Hostage

R. D. Zimmerman, Author
R. D. Zimmerman, Author Delacorte Press $21.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-31983-6
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
When a group of terminally ill AIDS victims plots to kidnap powerful congressman Johnny Clariton, whose anti-gay agenda includes slashing funds for AIDS research, gay Minneapolis TV reporter Todd Mills finds himself with a whale of a story. Clariton, appearing at a local gathering, has agreed to a one-on-one interview with Mills to plug his new book. Instead of getting the interview, Mills finds himself a witness to the abduction. As the story shifts back and forth between Mills's attempts to unravel several puzzles and the kidnappers' attempts to cope with their illness and their hostage, a searing portrait of the ravages of AIDS emerges. Clariton--handsome, arrogant, homophobic and smug--is the perfect victim and foil for the desperate kidnappers. In this series's hardcover debut (after the paperbacks Closet and Tribe), Zimmerman offers a brutally frank treatment of the advanced stages of AIDS and an equally candid view of the horrors that a positive diagnosis of HIV inflicts on both patients and their loved ones. However, to make the point (hardly news to his prospective readers) that AIDS is not a ""gay disease,"" Zimmerman preaches through a catalogue of characters who illustrate the various means of infection: transfusion, unsafe sex, infected needles, inheritance, etc. As a mystery, the plot is humdrum. As a social statement, the politics are clear and easy. Serving as a reactionary straw man, Clariton is dimensionless, singleminded and blinkered. Much the same can be said of this novel. (Nov.)
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