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SMALL G by Patricia Highsmith


A Summer Idyll

by Patricia Highsmith

Pub Date: June 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-393-05923-5
Publisher: Norton

A meandering story of gay and straight life in modern Zurich, the last fiction by Highsmith (Nothing That Meets the Eye, 2002, etc.) before her death in 1995.

It is a pity that the author of Strangers on a Train and the Ripley novels should have left this paltry story as the final contribution to a long and distinguished body of work. Set deep within the stolid back alleys of the hardworking Swiss metropolis, it lingers particularly within the confines of two gay bars: Jakob’s and the Small g. Both (Jakob’s especially) are patronized by a highly mixed crowd, with straights and homophobes thrown into the usual mix of gays, lesbians, and the happily unaffiliated. The hero is one Rickie Markwalder, a commercial artist who runs his own business and is HIV-positive. Rickie’s most recent boyfriend, Petey Ritter, was murdered on the street not long ago during a mugging that got out of hand, and Rickie bears his grief quietly as he goes about his daily routines and looks after his pet dog, Lulu. Luisa Zimmermann, an apprentice dress designer, had been in love with Petey also, a fact that engenders a kind of paternal feeling in Rickie for the young woman. But Luisa works for Renate Hagnauer, a vicious homophobe who has spread rumors that Petey was killed in bed by someone he picked up at Jakob’s, and Renate’s gossip is magnified by the odious Willi Biber, a gay-bashing thug who hangs out at Jakob’s in search of new prey. When the handsome young Swiss-American Teddie Stevenson begins frequenting Jakob’s, he becomes the object of attention by Rickie and Luisa alike, and, naturally, Willi and Renate take a perverse interest in the young man as well. Fights, broken hearts, an unexpected death ensue.

Aimless and uninteresting tale that would have been best left to the archives.