Tag Archives: books

Mike Parker, On The Red Hill (Penguin/ Random House, 2019)

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If I’d known the Mike Parker who wrote ON THE RED HILL was the Mike Parker from TV I might not have bought the book. But I’m glad I did. Mike and his boyfriend meet an elderly gay couple, George & Reg, become friends with them and inherit their house when they die. The book is an account of those lives, covering over a century between them, in the wider social and historical context of changing attitudes to homosexuality in the UK and in tension with how those lives are lived in their particulars, and not in the metropolis but in a small village in Wales. Each chapter in the book is divided into an element, a season, a cardinal direction and a person (thus Air, Spring, East, Reg). When it began with dense and lengthy descriptions of woods, and flowers and trees and moss and funghi I almost dropped it. But I persevered. Two homosexual Englishmen in rural Wales, one of German-Polish origin, makes for a fascinating story of lives lived on various kinds of margins, and the author weaves many explorations onto it (eg. Welsh history, migration, language, homosexual oppression, Foster and Carpenter, the ladies of Llangollen). I would have liked to have known more about George & Reg and less about the house and the landscape. But people who feel more attached to houses, gardens and nature than I might feel different.

José Arroyo

Last Call by Elon Green

A real page-turner, in the ‘true murder’ investigative genre, but so much more than that. It’s told like a detective mystery where a character — usually a lonely middle-aged gay man, often married, — goes into a bar only to be picked up by a younger man who turns out to be a serial killer, then meticulously dismembered and dumped in bin bags. As Elon Green gives a face and a history to each of these quasi-forgotten victims, the full force of homophobia –social, institutional, familial — as well as self-hatred, all comes to the fore. Almost nobody cared as man after man gets killed. As the mystery gets somewhat resolved, the full force of the culture’s homophobia gets revealed. Initially people didn’t care about AIDS because it seemed to affect predominantly gay men. Likewise few cared about these men and these murders — which as far as we know took place at the height of the pandemic; there might have been others subsequently — for the same reason. And this wasn’t a century ago. The last murders date to the nineties and the killer was not arrested until 2001. A riveting book that elicits a mix of sadness and rage.

José Arroyo