime and porn blue pill sub-genre ...

    1. I'm probably glad Col pushed me into this one - I might not have taken it on for myself, but I'm very glad I read it, and feel I understand more about the industry...

  3. At last.......I think I'd definitely be interested in more from Heald. I'm glad you enjoyed it...mostly! (Cheers for the shout-out.)

    1. Thanks to you for the book - which I probably otherwise would not have picked up! It was an unusual combination of themes...

  4. Sounds like fun. And interesting. I hate to add anymore to my piles of books, but I may look for this one.

    1. If it turns up, do give it a go Tracy. It's not as racy as it might sound...

  5. Moira: After starting to read the post I knew you would have had no difficulty finding a photo to illustrate the post. It was good there was an awards ceremony or you might not have had a proper photo for the post that involved clothes.

    Jill Edmondson wrote a book, Frisky Business, in which her sleuth, Sasha Jackson, has an investigation involving the porn industry. Her portrayal was of a grim, even ugly, industry. When an exchange of emails with Jill touched on gonzo porn I could not bring myself to post an excerpt from an academic text on the subject.

    1. You correctly reflect my nervous thinking about this book: reading it, featuring it and finding a photo! That is very interesting about Jill Edmondson. This book does tackle some of the difficult questions about the industry - but of course there are no easy answers.


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