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LIVING UPSTAIRS by Joseph Hansen

LIVING UPSTAIRS

By Joseph Hansen

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1993
ISBN: 0-525-93682-3
Publisher: Dutton

 From the 1991 Lambda Award-winning author of the acclaimed Dave Brandstetter mysteries: a wartime idyll of Hollywood's colorful, disreputable gay community, told from the point of view of an aspiring young novelist. Suspicious of his artist roommate Hoyt Stubblefield's unexplained absences, Nathan Reed follows him to a memorial service for Communist organizer Eva Schaffer. There's something funny about Eva's ``accidental'' death--she was run over by a streetcar--but Hoyt, who's quietly trying to track down her killer, is as closemouthed as the Party regulars. Meanwhile, life goes on. An FBI agent warns Nathan to move out of Hoyt's to protect himself: ``I've seen your IQ scores.'' Nathan gets an advance on his autobiographical first novel and quits his drudgery at a bookstore to write full-time. Reggie Poole, Nathan and Hoyt's tenant, worries that Mike Voynich, the Adonis he thinks could be a star, will run out on him; Hoyt's friend Benbow Harsch, a philosophy professor who'd rather play the piano, cripples his fingers by stiffening the action on his new instrument. Rick Ames--once a writer, now a drinker--entangles Hoyt and Nathan with his threatening landlord Percy Hinkley and Percy's come-hither child-wife Linnet. Hoyt's erotic paintings of Nathan and himself enjoy a big success among private collectors. A skeleton at a Halloween party at the seamy Black Cat club tells Nathan he knows who killed Eva Schaffer; the next morning, police find the body of an unidentified man a block from the club. Nathan's awkwardly loving father shows up and sees Hoyt's tell- all paintings. Miraculously, all the plots eventually get tied up, though the lingering effect is one of unrushed reminiscence. Nathan is always contrasting his unfinished book with the falseness of The Human Comedy, but the ardent tenderness suffusing his own story--despite Hansen's evocation of constant uneasiness and veiled threats--recalls no one more than Saroyan.