Don't you love the "key phrases" ("Statistically Improbable Phrases") that Amazon's computers have isolated for HOT VALLEY A NOVEL? As so often, I can't actually type the words into my review for the internal cursors would swoop down and consign my review onto the back burner forever.
I loved James Lear's previous book with Cleis Press, THE BACK PASSAGE, a Golden Age Detective novel made new and freshened up considerably by larding on pages and pages of hard core erotica into it, so I was anxious to get my paws on HOT VALLEY and didn't really care too much what it was about. Now that I've read it, I can see why Lear seems to avoid completely the humor that enlivened the sex, murder and class revolution elements of his detective saga, but I have to say, I miss them a bit. Maybe he thought that the American Civil War, with its fields of blood and its families torn apart by conflicting loyalties, not to mention the race angle that still haunts American society, wasn't the place to lighten up. Pity that, for the war aspects of HOT VALLEY are intense enough to make you think, all this suffering is killing my erection.
That said, the basic set up is admirably sketched and embellished. The white boy and the black, despising each other at the beginning of the book, one politically advanced and the other thinking between his legs, and somehow drifting into the most terrible battles of the War, and then in the second half the growing dependence of Jack for Aaron, then the love that grows between them--all this is admirably told. Okay, so Jack is a bit of a cliche slut. Okay, so the band of marauders he falls in with, as a sort of love captive (like Marlene Dietrich in MOROCCO), is one-dimensionally evil or unthinking. Still there are some great hot scenes here, and it would give away too much of my private life to tell you which one I found the best. Okay, okay, you twist my arm, I'll tell you. Why it's Captain Healey's psychological, then medical exam of Jack in the dusty, overwarm Montpelier office. As far as I'm concerned, his next book could be all about HOT VALLEY HOSPITAL and I'd order ten or twelve copies. Good work all around, thanks again, Mr. Lear.