cover image Box Hill

Box Hill

Adam Mars-Jones. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3005-6

Power dynamics are the central theme in this short, bittersweet story of a young man’s sexual awakening, by Mars-Jones (Cedilla). On his 18th birthday in 1975, Colin Smith ventures to Box Hill, a tree-lined cliff in Surrey commonly frequented by motorcyclists. Desperate to one day have his own bike as well as growing emboldened to explore his sexuality, Colin is drawn to the bikers as much as the bikes. While hiking through an overgrown area, he trips over Ray, a handsome, leather-clad biker napping against a tree. The moment kick-starts a six-year relationship between the two men, defined by Colin’s submission to Ray—who tells people “Colin didn’t fall for me, he fell over me”—who introduces Colin to the world of biking, poker, and sexual exploration. Colin describes Ray as a sum of contradictions—rugged and dismissive, but also socially aware, and he allows Ray to mistreat him after he moves into Ray’s apartment, remaining emotionally attached despite Ray’s cruelty, such as forcing Colin out of the apartment every morning at nine a.m. Near the end of his relationship with Ray, Colin goes on holiday with his family, a decision he deeply regrets. Mars-Jones colors Colin’s tender reminiscences with humor, sex, and tragedy. This is an indelible snapshot of 1970s English gay biker culture. (Sept.)