This noir tale, illustrated with the author's own relief prints and set in the 1950s, pits a cross-dressing girl against police as well as, at times, the gay community where she feels at home.
Josephine O’Conner isn’t worried that she hasn’t heard from her brother, who's gay, for several months. It’s not hearing from Jimmy on her birthday that troubles her. So Josephine reinvents herself as Joe, cuts her hair short, buys a suit and heads to the hidden gay bars of San Francisco to try to track down anyone who knows about Jimmy’s life. Though he’d once been a cop, he’d been ousted from the force, and none of the police will give Joe the time of day. She’s sure there’s more to the story, but when she tries to get more information at the station, she’s discouraged from even filing a missing person report. Bar patrons are similarly silent, though Joe understands why. There’s enough of a risk being out at an underground gay bar in the 1950s without getting involved with some out-of-towner with a sob story about a lost brother. The more folks Joe talks to, the more she thinks someone, maybe everyone, has something to hide about Jimmy’s disappearance. A break in her search makes Joe question allegiances in the police force, and even within Jimmy’s—and now Joe’s—highly insular gay community. Gilmartin’s hyperstylized debut is a noir pastiche ripened sometimes to the point of parody.
Though all the moving parts are present and functioning, the heavy reliance on genre tropes makes the plot eminently predictable and especially suitable for readers who want to know exactly what they’re getting into.