This is the first "period" novel by Josh that I've read. And it's a gem. A compelling, moving story, in which the authenticity of the time setting (early 1940's LA) never overshadows the characters' development, their emotional struggles and the murder mystery they're both investigating though from different perspectives. All these elements are carefully balanced and help create a story that sensitively re-creates a time period when sex between men was illegal and homosexuality a social and personal stigma, and in a lot of men a source of shame and frustrated desire to be `normal' and to desperately overcome what the medical and psychiatric consensus at the time regarded as a `sickness' or `neurosis'. Some of those men who recognised in themselves an attraction for the same gender may have tried to drive societal suspicion away by getting married and mostly repress their true desires, others may have had no choice but resort to clandestine encounters even knowing the huge risks they were taking to satisfy a desperate need for a physical connection no matter how impersonal and fleeting. No matter the protagonists' choices, they share a kind of quiet dignity and respectability that have both a universal quality and are deeply embedded in the culture of that era.
Josh Lanyon captures the gritty atmosphere of that period, the food rationing, the psychological trauma suffered by many young men returning from war, and various other historical details, and portrays the protagonists' loneliness and despair, and their eventual coming together, in such a vivid and touching way that makes the story hauntingly beautiful and life-affirming despite the depressing and desolate situation both protagonists are trapped in, and highlighting their strength and courage as well as their vulnerability. Snowball in Hell is another example of Mr Lanyon's stylish, intelligent writing, of his talent for evoking complex, flawed, unforgettable characters and infusing their story with pure, naked emotional truth.