Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957

Matt Houlbrook, Author
Matt Houlbrook, Author University of Chicago Press $29 (398p) ISBN 978-0-226-35460-6
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-226-35462-0
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What begins as the story of Cyril L., who, at 20, was married and had a daughter, but discovered he was gay shortly after moving to London's West End in 1932, quickly turns into an overwhelming sprawl of meticulous research that, despite its commendable intentions, is too dense to appeal to anyone other than very devoted scholars. Houlbrook, a lecturer in history at the University of Liverpool, examines London's roles in self-discovery and its inextricable links to gay culture, but often loses the reader within the vast tracts of information he presents in his historic tour of ""London's queer geography,"" which has frequent stops at public urinals (""identified as the locus of sexual offences""), clubs, bathhouses, police patrols (one officer concludes in a surveillance report the two men he'd been observing were ""undoubtedly of the Nancy type,"" while his colleague determined the men were, actually, ""West End Poofs."") and courtrooms. Surely, there is no dearth of material presented, but some tidbits, such as public urinal geography and the detailed order of police units detached to apprehend ""sodomites,"" come off as frivolous and detract from what could be an engaging read.
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