Just read the first paragraph, then I dare you to put the book down. Fifteen Minutes, a novella by Mark Connelly, is astounding. I read it at the beach, and I have to say that the book was so gripping that a shark sighting or a lost child on the beach might not have been enough to distract me from my reading. I was mesmerized from the start.
George Sabro is an ordinary middle-aged man with an ordinary life who is longing for more. He wants to be an insider – to mingle with the beautiful people, the rich, the famous. He wants to make love to the gorgeous women he sees in his extensive Playboy Magazine collection. It’s not that he’s always been invisible. At age forty-nine, he can look back at some parts of his life with pride. He has a communications degree. During his time in ‘Nam he achieved marked success as a bartender and even worked as a very well-paid male prostitute. Connections he made as a paid lover led to work as a celebrity photographer and to a fortune made from investments in silver.
When the metals market takes an unexpected dive, so does George’s luck. After losing his fortune, George goes back to work as a dishwasher in a coffee shop. He is plunged into despair, once again living on Lucky Charms cereal and an occasional Milky Way bar. Then one day, an intoxicated reporter visiting the coffee shop gives George an idea – the media can make anyone a star, instantly. George decides to go after his own personal fifteen minutes of fame.
Armed with a box of Lucky Charms made to look like a bomb, George leaves work one day and takes five hostages – an old man, a pregnant woman, an Italian deliveryman, a gay man, and a beautiful blonde aspiring actress. Then he dials 911.
Although the premise of this book is rather dark, the characterizations are quite comedic. The dialogue between the five captives is hysterically funny and eminently typical. In a book only eighty-four pages long, Connelly has managed to develop characters with real depth and appeal.
Fifteen Minutes, winner of the 2004 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize, explores a hot topic which needs to be addressed. The power of media to sustain or destroy celebrity is chilling. The Paris Hiltons, Lindsay Lohans and Princess Dianas of the world are at the mercy of reporters looking for their own fifteen minutes of fame. The headlines would make us cry if we weren’t so damn fascinated. High praise to Mark Connelly for writing an insightful book covering this contemporary dilemma. Captivating!