Review: It Takes Two by Elliott Mackle

A “who and why-done-it” mystery set in 1940s Florida, Dan Ewing is the manager of the Caloosa Hotel, which privately caters to the very special needs of its guests, and Bud Wright is a police detective whose passionate desire for Dan is in conflict with his desire to shut Dan’s business down. When one black man and one white man are suddenly killed in an apparent murder suicide, Dan and Bud find themselves up against local business, political and religious leaders as they are entrenched in one small southern town’s deeply hidden secrets.

Now reissued in print and ebook by Lethe Press – 2012

Review by Erastes

One of the reviews I’ve seen for this book calls it a “gay romance for grown ups” and that’s not a bad assessment. It starts with an existing ‘affair’ between Bud and Dan. However, whereas Dan is happy in his skin and knows his sexuality and is comfortable with it, Bud is most certainly not.  Not only is Bud a cop, and understandably cautious to be around Dan, but he’s bisexual with a preference for men, and he’s fighting it.

This is 1949 Florida, and both men were in the services in World War 2.  Bud was a “jarhead” – a grunt, a marine; going where he was sent, doing what he was told to do. He’s highly decorated and not particularly unsettled by the war. Dan however, having been on the Indianapolis when it was torpedoed by the Japanese, and having spent four days drifting in a lifeboat with dead bodies and sharks all around, and no food or water–has re-occuring nightmares and no wonder!  The fact that he lost the first man that he loved on that ship too, compounds his mental damage.  Both men use devices to justify why they like the other–Bud calls Dan “Coach” because he reminds him of a schoolboy crush he once had, and Dan feels that, as he doesn’t have the nightmares when Bud’s around, it must mean something special.

But Bud is skittish, he’s obviously hugely attracted, and very fond of Dan, but he uses every excuse not to admit to himself that this is anything more than mutual relief.  Even the language the men use distances themselves from the fact that they are in a relationship.  “Mixing it up” and “fooling around” and never “making love,” or even “having sex.” Dan is a lot more pragmatic; he likes Bud, he wants Bud and he knows Bud is keen on him, and sexually attracted to him and he gets frustrated that Bud is often so dismissive and often insulting–saying he’s not a fruit and neither is Dan.

There’s a lot of Non-PC language (and attitudes)  in this book, but it’s all perfectly in place. You expect people of this era to use language that would be entirely unacceptable today. But be warned if you aren’t able to read about realism in this time and place.

Another major reason why Bud is nervous of getting involved with Dan is that Dan is the manager of the Caloosa Hotel. On the outside, a prosperous and ordinary hotel, dealing with the higher end of the market, but on the inside it has a private club where anything goes, depending on what the customer wants.  It’s owned by Dan’s old Admiral who picked Dan up from the whore-pits of Asia after the war and brought him home.  In this position, Dan is buffered from the local law enforcement–they know what goes on, and what Dan is (and many other employees are) but the organised crime of the area keeps Dan more at arm’s length from this.  Obviously Bud has a problem with this–but he also sees the corruption in his own police department and can’t decide which is worse.

Bud’s reticence and continuing resistence to Dan eventually pushes the relationship to breaking point and it’s there that decisions have to be made.

Add to all this a good sexually motivated double-interracial murder with questions on all sides: Who killed whom? Who was shagging whom? And a cast of characters both “straight laced and then some” and otherwise, camp bartenders, sexy priests and the Ku Klux Klan threatening the hotel, it all adds up to a great fast paced read with a romance so masculine you just want to smack their heads together and tell them to fucking TALK to each other. (Which of course they never do.)

Mr Mackle really writes what he knows. As a homosexual member of the armed forces, his inside knowledge rings very true, particularly dealing with the memories of Dan’s time in the navy.  Highly recommended and certainly one book that needs a boost and a lot more attention. As far as I can see it’s now out of print which is criminal.  Go buy!

Author’s Website (one of the best I’ve seen)

Buy at Lethe Press

11 Responses

  1. I read this book about 2 years ago & I agree it deserves more attention. It is one of my favorite m/m books – ever. I believe it was already out of print when I came across it so I had to buy a slightly used copy. I immediately went to the author’s website to see what else I could get my hands on, but sadly there were no other books. Due to the novel’s time period and because it was out of print, I somehow got the idea that the book had been written longer ago. That, coupled with the author photos that showed an older gentleman made me fear that there weren’t going to be any more books from Mr. Mackle. Thanks to your review I visited his website again and found out that he just published a new book last month!

    So thanks for putting his name out there again!

    • Thanks Jackie! It’s such a little gem, I found it completely unputdownable and certainly deserves the attention that “Call Me By Your Name” does at the very least! I shall definitely be buying his new one as soon as it comes out. Glad there’s another fan of this book!

  2. I’ve seen this book on Amazon and come close to buying it several times, but the book by Mackle I really want is ‘Captain Harding’s Six Day War’ which I had on order for months with Amazon until they eventually gave in and cancelled the order, calling it ‘unavailable’. The publisher says it will arrive eventually so I live in hope. The Six Day War in the Middle East has personal significance to me, and if Mackle is as good a writer as he apparently is, this should be a great book when it arrives.

  3. I am currently reading galley proofs for Captain Harding’s Six-Day War. Publication date is Sept. 1, 2011.

  4. I bought this after reading “Captain Harding’s Six Day War”, which won your 2011 Best Book of the Year Award.

    I really enjoyed “It Takes Two”. The style of writing reminded me of Lucius Parhelion, whose books I love with a passion.

    I’ll definitely be looking for more stories by Elliott.

    • so glad you enjoyed them both!

    • Gaycrow (and all): You may want to check out my “Hot off the Presses” (Lethe Press, 2010). It’s available as an ebook on several platforms as well as in paper. Because of the time period (1995-96) it doesn’t qualify for Speak Its Name. Nonetheless, it’s a gay romance set around an historical event, the Centennial Olympic Games here in Atlanta.

      • Thanks, Elliott. I have indeed bought and read “Hot off the Presses” and enjoyed reading about Henry. (I should add your books to my Goodreads page, even though I have no idea how to use that site.)

      • I don’t either! Thanks for letting me know. A sequel to Captain Harding is in the pipeline.

  5. A new edition of “It Takes Two” was published by Lethe Press in paper and electronic editions in June 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: