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A Few Hints And Clews

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Gay fiction is currently going through something of a slump. Others can defend it to the hilt, claiming it has never been in such a hale and hearty state of health, but to my mind it?s all become a bit ploddingly samey with plot trajectories you can spot a country mile off and characters so one-dimensional they make an Ikea flat pack look complex. (Which if you?ve ever put one together actually isn?t true ? they?re as complex as a computer ? so that analogy doesn?t work. Anyway?)

Ironically, the problem seems to be the more gayness is disseminated through culture and the more queer identity has gained visibility and centrality, the more gay fiction has become bogged down in the politics of clich? and marginalisation, with the majority of novels falling into one of two distinct categories: the coming-out story, stuffed with sadness and repressed regret, or the Jackie Collins raunchy romp only with cock rings and cottaging.

So, as we enjoy greater and greater freedoms queer lit is locked in the prison of the past, only reflecting very specific parts of gay life and not the diversity of its whole.

All of which makes Robert Taylor?s A Few Hints And Clews such a breath of fresh air read, which is weird because its tone, style and structure feel much more traditional and old fashioned ? even its cover seems like a throwback to the late 1980s or early 1990s. But, rather than coming over as read it all before d?j? vu, it takes familiar themes and situations and ploughs new turf with them. The blurring of timelines is appropriate because the story teleports us from the confusion of the 1940s and 1950s, through the counter-cultural revolution of the Stonewall era, to the initial emerging horrors of HIV/AIDS, to present day.

Don?t look at me like that. I know what you?re thinking. ?Isn?t that the same plot of every other gay novel written in the last 25 years?? Right? Well, before you stifle a yawn, what separates this from the rest of the pink publishing pack is how the milestones in gay life are handled.

Whereas other novels flag up the major events of queer history with brick over the head subtlety, Taylor doesn?t reference them directly but rather portrays the effects of the history shifters on the plot and the characters; he adopts that old feminist adage that the personal is the political instead of the too obvious cloying of the Forrest Gump school of flashback storytelling.

In fact, its main character, Adam, seems largely oblivious to anything as obvious as the gay lifestyle or community. His gayness isn?t his raison d'?tre; he simply happens to be gay. It doesn?t define every aspect of his being or life, which does give gay fiction fresh breath and bones. While the narration is sweeping, this book feels intimate, like a personal journey as opposed to a public crusade.

As residents of the new millennium gay global village we tend to underestimate the significance and suffering that?s gone before us, but that doesn?t mean we take kindly to how some authors hector and lecture us like gay global village idiots about how we had to fight for our gay rights. That?s why A Few Hints And Clews is so enjoyable and readable; its drive is character and story not cause or campaign. Consequently, we learn more about gay social history because it?s incidental not instrumental to the action. A moving, lyrical novel that is, more than anything, a fan letter to love in all its manifold terrific, tortured forms.

A Few Hints And Clews, by Robert Taylor

Published by: Harrington Park Press

Released: 16 August 2007

ISBN13: 1560236736

Buy A Few Hints And Clews online now and save yourself some money to put towards Robert Taylor?s earlier novel, All We Have Is Now.

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