Despite its name, do not mistake After Christmas Eve for a holiday story. It is a gut wrenching look at homophobia in the 60s as well as an intriguing mystery.
Author: Michael Rupured
Publisher: MLR Press
Brandilyn’s Rating: 4.25 of 5 stars
Ulysses Rating: 4 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
On Christmas Eve, 1966, Philip Potter drops off gifts to the homeless shelter, an act of generosity that later makes him a suspect in the murder of a male prostitute.
As Philip Potter wraps up his last minute shopping on Christmas Eve, 1966, James Walker, his lover of several years, takes his life. Unaware of what waits for him at home, Philip drops off gifts to the homeless shelter, an act of generosity that later makes him a suspect in the murder of a male prostitute. Two men drive yellow Continentals. One is a killer, with the blood of at least six hustlers on his hands. Both men have secrets. And as Philip is about to discover, James had kept secrets, too. But James wasn’t trying to frame him for murder…
There came a point while I was reading in After Christmas Eve that it was apparent that I would not be putting my kindle down until I was done. That is a very good thing, except, I REALLY wanted to take a nap. So, Mr. Rupured, not only did you make me ugly cry, you cost me sleep. I hope you are happy. Oh, whom am I kidding? I know you are happy.
Phillip is an interesting character. I did not read Rupured’s first novel, Until Thanksgiving, but I infer that Phillip appears in that one as well, though it is set closer to the present than is ACE. ACE is a poignant look at being gay in the late 60s wrapped up in a murder mystery. Though, I will say the mystery was not quite as mysterious as it could have been. There was doubt as to the killer, but it, at least for me, it was pretty obvious who it was from early on. I think the author could have done more to make Phillip’s life hell and push him toward the man that would become his love.
Overall, despite my initial hesitancy at that “historical” label on this story, I enjoyed After Christmas Eve, and I look forward to the sequel. One thing to remember is that this book is not a romance. It is a mystery with romantic overtones. It is also about finding oneself and one’s passion. It is about knowing that the past can not be changed and finding one’s way in the present.
This is not a romance, although it is about the redemptive power of love.
To be poetic, this book is like the description of a flower blooming in the desert. The desert is a metaphor for the lives of gay men in America in the 1960s, when we were essentially criminals who did our best to stay under the radar and live our lives in peace.
Set in last days of 1966 and the first months of 1967, After Christmas Eve begins with a tragic suicide and a heinous murder; two events that send the comfortable life of Philip Potter into a tailspin.
Philip is a curator at the Smithsonian (which is why I got tagged to write the review), and he is a lover/protector of a beautiful younger man whom he rescued from the streets. Philip has managed—as many gay men did in the 1960s—to find happiness and fulfillment, supported at work by people who don’t judge him for his private life. He also has the support of his married sister Mary. For Philip Potter, the harsh realities of being gay have been held at bay by his own wise choices and sheer good fortune.
Then, on Christmas Eve, it all goes to hell.
Rupured’s narrative takes us through Philip’s journey, from the tragedy that shatters his holiday and his life into an uncertain future where he is under the full scrutiny of the law and a hostile world. It is a mystery/thriller about a serial killer, and a tale of survival in the face of ignorance and prejudice.
I don’t want to give away any of the plot here, because it is fascinating and compelling, and all too familiar even today. There are times when Rupured’s writing seems a awkward, but the cast of characters he gives us allowed me to forget any complaints I might have had.
Aside from Philip himself, we meet Beau Carter, a southerner hiding from his family and desperately afraid of losing his job. He appears as a white knight at Philip’s darkest hour, but transforms into something less shining and more complicated as the story evolves. George Walker and Tripp Clarkson, two married gay men, each play crucial roles in Rupured’s narrative, and each offers us a different perspective on the subterfuges gay men have adopted to survive.
On the flip side is Shirley White, a lone black sergeant in the Washington DC police force, fighting her own battles as a non-white woman in a profoundly biased profession. As she tries to make sense of the killings of half a dozen young gay men, she has to come to terms with both Philip’s potential role in the murders, and her own feelings about homosexuals.
Like Michael Rupured, I came out at twenty in the late 1970s—technically in 1975, but to my family in 1976. It is hard for anyone under 40 today to understand the profound changes that had already happened in terms of gay life in America between 1966 and 1976. As a child of the post-Stonewall era (or, I suppose a teenager of the post-Stonewall era), I knew that I faced prejudice and all sorts of hurdles by living opening as a gay man. But by the time I was in college in the mid-1970s, things were exponentially better for us than they had been just a decade earlier. For me, it was all about possibility.
What this means is that, for me, After Christmas Eve is a story that sits on the leading edge of a moment of change in America. The disquieting murder mystery is really just the outer layer of this book’s meaning. The book becomes a microcosmic look at that time in our country’s history when things finally began to change for the better, when that first hopeful, brightly-colored bloom unfolded its petals in the desert, warmed by the sun of a brighter future.
I would like to thank Michael Rupured for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
Michael has kindly offered 1 commenter a signed paperback copy of ACE. (US only, international winners will receive an eCopy).
Contest ends 9 May 2014 @ 11:59pm. must be 18 or older, void where prohibited.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
|This post may contain affiliate links.
|Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews. The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.|