top of page
  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

The Newsmakers Book Club Selection: "Playing with Fire" By Frank Hotchkiss

Now that Frank Hotchkiss has become the front-runner in the mayor’s race, Santa Barbara voters who are newly in search of insight into the character, values and worldview of their potential next leader are turning for clues to his literary art.

Word is, undecideds in households all across town are searching out copies of "Playing with Fire: A New York Novel" (on Amazon here), the most recent creation in the Hotchkiss oeuvre, a self-published 2016 novel of love, betrayal, steamy sex, illness, death, loss, steamy sex, redemption and steamy sex.

The main character of Frank’s book is a middle-aged, high-end advertising executive whom Hotchkiss (by coincidence a former advertising executive) calls “Benno Strong.” Benno falls hard for an exotic younger woman named Natalia Tsukarova (“It’s Russian. You won’t be required to spell it,” Natalia tells Benno in Chapter 1).

Benno’s first glimpse of his future mistress goes this way :

“Jet-black hair fell over a lipstick red dress cut just above the knee. He saw her legs outlined beneath the tight wool dress. Her tan calf muscles rippled over patent red leather heels as she stood with her legs close together. He couldn’t look at her, and walked away when she tried to introduce herself. Her delicate perfume made him to struggle to breathe.”

Complications ensue.

But enough about me, what do you think of my book? Back in August, during our Newsmakers TV interview, I read that excerpt on air, and asked Frank if his novel was autobiographical. Here’s what he said:

“Good question. No, although I’ve certainly seen ladies that beautiful.

But I’ll tell a little bit of the story. A guy your age, my age, inadvertently although happily married, falls in love with a wonderfully striking young woman but knows right away that it’s stupid, he shouldn’t do it, shouldn’t pursue it, he’s not gonna do that, they’ll just be friends and that’s when, you know, he discovers he’s playing with fire.”

Just friends, indeed.

Newsmakers today - Oprah's Book Club tomorrow? A full service multi-platform site, Newsmakers is proud to announce that “Playing with Fire” has been chosen by our Department of Erudite Book Learning and Danielle Steel Knockoffs as the inaugural selection of the Newsmakers Book Club.

Over the next 13 days until the Nov. 7 election, we’ll be poring over Frank’s newest opus, and we invite and encourage our readers to find a copy and read along with us – then send in your favorite Hotchkiss passage, which could be featured on our Book Club Report, along with your name, mug shot and mini-review.

Lots of fun for the whole family! Well, maybe not the whole family, but you get the idea.

Tonight’s assignment. By Chapter 4, the narrative arc of “Playing with Fire” has moved quickly: With Benno’s wife away, our hero finds himself in Natalia’s apartment, where the copious powers of the Hotchkiss literary imagination are unleashed. Or unloosed. Or something:

"When he pulled back, she came around and said, 'Come here,' again, got up from the couch and headed for the bedroom, pulling off her jacket and her turtleneck as she went. Her bare back was flawless. By the time he got his shirt off, she had stripped naked and was waiting for him to do likewise.

"This time she controlled herself to let him catch up, which he did, before she took off again like a mare on a run in the field, taunting him to follow, which he did, and then waiting for him to enter, which he did, and then not waiting for him at all anymore, just bucking and kicking and coming and going and flying and crying and coming and coming and coming. Which he did, also."

There were no injuries.

Um, discuss. Or not.


Images: Cover of "Playing with Fire" by Frank Hotchkiss; Hotchkiss (Paul Wellman, SB Independent); Oprah and a selection of her Book Club (AP/Globe and Mail); Fainting Couch (

Email us news tips at or comment on our stories on our Facebook page - SB City Desk. Thanks for reading.

108 views0 comments
bottom of page