Valerie F. de Daulles’ debut novel, Velkro: the Gripping Life of Mitzi St. Bernard, is a fictional bio of the woman who claims to have first envisioned the hook and loop fastener, that indispensable tool found on sneakers, backpacks, and spacesuits, which she names Velkro (from velocity and krona). Through a turn of bad luck, she doesn't capitalize on the inspired idea and her life takes another direction, involving lots of sex and celebrity and ending in murder. Set in the time period between 1945 and 1969, Mitzi leaps the hurdles of that generation--communism, racism, Catholicism, UFOs, television, urban renewal, and hippies--to offer up a tale made to order for women (and the like) who want only to nestle down with some mind candy.
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What does Velkro offer its readers? Sex that doesn't stoop to the tawdriness of chains and whips (although a cleric does use a flogger in a pivotal scene), a Hollywood scandal that can't break family values (even though the scandal involves a brother and sister), gender-bending in the fabulous fifties (everyone wants to be Mitzi!), and a glimpse into what could have been the scenario that launched the creation of the hook and loop fastener, the fabric tool that delivered us into outer space.
There are so many fun episodes in Velkro that the reader will wonder why the kitchen sink was omitted. Mitzi and Frenchie discuss sex reassignment surgery in euphemistic terms while high on speed at the opening of a Broadway play. Chip, with Mitzi's help, develops his penis enlarger business into a highly successful venture from "swingin' London." Mitzi, in the middle of screwing her film director (of zombie movies), discovers his body has removable parts. Two good ol' boys try to rape Mitzi and Frenchie, and they struggle for their lives using only their wits and their three-inch heels for defense. Mitzi has an affair with a deaf, dumb, and blind man, because she's trying to be more "saintlike." And she has a eureka moment when she realizes cockleburs could provide the design for a tool with industrial application, this occurring on the day of her scheduled abortion and the day her Swedish baron husband suffers a horrific accident.
The most compelling relationship in Velkro is between Mitzi and her twin sister Nisi. Nisi is a bizarre creature who balloons to enormous proportions and dedicates her life to torturing pigeons, the very animals that Mitzi loves.
Velkro does have its pseudo-inspirational moments. While in the nuthouse, rehabbing from "doll" (pill) dependency, Mitzi realizes that you've got to believe in something, otherwise life sours for you. For her, it's the pigeon, the critter that brings her luck, despite the fact that a mambo in New Orleans prophesies for her that it will ultimately seal her doom.
Like adding seasoning to a hearty stew, Velkro's characters take too many dolls and drink too much of their cocktail of choice, The Grasshopper, a frothy, minty concoction popular during the Big Band era and resurrected for Velkro. In fact, all of this novel is fun and tasty, even its surprise ending.
Presumptuously dedicated to the first woman of contemporary women's fiction, the late Jacqueline Susann, Velkro strives to live up to those standards, a compelling, fun read where the sexy protagonist doesn't live happily ever after. Author de Daulles states it was the re-release of the Susann classics in the late nineties that inspired her to pump out her own contribution to the loveable trash genre.
FROM CHAPTER 19
One evening at Mitzi’s apartment, while going over Frenchie’s scenes, Mitzi told her friend, “You’re really good. I think you’re a born actress, Frenchie.” She was sincere.
Frenchie smiled broadly. “It’s so much fun to do this, but I’m glad I don’t have any lines. I don’t think I’d be such a good actress then.”
Mitzi absently put her hand to her high, lacquered hair and then looked over at Frenchie’s even higher, unlacquered hair. “You know, there’s something about your hair that reminds me of something, but I can’t remember specifically what it is. What am I trying to think of?”
She pulled a long strand of hair from her own head and gently stretched it. “How can your hair stay so high without any hair spray? It just sticks together all by itself.”
Frenchie was looking at her hair in the wall mirror, when a Eureka look struck Mitzi’s face. “I know what it reminds me of! My Velkro invention!”
Mitzi proceeded to tell Frenchie about her Alpine accident and George and the cockleburs on her sweater. She told her about how she named her invention Velkro and that Hugh’s paralysis kept her from acting on developing the fastener. As time passed, she simply forgot all about it until Frenchie’s hair reminded her of it again.
“But nothing can stop me now. It’s a fabulous idea, and all I need is some scientist to help me with the design. Just think, no more zippers or buttons. I can’t even imagine all the uses for it.”
Frenchie agreed that it was a wonderful idea and reminded Mitzi that, with her money, she could get the best scientist in the world to work on it.
“You’re right, Frenchie. Tomorrow I’m going to get that Rube Goldberg guy to design my Velkro! I’ll join the ranks of the history’s great inventors, like the inventor of string.”
“Oh, no, Lady M. You’ll be more like the inventor of fire. Trust me, this is big.”