Title: Gonzo Girl
Author: Cheryl Della Pietra
Release Date: July 28th, 2015 by Touchstone
Long after the last drink is poured and the final gunshot fired, Cheryl Della Pietra’s novel inspired by her time as Hunter S. Thompson’s assistant will linger in your mind.
Alley Russo is a recent college grad desperately trying to make it in the grueling world of New York publishing, but like so many who have come before her, she has no connections and has settled for an unpaid magazine internship while slinging drinks on Bleecker Street just to make ends meet. That’s when she hears the infamous Walker Reade is looking for an assistant to replace the eight others who have recently quit. Hungry for a chance to get her manuscript onto the desk of an experienced editor, Alley jumps at the opportunity to help Reade finish his latest novel.
After surviving an absurd three-day trial period involving a .44 magnum, purple-pyramid acid, violent verbal outbursts, brushes with fame and the law, a bevy of peacocks, and a whole lot of cocaine, Alley is invited to stay at the compound where Reade works. For months Alley attempts to coax the novel out of Walker page-by-page, all while battling his endless procrastination, vampiric schedule, Herculean substance abuse, mounting debt, and casual gun play. But as the job begins to take a toll on her psyche, Alley realizes she’s alone in the Colorado Rockies at the mercy of a drug-addicted literary icon who may never produce another novel and her fate may already be sealed.
In a way, the reader is thrown into this story exactly like Alley is and holds the same feelings that she does. She’s just like the rest of us: a struggling college student, who is stuck in an unpaid internship, has an extreme amount of loans from college, and just wants to be a published author.
She’s dragged headfirst, unknowingly into Walker Read’s drug and alcohol induced world where she has to learn how to be this different type of personal assistant that pushes a lot of her own personal boundaries in the hopes of getting her manuscript published.
At first, it’s just a wild ride. But the tone of this book gets darker and darker as time goes on which really helps to show Walker’s decline (and the denial of this decline) through Alley’s eyes. Here, the struggle to feel sympathy for him begins. The abundance of drugs, alcohol, and an extravagant lifestyle over the years is causing him to slowly burn out and fade away into nothingness. Every day is full of Walker Read’s definition of the word fun, but for Alley it is becoming exhausting and frustrating. So as Walker’s lifestyle wears down himself, it wears out Alley as well (again similarly to the way that the reader would imagine it would).
It’s hard to work up sympathy for Walker’s character. He is a whirlwind force that goes directly against any sympathy the reader could feel for him — he’s cruel, angry, crazy, and likes his women young and sexual. But he’s still fun, and every once in a while, he’s a brilliant and an addicting character that pushes both the reader’s and Alley’s limits. It’s in this way that you really see how the characters develop and become realistic.
Pietra does a wonderful job of pacing Walker and Alley’s time together so that the reader feels addicted, thrilled, and is in constant question of how much Alley can take and if she is going to leave regardless of how tough she is. She also uses such a descriptive narrative that you feel like you are submersed and addicted to this fast paced world.