“The wry and knowing Mike Sager has written a saucy and kinetic L.A. novel. Celebrity gets fully toasted in this engaging romp about show business and the clash of cultures high and low, where the talk is tough before the shooting starts. The spotlight, it seems, can sometimes be a very dark place.”
–Ron Carlson, author, Return to Oakpine, co-director, MFA Program in Fiction Writing, University of California, Irvine
“High Tolerance: A Novel of Sex, Race, Celebrity, Murder . . . and Marijuana is as lurid as it sounds, and the cover would be at home in an airport bookstore, but it still contains Sager’s trademark densely packed, beautifully written sentences.”
–Baynard Woods, Baltimore City Paper
Link to full review/interview : http://citypaper.com/arts/books/bullshit-artist-1.1521095
LISTEN to MIKE SAGER discuss HIGH TOLERANCE on TOTAL EDUCATION RADIO with NEIL HALEY:
LISTEN TO MIKE SAGER discuss HIGH TOLERANCE on DIALOGUE WITH SUSAN WINGATE
LISTEN TO MIKE SAGER discuss HIGH TOLERANCE on THIS AMERICAN WIFE with ERIC MARTIN
“High Tolerance: A Novel of Sex, Race, Celebrity, Murder… and Marijuana lives up to its subtitle with non-stop vice and vicarious thrills! Set during the Writer’s Guild strike of January 2008, when Hollywood was starved for television entertainment, a sudden burst of shocking, salacious, and attention-grabbing round-the-clock programming rakes in viewers’ eyeballs like never before. At the center of the showbiz maelstrom are a superstarlet, a billionaire hip-hop artist, and a television writer/producer desperate to pay the bills, all connected by sex, murder, video, and a secret subscription list for designer marijuana! Each new revelation tops the last in this wild frenzy of a saga about the dark side of popular entertainment, gripping to the final page.
–Mary Cowper, Midwest Book Review
BEHIND THE STORY OF HIGH TOLERANCE
–by Terry Ambrose, Examiner.com
Mike Sager is a best-selling author and award-winning reporter who once worked as a Washington Post staff writer under Watergate investigator Bob Woodward. In this interview, Sager describes how three decades of working behind the scenes in L.A. and Hollywood for publications like Rolling Stone and Esquire led him to write “High Tolerance.”
This is a novel about our culture’s worship of Hollywood celebrity and materialism; the clash of races and points of view in a rapidly changing world; and about love and losing love, both parental and romantic. Sager said the idea for the novel came to him during the Writer’s Guild of America strike in 2008. “My first act of research was to walk the picket line for a few days with a writer/producer friend. For research I also worked for a while in a medical marijuana shop in Malibu, hung out and smoked pot with Snoop Dogg, and spent three days and nights with Paris Hilton.”
Sager added that he was also able to draw on his past journalistic experiences for the novel. He described those as “living with a crack gang in Venice, covering the War on Drugs; and writing extensively about the beating of black motorist Rodney G. King. And, of course, I spent nearly two decades as a husband and remain a father to this day. They say you should write about what you know. Well, this is what I’ve learned in nearly forty years with my boots on the ground.”
“High Tolerance” is about sex, race, celebrity, and marijuana. It takes place in Hollywood in 2008, during the Writer’s Guild of America strike. The main characters are a beloved super starlet, a controversial billionaire hip-hop mogul, and a television writer—all of them linked improbably by murder, domestic heartbreak, a sex video . . . and their inclusion on a secret subscription list for an exclusive designer strain of medical marijuana. Over a span of three seemingly ordinary days and nights in Los Angeles, the world wobbles on its digital axis, and futures are forever changed.
“When I’m working as a journalist,” said Sager, “every one of my non fiction stories is finely audited by fact checkers and lawyers. The art to being a literary journalist is to make great story while staying within the facts. Over the years it has taught me that there’s nothing stranger than truth. I give that line to one of my characters in High Tolerance. At the time he says it, he’s in a bit of a pickle.”
One of the aspects of writing fiction that concerns Sager is realism. He said, “Because I’ve spent a lifetime working in “fact,” my fiction has to have plausibility. It has to feel real, the emotions genuine—I’ve been in some tough spots; things have to ring true.”
It’s that aspect of reality Sager believes will earn reader loyalty. “I want my readers to come away satisfied. I want them to be entertained; I want them to learn some great weird and interesting stuff; I want them to be touched by something universal that makes them identify with the characters and situations in the story. More than anything else, I want to make a reader so delighted that he or she will try another of my books.”
THE HIGH TOLERANCE Q&A
–by Marshal Zeringue, Campaign for the California Reader
How would you complete this line: “You might well enjoy my book if you like….”
You might well enjoy my book if you liked… The movie Crash, the show Weeds, or Tom Wolfe’s book Bonfire of the Vanities—or have an interest in Hollywood celebrity, sex, drugs, music, crime, race relations, murder, or medical marijuana. High Tolerance is the result of my three decades working behind the scenes in LA and Hollywood for Rolling Stone and Esquire. I got the idea for the book during the Writer’s Guild of America strike in 2008. My first act of research was to walk the picket line for a few days with a writer/producer friend. For research I also: Worked in a medical marijuana shop in Malibu. Smoked pot with Snoop Dogg. Smoked freebase with Rick James. Spent three days and nights with Paris Hilton, two dinners with Angelina Jolie, three days with Diane Lane, an afternoon with Hilary Swank, an evening with Joan Baez many years ago in Washington, DC—she rode on the back of my motorcycle and it was reported in the Washington Times. Performed on a rap song with Ice Cube. Frequented Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood Station police precinct. Also helpful were some of my other journalistic experiences, including: Living with a crack gang in Venice; working as Rolling Stone’s drugs correspondent and covering the War on Drugs; writing extensively about the beating of black motorist Rodney G. King (I eventually met both Rodney and one of the two friends who was with him in the car that fateful night). And of course I spent nearly two decades as a husband and a coach and remain a father to this day of a bi-racial child. They say you should write about what you know. This is what I’ve learned in nearly forty years with my boots on the ground.
If they make your book into a movie, who should direct it?
PT Anderson was inspired by my Rolling Stone article, “The Devil and John Holmes,” to create the classic movie Boogie Nights. I think he would do great with High Tolerance. My book has a lot of fun stuff—drugs, music, a beautiful starlet, a billionaire rap mogul, a sex tape that is leaked to the world—but it’s also about fatherhood and race and celebrity and the impact of the media on lives and perceptions around the entire world. In other words, like Boogie Nights, there’s a spoonful of medicine with the sugar, a little depth there with the fun. Boogie Nights is a classic because it caught the zeitgeist of the era, the universality. I think High Tolerance tries to go there too.
What is your second favorite art form?
All artists have inside them a similar creative flame. If we’re lucky, we find the right apparatus with which to apply it. I started with guitar and moved to photography, but I settled on words because that’s the medium that felt most natural. I think prose has within it the ability to express all five senses and all the forms of art. And even more, writing can explore the deeper parts that pictures can’t tell. I grew up in the sixties, a child of television and the movies. I’ve always had a cinematic approach to my writing; I use scenes and characters and dialogue in my stories as a director might use in a film. Whether I’m doing non-fiction journalism or writing a novel, I always feel like I’m making movies with my words.