Reviewed by Dan
AUTHOR: Rick R. Reed
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 200 Pages
RELEASE DATE: July 14, 2014
It should have been a perfect night out. Instead, Mark and Donald collide with tragedy when they leave their favorite night spot. That dark October night, three gay-bashers emerge from the gloom, armed with slurs, fists, and an aluminum baseball bat.
The hate crime leaves Donald lost and alone, clinging to the memory of the only man he ever loved. He is haunted, both literally and figuratively, by Mark and what might have been. Trapped in a limbo offering no closure, Donald can’t immediately accept the salvation his new neighbor, Walter, offers. Walter’s kindness and patience are qualities his sixteen-year-old nephew, Justin, understands well. Walter provides the only sense of family the boy’s ever known. But Justin holds a dark secret that threatens to tear Donald and Walter apart before their love even has a chance to blossom.
Did you ever start reading a book and then realize as you were reading it that you’d already read it before? That happened with this one. I read the first edition a few years ago and it deeply troubled me at the time. I’m not sure what possessed me to request this book for a Flashback Friday review, but something did.
A warning. This book is about a hate crime. A gay bashing where one of the men is killed…beaten to death in the street with a baseball bat. Similar to Matthew Broderick’s character in the movie Torch Song Trilogy and other portrayals of the violence perpetrated on gay men and women in the ‘real’ world, this story reads as if it could actually have happened. As a gay man, knowing how close to the surface hate is in many people, particularly in today’s political climate, the story was chilling. It is made worse probably by my own experience when in my early twenties I was chased several blocks in the middle of the night in Manhattan by 5 men yelling things like Fag and get him…filthy queer. Luckily like Mr. Reed’s story in the afterward, I found one of New York’s finest in a subway station where I ran to try to escape. There but by the grace of someone go I, or any of the countless other gay men and women who have faced this sort of hate and lived to tell about it.
This story is powerful in several ways. It is the story of Donald, and the love of his life taken from him too soon by hatred. It is a tale of internalized homophobia in the case of the murderer, and it is a tale of the corruptibility of youth in the case of the young man, Justin, whose combination of poor family upbringing and ignorance led him to be in the wrong place with the wrong people. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like Justin, but I thought Mr. Reed did a good job writing his character.
This is not the book if you’re looking for a feel good, dancing through the flowers, happy sort of read. It is dark, it is gritty, and sadly it is all too real. I’m writing this early on election day in my country. The last year has seen a huge increase in hatred and violence driven by a particular political candidate. Will that increase in hatred lead to more real-life stories like the story in this book? Only time will tell.
I recommend this book highly. It is very well written and powerful. Be prepared…it will leave you maudlin. If it doesn’t, there might just be something wrong with you.