There are two important Hollywood sites. One is the Industry of Big Money and Bodies Beautiful in California. The other is Hollywood, South Carolina—the home of the Holy Spirit, Hallelujah Oil, and enough hedonism to put Film Land to shame.
“Booze, bullets, and the Bible persuade the people of Hollywood, South Carolina to behave—one way or another. And now a native son, Shaytee Gadson, has written a family saga described as his “first novel”. The fact is the book is an autobiographical memoir. It’s not a poem, but it is poetry.
Hopefully, none of the many people whose secrets Shaytee reveals, including the sizes of their buttocks (and more private parts) will take fits of revenge on the author when they read what he says about them. Hopefully, he won’t get sued because what happens when you read his Mark Twainesque adventure is you start to like the author who would never describe himself as black. He would say, “café latte,” or “mochachino” because that’s how he describes earth-toned people, whereas white folks are simply white. Throughout the book, you are cheering Shaytee along. And, hopefully, no one puts a dead cat in your mailbox because of it.
He’s flamboyant. He’s outrageous. And he worships his mother who communicates with God and sends up prayers to heaven on a daily basis—prayers that rock the Lord to heal the sick, un-tether the suffering, and, yes, to raise the dead. And when Mama herself has “flat-lined” in the hospital, it’s the prayers of the family and nearly the whole town of Hollywood that bring her back to life.
What’s more, Shaytee adores his father equally. The son reports that Daddy is a womanizing inebriate with no redeeming qualities—except that he’s a genius and was once arguably the most effective Mayor of Hollywood until his wife divorced him over one of his chorus line of girlfriends.
Shaytee has done something significant here—he’s recorded the history-in-the-making-place he grew to manhood in and where up to the end of the tale he is a single dad living with his mother and his two daughters. Like father like son. It turns out Shaytee’s wife dumped him too.
Divorced, working as a substitute teacher, and a self-proclaimed (recovering) alcoholic, he has dug back to his “roots” and his perceptions of life in the racist South—a place he says is still racist. He takes us through a pain-filled journey that is as hilarious as it is holy.
His narrative incorporates the special dialect of the natives of the area, “Gullah”; and if nothing else, he has preserved a language uniquely connected to the ancestral culture of the people who speak it. And this language is delivered in such a way that we can read it. It is only a matter of time when this kind of Native Speak will become obsolete. What Chaucer did when he preserved the Old English of the Canterbury Tales, Shaytee Gadson has done with “Gullah” in Hallelujah! In Hollywood—A True Hollywood Story.
But things happen so fast in that town that a sneeze seems slow. By now the book may be sold out. Hallelujah! In Hollywood—A True Hollywood Story is a pleasure to read. There is no moral to the story; the plot is not contrived, it just happens and sometimes it’s like watching a train wreck in progress, other times it’s as orgasmic as eating a chocolate covered cherry; and at its best it’s delivered with the impact of Gospel music with God as the choir director. I enjoyed every word of it.
For the most part, the characters are simply Gadson’s immediate family: murderers, fornicators, liars, cheats, drunks, thieves, womanizers, crack-pipe smokers, sluts, pimps, whores, drug dealers, conniving hearts and doctors, preachers, a pastor sister who is nearly a saint, and some of the smartest, kindest, most compassionate God-focused people you are ever going to meet. You fall in love with each and every one, the redeemed, the saved, and the damned.
Like Tennessee Williams, Shaytee Gadson understands the hungry ghosts that haunt us, tempting us to become tools of the Devil. But more importantly, perhaps, he sees the divinity in everyone. The book deserves to be a movie.”
Reviewed by: Terry Reis Kennedy