Monday, January 5, 2009

Gay in the wrong location: The Alexandros Expedition

From memory, this was the first gay book I'd read that was written by a woman; it was also the first one that had a more or less "mainstream" plot. I got this book used in something like about 1987. It was put out by Alyson Books four years earlier, and I think its principal claim to fame is that it appears on the List of Materials Stopped by Canada Customs!! (You can see the whole list here: other words, this book is banned in Canada. I have no idea why, but I do know that Canada has banned a lot of gay books.

However, I always thought that the Canadians banned books containing "nasties" such as underage characters and what have you. Intelligent reasons.

Then I found out that they "stopped" Harlan's Race by Patricia Nell Warren, which is of course the sequel to the bestselling gay novel The Front Runner ... and since I've read both of those as well as The Alexandros Expedition, and I can tell you flat-out that there is nothing in any of these books that an intelligent sixteen y.o. could not safely read ... I can only conclude that the Canadian Customs Department is off its noodle and needs to have its management looked into as soon as feasible. Some of the stuff on their banned books list -- sure. But there's a lot of titles on there that shouldn't be. And Alexandros is one of them.

It's well written. Well plotted. Well researched ... it also seems to be the ONLY novel on this author's byline. Which tells me that this was a pen name for a writer who was well established in another field, because you don't get this good on one novel. (Maybe PS only had one gay story to tell?? Maybe s/he is Canadian and was so angry at having the book banned in Canada that s/he quit in reaction. This would be a pity, because a lot more books by this author would have been very welcome.) I've tried to get biographical details, but have so far found it impossible ... it's as if the author doesn't exist.

As it is, this is IT, the one and only, put out once by Alyson and never reprinted. The story is a mainstream mystery/adventure thriller about a hero who is hiding a secret ... he's gay, but can't or won't show it, even though his best bud (with the unfortunate name of Hamish, which is the only Scottish name worse than Angus) is open about being gay.

It all hits the fan for our hero, Even, when his friend lands in prison in the Mid-East. He and Hamish are determined to bust him out of there, and they plan a rescue mission. The plot takes them to exotic locations and into danger. There's plenty of action, though the book is not in the least explicit, which is why I can't work out why it was banned in Canada. I lliked the writing style, which is sparse and yet descriptive. And I liked the characters. Some of the book is very sensitively written -- including some good female characters.

It's your real Old Fashioned Book: a good, solid novel ... that, by the by, has gay central characters as well as a mile and a half of story.

Recommended. AG's rating: an easy 4 out of 5 stars -- and there's a killer deal on this at Amazon just now...