Bookshelf: Laverne and Shirley #2 – Easy Money

Laverne and Shirley #2 – Easy Money
By Con Steffanson
First Published 1976
Published by Warner Books
141 Pages

Con Steffanson, a pen name used by author Ron Goulart, wrote three tie-in novels based on ABC’s Laverne and Shirley, all released in 1976. Easy Money is the second of these novels. I have two copies, both of which have large Xs written across the cover in black marker. This could mean they were remaindered or maybe whoever owned them before me just really hated Laverne and Shirley. Either way, the X doesn’t do all that much to obstruct the cover, which features a photograph of Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall as Shirley Feeney and Laverne De Fazio, respectively.

The plot of Easy Money involves Laverne appearing on a game show called Easy Money, in which contestants are asked a variety of trivia questions while tucked away in an isolation booth, all for a chance at winning $96,000. Both Laverne and Shirley are flown out to Hollywood so Laverne can continue competing. Also in Hollywood are Lenny Kosnowski and Andrew “Squiggy” Squigman, who are vacationing together. Nathan Shotz, owner of the Shotz Brewery and Laverne and Shirley’s father, is thrilled to have Laverne mentioning the name of his company on the air in front of millions of viewers.

Laverne and Shirley #2 - Easy Money Front Cover

Laverne and Shirley #2 – Easy Money Front Cover – Copyright Warner Books

Once in Hollywood, it slowly begins to dawn on Laverne that perhaps Easy Money is rigged, despite continued denials by everyone involved with the game. But after a producer for the show gives her some “areas of study” to help prepare, she starts feeling bad about what she’s doing. With everyone back in Milwaukee supporting and counting on her, however, Laverne keeps going. She plays another round and then decides enough is enough. With Shirley’s support she plans to tell the producer not to give her any more hints.

The production company behind Easy Money is owned in part by a millionaire named Nelson Nesbit; in fact, he owns 51% of the company. So when he says Laverne will win all $96,000, the producers have to find a way to keep her winning. Laverne is given an envelope containing actual answers and told she has to win or else people will lose their jobs. Instead, she plans to spill the beans to a reporter. Before she can, she and Shirley are kidnapped and taken to a desert castle owned by Nesbit.

Laverne and Shirley #2 - Easy Money Back Cover

Laverne and Shirley #2 – Easy Money Back Cover – Copyright Warner Books

Lenny and Squiggy just happen to drive by as Laverne and Shirley are being transported from their hotel. The two decide to follow them, thinking something is up. The reporter also determines that trouble is brewing. Nesbit plans to keep Laverne and Shirley at his castle until Laverne relents and agrees to keep playing. But one of the other owners of the production company doesn’t agree with his methods, arrives at the castle in a helicopter and announces that she’s taking the girls with her. The game show is soon taken off the air and Laverne and Shirley enjoy a nice meal with their reporter friend.

Easy Money wasn’t hilarious but it was enjoyable. The antics of Lenny and Squiggy in Hollywood felt a bit out of place; the two had very little interaction with Laverne and Shirley once everyone left Milwaukee. Nelson Nesbit made for an over-the-top villain, a germophobe who didn’t want anyone getting too close to him. There was one passage early on in the book that pulled me out of the story, though:

Shirley leaned in front of Carmine to give Laverne a poke in the ribs. “You’re not laughing.”
“He’ll have to tell me the dirty story first.”
“You’re supposed to pretend.”
“Le him pretend he’s hearing me laugh.” Laverne leaned back and folded her arms under her breasts.

It wasn’t the word itself that surprised me but the fact that it appeared at all. It seemed somehow out of place in a tie-in novel based on a sitcom like Laverne and Shirley. The sentence probably would have worked just as well if it ended after “folder her arms,” but perhaps Con Steffanson (aka Ron Goulart) felt otherwise.

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3 Replies to “Bookshelf: Laverne and Shirley #2 – Easy Money”

  1. Is this perchance the same Ron Goulart who wrote several books on the history of comics? His books on the comics are so scholarly, it doesn’t seem possible that he’d write something like this.

  2. I think they are the same Ron Goulart. Although bibliography at Fantastic Fiction doesn’t include the three Laverne & Shirley novels, it does state that he used the pseudonym Con Steffanson. This biography/bibliography at Ridgefield Authors, taken from Contemporary Authors Online 2003, does mention them.

  3. Yes, the same, Rachel. He also wrote a stinging 1969 “expose” on the business of children’s toys, foodstuffs, movies, TV and merchandising in the late ’60s, “The Assault On Childhood” [and he REALLY let Disney have it in the chapter concerning him!]; I distinctly remember he referred to most local children’s TV show hosts of the time as “tired and openly cynical men pretending to be Captain Satellite or Mayor Art or Bozo the Clown inbetween commercials and old cartoons”. Goulart loves comics, but he’s also somewhat of a cynical person himself, judging from the book I’ve just noted. The ONLY reason he’d write those “Laverne & Shirley” paperbacks was for the money {hence, his pseudonym, so that his friends wouldn’t sneer at his “selling out” to write about characters from a medium he obviously loathed}. Why should HE care if his description of Laverne included the words, “folded her arms under her breasts”? I wouldn’t be surprised if HE was his own model for the villain, “Nelson Nesbit”- sure, he treats television as a “commodity”, as a means to make big money by cheating people out of their dignity and integrity by having THEM cheat before a national audience. I believe Goulart was making a personal statement about TV [and “LAVERNE & SHIRLEY” in particular], never mind the “happy ending”. I believe Goulart also saw himself as the “crusading reporter” who exposes Nesbit AND his rigged game show for what it really is….can you imagine what the actual series would have been like if Garry Marshall had the same attutude Goulart had?

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