GLOVE PUPPET by Neal Drinnan


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If Oliver Twist had wandered out of his orphanage and been picked up by Gus Van Sant instead of Fagin, the results might have been something like this debut novel. Even Van Sant, however—to say nothing of Dickens—would have managed to tell the story in better taste. “You probably wonder,” Johnny says, “why I’m writing a biography at age 20.— Well, no, it’s not that surprising, considering that Johnny has spent the last few years sleeping with—and making porn films for—his homosexual step-father and most of their close friends. Naturally, it’s a long story. Johnny, in actual fact, never knew his real father: his mother was a prostitute and drug addict, and when she overdosed in London’s Victoria Station, Martin Usher happened to be on the scene. Usher, known as Shamash, was a dancer and ballet director from Australia whose only son Vaslav had died in a car accident. So Shamash gives seven-year-old Johnny Vaslav’s passport and takes him to Sydney to be raised. Shamash is attentive, dutiful, and loving to the boy, but life becomes a trifle complex during Johnny’s adolescence when he decides that he wants to be gay just like Dad, and even starts to fantasize about having sex with him. Shamash is equally attracted to Johnny, so he sends him away to boarding school to put him out of temptation’s path. Guess what? They can’t hold out, and after carrying on secretly for as long as they can, they sink ever deeper into Sydney’s gay underworld. Although the plot’s unique—to say the least—the story is written in such a tortured, melodramatic tone, so completely out of keeping with the elements of the narrative (“Golden boys from yesteryear wearily dispense condoms and lube . . . should the current selection prove too grim and a few more drinks be required before carnal agendas can be met”) that all but hard-core followers of the gay scene will be quickly turned off. Strictly for a narrower audience, unless Drinnan gets lucky and finds himself denounced by Trent Lott.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-19271-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998