It’s easy to write a novel: Just keep typing until you have something that is very long and mostly lies. But getting that mess published is another beast entirely—unless you are famous, in which case your every utterance is assumed to be worth printing. As a result, there are a ton of embarrassing books with famous names attached to them. We sampled a few to see whether they were really that bad and found that yes, they were.
THE JUSTICE RIDERS
Chuck Norris, Ken Abraham, Aaron Norris, and Tim Grayem
B&H Fiction, 2006
Who knew that Walker, Texas Ranger, would be the best ridiculous-name-giver since Stan Lee? If you want to read about “Ezra Justice” as he teams up with English sharpshooter “Reginald Bonesteel” to fight “Slate Mordecai” and teach the Wild West about the Bible, The Justice Riders is the grocery-store paperback for you! The book wraps up with Justice sharing the gospel with Mordecai, then shooting him dead after the bad guy rejects Jesus—which is sort of Norris’s worldview in a nutshell.
The plot of Paradise Alley is a predictable yawn about three brothers in 1940s Hell’s Kitchen who get involved in underground wrestling in search of a quick buck and learn heartwarming lessons, but Stallone’s prose makes what could have been a merely mediocre novel memorably awful. He was likely aiming for a Dashiell Hammett–esque hard-boiled style but winds up sounding both simplistic and overly fond of the stalest stereotypes of New York City tenement life. When your fight scenes include lines like “Patty McLade dropped to the floor like a whore’s nightgown,” it’s time to go back to writing movies that are mostly inspirational jogging scenes and anguished grunts.
Nicolas and Weston Cage
Virgin Comics, 2007
One time, Nic Cage and his black-metal crooner son, Weston, came up with an idea for a comic book about the child of a slave who was killed in the 1860s and gets resurrected by black magic to clean up the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans. Then they got an artist and a writer to make their dreams into reality, because the Cages are not like you or me. This book is like if Spawn impregnated the Candyman with his demon seed on the set of Treme while a cuckolded Todd McFarlane masturbated in a corner. In other words, it’s fantastic.
Random House, 2011
Modelland is the story of Tookie De La Crème, a 15-year-old girl from the land of Metopia. Everyone considers her a “Forgetta-girl,” but on the Day of Discovery, the annual event where girls catwalk down Metopia’s main street, a scout invites De La Crème to Modelland, a mysterious place on a mountaintop where every year seven girls become “Intoxibellas” (a.k.a. supermodels). But before she can achieve Intoxibelladom, Tookie must survive the “Catwalk Corridor” and “Thigh-High Boot Camp.” There’s a positive message about inner beauty yada yada yada in here, but it’s buried under 5,000 tons of gibberish that Tyra Banks thought would sound cool to 12-year-old girls. PS: I did not finish the book because come on.
So it turns out that when a child megastar writes a semi-fictional memoir-slash-sketchbook, what comes out is kinda nuts. Junior is loaded with non sequiturs, drawings, lists, and daddy issues. At one point, Culkin writes, “Dear Dad, Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck…” Reviewing this would be like reviewing a roomful of headless dolls.
A LIFETIME OF LOVE: POEMS ON THE PASSAGES OF LIFE
Blue Mountain Arts, 2002
These poems (nauseatingly printed on pastel-colored paper) are all about the most amorphous form of love possible—it’s a love free of sex, fear, envy, or passion, which makes it a love that’s incredibly boring to read about. Nimoy employs nature imagery you might find on the back of a box of organic quinoa (he’s big on sunrises, trees, breezes, and gardens) and generally writes like a man who has never read poetry or gotten a boner. This book is bad.
WILBERT L. COOPER