DEATH SCENE – A Book Review
Gay Mens Press
Jeremy J Beadle was a professional writer in the sense that he was prepared to turn his hand to anything; journalism, script-writing, and in this case mystery-writing (it is a shameless ‘whodunnit’, and none the worse for it). It involves the killing of the lovely, if annoyingly innocent-minded, and rather paranoid Guy Latimer. Guy is the offspring of a lower middle-class family from the far reaches of Greater London. The father is a policemen, and a text-book homophobe, the two other children are a vaguely thuggish and physically attractive younger brother, and a fairly laidback elder sister. The mother is bit of an emotional wreck, as most mothers probably would be if their handsome, pleasant, elder and favourite son had been the victim of a particularly grisly murder.
The main character is the early thirtysomething, and slightly overweight (these are relevant facts) Dominic Palmer. He takes it on himself to investigate Guy’s killing. He does this by invading the Latimer household immediately after Guy’s interment. The fact that there is a reception of sorts does not strain the imagination. Dominic’s behaviour does. It is difficult to believe that anyone would tolerate his asking penetrating, not to say, insulting questions. They cause the father to leave the house (as opposed to chucking Dominic and his companion out on their ears) the mother takes to her bed. Dominic invades her bedroom (separate from her husband’s), but she is fed sleeping pills, by her daug (to help her sleep…) before he can cross-examine her.
Dominic is attempting to pin the blame for Guy’s killing on somebody other than himself. For reasons of chronology, to do with the entering and leaving of a club near Embankment tube station, he is definitely ‘in the frame’ as a major, if not the. major suspect. Another major suspect is one Michael Hamilton, who is an early example of the slightly dubious, mathemaically-minded speculator who got us into our current financial mess. He happens to have been up to no good on the New York Stock Exchange, using an untracable public call box. Dominic has a pressing need to off-load the guilt onto someone else. He succeeds in convincing the police (for some reason always printed ‘Police’) investigating the case to pin the blame on a younger man. This teen or very early twenties bloke usefully is mangled by a bus, while engaging in a futile attempt to escape. All very handy. Everything, you might think, is down and dusted. As it happens, Dominic did kill, in ice-cold blood, Guy. The latter had taken out life insurance for a quite large, but not enormous sum, on himself. He had just been diagnosed as HIV+ – which, as Dominic notes in passing is not the same as having AIDS. But many queer people, at that point, and nearly all non-Gays, did not know the difference. (The Thatcher government, and the ‘red top’ sheets conspired to ensure that the difference appeared non-existent).
Dominic does not get his comeuppence but life after killing and stealing from Guy is anything but a cakewalk. The man he shares his life with in the sort of flat he can now afford is a patronising and ungrateful hetero (of the sort we used to call ‘tourists’ in queer bars). Unfortunately for Dominic he happens to love the [non-]sod. This book is subtitled Thirteen Songs for Guy, the dedication is: For Pascal, because it was his idea, leaving one wondering what ‘idea’ exactly? It is interesting that, although this book was published in 1988, it is as archiac as one published in 1888. There are no faxes (remember them?), no mobile phones, certainly no e-mail, iphones and all the rest of the paraphernalia we take for granted these days. I would not say this is up there with the main fictional detective of that period, the (sexually-ambiguous) Sherlock Holmes, but it is a good read. And might be worth republishing.