Top positive review
A good mystery and erotica book in one, but a little too absurd to be believable.
on 16 August 2017
The <i>Back Passage</i> is an unusual book—a mixture of M/M erotica and Agatha Christie style detective mystery. This combination is not, to be perfectly honest, entirely successful: it is original, and fun, but the erotica element renders the mystery unbelievable. This is in fact my criticism of erotica books in general; they are so sex-obsessed as to render the rest of the story tangential and weak.
Still, I enjoyed this book. Part of it is of course guilty pleasure (that is the allure of the erotica genre). Part of it is that James Lear is a genuinely good writer; lesser writers produce cringe worthy sex scenes. And part of it is that the mystery side was given attention, and worked appreciably well, albeit not up to the standards of the masters (cough Agatha Christie cough).
The weak element is, as I say, the believability of it all. Nearly every male character is gay or bisexual, and if they’re not one of those things, they’re gay-for-pay. (The female characters are all perfectly heterosexual, of course.) This is not credible in any society—even Theban or Spartan pederasty was more of an ideal, and didn’t always involve sex—and it’s especially hard to believe for a book set in 1925.
Still: an enjoyable book, as I say. If you are a fan of erotica, you will probably like this book. The protagonist, a young Bostonian man with a flair for sleuthing as well as bonking, may even appeal to fans of the wider mystery genre (though the sex is kinky and voyeuristic even by M/M standards).
The publisher and writer also deserve credit—for bravery. This is not an easy book to write nor publish, and would have certainly been censored in 1925. We ought reflect on how much things have progressed since then.