Testosterone

James Robert Baker, Author
James Robert Baker, Author Alyson Books $22.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-55583-567-5
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-1-55583-714-3
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Controversial gay cult author/filmmaker Baker (Tim & Pete) committed suicide in 1997, but left behind this previously unpublished novel, an amalgam of inner torment, sexual addiction, lost love and angry retribution. Revised, edited and updated for prime time, the novel consists of the transcripts of tapes dictated by harried protagonist Dean Seagrave describing a tumultuous, frenetic Los Angeles odyssey. In the middle of the night, Seagrave's house is set on fire, sending him on a quest to find the guilty party. But he already suspects the culprit is his missing lover, Pablo, who went out for cigarettes one day and never returned. Hopped up on drugs and rage, and carrying a Glock, Seagrave embarks on a hunt to find (and murder) his errant boyfriend, starting with random visits to mutual friends. His search turns violent when he happens first upon Pablo's best friend, Calvin, a wheelchair-bound AIDS victim, and then upon Pablo's terrified mother, and attempts to physically shake answers out of each of them. As his search progresses, Seagrave finds a series of sinister clues to Pablo's mysterious past: a home video of a missing, mutilated pet; a secret apartment stocked with bondage equipment; and evidence that Pablo has ties to a demonic cult. Still, it's never clear quite what is true and what isn't, and by the time the tale builds up to its ultra-violent, surrealistic conclusion, Seagrave has proved himself a wholly untrustworthy narrator. Baker is adept at generating suspense, and he exhibits a sharp wit when ruminating on gay culture. But the tape-transcript device is tired, and reading Baker's high-strung prose style is often like eavesdropping on an overcaffeinated cell-phone conversation. Still, this is a fitting if flawed valedictory effort. (Oct.)
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