A man attempts to throw a music festival while informing for the FBI in this novella.
New York, 1953. Two days after surviving his first police raid on a gay club, music manager Bruce Harnes is sent by his boss to Westchester County to the home of wealthy widow Dora Berlin. Berlin asks young Bruce to put on a summer festival on the grounds of her estate, something that he sees as an exciting niche project to help make a place for himself in the music world: “A music festival outdoors on a great estate! So much to do! Dates; artists; programs; publicity. Parking! My God, chairs! My God, what if it rained?” It appears to be a dream come true until the FBI turns up, armed with Bruce’s sexual orientation as leverage. Because of Berlin’s long-standing ties to certain Russians (she had a relationship with a prominent Russian inventor that only ended via the intervention of Stalin), the bureau demands that Bruce serve as a confidential informer, keeping tabs on Berlin and passing intelligence to his FBI handlers. Now Bruce must organize a festival (with his ex-lover as the music director, no less) while navigating the world of amateur espionage with his benefactor on one side and the FBI on the other. Meyers (I Remember Caramoor, 2017, etc.) writes in a confident and stylish prose, evoking the setting and time period with concision: “There’s glamour to New York’s early winter dusk, the city’s nerves and energies throbbing as people stride onto the pavements eager to get on with it.” Despite the rather absurd premise (this is not a comedic work), the author’s general disinterest in genre conventions should suck readers in—if only to find out where this is going. Some of the players (the FBI agents, in particular) are quite flat, and the ending comes quickly. Several characters and events would have benefited from a little more fleshing out. Even so, the book is a strange enough brew of elements and authorial choices to leave a distinctive impression.
An intriguing but uneven Red Scare tale.