cover image Hold Tight

Hold Tight

Christopher Bram. Dutton Books, $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-074-0

The clever premise of this frothy espionage novel by the author of Surprising Myself is that during World War II there was a gay brothel in lower Manhattan that may have been a hangout for Nazi agents (a rumor of its existence sparked the story, Bram notes in his acknowledgements). When he is discovered to be homosexual, seaman second class Hank Fayette faces a dishonorable discharge unless he agrees to go undercover as a prostitute. The ensuing events are very funny, fast-movingBram is able to juggle characters and plot lines without slackening the paceand, ultimately, emotionally stirring. Hank falls for Juke, the black drag queen who is an attendant at the brothel, and later he develops a crush on a straight man. Bram makes the characters believable, and he takes care not to be anachronistic: by keeping the awkward relationships in their pre-gay-liberation context, he captures the tensions between blacks and whites and gays and non-gays in the New York of the period. There is graphic sex here, but Bram uses it adroitly either to further the spy story, or to explain the undercurrents of real feeling he poignantly conveys. 30,000 first printing; first serial to Christopher Street. (June)