Author: Edmond Manning
Publisher: Pickwick Ink Publishing
Cover Artist: unknown
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Terrance Altham doesn’t know why he’s been arrested. He’s committed no crime and the cops aren’t talking. Sadly, the man sharing his holding cell talks too much. Known only as Ghost, he is a young grifter, apparently familiar enough with this police station to convince Terrance a break out is possible, and pushy enough to leave Terrance no choice but to follow Ghost into the underbelly of New York City.
Terrified by the unjust imprisonment and the possibility of a life behind bars, Terrance searches for proof of his innocence while Ghost seeks the elusive Butterfly King. But neither man seems in control of the weekend’s direction and the consequences of mistakes are life-changing. As Ghost’s manipulations come to an explosive head, each man must decide amid danger and street violence what kind of man will triumph, lost or found?
Narrator Vin Vanbly (a.k.a Ghost) returns in the most revealing King Weekend yet, where he faces the dark side of his dangerous manipulations, and learns missteps can be deadly. Vin must confront sinister dealings from his past—and a future promising disaster—as he waltzes Terrance across Manhattan in spring, searching for the elusive and charismatic, Butterfly King.
Book three in the “Lost and Found Kings” series drags us—some reluctantly, some avidly—once more into the strange inner world of Vin Vanbly, the pseudonymous anti-hero who unleashes the inner power of lost kings.
If that paragraph didn’t mean anything to you, you might not like this book.
For those of us who have fallen in love with Vin Vanbly, “The Butterfly King” was a revelation. Edmond Manning has created an emotionally exhausting tumble down a rabbit hole into the unseen worlds of ordinary lives. These worlds exist in both the physical and psychological interstices about which we all remain largely ignorant as we go about our ordinary business.
Vin is controlling in the extreme. The premise of every book is his calculated (or, as it happens, miscalculated) manipulation of a lost king in order to “king” him. For all the mystical aura that this process embodies, it is achieved through very real-world trickery. Vin is presented as a sort of bumbling genius, quick on his feet (except when he’s not), brilliant at researching and reading other people (except when he’s not). The seeming cruelty of what he does to his lost kings is always grounded in a deep love for them and in Vin’s quest to see them empowered with their kingship. This is what enables us to identify with Vin as well as with his targets. This is what allows us to love him.
It sounds hokey, but somehow it is captivating. Not one of the characters in any of his books has been remotely like me (other than being gay men); yet I have identified with each and every one, because Manning taps into primal stuff that resonates across class, race, ethnicity and geography.
This time, our lost king is Terrance Altham, a stoic, hard-working, upstanding black man on the young edge of middle age. Edmond Manning has taken a big chance, daring as a Midwestern white man to present the life of a New York City black man for our close inspection. But his love and respect (Vin’s love and respect) for Terrance makes it work. Terrence is a hugely powerful character. He is proud. He is strong. He is broken. Vin makes us care about him as if he was our brother.
Vin’s schemes are so cleverly worked out by the author that we are constantly kept at the same level of disorientation and confusion that both Terrance and Vin seem to be in throughout the action. Vin is not the wise, detached Gandalf or Dumbledore, casting his spells and watching the results. He screws up, forgets himself, gets distracted. He is, as we learn more and more with each book, damaged goods himself. Indeed, in “The Butterfly King” Vin has the tables turned on him for a while. It is both proof of his weakness, and a demonstration of his real power.
There is a sort of goofball humor that pervades the book, lightening its darker places and leavening the action with a sly madcap dizziness. There are places that punch you in the gut and bring on tears (if you’re so inclined). I found myself weeping on a subway in Manhattan, which is surely awkward, particularly since there is an amazing scene in the book that takes place on a subway in Manhattan. (I was at home for that one, and thus could weep in peace.)
As I’ve said before, Edmond Manning’s “Lost and Found Kings” books are very much men’s books. This is not to say that women wouldn’t enjoy them, but they seem to be written by a gay man for other gay men, drawing on a shared pain (and shared joys) that are unique to us.
Actually, I think straight men would like these books, if they could get through the sex parts. Their problem, not mine.
Keep going, Edmond. Your gifts just get better.
I would like to thank the author for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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,
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