The Melancholy Strumpet Master


Fiction - Humor/Comedy
260 Pages
Reviewed on 05/14/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Keith Mbuya for Readers' Favorite

Intent on wrapping up the thesis for his doctorate in anthropology at UC San Diego, Gilmore Crowell had spent the last eight years studying sex workers in Tijuana. The last thing he needed was the news that some big shots at the University wanted him out of the program. According to Crowell, it wasn’t his fault. The sex workers would feed him information that would automatically make UC San Diego’s thesis committee approve him for the doctorate he desired. In a bid to conclude his research, Crowell had decided to change his strategy. He found himself setting up a website for the prostitutes, spending money on them, having sex - something he had sworn never to do - and to his horror, doing almost everything else besides. Get yourself The Melancholy Strumpet Master by Zeb Beck to discover more.

Zeb Beck’s The Melancholy Strumpet Master will have lovers of comedy novels laced with a selection of weirdos, pundits, inmates, pompous administrators, lazy cops, overworked students, quirky therapists, and sex workers turning the pages from cover to cover. Beck breathes life into the scenes with vivid descriptions, imparting a dramatic touch to them. It only gets better with the nuanced and witty portrayal of the hectic and almost absurd way of life of the twenty-first century. This was especially accentuated by the brilliant crafting of the amazing protagonists. Beck juxtaposes their complex qualities, capturing their emotions along with it. All this culminated in a hilarious read and an intriguing plot. There is adventure, suspense, drama, and so much more in this book.

Rabia Tanveer

The Melancholy Strumpet Master by Zeb Beck follows the chaotic life of Gilmore Crowell, a Ph.D. student desperate to complete his dissertation before it was too late. Gilmore “Gil” was working on his anthropology dissertation about the streetwalkers (prostitutes) in Tijuana, where it was legal to do so. However, things weren’t going his way. His source of information was gone, and his dissertation was almost dead. The fact that Gil was broke didn’t really help his case. He did the only sensible thing: got a job teaching at a juvenile detention center and used that money on traveling to Tijuana every week, where he paid streetwalkers to speak to him to further his project. However, that didn’t seem to work anymore. Gil threw in something tempting to the girls: himself. Was that the right decision to make? Would that change the flow of information from his sources?

Not everyone can do justice to humorous fiction, but author Zeb Beck did it effortlessly. The novel is set in 2002, and Zeb Beck perfectly captured that time’s essence. The concept of the story was great, and the execution of it was even better. I loved Gil’s interaction with the girls and how he seemed to find the silver lining in everything. Bertram was haughty yet strangely encouraging at the same time. That really motivated Gil to go the extra mile to finish his dissertation before it was too late. I loved how witty and charming Gil was. The narrative style helped his character development and gave readers an insight into his mind. I was in awe of the author’s ability to tackle such a dark topic that most people would consider taboo, but Beck did it with integrity. It is an entertaining novel, one that I would highly recommend.

Joanne Ang

The Melancholy Strumpet Master by Zeb Beck revolves around Gilmore Crowell, a Ph.D. student desperate to finish his dissertation on sex workers in Tijuana. For the sake of conducting ethical research, he paid the sex workers for their time in exchange for personal information as to what led them to where they are, but that proved to be fruitless. Even with the teaching job at a juvenile detention center, at the rate his research was going, his luck would run out soon. With little money left and his doctorate at stake, Gil would have to find a solution to his problem quickly.

The Melancholy Strumpet Master by Zeb Beck is an adventurous and playful novel that will intrigue readers. Many of the sex workers that Gil encountered were relatively unapproachable, which gave him a hard time conducting his interviews. I liked the way he persevered to reach his objective, even going as far as adopting extreme measures. I think that this also reflected the real-world situation, showing readers that things are always easier said than done. The conversations that Gil has with the sex workers, his colleagues, and his friends are simply hilarious. The storyline is interesting and engaging, giving insight into the life of a sex worker and how they ended up in that predicament in the first place. This is an amusing take on academia that will leave you laughing for a long time.