Thursday, 25 March 2021

What I'm reading: Video-inspired kidnap and murder

Jeffery Deaver: THE NEVER GAME

After Lincoln Rhyme and Kathryn Dance, Jeffery Deaver launches a new series centered on Colter Shaw, a freelance investigator of Missing Person cases. He doesn’t like to be called a bounty hunter but the reward money is what draws him in. Here he investigates a trio of abductions in which the victims are put in deadly peril with a handful of survivor items similar to those supplied to avatars in video games. The prime location is California’s zillionaire Silicon Valley, and the link to producers of online gaming will prove to be the key to unravelling the mystery.

 This clearly is a Book for Our Time when too many of our kids (or of us) are addicted to violent video games. The story has great pace, moments of terrific tension, a few crafty red herrings and then a rattling series of final resolutions.

There’s a romantic element that fails to catch fire. And I didn’t entirely warm to the crisp new style Deaver develops for this new series. Very short sentences. But these can have an impact of their own: “Her nature was clothed in kindness. Under-neath was iron.” An up-to-the-minute thriller about the dangers that lurk in a certain kind of game for a certain kind of gamer, this is sure to win Jeffery Deaver some new fans. 

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

What I'm reading: Gay porn and Barbara Cartland

Gordon Merrick: FORTH INTO LIGHT


Originally published in 1974, this concludes the gay trilogy that began with The Lord Won’t Mind. Painter Charlie and art-dealer Peter are spending another summer in their Greek island villa with Martha, by whom they have each fathered a child. Martha is not the only woman in their life: art historian Judy arrives to consult Peter about some paintings that may be fakes. She inspires a heterosexual hiccup in Peter.

The paintings have been bought by celebrated New York author Mike who is on the island visiting his friend George, a not-so-celebrated author with a drinking problem and a rocky marriage. George’s teenage son Jeff thinks he may be gay and develops crushes on Mike and our two heroes (and one of the natives).

Gordon Merrick
Large dollops of sex are duly introduced as Jeff works his way through his crushes. And Peter consummates his heterosexual hiccup with Judy in scenes that veer between Barbara Cartland daintiness – “He opened his mouth, and she gave him hers” - and cinematic hardcore. Charlie is not simply well-hung; his endowment is “prodigious”. Graphic – not to say pornographic – sex is Gordon Merrick’s trademark, though I wonder if gay and straight porn belong in the same book: is there a demand for “bi-porn”? 

Aside from the sex, which comes close to the “classic” turgidity of the Song of the Loon trilogy, the book consists of long – even tedious – conversations about love and fidelity. There’s a “MacGuffin” involving a missing wad of dollars which, with the extended dialogue, has echoes of one of Terence Rattigan stodgier dramas. The debate about the “openness” of many gay relationships is an interesting one, to which Merrick makes a thoughtful contribution. Forth Into Light brings his ultra-erotic trilogy to an uneven climax (if I may use that word).