Someone is following Jack Winthrop—most likely the gunman who tried to kill America’s most controversial talk show host, Abraham Lincoln Jones. Ever since that fateful night when Jones called Winthrop with his audacious proposal, life has never been the same. Winthrop, an award-winning New York Times reporter who calls the Tit for Tat strip club his second home, agreed to collaborate on Jones’ national “Emancipation Tour.” The plan is to bring Jones’ passion for radical change to the people and transcend television by meeting America face to face. Now Winthrop has to survive long enough to make the tour a reality.
As the reach of his stalker spreads, so does the fear that Winthrop’s unconventional family is also in danger—Rita Harvey, the gentle transgender ex-priest and LGBT activist; Slow Mo, the massive vegetarian bouncer; and Donna, stripper and entrepreneurial prodigy—as well as the woman who is claiming his heart, media expert Danielle Jackson.
Steeped in the seamy underbelly of New York City, The Talk Show is a fast-paced and mordantly funny thriller that examines how the forces of nihilism threaten our yearning for love, family and acceptance.
- Kindle: 2893 KB
- Print Length: 303 pages
- Publisher: Trans Uber LLC (October 15, 2014)
THE TALK SHOW
By Joe Wenke
The call from Abraham Lincoln Jones came just after 2:00 a.m. On one side of the flat screen TV, Chris Matthews was interviewing Bill Maher. On the other side, one of the contestants
on Worst Cooks in America was barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers.
Winthrop hit mute and answered the phone in one ring.
“Yeah. F-U-C-K-K-K . . . N . . . A! Goddamn it!”
“Hey, don’t get cute with me, Winthrop. You know who the fuck this is.”
Winthrop waited one more beat. Then he said, “Fuckin’ A . . . LJ?” Jones exploded. The Big Bang laugh. Just like on the show.
“BING-O!” he screamed, “BING-O! THAT’S MY NAME-O . . .
The two men had never previously spoken, but Jones was right. Winthrop had known. Instantly. Yes, it was ALJ, the one and only. The man who had dominated talk TV for the last two decades. The anti-Oprah. Raw. Rough. Never predictable, he was the ultimate survivor—hated by some but always loved—crazily, unaccountably, loved nonetheless by millions of people who, if they thought about it for a single second, would realize to their utter confusion that they agreed with Abraham Lincoln Jones on practically nothing. “What are you drinking, Mr. Abraham Lincoln?” “The usual. Blue on the rocks. You?” “Patron. A few Dos Equis.” “Maybe then it’s time for some real conversation. Some crazy E! Hollywood true revelations.”
“You got it, Jack. You ready?”
Winthrop was feeling weird. The call had come as a total surprise, but right away it had begun to feel as if it were somehow inevitable or, more precisely, something that he had already experienced, maybe in dream. “I’m always ready, Abe, ready for anything,” he replied. “I guess it’s the gift of paranoia.”
“I know you’re ready, Jack. That’s why I called. I know you. I
know your ass inside out. I bet you know my fuckin’ ass too.”
“How’s that, Abe?”
“I know you—the best way to know a complicated white guy like you—through your work.”
“What work?” Jones laughed. “What work? Don’t be coy, Jack.
Why, all your fuckin’ work. Not just the fancy Pulitzer shit—the
homeless pieces and the power and race book—but all your goddamn
work. All the New York Times Gray Lady columns you write in
twenty minutes and the New York magazine articles, too.”
Winthrop fell momentarily silent. The bit about the work was flattery, but then again not. There was too much urgency in Jones’s voice.
“You still there, Jack?” Jones asked, sounding for the first time just a touch subdued.
“Totally, Abe. Totally.”
“Then let me get right to the fuckin’ point. Winthrop—I am the Man. I been the fuckin’ man forever. I know it, and you know it, too. But I must admit. Ever since I started, I’ve had not one, not two, but three motherfuckin’ problems. That’s three—as in one, two, three strikes you’re out.”
“Number one, Jack? Number one, when all is said and motherfuckin’
done, I’m just a goddamn good for nothing motherfuckin’ TV slug.”
“Abe, you’re a huge star. Come on. Aren’t you being just a little bit hard on yourself ?”
“You watch much TV, Winthrop?”
Winthrop glanced at the muted screen. Chris Matthews had moved on to his Sideshow. Rush Limbaugh was referring to a transgender woman as an “Add-a-dick-to-me babe.” Meanwhile, the Worst Cooks contestant had somehow set himself on fire.
“What’s problem number two?”
“Problem number two? Problem number two?” Jones paused, out of breath. Winthrop could hear him gasping into the phone like an emphysema patient. Finally he spoke. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, Winthrop, but I got a serious dermatological condition.”
“You mean you’re black.”
“BING-O! And you know what that means, Jack, my man, right up to this motherfuckin’ day when Barack Hussein Obama—black man, white man, Christian man with an infamous Muslim name is the one and only President of these United States of America.”
“But that is truly remarkable, Abe. I mean undeniably, despite the birthers and all of the tea party madness.”
“Yes, remarkable,” replied Abraham Lincoln Jones, his voice dropping to a whisper.
This was very interesting, thought Winthrop. No one had more presence, more energy, more panache, more sheer, outrageous chutzpah than Abraham Lincoln Jones. And yet here he was with a phone call out of nowhere, revealing vulnerabilities one would never have guessed at.
Once again, Winthrop could hear Jones breathing heavily into the phone.
“So here’s my point, Jack.”
“Your point . . .”
“My point, man, the goddamn reason I called you in the middleof the fuckin’ night . . . my point ... is change.”
“Change you can believe in?”
“No joke, Jack. Change you can believe in. Ain’t nothing harder, nothing more motherfuckin’ rare than change, cos, you and I both know almost nobody ever fuckin’ changes, not one little bit. Not even if it’s easy, which it never is. Not even if we’re talking about having a goddamn Henny Youngman Corn Beef on Rye once in a blue fuckin’ moon at the old Stage Deli instead of your usual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon That Ain’t Never Found And Ain’t Never Gonna Find No Cure Turkey Club—go crispy with the bacon and fries!”
Winthrop just laughed. Couldn’t help it. Jones laughed, too. He was on a roll.
“Take it easy on Jerry, Abe. He got canned after all those years. The Stage is gone too—but you were saying—”
“Right, Jack. I was saying. It’s all about change. But let’s put the issue another way. In fact, let’s put it your way, Jack. If you’re a fuckin’ nobody, you don’t fuckin’ change.”
“Did I say that?”
“Fuck you, Jack, you know you remember every goddamn precious word you ever wrote. So you tell me. What’s the sure as shit sign of a motherfuckin’ nobody? Come on, now, Jack. I’m practically quoting you.”
“He thinks he’s somebody.”
“Exactly. A fuckin’ nobody thinks he’s fuckin’ somebody. But in reality he’s no fuckin’ body. And as a fuckin’ nobody, he’s got nothing to change from or to.”
“But you’re about to tell me we’re different, right?”
“Ain’t you the cynical motherfucker? But give me a goddamn chance here, Jack. Let me talk. I’m fuckin’ serious. We are different because as you yourself have written, we know we’re nobody.”
“And that what sets us free—lets us throw the switch, change, jump the tracks and go off the cliff like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—God rest Paul Newman’s blessed soul.”
“You got it, Jack. And I’m calling you well past the goddamn motherfuckin’ witching hour to tell you your fuckin’ switch man is here.”
Winthrop paused for a second. “OK, Abe,” he said, after taking a deep breath. “What’s the proposition?”
“It’s this: We all know TV is a swamp.”
“Well, you did say you’re a slug.”
“Fuck you, Winthrop. My mama always said, no lie, you are judged by the company you keep. So who exactly is the motherfuckin’ company I keep on TV? Let’s go up the list, starting at the bottom, with that fuckin’ witch, Nancy Grace, scoring ratings points off of dead babies and missing girls, suckin’ the lifeblood out of every tragedy that has legs. Then, even though he’s gone, I still got to call out that fuckin’ nut job, buzz-headed bigot, Glenn Beck—”
“He’s gone, sort of. You can still watch him on the Web.”
“That man actually made a big show out of baiting the one and only Muslim Congressman, ever, Keith Ellison from Minnesota, challenging him to prove he’s not working with the enemies of the United States.”
“He also said that Barack Obama hates white people. Actually that he has ‘a deep-seated hatred for white people.’”
”And for a while he was everywhere—CNN Headline News, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, Fox News.”
“Maybe he and guys like him are the new Establishment.”
“You mean the swamp establishment—and it’s not just the right wing nuts on Fox News like Bill O’Reilly and Shawn Hannity minus Alan Albatross Colmes and all their Great American guests like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham.”
“And the architect, Karl Rove . . .”
“Right. And that motherfuckin’, toe-sucking, Clinton-bashing bastard, Dick Morris. Even Fox fired his ass. But it’s not really an ideological thing with me. It’s fuckin’ personal. Personal to me, that is. This was my motherfuckin’ medium. This was my way to communicate.”
“I understand, Abe.”
“I could go on all night, Winthrop, but I won’t. It’s a goddamn pandemic of pathology masquerading as news and entertainment.”
Excerpted from the book THE TALK SHOW by Joe Wenke. Copyright © 2014 by Joe Wenke. Reprinted with permission of Trans Über LLC. All rights reserved
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