May 6th, 2011


Book 42: Man's World by Rupert Smith

Book 42: Man's World.
Author: Rupert Smith, 2010
Genre: Contemporary/Period Fiction. GLBT. Romance.
Other Details: Paperback. 282 pages.

In this short novel, Smith charts the lives of two men and the gay scene in London in the present day and the late 1950/1960s. The narratives alternate between the two time periods as one man records his thoughts in a blog, accessible to the world, and the other writes in a secret journal.

In present day London, Robert (Robbie) is just moving into a new flat assisted by his best friend, Jonathan. Robbie's life centres around sex, drugs, clubbing and designer clothes. In contrast Michael, newly inducted into the RAF in the late 1950s, seeks to keep his sexuality secret despite the suspicions of superior officers and the taunts of his peers. Once he completes his National Service, Michael heads to London where he is introduced to the queer underworld.

I enjoyed this reading group selection even though it wasn't a novel I'd normally have chosen for myself. It highlights certain changes in British society over 50 years from the days when homosexual sex between consenting adults was still illegal to the modern day, where seemingly anything goes. One of the cross-over characters from the 50s to the present is Stephen, Michael's friend from the RAF, who is very aware that young gays such as Robbie and Jonathan think of him as an old queen and do not appreciate that it was the campaigning and sacrifices of men like he and Michael that made it possible for them to have the lifestyle they enjoy today.

Although this is marketed as a gay romance, it wasn't fluff. The love story at its heart was moving and its themes relevant in broader terms; especially the observation that freedoms and rights hard won can quickly become taken for granted. The apathy that Stephen rails against in the new generation, who appear to live only for for sex and shopping, could equally apply to many parts of contemporary society.

I found my sympathies more with Michael in the past that Robert in the present as I have little interest in the constant round of clubbing. getting wasted or becoming overly excited about designer clothes and shoes. Despite the difficulties faced, the clandestine world that Michael experiences had more appeal. As a slight aside, in the early chapters Robert's catalogue of who was wearing what did remind me a little of the concerns of American Psycho''s Patrick Bateman.

Although this is a book with a message, it was delivered in a highly readable manner. Overall an interesting book that was both funny and poignant. It generated some interesting discussion in our reading group.
Dead Dog Cat


I finished yesterday a very short graphic novel based on Gaiman's Sandman comic series, called The Little Endless Storybook, which was colorful and amusing. Nothing too deep, though.

Book 43: Altar of Bones by Philip Carter

Book 43: Altar of Bones.
Author: Philip Carter, 2011.
Genre: Conspiracy Thriller. Historical Mystery.
Other Details: ARC. 455 pages.

"They didn't have to kill him . . . he never drank from the altar of bones. I got it back."

This thriller opens with the fatal stabbing of a homeless woman in present day San Francisco. Before she dies she utters the above cryptic words. The narrative then moves back in time to a Siberian prison camp in 1937 as Lena Orlova, a young pregnant woman, stages a daring escape for herself and her lover. It is quickly revealed that she is the custodian of an ancient secret, the altar of bones, that many would go to any length to discover.

Back in the present two people are drawn into this deadly web: Ry O'Malley, a former federal agent whose father's death bed confession revealed a secret past, and Zoe Dmitroff, an attorney who recognises the murdered woman as someone she believed had died many years before. In typical thriller fashion these two attractive protagonists are plunged into a maelstrom of danger and intrigue that touches on one of the most notorious conspiracy theories of the Cold War era.

Without a doubt this was a fun, fast-paced thriller with a complex plot that didn't let up from the first page to the last. It is brimming with car chases, gun battles, assassinations, cryptic clues, world travel, twists and turns, betrayals, sexual tension and some interesting takes on Cold War politics and conspiracies. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read this in advance of its UK publication.

Philip Carter's web page - includes an excerpt as well a 'behind the scenes' section that details some of the real events that inform the novel.
El Corazon

53. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
by Neil White

Started: May 5, 2011
Finished: May 6, 2011

White's memoir of the one year he spent as a prisoner at a low security federal prison in Louisiana that also doubled as a leprosy colony. This was a pretty good read, though I'm about to give it a dumb criticism. I know it was a memoir, but I wish this book had been a little less about White's experiences in prison and a little more about the lepers and their history. Still, I enjoyed this overall. 313 pages. Grade: B+
Total # of books read in 2011: 53
Total # of pages read in 2011: