Fascinating reading, especially for fans of 20th-century science fiction.

A science-fiction novelist and late-blooming gay activist remembers his long and colorful life.

Robinson (1926-2014) grew up in Depression-era Chicago, one of five boys in a loveless marriage of convenience, and he had his first sexual experience at 13 with his stepbrother. Yet it would be years before the author could say that he had acted on his own homosexual impulses. Not wanting to be labeled a “faggot” or “queer,” he spent the rest of his adolescence as a miserable celibate. After a stint in the Navy, he went to Beloit College, where he discovered his two lifelong passions: science and writing. After a second tour of military duty during the Korean War, he went to Northwestern University to study journalism while privately berating himself for not being attracted to women. His first adult (and very humiliating) sexual encounter occurred several years later after he had undergone psychotherapy and become a regular in Chicago’s underground gay scene. In the meantime, Robinson worked at Science Digest and later at men’s magazines like Rogue and Cavalier, meeting such sci-fi luminaries as Harlan Ellison and Robert Heinlein along the way. Eventually, he found his way to another “skin book, Playboy, where he “scurried…into the safety of the closet” at work and led a second gay life that, post-Stonewall, became harder to conceal. The success of his thriller, The Glass Inferno, later made into the 1974 film The Towering Inferno, allowed Robinson to leave his magazine work and write full-time in San Francisco. Drawn into the ferment of gay political activism, he wrote speeches for the soon-to-be-slain city supervisor, Harvey Milk. Soon afterward, he became a firsthand witness to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Vivid and detailed, Robinson’s story is an engaging recollection of the golden age of pulp fiction interwoven with the story of a man’s successful struggle to accept himself.

Fascinating reading, especially for fans of 20th-century science fiction.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8209-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview