Number One With A Bullet

In 1974, Marvin Gaye was coming back into the spotlight in more ways than one. He was embarking on his first tour since the tragic death of his duet partner Tammi Terrell four years earlier. Elsewhere, the singer was making a different kind of debut in the pages of a novel.

Elaine Jesmer, a former press agent who was closely associated with Motown, penned Number One With A Bullet, a trashy novel about the seedy underbelly of the record industry. Its main character, Daniel Stone, bears a striking imagesresemblance to Gaye. Stone is a troubled singer who marries the sister of his boss at Finest Records (sound familiar?). What unfolds is a story of greed, violence and depravity. The similarities didn’t escape Gaye, or Motown.

After the book’s publication, Jesmer was effectively black-balled from the music industry, but she wasn’t surprised.

In a 2010 interview with blogtalkradio’s Stephanie Campbell, Jesmer claims that Gaye unwittingly contributed to the novel.

“He would come and tell stories of something that had just happened and I would be so crazed by listening to this that I would go and write it into the book just as he said it had happened,” she said. Gaye gave his own side of the story in 1981 when Ebony magazine asked him how much of Jesmer’s novel was fact and how much was fiction:

“About 50-50. Elaine Jesmer pretended she was in love with me – or maybe she wasn’t pretending – to extract information out of me so that she could write the book and, er, Daniel Stone [the hero] was supposed to be me. There was a lot of truth in it, but a lot of fiction also. Certainly I’m not an oralist. I’m a dominant sexual partner usually, but she made mention in the book of some sexual activity that is not my character. I’m not a whore; I’m promiscuous, yes, but very selective. That ought to make interesting reading!” Excerpted from

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