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The Rotten Rancher: Volume 16 (A Nick Williams Mystery) Paperback – 4 Nov 2017
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The sixteenth in the great shaggy dog story of the Nick and Carter adventures is another, literal, road trip, leaving the Bay Area for Big Sur, driving along the Roosevelt Highway past Monterey. Here Nick and Carter meet novelist Henry Miller, whose “Tropic of Cancer” was banned in the USA in the 1930s, making him the hero of the nascent counterculture in America back in the year I was born. The Ginsberg kid that Henry Miller refers to is Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac’s friend and fellow traveler, and author of the epic poem, “Howl.” Ginsberg is seen as one of the seminal icons of queer liberation, although he himself had nothing to do with any of the seminal homophile organizations in post-McCarthy America.
Once again, we have our beloved Nick and his soi-disant husband Carter discovering both the beauties of California landscape and the dark underbelly of the Land of the Free. There is another abortive attempt at a quiet weekend by the ocean, a baffling murder, and a jumble of interactions with local citizens, some of whom are friendly, and some of whom are openly hostile to our boys and their kind. Even in our post-Trump world, it is startling how openly hateful the homophobia is, reminding us repeatedly that our love was not just despised, but illegal everywhere in America, something that didn’t really change until I was coming out in the 1970s. Part of the point of this whole book is the consistent discovery by Nick and Carter that they are now officially the most famous queers in America. With Hoover heading the FBI and War hero Ike in the White House, it goes without saying that this is Not a Good Thing.
I say this with great affection: Butterfield’s plots are less important than the overarching truths he has carefully woven into the background of this series of novels since “The Unexpected Heiress” first appeared. Nick and Carter (and the whole crew of Consolidated Investigations) are out there fighting for truth, justice and the American Way. Problem is, most of America is against them, and it is in this book that the limits of Nick’s superpowers (i.e. his endless supply of money) begin to become evident.
Gay men and women survived in the bad old days by keeping their heads down. If you could assimilate, if you could create a plausible camouflage for your entire life, then you might be OK. You might even (as my husband’s uncle Phil did) live with a life partner and not be hassled. What you didn’t do was fight City Hall; or the D.A.; or the County Sherriff; or the Governor; or Congress. You didn’t fight. You hid. And hoped for the best.
Why am I going on like this? Because the REAL purpose of this book—every bit as fun and visually rich as the others have been, is not about the murders or the cool cars or even the Big Sur. It is about the gathering clouds on the horizon—like the fog forever looming off the coast of Monterey—that threatens to destroy Nick and Carter’s family of choice, because they have made themselves such large, bright, irritating targets to all the forces of darkness (i.e. conformity) in the nation.
Well. I was almost in tears at the end. What comes next for our boys, my dear friends?
Ball’s in your court, Frank.
Like the other books in the series, this publication is extremely readable with some interesting "twists" in the plot.
The amount of prejudice Nick and Carter face is at times upsetting, but realistic for the era in which the stories are placed.
Let us hope we don't go back to those days!
This entry into the series introduces new elements which will spin Nick and Carter into a new direction. The boys resolve the case and have time to catch up with several beloved character from past adventures. Download it today and be transported back to November 1955...