DRIVING ME CRAZY

(Apar Books, 2015)
(Apar Books, 2015)

In DRIVING ME CRAZY, the follow-up to the “hilarious and heart-wrenching” OVERHEARD ON A BUS and the “funny, touching, and revealing” DISAPPEARING ACT, TOM SOTER recalls learning to drive in his 30s, talking to James Bond screenwriter TOM MANKIEWICZ about SEAN CONNERY, trying to get his father to quit smoking, shooting the long-running public access TV show VIDEOSYNCRACIES, discovering he had a sister, discussing improv comedy with CAROL SCHINDLER, meeting the “real” GEORGE COSTANZA from SEINFELD, and facing bomb threats and angry neighbors as the president of his co-op.

CRITICAL REACTION

Sean Connery as James Bond in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, discussed in DRIVING ME CRAZY.
Sean Connery as James Bond in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, discussed with the movie’s screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz  in DRIVING ME CRAZY.

With DRIVING ME CRAZY, memoirist Tom Soter is edging into Stephen King territory. Not that Soter, a long-time friend, is a horror writer; he’s just been rather prolific over the past year or so. This latest book of memoirs is full of his usual (or unusual) obsessions and pet peeves. A lifelong fan of the Tarzan tales, Soter is exasperated when a science fiction writer is tasked with completing an unfinished manuscript reputedly by the jungle lord’s creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs; but the ERB wannabe writes dully, Soter says, and not at all in the master’s style, while the book cover trumpets “Burroughs’ final Tarzan novel” to draw in confused readers. Another of Soter’s obsessions is Bond, James Bond. He recounts the travails he went through to publish BOND AND BEYOND, one of his earliest books. He also highlights a fascinating interview with Tom Mankiewicz, who wrote the screenplay to the Bond movie DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. (Mankiewicz reveals that quintessentially American actor Burt Reynolds was seriously considered for the role as the quintessentially British spy. I can only imagine Soter’s wrath if that casting coup had come to pass!) Budding screenwriters, this one’s for you. My favorite story from DRIVING ME CRAZY  recounts Soter’s experiences with online dating; it’d be painful if it weren’t so darned funny. I don’t know how he does it but Soter has managed to pair quantity (witness the many books) with quality — and that’s quite an achievement. CRAZY is definitely a worthwhile read. IAN PRIOR

George Soter (far right) with friends in the 1970s
George Soter (far right) with friends in the 1970s

Tom Soter is a fine writer with a breezy, engaging style. He has many interesting things to say about many aspects of life, many of them funny, some sad, sometimes introspective, but always written with such clarity and purpose that I found DRIVING ME CRAZY truly difficult to set down. Each piece ranges from very brief to moderate in size, so that it’s liking into a box of chocolates, you always want just one more … MARVIN KAYE

Great book, full of anecdotes and insights from a prolific writer, producer, actor and teacher of improvisation. I encourage would be writers, producers, actors and improvisational performers to get this book. JAY C. REHAK

Sit back and enjoy this latest tome from Tom Soter, a fascinating, funny and unforgettable collection
of his observations, trials and tribulations, along with great anecdotes like his interview with Tom Mankiewicz.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who’s interested in trying to be creative
against all odds.  ALAN BRAUNSTEIN

Tom Soter, 2015
Tom Soter, 2015

Tom Soter’s DRIVING ME CRAZY is a diverting book of essays, anecdotes, reviews and interviews. OK, I’ll try again. Full disclosure: I have known Tom Soter since we were both seven years old. This book is about a guy who grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, taking the measure of those he met by chance, by fate, and through his own accomplishments. Some people get the back of his hand, deservedly so. Most are a mixed bag, with their good and bad points. Tom is a bellwether of sanity throughout, and, as one of his favorite quotes goes, “the one fixed point in a changing age.” Tom’s book may illustrate the saying, “everyone has a right to my opinion,” but as a whole, this is a corpus of ethical standards that stands out as a sensitive and tolerant (most of the time) cri de coeur. If you could feed all of this into a robotic brain, with the instruction to set its code of conduct by Tom’s own, we could all be comfortable with the result should the robots take over. If Tom would have become a cop instead of a writer, he would have been one of the best. ALAN SALY