Tag Archives: The Melancholy Strumpet Master

Interview with Author Zeb Beck

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I did a lot of writing in college and graduate school as a student of history. I learned the basics there of how to make a point and how to strengthen a sentence and paragraph. I also took a couple creative writing courses but didn’t learn the kinds of things I needed to create a story. I really learned how to write a story by re-reading many times over a handful of treasured novels: Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, McTeague, The Great Gatsby, and The Catcher in the Rye were all fundamental to my understanding of character and how to develop a good plot. Once I had a story in mind — that is, a beginning, middle, and ending somewhat outlined in my head — I was ready to get to work.


What inspired you to write your book?

I traveled extensively throughout Mexico when I was younger. In my twenties, I used to go down to Tijuana to buy and consume hard drugs. Those substances were acquired in the same neighborhoods where women worked the streets. I got to know a few of them as friends and – surprise, surprise — came to discover they were real people with wit, intelligence, problems, and dreams like the rest of us. I should clarify, I have not done a single drug in many years so please don’t misconstrue my answer.

What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I think that’s a question best unanswered, at least by an author. There are obvious themes of class, work,  and the burdens the universe sets up for us to overcome as we pursue goals, but I think I should leave it at that. 

What drew you into this particular genre?

I have felt strongly that there is not enough literary fiction for men out there. I hope that isn’t taken as a controversial statement. I don’t mean it as one. There’s a reason 85% of book buyers are women; the market is set up to satisfy women readers. Unless a regular guy is into nonfiction, science fiction, thrillers, or fantasy, there aren’t too many places to turn. My hope is that there’s an untapped niche for humorous literary fiction, the kind of stuff Exley wrote, that Fante and Bukowski wrote. The Lecturer’s Tale comes to mind, something that goes a bit beyond wacky Florida murder mysteries. English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee is a wonderful example of the kind of novel I wish there were more of.

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If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I like the question. To me, Ava is the most interesting character in the book. I think I might ask her, as brilliant as she is, what made her drop out of college and turn to sex work. I have an idea what she might say, but I’m not sure. 

What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I’m not sure; I’m still developing my readership. I’m going to be posting some stuff on Instagram in the next couple months. 

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What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Come up with a story and keep it moving. We have enough novels exploring characters’ feelings about an early and traumatizing past experience. Be careful to include the odd detail. The odd detail is what makes writing believable. Camus was a master of the odd detail. Finally, I would say resist the advice of those authors who have made a fortune churning out multiple books each year. I’m sure there’s money in that, but there’s money in sex work, too. 

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’m outlining a book in my head. I think it will overlap YA and psychological thriller. There will be laughs, too, be sure of that. Give me a few years to make it good.


About the Author

Zeb Beck lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife and difficult pets. He likes and dislikes the same things you do.


The Melancholy Strumpet Master by Zeb Beck Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

An academic and anthropologist works to help shed a light on the lives of Tijuana streetwalkers for his dissertation in author Zen Beck’s “The Melancholy Strumpet Master”.


The Synopsis

Will Gilmore Crowell’s humble member cross the line separating academic integrity from disgrace? Only if by doing so it can help others.

Every weekend, Gilmore Crowell crosses the border into Tijuana’s redlight district. He’s not there for sex; he’s there to save his failing academic career.

Gil’s anthropological study of Tijuana streetwalkers had his dissertation advisor cheering him on. But that was years ago, before his best sources up and vanished. Now, with no connection to the sex worker community, his research has stalled and the faculty elders are about to kick him out of the grad program. Plus, he’s broke.

He takes a job teaching at a juvenile detention center. The steady income gives him the means to keep making his weekly trips across the border. Now he’s paying the girls to speak with him. In a sudden moment of insight, he realizes that giving them something besides cold hard cash might help him forge a new inroad to the community. But do they want what he’s offering?

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The Review

This is a marvelous and thoughtful approach to dark humor. The author found a balance between the academic side of the narrative and the humorous side with the protagonist’s interactions with his colleagues and the street workers he interacts with. The setting took on a life of its own, not only with the back and forth over the border that the protagonist took part in, but the era of 2002, with some great references and language that made the reader feel transported back to that time period. 

The heart of the narrative rested in the powerful themes and hilarious dialogue between the characters. The duality of the character Gil will stay with readers long after the book finishes, as the author does a wonderful job of highlighting the pressures of academia and the hardships of tough work environments with the added pressure of studying the life of Hispanic street workers and the shady realities that plague those in the field, and the humorous situations that arise as a result of those two worlds colliding. Readers see this early on, as a rough night for Gil results in an early collision with LAPD officers and a neighbor willing to go to extreme lengths to get him out of trouble. 

The Verdict

Memorable, hilarious, yet poignant and well-written, author Zeb Beck’s “The Melancholy Strumpet Master” is a must-read dark comedy. The theme of class systems clashing with one another and the humorous dialogue that brings Gil’s hardships and struggles to a head in this book will keep readers hanging off of the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Zeb Beck lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife and difficult pets. He likes and dislikes the same things you do.