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Book Review: Vertical and an Interview with the Author Rex Pickett

A book review followed by a conversation with the author. 
This month I read the book, "Vertical: A Novel" by Rex Pickett, author of "Sideways: A Novel.

Rex Pickett. 
Rex Pickett wrote the book "Sideways" which was adapted into the award winning movie of the same name, "Sideways." Yes, that movie about wine. Most of us know "Sideways" as the movie and not the book. Of course I own a copy of the movie. Many of us in the wine business also know that the movie increased sales of Pinot Noir, while depressing sales of Merlot. It is the most influential movie about wine in history and had a perceptible influence on American wine culture. Sideways [Blu-ray].

One of the pleasures of co-hosting #WineMuse World Wine Tour is working with an amazing host, Linda Rez. Linda regularly interviews musicians, artists and authors on her Minstrel and Muse Audio Art Magazine. She kindly invited me to join her in an interview with Rex Pickett. This is now a featured episode of the #WineMuse podcast on Minstrel and Muse Audio Art Magazine. When I learned that we were going to interview Mr. Pickett, I decided I should read Vertical his sequel to Sideways before the interview. In my preparation for the interview I learned that the third book in this trilogy was soon to be published, "Sideways 3 Chile."

I use the term "interview" loosely as Linda and Rex Pickett quickly established a wonderful rapport and did not need me interrupting. In fact, I was a silent audience of one. If I've learned anything about interviewing, it's when to keep my mouth shut. Before I share more about the interview with Rex Pickett, I'd like to share some thoughts about his book "Vertical: A Novel" by Rex Pickett.

Book Review "Vertical"

First, I don't expect to see a movie sequel to "Sideways" ever. Rex Pickett does not own the movie rights to the characters in "Sideways" and he said that the producer lacks interest in doing a sequel. I have some thoughts on that below.

Second, I liked "Vertical" after I read the entire book. What I appreciated and also had difficulty with, was the first person style of writing. The main character Miles is based on Rex Pickett. He wrote Miles as a reflection of himself.

If you've seen the movie "Sideways", you should know that in the book "Vertical" our familiar character Miles is the successful author of a book which was adapted into a hit movie about wine! The characters in the movie we all saw are mentioned in "Vertical" as the characters in the movie. In other words, Miles is Rex Pickett, not Paul Giamatti. That messed with my head while reading the book. My mental image of Miles flipped back and forth between the actor Paul Giamatti and the author Rex Pickett. Half the time I saw and heard Paul and the other half Rex.
Rex Pickett.

I should share that I saw Mr. Pickett in 2012 at the Portland, Oregon Wine Bloggers Conference. He was one of the featured speakers and a highlight of the event. So I knew what he looked like and sounded like. At some point while reading, I replaced the image of Paul with Rex in my in head.

As expected the book began with a focus on wine. But with a great deal of hedonism. Miles was reveling in his celebrity and also overwhelmed by his new fame. Wine, women and Miles neuroses featured prominently in the first half of the book. I've witnessed similar bacchanal behavior in wine country. It struck at times, too close. Honestly, the first third of the book was difficult for me to read as I recognized some of the less savory scenarios.

The middle of the book detailed the inevitable collapse of Miles crazy scheme. The last third of the book dealt or tried to deal with Miles and his mother. Can Miles survive the journey? Will his mother?

I was surprised by "Vertical." At the end, I found myself blinking away tears. I did not expect that reaction from this book. Laughter, shock, embarrassment and tears. It is all there in "Vertical." It also left me wanting to read the third book to discover what happens next.

Sideways 3 Chile

Yes, book three in the Sideways Trilogy "Sideways 3 Chile" is to be released this fall. In about a month of this posting. During our interview, Rex shared that the third book will be released initially as an e-book. For a very reasonable price. He discussed why the book is based in Chile and impressions on the country. I look forward to reading the third book in this trilogy about Miles. He's grown on me.

*Note: Rex also talked about his successful play "Sideways" adapted for the stage. The play is not the same as the movie. Think dialogue and 18 set changes. If you want to see the stage version of "Sideways" you will have to travel to London. Book your tickets now.

Rex Pickett Interview

On a personal note, I was impressed with how freely Mr. Pickett shared information. He never hesitated to discuss his experiences about writing, publishing, film-making and fighting to achieve personal goals. And a fight it was. The entertainment and publishing industry has changed and continues to evolve. I encourage you to listen to our interview with Rex. His comments overlapped many of my own personal views on social media, technology and culture change. And read his books. If you are like me, enjoy a good glass of wine while reading.

Sideways the movie, which was based on that book, was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay; it also won over 350 awards from critics.  In 2011 Mr. Pickett published Vertical which continues the story of Miles and Jack as they embark on a roadtrip with Miles' mom, her nurse, and her dog through wine country and middle America. Vertical explores Miles' relationship with his mother and his coming to grips with her impending death.

Rex recently adapted his novel Sideways for the stage. It sold out to audiences for six months when it was performed at the Ruskin Group Theater, and it then went on to break all attendance records at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, where it was directed by Des McAnuff.  The play is now heading to London's West End.  He has a new book in the trilogy coming this fall, Sideways 3 Chile, you won't want to miss, which follows Miles' life and wine adventures in Chile.  

Thoughts about Vertical the Movie?

No one knows if a sequel to the movie "Sideways" will ever be made. In my mind it should. It should not give up any of the excellence shown by the original movie. As per the book "Vertical" the movie would feature different actors in the roles of Miles and Jack. That's how it's written. If I were making the movie version, I'm not shy to advise, I would film the first third in glorious color, then gradually fade out the color in the middle third as Miles realizes his plan is failing. The last third of the movie would be in searing black and white. Visualize the movie "Nebraska." Gradually color would reappear at the very end of the movie. I would go to the theaters to watch this movie. Read the book to understand what I mean. "Vertical: A Novel" by Rex Pickett, author of "Sideways: A Novel.


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