Death In The Ghetto

CRUISING by Gerald Walker. Published by Sphere, 30p.

In Gay News 17, our leading news story, under the heading ‘Village Murder – Frenzy Times Five’, reported a series of murders in New York’s Greenwich Village. All the victims were gay and the police investigating the crimes and homosexual organisations in the city – the Gay Activist’s Alliance and the Attachine Society – believe the killings are carbon copies of events described in Gerald Walker’s book, Cruising.

Originally published in hardback in this country by W.H. Allen, Cruising was brought out as a paperback by Sphere Books last August. It has not, so far, enjoyed large sales, despite being a best-seller in the States. The book tells of a psychopathic killer, who is obviously a latent homosexual, unable to come to terms with his gay sexuality. He commits a number of brutal and bloody murders, usually mutilating the corpses in the most horrific manner. The murdered men, like the unfortunate victims in New York were all practising homosexuals. Also, as with the recent deadly events in Greenwich Village, all the action in the novel takes place in that district, internationally renowned for its reputation as a gay ghetto.

The story is told by three characters, one of them the killer himself, a young immature college student. The others are the police captain who is in charge of investigating the murders, and a newly recruited police officer, a ‘rookie’, who is detailed to the assignment of posing as a gay, in the hope of his being picked as a fresh victim by the killer.

The insights into the personalities of these three characters is particularly revealing, especially the character study of the murderer and his motives. The story moves along at a fast pace and is hard to put down once one has started reading it.

To say more of this extremely harrowing tale would ruin the final nightmarish twists in the plot. But I can comment on Cruising’s social implications. Whilst admitting that the position of gays in American society is slightly different to their contemporaries in Great Britain, one can easily recognise certain underlying factors. Gays, anywhere, are discriminated against and are generally misunderstood by the majority of society, including the police. As a result, some men – and women -unable to adjust to their sexuality, because of their fear of social pressures and their own ignorance and inadequacies, react in extremely disturbing ways. Sometimes they turn to suicide or live a life of self-repression. Others lead a double life. But in some instances they become uncontrollable, psychopathic killers, like the student in Cruising, or the person responsible for the recent New York slayings.

Gerald Walker’s depth of understanding of gayness in the book is insufficient and at times possibly harmful, all too often settling for the usual, unrealistic stereo-typed image of homosexuals. But the author’s portrayal of police attitudes is extremely significant. Enough in fact, for me to firmly believe that Cruising should become essential reading for all new recruits entering the police force.

To gays – and heterosexuals — Cruising is a fast moving read, that is both morbidly fascinating and exciting. To this reviewer, it also seems to be explicitly accurate in its study of a sexually motivated maniac.

Denis Lemon

1945-1994. Denis was one of the founders of Gay News and was perhaps most famous for being sued by Mary Whitehouse when, as editor, he published a poem in 1976 by James Kirkup that she felt was 'blasphemous'. He was fined £500 and sentenced to 9 months in prison suspended for 8 months. The Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence. He died of complications from AIDS in 1994 and was survived by his partner Nick Purshouse.
Denis Lemon

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Author: Denis Lemon

1945-1994. Denis was one of the founders of Gay News and was perhaps most famous for being sued by Mary Whitehouse when, as editor, he published a poem in 1976 by James Kirkup that she felt was 'blasphemous'. He was fined £500 and sentenced to 9 months in prison suspended for 8 months. The Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence. He died of complications from AIDS in 1994 and was survived by his partner Nick Purshouse.

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