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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.

<b>Rating: 3.5/5.</b>
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on 6 July 2013
This must be the most scurrilous book that our group has discussed and, amazingly, was chosen by a young member who usually looked down his nose at silly or over-erotic books.

Another member couldn't read it on the bus because of the nude man posing on the cover.

The title refers to a rabbit warren of staircases for servants in a large country house and numerous sexual encounters take place therein. Burroughs likes to watch

There's a murder investigated by detective who says that he is ruled by two passions - cock and crime and that he `Followed my prick instead of examining the evidence.'

There's the college jock who got far more cock than he would by being effeminate. Then again, it is 1925 when straight men didn't get it from their girlfriends.

Leonard Eagle has a hypnotic sneer on his face. Men still wore Brilliantine.

Games include communal pissing, Roundheads and cavaliers. Were the municipal architects trying to facilitate sodomy? `Thank God for the obedience of the British working classes.' What do you expect when you bring the lower orders into the house?

There is much implausibility: sex in a police station, bellowing in orgasm with no fear of being discovered, police using sex as torture, a body dragged in different direction, someone in handcuffs yet able to reaches for the sergeant's testicles and perineum, a policeman with a gun.

There are some unusual, maybe pretentious, words: Glabrous = free from hair, smooth-skinned; Maenad = votary of Bacchus

However, there is a serious indictment of the stereotypes of the period: `All you have to do is whisper the words queer and murderer and an innocent man will go to his death.'
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on 3 December 2012
Ok, this is the first gay erotic novel I have ever read; and, as such, I have to admit to expecting nothing but sex sex sex; and, while there is a lot of sex, this book is so much more. The mystery at the core of the book is excellent, with betrayals, blackmail, murder, mistaken identity, deceit and many plot twists. After a while I actually found myself wanting to skip the sex scenes to get to the next piece of the mystery - that's not to say the sex scenes aren't good. They are. They're well written and very erotic and there is a valid reason for each one within the bigger story; but I did find myself wondering how much better this had been if the sex was omitted. James Lear is definitely a very talented writer. The pacing is fast and furious and the characters well written and enjoyable. I read the book in a day and promptly ordered book two 'The Secret Tunnel' to see what happened next. Highly recommended for lovers of gay fiction or mystery writers. Just remember the extremely adult content.
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on 7 December 2011
I don't mean to sound like a whiner, but I didn't think this book was very praiseworthy. I loved the idea of combining a murder mystery with erotica, but I think in this case it just wasn't going to work.

The sex gets in the way of the investigation, and the investigation gets in the way of the sex. At around 200 pages you're left with not enough of either, and feel slightly disappointed. I haven't read much professional erotica before now, and so I cannot say how it compares to other works, but I feel sure that this isn't a prime work of murder mystery. I won't spoil any of the story, but suffice to say that the plot ultimately seems to come together without very much help from the main character. One wonders if the plot would have been much different had he not been in the story at all - but then one remembers all of the sex he was having with virtually every member of the household, and one corrects oneself. Aha.

It's a shame, really, because Rupert Smith, here "James Lear", isn't that bad a writer. He clearly has talent, but I feel that it's somewhat wasted on this story. If it had been lengthier then that probably would have improved it; after all, as it stands, most characters only come into the story for one brief chapter, and many others are mentioned but do not appear at all. Don't expect a Sherlock out of our chief protagonist, either; he relies almost entirely on conversation for his deductions (I use the word loosely) rather than physical clues and doesn't make many concrete inferences until the end, although I admit this does make the character more believable and approachable.

In all, then, the book was amusing while I read it, and entertained me somewhat. But I don't think I'll read it again. And if this is indeed James Lear's bestselling work, I don't think I'm interested in looking further. Again, I don't mean to sound harsh, but although it's true that Lear is quite a good writer and is receiving decoration for his work in this field (that being the gay erotica field), I can't help but wonder if that's largely because there are so few other people trying the same thing.
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on 17 May 2018
A raunchy country house mystery with upstairs and downstairs shenanigans crisply told
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on 20 July 2015
Detective story involving plenty of rampant gay sex. Ideal at the end of a hard day's work to relax in the bedroom lol
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on 2 July 2014
Homerotic porn at its best - you can tell that James Lear is an experienced author and you should read his other books in the same genre
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on 7 April 2013
A good real but I would not put it on the shelf with the great "who done it" books. Good light weight novel.
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on 11 July 2015
Could be much better if more subtly and less farcically written. Writer could be onto a winning theme of Sherlock Holmes meets gay rake but crude jokes intrude.
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on 4 August 2015
What a hoot... alas, not everyone we meet in gay or wants to have sex with us... if only!!! But a fun book and I'm on number 2.
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