Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Funny Odd Book Review - "The Next"

(From the Book jacket...)

He never thought he'd become one of the agoraphobic sludges of New York City – trapped with one view of a courtyard and head full of wrenching memories. 

Dumped, disconnected, and depressed, spying on the neighbors has become his only entertainment. Then, without warning, lascivious and suspicious behavior by the closeted lawyer in the huge apartment across the courtyard leads him to a spine-tingling conclusion…his neighbor is a murderer.

Perhaps collaborating with Detective Marzoli to catch the killer is the key to surviving a past and present that are literally strangling him to death? Perhaps this beautiful, fierce detective can bring life back to his life?


In recent years there has been something of a renaissance in LGBT fiction. A natural progression in many ways. Gay characters have been cleverly part of the written word for centuries. Yet when turning books into movies Hollywood famously "de-gayed" many of these stories to make it past the censors. Stories like Spartacus, From Here to Eternity and yes, even Harry Potter all had gay characters that never made the leap from page to screen.

Yet it was on the written page that many young Gays and Lesbians first got a tantalizing glimpse of a world, outside the fear and dread of being in the closet

I remember as a scared closeted college freshman, "casually" browsing at  my university library, in the "special collections" section. There I found a dust-covered copy of Gordon Merrick's gay romance novel "The Lord Won't Mind". Now, years later that particular book seems endearingly tawdry, like one of those schlocky romance novels with Fabio modeling on the cover.  

Yet at the time, just  finding a story where "Boy Meets Boy", was something of a revelation. Reading it felt incredibly risky, subversive even. But  more than that, it showed a world where Gay people existed, and in spite of the risks, and dangers of   living authentically, there was such a thing as a "happily ever after", for people like me.

Now years later,  the social progress we have seen over the past decade, has prompted a new generation of writers to take a look at life, and fiction from a  Gay-inclusive perspective. A lot of recent works have frankly been hit and miss. Yet in giving the premise of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" an updated treatment, New York author  Rafe Haze,  hits the mark.

I will be honest and admit I get bored with most Murder novels. Usually the hero is unbelievable,  and the murderer so transparent,  that I just want to turn to the last page and say arrest him or shoot him already!  With  "The Next", Haze has crafted a intricate patchwork of very believable characters. Giving us a front row seat,   as the protagonist watches the lives of his neighbors through the windows across the courtyard from his apartment.  

Haze wisely avoids getting bogged down in too much detail here. Giving us just enough of a glimpse of each neighbor,  to set the scene.    So when the murder does come, it is unexpected, and consequently far more interesting. The story moves effortlessly back and forth from rural childhood flashbacks, to modern day Manhattan. What I really enjoyed was how the book doesn't go in for "gotcha" moments. Rather, the tension builds like  a kettle on ever increasing heat. Leading up to confrontations that literally had me on the edge of my seat.

I love Hitchcock's rear window, whenever I am in New York walking on the street I often look up at the windows of apartment buildings and think that each lighted square is a story, and wonder what that story might be.

"The Next"   takes us on that journey,  but lets us imagine it without the cliche'd Hollywood romance. The love story here isn't shoehorned into the plot, it develops quite naturally, unexpectedly even. The sexuality of the main character is never waved like rainbow flag in the reader's face, but rather is treated as a development, instead of an event.

To call "The Next" a 'gay version of Rear Window',    while not an inaccurate description,  I feel does the book a disservice.   It isn't a story that asks "what if Jimmy Stewart's character was Gay?" and then goes from there.  Rather it it takes many of the elements of  Rear Window,  and allows us to experience them   from a new perspective,  that in this case,  just happens to be in a world that includes Gay people.

Sounds like art imitating life if you ask me.      I thoroughly enjoyed this book,  and  was surprised to learn it is Rafe Haze's first published novel.  I look forward to see what he will write ... next.

"The Next", by  Rafe Haze is available April 23rd,  for download,  from Wilde City Press

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