cover image The Coming of the Night

The Coming of the Night

John Rechy. Grove Press, $24 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1650-5

In a return to some of the themes of his first novel, the gay classic City of Night (1963), Rechy follows an ensemble cast of mainly gay characters over the course of one day in 1981 Los Angeles, just before the AIDS crisis hits. As the Santa Ana winds, said to provoke violence and desire, blow fire toward the city, the characters are introduced in short, interlaced sections. Beautiful Jesse, celebrating a year on the gay scene, plans to abandon himself to unlimited desire; Clint has fled troubling experiences in New York, where the first rumors of AIDS are surfacing; Dave, into leather and s&m, is looking for new and dangerous pleasures; Father Norris, a troubled priest, searches gay haunts for a young hustler named Angel, who supposedly has a tattoo of a naked Jesus on his back. Meanwhile, a trio of armed thugs is intent on gay bashing, and everyone moves inevitably toward a West Hollywood park, and tragedy. The gay characters are obsessed with sex, hustling, body building and cruising; sex scenes are plentiful, graphic in the extreme and certainly not for the squeamish. At the same time, Rechy doesn't skimp on plot, character or action, and the ingenious ending takes an unanticipated but thoroughly logical turn. In its gritty evocation of time and place, the novel goes beyond its narrow subject matter, reaching for a broader and deeper understanding of an era. (Aug.) FYI: Rechy recently received the William Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 10th annual Publishing Triangle Awards for gay literature.