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Fun House

by Chris Grabenstein

Paperback, 292 pages, W W Norton & Co Inc, List Price: $14.95 |


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Chris Grabenstein

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Book Summary

When one of the cast members of a raucous reality television show set in the New Jersey seaside resort town of Sea Haven is murdered, John Ceepak and Danny Boyle must move to protect the others and find the killer.

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The Jersey shore's iconic Star Jet roller coaster was inundated after Superstorm Sandy. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

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Bodies On The Boardwalk: Murder Stirs A Sleepy Jersey Shore

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Fun House

Chapter 1

He wasn't happy about it but, last night, my partner John Ceepak became a TV star.

Maybe you caught his act on You Tube this morning. The video snip of his guest appearance on the Reality TV show "Fun House" already has like two million hits. Ceepak, the one guy in America who could care less about being famous, now is. Kids in places like Indiana are probably calling him "The Cop," the way people call Bruce Springsteen "The Boss."

And it's sort of my fault.

Earlier this summer, at the all-new, all-wood Rolling Thunder roller coaster, I met a girl named Layla Shapiro. She's my age, just turned twenty-six. Very sexy, very sassy. Turns out Layla (yes, her parents really dug that old Eric Clapton song) was visiting Sea Haven — our sunny resort town down the Jersey Shore — over Memorial Day weekend because she freelances as a location scout for Prickly Pear Productions, this Hollywood outfit that shoots crap for television like "Hot Dog" (an animal talent competition), "Hot Tub" (something to do with blindfolded strangers finding true love in their underwear), "Hot Mommas" (housewives picking the perfect pool boy), and "Hot Plumbers Of Brooklyn." Okay, I made that last one up.

"Fun House" is Prickly Pear's newest, most original creation. For one thing, it's their first show without the word "Hot" in its title.

"Think Jersey Shore meets Big Brother meets Survivor," said Layla when she described the show to me on our first date. Ten twenty-somethings (five guys and five girls), who are "totally into" tanning, gyming, and boozing get crammed into a cheesy rental house a block from the boardwalk. Fun ensues. They have weekly competitions, hook up with each other, drink booze, hook up some more, drink more booze, and then, at the end of the season, one couple is crowned King and Queen of The Beach. They also split half a millions bucks.

Ceepak's star turn came during last night's Skeeball competition or, since this is "Fun House," their Brewskee Ball tournament.

I wasn't there when the cameras were rolling but Ceepak filled me in over breakfast at the Pancake Palace. Plus I have his You Tube moment on my iPod.

Here's what went down:

Tuesday night being family game night at the Ceepak household and the first week of August being too hot and humid to stay inside an apartment without air conditioning playing Parcheesi, Ceepak and his wife, Rita, headed over to the Coin Castle on Pier Two to amuse themselves.

Unfortunately, they decided to roll a few frames of Skeeball, which is sort of like bowling on a ten-foot long inclined lane but, instead of knocking down pins, you try to whirl your polished wooden ball up the ramp into a series of rings that lead down to scoring holes. You get ten points for the easy ring, twenty for the next easiest, and so on up to the fifty point hole which is maybe a pinky finger wider than your baseball-sized Skeeball. When your turn's up, the machine spits out raffle tickets matching your score, which you can trade in for prizes — once you have like a billion of them.

I say Skeeball was an unfortunate choice for the Ceepaks because that same night, the ten rowdy beer guzzlers from "Fun House" stumbled into the Coin Castle with their camera crew to play the same game and, being blasted on brewskis, make lame "Hey, check out my balls" jokes to each other.

On lane six, Paulie Braciole, the guy who calls himself "The Thing" and is always pulling up his T-Shirt to flash his buff bod (he can make his pecs wiggle), was losing to Hard Hat, whose real name is Mike Tomasino, but he likes to gel his hair with something stronger than Elmer's Glue so he can blow dry it up into what looks like a very stiff, upside down dog bowl of a hat.

In between frames, Paulie and Mike were slamming back beers, including a several full cans of suds funneled their way via a beer bong hose. Two of the girls, Soozy K and the one who calls herself Jennie Mortadella, were cheering the two guys on, sharing their beer bong. I think Soozy K and The Thing are an item. I know they've been hungover together in the hot tub. That was on episode one.

Anyway, Paulie "The Thing" didn't think his machine was playing fair because Mike "Hard Hat" had ten times more tickets than him.

"It's rigged," The Thing snarled at the camera, veins, tendons and muscles roping in his neck. "My ball-hop is dented."

The ball hop is like a ski jump at the end of the lane that launches the Skeeballs up into the ring zone.

"That's lame," said Hard Hat.

"What's lame?"

"Blaming the ball hop, dude."

"So? You're lamer."

They don't hire real writers for Reality TV so the dialogue is never what you might call snappy.

"Your balls stink, Paulie," shouted Jennie Mortadella. She and Hard Hat have an alliance, another thing that's always good to have on Reality TV shows involving competitions. Means you can stab the other contestants in the back until it's time to stab each other.

When Jennie said that, Paulie, of course, got furious. His face, which was already bright orange from when he passed out in the "Fun House" tanning bed (Episode Two), went all the way to Oompa-Loompa.

From Fun House by Chris Grabenstein. Copyright 2012 by Chris Grabenstein. Excerpted by permission of Chris Grabenstein.