THE FOURTH ANGEL by John Rechy. Published by W. H Allen, £1.75
The Fourth Angel is the latest novel by John Rechy, who rose to stardom in gay cultural circles with his first book, City Of Night.
The latter, although weak on literary style, proved itself to be a masterpiece of its kind, as well as a valid study of one of society’s phenomena. City Of Night was concerned with the life and times of a male prostitute in the United States, and the emptiness and despairing dilemma of the central character is graphically described in a way that has never before been so direct and realistic. It is an important book, that deserves to be read by all gays.
Since the publication of that book, Rechy has produced four other novels, the most significant being This Day’s Death, with the most recent being this newly published work.
This time the plot evolves around four teenagers, three boys and a girl, all of whom are aged sixteen. Drug taking is an integral part of the story, and a reader’s response very much depends on his/her individual reaction to ‘pot’ and other ‘dope’. The four kids are bored and disillusioned, and are all very much casualties of modern urban civilisation. One of them, Jerry, the ‘fourth angel’, is still very much affected by the recent death of his mother. The ‘mother fixation’ is a recurring theme in most of Rechy’s work, it usually being an important factor in the story. Those familiar with his other novels will no doubt have drawn their own conclusions as to why this is.
As is also usual in Rechy’s writings, homosexuals have a prominent role to play in the story, although the anal rape scene in this book cannot be described as being primarily gay. But the way in which gayness is treated is relevant to the misguided way societies generally react towards the subject.
The Fourth Angel is a short book, consisting of only 158 pages, but it succeeds in making its point on most of the levels it tries to encompass. A disturbing, slightly despairing tale but honest in its approach, leaving the reader in no doubt that while Rechy does not place blame on anyone or anything, it is clear that, in his opinion American society has much to answer for.