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on 5 June 2007
I was so enamoured of Mr Lear's last novel "The Back Passage" that I looked forward to this book rather a lot. I was rather dissapointed. Whilst it won't dissapoint readers who like a hot scene to excite them on every other page, that's where the book failed for me.

In The Back Passage, the hero goes from sexual encounter to sexual encounter in his quest to find out clues for a murder in an Agatha Christie style romp and although the sex is possibly gratuitous its cleverly done and never feels like it. There's also much wit and humour.

But Hot Valley - set in the American Civil war - it just felt to me that sex scene after sex scene after sex scene... were linked tenuously with the hero's travels. It felt like the background of the war is added as an afterthought. It also feels hugely anachronistic as surely 1860 America wasn't so accepting of gay sex. Every single man that the protagonist meets, from his co-workers, his father's employers, drinking companions, fellow soldiers - everyone! Wants to (and does) have sex with him in many various ways. As much as I enjoy (heaven knows!) an erotic book, there is a case for Too Much - and I found myself hoping that the next man that Jack met simply wanted to have a chat. Or a cuppa tea. Or anything! I found myself skipping the sex to find the next piece of plot.

I'm sorry, James, that I didn't like it. I wanted to, but I was hoping for a good historical romp but didn't find it in Hot Valley.
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on 26 August 2007
For some reason, I got the impression that 'Hot Valley' was going to be more serious than James Lear's earlier work. I was wrong -- up to a point. Readers whose experience begins with his previous novel, 'The Back Passage', might be surprised at a difference in tone here; but if you've read 'The Low Road' or 'The Palace of Varieties', you'll discover a familiar Lear theme; the selfish, wanton young man, indulging in wild and indiscriminate gay sex until he's finally redeemed by the pricking of conscience and the cleansing salve of love.

Jack Edgerton is the scion of a rich Vermont family, sowing his wild oats - and believe me, they're wild - in the years just before the American Civil War. One of my favourite episodes has the nineteen-year-old Jack, determined to lose his virginity, going in search of the roughest of rough trade on the wrong side of the tracks. And so beginning a wonderful career of debauchery.

Later, he meets his match, in all senses, in Aaron Johnson, the son of a southern plantation owner and a slave woman. Aaron is everything Jack is not; studious, hard-working, thoughtful and restrained. (Though not for the whole book, you'll be glad to hear.)

Inexorably, both men get drawn into the war, and Jack's long journey to salvation begins. I know a bit about this period, and it all felt very authentic to me. Lear has a great broad-brush technique; he doesn't bombard the reader with historical information - something which must have been a temptation here. But the picture he creates is vivid. Yes, the preponderance of willing homosexual partners is wonderfully coincidental, but then it's a gay fantasy; one might say a historical fairy story. And indeed, some amazing coincidences are needed to make the story work, but somehow it doesn't matter too much.

Most of Lear's readers will buy this book for its sexual passages, and they won't be disappointed. This is real, raw sex; full of pain and pleasure, tastes, sounds, smells and bodily fluids. It's raunchy, rough and utterly without restraint.

But there is a serious aspect. After all, the themes are war and racism and prejudice, and Lear doesn't dodge them. Given the nature of his writing, there's something endearingly naïve about the simple moral message the story conveys. But the frankly sentimental and deeply satisfying ending is rescued from mawkishness, in typical Lear style, by the introduction of a wild orgy.

His prose is simple and flowing; easy, clear sentences which are a pleasure to read.

Readers will know how likely they are to be affected by the sex scenes; my advice would be not to read 'Hot Valley' on the Metropolitan line, or indeed, any other form of mass transport. And if, like me, you're assailed by sudden tears at times of emotion, that's another reason not to read it in public.

But do read it. This is Lear at his outrageous, raunchy best.
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on 15 November 2010
I have read several of James Lear's novels and thoroughly enjoyed them, particularly the gay whodunnits. However I found this novel disappointing. There was one gay orgy after another with relatively little plot or fleshing out of the characters. The novel is set in the American Civil War with plenty of prejudice and hatred but that does not seem to inhibit the characters in the book. If you are in search of homosexual titillation then this will suit you fine. If you want a good read then this is not for you.
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on 20 September 2007
This is a wonderfully and outrageously sexy book in which its heroes lurch from one explicitly detailed encounter with other men, individually, severally and serially and eventually, despite the vicissitudes of war, manage to find true love with each other though, it has to be said, there is little in the preceding pages to make one think the relationship will be exclusive.
The story is set in the American civil war and there is the occasional battle, other than over who can get his pants down fastest.
Lear writes well as well as lasciviously and what makes his books such a joy is that they are the literary equivalent of the drawings of Tom of Finland: they celebrate priapically proud men having humungously great sex at every available opportunity and, as with his other books, this story is written with zest and style.
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on 20 July 2015
Enjoyable light bedtime reading
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on 15 August 2015
superb construction and content
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on 19 October 2016
good read
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