Today I’m delighted to be able to bring you an extract from Dale Bradford’s first novel, The Honey Peach Affair. Unusually for this site, this is not a work of erotica, but a mystery based around the erotica and porn industries. Who better than Dale, after many a year at the ETO Magazine, to delve into the industries darker side?
A social drink with Britain’s hottest adult entertainment star is the starting point for the biggest adventure of film reviewer Bruce Baker’s life.
When her sister asks for his help in investigating the star’s disappearance, law-abiding Bruce chalks up a charge sheet worthy of a career criminal, during his encounters with the unscrupulous and the fearsome – while dealing with a disagreeable boss who is looking for an excuse to sack him.
Sharing his journey is a virtuous anti-porn campaigner, whose cause Bruce inadvertently elevates to national prominence, and it culminates in Bruce sitting on one of the biggest stories any journalist could ever hope to uncover.
But he doesn’t want to write it.
The Honey Peach Affair is a murder mystery with elements of romantic comedy. It takes place in 2003 and is set in the adult entertainment industry.
…Although the M5 traffic was quite heavy Bruce pulled into the hotel’s car park ten minutes before he had arranged to meet Rachel. He strode purposefully through the hotel’s glass and chrome revolving door and approached the counter in the lobby which had a Love Shack sign above it. A slim woman in her early twenties, with a mass of dark curls, was sat behind it.
“Hello Gina,” Bruce said, reading her name badge. “I’m Bruce, from AMG magazine.”
Gina explained that the Love Shack bash was taking place in one of the function rooms and that complimentary refreshments were being served on the hotel’s lawns. She wrote Bruce’s name and the title of his publication on a blank badge and offered to take him through.
“Is it okay if I wait for a colleague first?” he said.
“Sure. You didn’t come together?”
“No, she… it’s a long and winding road of a story.”
“It’s a her? That’s awesome. I’ll get her badge ready. What’s her name?”
Bruce smiled. That’s a good question. Her name is Rachel. But Rachel what?
Gina looked up at him expectantly, felt tip pen poised. “Her name?”
“It’s probably best if she tells you,” Bruce said.
“I don’t really know her that well…”
“You don’t know her well enough to tell me her name?” Gina looked sceptical.
Bruce closed his eyes. He hadn’t thought this through. He paused for a few seconds and then inspiration struck: “She’s a freelancer. A freelance photographer. That we’ve booked through an agency.”
“Oh right,” Gina said. “Now it makes sense! Well, I hope she’s broad minded, we’ve got some pretty scary looking new lines on show here today.”
Out of the corner of his eye Bruce spotted Rachel emerging from a taxi that had pulled up outside the hotel. She swished through the revolving door and ran up to him.
“Bruce, darling,” she said, hugging him. “How wonderful to see you again!”
Gina stared at her. “You guys do know each other!”
“Of course we do,” Rachel said, returning the stare.
Gina said: “You haven’t brought a camera?”
“Why would I bring a camera?”
“It’s okay,” Bruce said, pulling his small digital out of his jacket pocket. “She can use mine.”
“Look, if you guys have got something going on, that’s cool,” Gina said. “You don’t have to…”
“Thank you Gina,” said Bruce, ushering Rachel towards the function room.
“Wait, photographer lady!” Gina called after them. “You need a badge to get in.”
Bruce groaned. They returned to the desk and Rachel spelled out her name for Gina, who wrote it in the space provided and handed it over with a thin smile.
“Rachel Rogers?” Bruce said, staring at Rachel’s badge as they walked towards the function room.
“Do you have a problem with alliterative names, Bruce bloody Baker? At least they are easy to remember.”
He laughed. “No, but I thought you’d be a Peach.”
“That sounds a bit like a chat-up line. Are you trying to seduce me, Mr Baker?”
“I meant your surname,” Bruce spluttered. “I thought it would be Peach.”
“Same mother, different fathers,” Rachel tutted. “Don’t you listen to anything I say?”
A sign on the door of the function room read ‘Restricted access – invited guests aged 18+ only’ and a hefty man with a shaved head and goatee beard stood guard. He glanced briefly at Bruce and Rachel’s badges and, moving only his left arm, held the door open for them.
As they went through, they were greeted by another hefty man with shaved head and goatee beard. The function room was bigger than Bruce expected and decorated in the style of a Venetian ballroom, with flocked red and gold wallpaper and elaborate chandeliers dotted around the ceiling. Three booths had been constructed down one wall and opposite them was a series of desks with Love Shack representatives sat behind them. To the rear were two sets of doors, leading out to the lawns.
A few dozen people were milling around inside and talking in hushed tones. They turned to look at Bruce and Rachel as they entered but, failing to recognise either of them, quickly returned to their conversations.
“Why would they stage a shindig here, in the arse end of the country?” Rachel asked Bruce.
“This is hardly the arse end…”
“They’re never going to get the London media to travel to a regional event. If something is important it takes place in London.”
“You’re remarkably well informed for a sales rep…”
“Oh come on Bruce, it’s common sense,” she said dismissively, heading for the booths.
Each featured a table at the front stacked with posters and DVDs and a sign indicating the name of the performer – Wanda Wette, Cherry Chicolo and Honey Peach. All three were unoccupied. Behind the tables were stacks of plain cardboard boxes, containing the new products.
“Where are they?” Rachel asked.
A young girl in a black Love Shack T-shirt wandered over and said brightly: “They will be back in about twenty minutes.”
“What are they doing, having their implants serviced?” Rachel said.
The young girl’s enthusiasm was undimmed by the catty remark. “They’re outside having some photos with the press. Can I help you with anything?”
“We’ll wait,” Rachel sighed. She approached the Honey Peach booth and picked up a Legend of the Amazon Women DVD. Reading the back cover blurb, she wrinkled her nose.
“You go and do your work,” she said to Bruce, shooing him away with a hand gesture. “I’ll stay here and brush up on my porn abbreviations.”
Bruce dutifully whipped out his camera and took a series of pictures.
Gina approached him with an A4 envelope. “Hey Bruce, here’s a press kit for our new products, which we’re calling the Signature Series. The Head Master, Spasm Chasm and Hand Job are lifelike casts of each girl’s head, vagina and hand…”
“Has there been much interest?” Bruce asked, accepting the pack.
“It’s still kind of early,” Gina said. “We’re expecting more people this afternoon.”
“Maybe it would have been better to hold it in London?”
She raised her perfectly sculpted eyebrows at him.
He added: “You know, as far as the London media is concerned, if an event is important it takes place in London.”
Before she could reply they were both distracted by the piercing sound of a glass being smashed and raised voices. A short stocky man in a black suit was dragging a taller man in through the doors by his hair. The shorter man had pulled the taller man’s head close to him and he was swearing quietly in his ear.
“Oh Lord…” Gina said, covering her eyes with her hand and lowering her head.
The two men continued through the function room where the short one flung the tall one towards the bouncer, and made a gesture which appeared to suggest he wanted him removed from the building.
“Will you excuse me?” Gina said to Bruce. “You’re going to be here for some time, right?”
“Cool, because before you go, Mr Sachetti wants to meet you,” she said.
“As long as that isn’t him,” Bruce said, gesturing at the short man.
The look she gave him told him that it was. “I’m afraid he can be a bit old school.”
Bruce jumped as he felt someone put their hand on his shoulder and he was relieved to see it was Rachel.
“Well there’s nothing like a PR disaster to liven up a dull Tuesday afternoon,” she said.
“The turnout is so disappointing there are heaps of unopened bottles of wine on the tables outside,” she said. “That reporter from a local freesheet decided to stuff his bag with a couple.”
“Really? That’s a bit off…”
“That’s what journalists are like,” she said. “No offence but they’re freeloaders, especially lower down the orders. Taking exception to it is like walking into a public toilet and complaining it smells of pee. Speaking of which, do you know what’s in those boxes on the stands? Rubber casts of each girl’s fanny – how gruesome is that?”
“That’s shocking,” Bruce agreed, trying to suppress a smile.
“How sad must some men be to buy rubber body parts to shag?”
Bruce shrugged. No good could come from him answering this question. “Shall we go outside and see if the photographers have finished?”
They hadn’t, so they sat at one of the round pub-style tables. Rachel examined the label of the white wine chilling in the chrome ice bucket centrepiece. Several long oblong tables on the terrace were covered with white linen tablecloths and offered a variety of salads, sandwiches and cold meats, though they were slowly spoiling in the summer sun.
The wide expanse of lawn ran for several hundred yards down to a man-made lake where a small crowd congregated. One of the girls had been persuaded to wade in and splash in the shallow end for the photographers.
Rachel grabbed two glasses and unscrewed the cap of one of the wine bottles. “I know it’s very low-rent but I actually quite like fruity Germans,” she said, filling the glasses.
Bruce raised his glass to his lips and, shading the sun from his eyes with his hand, looked across at his companion. Her attractive face was accentuated by the backdrop of lush green lawns and bright blue summer sky.
“So what’s a nice boy like you doing in porn, Bruce?” she said. “Before I met you I thought you’d be some lecherous old creep.”
“I don’t work in porn, I work in publishing…”
She guffawed. “Okay you keep telling yourself that, darling!”
“It’s true. I’m doing the same job I was doing when I was writing about video games.”
“You were in the video games industry?” she said.
“No, I was in publishing then too,” Bruce replied, spotting the trap she had set for him.
She laughed. “So what happened?”
“One of my bosses left to start Adult Movie Guide. Hardcore pornography had just been legalised to sell in licensed sex shops and he thought porn could be the new video games, so he invited me to join him.”
Rachel removed a DVD from her bag. Staring intently at the case, she asked: “Do they honestly expect people to believe that these are real nuns? Since when did nuns have tattoos and pierced nipples?”
“Are you telling me they don’t?”
“Thank the Lord, it looks like they’ve finished the photos,” Rachel said, standing up. “Is it me or does this have the air of a really bizarre wedding?”
Bruce stood up too. The group was walking noisily up the lawns from the lake. As they approached, Bruce could see that the entourage consisted of two T-shirted Love Shack girls, a few shabbily dressed photographers and two porn stars. And neither of them was Honey Peach.
“She’s not there, is she?” Rachel said.
“It doesn’t look like,” Bruce replied.
Rachel’s face flushed with anger. She sat back down and downed the contents of her wine glass. “You told me she would be here, Bruce,” she said, emphasising each word. “I’ve taken time off work to be here today.”
“I’ll sort it out,” he said, walking towards the group.
“Hi, I’m Bruce from AMG magazine,” Bruce said to one of the Love Shack girls. “Is Honey Peach about?”
“Have you met Cherry Chicolo and Wanda Wette?” the girl said, gesturing to the two performers, who were now snogging for the benefit of the photographers.
“I specifically came to see Honey Peach,” Bruce said.
“Unfortunately she’s let us down,” the girl said. “We’re as disappointed as you are.”
Bruce doubted that.
“But we’ve got Wanda and Cherry!” the girl said with a flourish, gesturing again in their direction.
The group reached the terrace. Some of the photographers followed Cherry Chicolo and the Love Shack girls inside while the others sat down at a table and made a start on the wine.
Wanda Wette approached Bruce. “Did you just say you were Bruce Baker?”
Bruce nodded. “Hi, how you doing?”
Wanda calmly picked up the open bottle of wine from the table, looked at the label for a few seconds and then poured it over Bruce’s head. “That’s for what you said about me last month.”
The photographers cheered. One asked her to do it again so he could photograph it.
“What did I say?” Bruce spluttered.
“That you’ve seen more attractive sacks of potatoes than me,” Wanda said.
Bruce considered how to respond as the cold sticky wine ran down his chest, causing his white linen shirt to become transparent and stick to his skin. The commotion had brought people from inside the function room out onto the terrace. One of the Love Shack girls saw what had happened and quickly stepped in to steer Wanda away from Bruce.
“Bravo Bruce, you certainly sorted that out,” said Rachel, applauding in a slow, mocking manner.
Bruce picked up a paper napkin and wiped the wine off his face. “Just one of my fans,” he explained…
About the author:
Dale Bradford has been writing for consumer magazines, national newspapers and specialist interest publications since the 1980s. He is currently the editor of Erotic Trade Only (ETO), a B2B magazine for the UK adult retail sector. The Honey Peach Affair is his first novel.
Good luck with your first story Dale