FADEOUT by Joseph Hansen. Published by Harrap, £1.80. (187 pages)
Under various names Joseph Hansen has had published a number of paperbacks, as well as articles and poetry.’Fadeout’ is his first novel to appear in his own name. Hansen and his wife live in Los Angeles, where he is one of the directors of the Homosexual Information Centre and assists in selling their magazine.
The above background information is relevant only to the fact that the subject of homosexuality is treated in this novel in one of the most sensible and realistic ways I can recall reading. None of the worn-out, sad stereo-types, usually served up to represent gays – that heterosexual writers are so fond of – turn up in this story. I strongly recommend any misinformed members of the literary profession to read this book and try to learn something, for slandering gays will not always be legally possible.
‘Fadeout’ is a suspense story, and as such I will not spoil any possible readers’ enjoyment by giving away too many details. The plot involves the inquiries of insurance claims investigator Dave Brandsetter into the non-recovery of Fox Olsen’s body, who is thought drowned after his battered, flattened car is discovered a mile downstream from where it supposedly tumbled off a treacherous road into the river below. With little or no co-operation from the dead man’s relatives or friends, Brandsetter begins to realise that to find the corpse of Olson will not he sufficient. He must also uncover the reasons why he died and exactly how the accident happened. He works hard and relentlessly trying to unravel the mysteries and secrets that stop him from discovering the truth, with an ever-growing personal conviction that the tragedy is less of an accident than the facts first imply. The tale twists and turns, and the final chapters offer the reader one red herring after another before the reality of the situation is revealed.
The hero of the story, Dave Brandsetter, is gay, but his choice of sexuality is purely incidental to the plot. Hansen in no way exploits his character because of his gayness, just intertwines Brandsetter’s personal thoughts and life with the solving of the case he is on. In the first chapters we find him bitter and restless, coping with the emptiness left by the untimely death — through natural causes — of his life partner, Rod. By completely immersing himself in his work he hopes to put to flight the memories of his dead lover that so painfully haunt him. But the loss of a loved one is not used to indulge in romantic, over-sentimentality or trashy artificial melodramatics.
The plot is effective enough for ‘Fadeout’ succeeds well in the suspense novel genre. But because of the general handling of gayness throughout the book, this reviewer finds that the level the book works on is expanded and is socially important to those who know no better than to rely solely on myths and prejudices for their facts. It is a considerable advancement in literature when homosexuals appear as they do here — as people, not tinsel caricatures of human beings.
Dave Brandsetter will be returning in Hansen’s new suspense novel ‘Death Claims’, that by all accounts should be as worthwhile and compelling reading as ‘Fadeout’. And one can rest assured that the author will not have to resort to bucketsful of sad tears and fantasy titillation as substitutes for talent and awareness.