No Sad Tears Or Fantasies

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.

Land of Dreams

THE WORLD’S DESIRE by H. Rider Haggard and Andrew Lang. Pan Books paperback, 40p.

This fantasy was written by Haggard and Lang between 1888 and 1890 as a sequel to Homer’s Odyssey. The three main characters are Odysseus the Wanderer, Menamun, the Queen of Egypt, and Helen of Troy. Helen is the title, ‘The World’s Desire’, the symbol of perfect ideal beauty.

I have since schooldays enjoyed Haggard’s other stories with their tales of lost cities, tyrant Queens and immortal life. The World’s Desire, however, seems to be written with a heavier hand, being somewhat dull and over-Classical; it didn’t hold my interest at all. But then I’m one of those social outcasts who never even liked Tolkien.

Bob Fletcher

UNDERWORLD USA by Colin McArthur. Published by Seeker & Warburg. Paperback £1.10

Colin McArthur’s Underworld USA is a study of gangster/thriller films, that have, in his opinion, been seriously neglected by critics and cinema researchers. He argues that they are an important aspect of American cinema and to ignore them would be to miss the significance of directors working in this area.

The book is in two parts. The first is devoted to the genres, and the remainder of the book to some of the directors who have worked with them. They include Don Eiegel, Samuel Fuller, Elia Kazan and Robert Diodmak. Stills illustrating various aspects of these film makers’ work are abundantly included.

Whilst Underworld USA is primarily for the more serious student of the cinema, it certainly doesn’t mean that it is not of interest and value to the general film fan or devotee of gangster movies.

Denis Lemon

EVENOR by George MacDonald. Pan Books paperback, 40p.

MacDonald wrote in the same century as Haggard but has such a simple straightforward style that he might have penned it last week. Three stories make up the volume, the first and longest is The Wise Woman, almost a moral tale about the transformation of two very different but horrible children. It’s compulsive reading once you begin and told with a nice^sly humour. Second is the Caryason, involving fairies, magic, wine, goblin cobblers and all. The last gem is entitled the Golden Key told in such a beautifully visual style it might have been written in technicolor. Interesting to note that MacDonald’s greatest admirer was C. S. Lewis, of Narnia fame. A good book and well worth the money.

Bob Fletcher

The above is ‘Waterfall’ and is taken from The Graphic Work of M. C. Escher. This soft cover edition is one of the first from a new series of ‘Fantastic Art’ books being published by Pan/Ballantine.

The first two titles are the former and Magritte. The colour reproduction of the latter is superb; so good in fact that we didn’t dare attempt to reproduce it in GN.

The generous size of the books and printing on high quality paper, make them very good value at £1.25. It is extremely pleasing that at long last editions of the work of remarkable artists should be available at such a low price and produced to this high standard.

The series is edited by David Larkin and further titles will be appearing in 1973. All of them sound just as fantastic.

ED: Advance apologies to the publishers if our reproduction standard is not what it should be.

The above is one of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations from the new edition of Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass. Published by MacGibbon & Kee at £3.25, it makes an ideal present for lovers of Alice and her adventures.

Throughout the book. Ralph Steadman’s highly original pen and ink drawings add new life and depth to this classic tale that has delighted children and adults alike since its first publication.

This is the first time the text has appeared exactly like this in print. ‘It is basically the 1897 edition, the last which Carroll himself corrected, but it also includes all Carroll’s corrections for the People’s edition of 1887, which were somehow overlooked in the preparation of the final text.’ This Centenary Edition has been prepared by the Committee of the Lewis Carroll Society.

And despite all that, Alice and the looking glass world come again vividly alive with the invaluable assistance of Mr Steadman.

ED: Apologies to the publishers and Ralph Steadman if our reproduction of the drawing is not up to the same high standard as the book.