cover image After the Blue Hour

After the Blue Hour

John Rechy. Grove, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2589-7

Rechy’s (City of Night) latest is tense metafiction, pungent with desire and emotional cruelty. Its narrator—a writer named John Rechy—accepts an invitation from Paul Wagner, a fan of his transgressive fiction, to leave Los Angeles in 1960 for a summer on Paul’s private (and suggestively described) “inland island.” Almost immediately John becomes caught up in games played by Paul; his petulant teenage son, Stanty; and Paul’s mistress, Sonya, as Paul seeks to validate his own peculiar appetites with regard to the sexual encounters chronicled in John’s fiction. Early in the course of the group’s interactions, John senses “a benign surface over an undercurrent... a current that was gathering pressure,” and the eruption of that pressure is foreordained in the book’s title, which refers to that brief moment when daylight gives way to night and “everything reveals itself as it is.” Rechy’s prose is lean and sinewy, and he adds an element of intrigue to the novel by having John, in his role as a character who is writing up his experiences on the island, reproduce passages of the text that end abruptly when they begin to veer into territory outside the bounds of the novel as Rechy has written it. The novel is unflinching in its candor even as its events have a tantalizing aura of mystery. (Feb.)