SHAMELESS by Paul Burston


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Two gay men and their pseudo-hag go looking for love and drugs in the London club scene.

It’s not surprising that British author Burston acknowledges Russell T. Davies here, since this debut is so clearly influenced by Davies’ fizzy UK TV show Queer as Folk. It could almost have used some of the same characters’ names. Readers may think at first that the story is going to be about 32-year-old Martin, whom we meet in the opening pages as he is slowly realizing that Christopher, his serious boyfriend, has just left him after acquiring a new, gymed-up physique and the wandering eyes to go with it. Martin’s best mate John—a flighty flight attendant who’s mentally a 15-year-old, with a sense of caring compassion to match—is sort of sorry for him, but not really, and he uses Martin’s newly single status as an excuse to drag him out to every club and bar in town so John can show off his new drug-dealer boyfriend Fernando. The third in this little triangle is Martin’s friend Caroline, a Vogue-ready young professional about town with a boyfriend, Graham, whom she’s convinced is gay, and a mounting coke habit. None of them seems terribly bright, but they do like their drugs, and a good chunk of the tale is filled by Martin and John’s wild, Ecstasy-soaked escapades. Meanwhile, Caroline spins around in her own insecure orbit. She drives the actually quite heterosexual Graham away by trying to out him at a family dinner, and then her boss catches her doing lines on her mousepad. Although he gives Martin the denouement, Burston seems more emotionally invested in Caroline’s character, relegating John and Martin to their own stunted immaturity.

A friend-triangle so busy with the bright lights of the big city that it never quite decides whether to be a fun read or a morality tale. It ends up a slick but unrewarding mix of the two.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-446-69133-X
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2004