August 11, 2008

A CASUALTY OF WAR, edited by Peter Burton (Arcadia 2008)

A CASUALTY OF WAR is the delightful new collection of gay short fiction by renowned English editor Peter Burton. Despite its title, the book’s themes are multifarious and range from hardcore wartime tales to infectious comedy. It opens with a Kafkaesque piece, WHEN THE TIME COMES, by writer-director Neil Bartlett, and continues with a heart-warming tale, TROUBLED, about nascent love in the punk era, by novelist/critic Sebastian Beaumont. It includes work by three Canadians, including me, Patrick Roscoe and Ian Young. Roscoe’s MARIPOSA, BUTTERFLY reads like a Spanish fairy tale while Young’s THE BUGGERY CLUB is a real nostalgia piece for anyone out and living in London in the ’80s. Thankfully, the collection also contains works by distinguished writers from an earlier era, including ATTI INNOMINABILI by Michael Davidson, a bittersweet look at adolescent sexuality, previously published to a limited readership in the ’60s. Among my favourites (they’re all favourites, really) are Stephen Saylor’s KINDER, GENTLER, with its emotionally-charged ending, Cliff James’s THE VIOLENCE OF THE GARDENER, with its superb noire twists, Richard Zimler’s perceptive take on gay/racial tensions, A DRY PAST, and the truly wonderful comic piece, AWKWARD RELATIONS by Richard Haylock, the English novelist who died recently at 87. This latter, a sort of CAGE AUX FOLLES set in ’80s Morocco, alone is worth the price of the volume.

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