Review: Hanged Man by Parhelion

Ray’s a former mob enforcer who heads west to live off his comfortable retirement, provided graciously by his ex-employers. He’s got it all. A new place, a new business, and he’s making a pretty good go of it. Better than most folks in 1935 California.

Still, things aren’t perfect. There’s some bad stuff going down with his town, his employees, and local cult leader, Mr. Alistair. Things get even more complicated when former FBI agent Charlie shows up, needing his help. Can Ray resist Charlie’s charms, or will fall for the man despite it being the worst idea in a long line of bad ideas?

Review by Erastes

In Hanged Man we are thrown immediately into the action. A dance marathon is going on, that cruel, exploitative event where desperate couples danced for the chance of money and perhaps a little celebrity, is going on but the suffering of the dancers are–suitable to the times–almost ignored, their very bodies treated like cattle along the lines of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? It’s clear we are in the Depression.

Ray, the protagonist, is a hard-bitten character from the east coast, and his clipped mobster thoughts and speech contrast starkly with the sunshine and oyster sheds and more liberal aspects of the west. He comes across as a tight ball of energy, calm on the surface but lethal beneath, it’s a wonderful juxtaposition to the palm trees and boardwalks of the sea-side town.

I’ve been impressed with Parhelion’s writing before, and once again–although the novella didn’t grab me in the same way that Peridot did–there are sections of prose which left me breathless and wishing, with evil jealous pain, that I’d thought of just that phrase.  Your mileage may vary, but I firmly believe that Parhelion is underrated and one of the best writers of gay fiction around at the moment.

Her talent lies in creating a time and place so skilfully that you don’t need vast swathes of descriptive text to anchor you there. Just brief touches: mention of skee-ball machines, a cashier’s cage and you are firmly inside Ray’s slot machine joint, a touch of flaking paint and the feel of warm wood and you are on the boardwalk.  It’s difficult to create such a cinematic feel with a paucity of prose, but Parhelion does it beautifully.  The dialogue is some of the best I’ve read in gay fiction too. Awkward and witty in turns, sentences and silence which mean everything–or nothing. Men who talk for talking’s sake when they are trying to say something else. And the sex?  Well it made me shift in my chair, if you get my drift.

As for the cover? I can’t ignore it. I’ve commented on these peculiar covers that Torquere use before, and frankly I can’t see what they were thinking. Surely to goodness only someone who knew Parhelion’s work from previous stories would buy a book with a cover that looks like it should be stuck on a fridge.

But don’t judge a book by its cover. Go and discover Parhelion for yourself, then tell all your friends.

Author’s site

Available file types – html, lit, pdf, prc – Torquere Press

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