The Sweet Ride

The Sweet Ride by William Murray (1967) I had a paperback copy of this for years, but I guess I was afraid to read it, since it's the novel my favorite movie of all time is based on. The book came out about the same time as the movie, so you wonder if someone was working on the screenplay before it was even published. Anyway, Murray was a pretty successful author, it sounds like, but you won't find a lot about this book. It's pretty interesting to read, knowing the movie, because some of it is identical, almost word for word, but in a lot of cases the book naturally elaborates more and goes deeper. The book is also much more graphic, hardcore, cynical and, especially regarding the outcome of the story, much darker. I'm not going to go into the plot of either one, but quickly, it's about three guys who rent a house near Malibu in the mid-Sixties—a tennis hustler, a jazz musician, and a surfer, Denny, who meets a young Hollywood actress who is later nearly murdered. The movie focuses more on Denny's story, asking us identify with him, but the novel is told mostly first person from the hustler's (a slightly older guy named Collie) point of view, which made me really happy. Sometimes we get a more omniscient viewpoint, but it's often as if Collie is retelling what he heard from another of the characters. We get a lot more details about Collie's hustling in the book, and we get a lot of stuff about surfing from Denny, and a lot about the actress, Vickie, as told to Denny (then presumably told to Collie). There's a lot about biker gangs, too, but the version in the book is a lot more gritty and unpleasant than the cleaned up version in the movie. After a run-in with some bikers and their right-wing neighbor, Parker, Choo Choo (the musician) points out how Parker hates the bikers, but in their shared racism, doesn't realize they're his natural allies. Also, there was side trip to Las Vegas in the movie, which is very much more elaborated on in the book—especially a part where Collie ends up by himself in an eccentric local bar, and makes one of his kind of hipster philosophical, cynical observations: “That's it, the American essence! A great towering pyramid of love, equality and good times built solidly on a deep foundation of loathing.