Joseph Hansen - Fadeout (The First Dave Brandstetter novel)

Ladymol's Review

This is a very engaging detective novel, with a likeable hero.

David Brandstetter has come back to life after the tragic death of his twenty-year lover, Rob, throwing himself back into work. An insurance investigator, he begins to investigate the apparent death of a local radio celebrity, Fox Olsen. Everyone believes Fox to be dead, except that no body has been found.

As he delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, he delves into his past with Rob, trying to bring back the parts of himself that have died along with his lover.

Itís no coincidence that Brandstetter is gay. The case turns into one of twisted loyalties and deceit behind the faÁade of respectability.† Itís amusing to watch homophobic bigotry being spouted at Brandsetter by people who would never suspect that this hard-bitten, tough detective is gay, too.

Iím interested enough now to get the second in the series, Death Claims.

Recommended, especially for someone who doesnít want a traditional ďgayĒ novel (if there such a thing) about coming out issues. This is a great detective story, and stands in its own right as that. The gay angle is a delightful added bonus.

Cerisaye's Review

This book opens a series of 12 of classic detective novels published between 1970 and 1991.† Dave Brandstetter is 45, a private investigator working for his fatherís insurance company.† A hero in the mould of Philip Marlow and Sam Spade, thoroughly masculine.† The only difference being Dave is gay, very happily so; no beautiful dames in trouble hanging over the desk to tempt a weary gumshoe here.†

Maybe that isnít anything particularly special now, but 35 years ago when this book was written it mustíve been quite remarkable.† Gay characters back then tended to be simpering and effeminate, boys who wanted to be girls, either helpless victims or morally corrupt bad guys.

So Hansenís books were groundbreaking, but does the novel stand the test of time? Is it worth handing over your hard-earned money for?

If you like the hardboiled detective genre then definitely.† Also if you like good writing, spare in style with very naturalistic dialogue and beautifully descriptive of time and place, late 60s southern California.†

Certainly if your thing is human relationships, the interplay of characters with their personal stories.† Thereís a quote in the book from Allen Ginsberg that says it all, ďThe weight of the world is love.Ē† Thatís the heart of the story.

When a man dies thereís evidence- a body.† A smashed car doesnít prove anything, only raises questions.† Fox Olson is supposed to be dead.† Dave is sceptical.† Itís his job to find Olson or his company must pay up on an insurance policy.† Heís got his own ideas what happened to the folksy radio personality the night his car appeared to miss a narrow bridge and plunge into an arroyo.† The investigator unravels a complicated tangle of love, infidelity, blackmail, and political corruption.

What made this book for me wasnít the complex mystery plot.† Itís Dave himself that got me hooked.† This case marks a return to work 6 weeks after the horrible death from cancer of his partner of 20 years, Rod.† Dave is back on the job to live and forget the pain of loss that hurts like an open wound.† Thin from prolonged grief, Dave uses alcohol as anaesthetic.† But heís got his job and good, caring friends.† Lesbian Madge who thinks itís sex thatís important, youth & beauty and repeated excitement of new love.† Gorgeous Latino youth Anselmo, son of an employee of Rodís design business whoís been in love with Dave since he was 6 years old.† Anselmo wants love like he saw between Dave and Rod, and refuses to accept the older manís (reluctant) dismissal.

Dave is good at what he does.† People open up because he puts them at their ease.† Heís a nice guy, genuinely caring, and smart with it.† Understanding human nature is the key.† He sees through lies and deceit because he knows about deception.† Men living in denial of what they are, what that does to them and those around them.

Losing Rod brought Dave very low.† In the bookís confusing opening heís deep into the mindset of a man whoíd commit suicide to escape.† So when Buddy, a perceptive disabled boy tells Dave over a game of chess he saw Fox Olson with old friend Doug, and heíd never looked so happy, the investigator is onto an explanation for faked death.† Photos taken long ago turn up: evidence of blackmail or catalyst?† Was Fox finally ready to accept his nature, and come out more than 25 years after two boys made love together on the beach?

I loved the parallel stories: hardboiled detective mystery alongside gay love and sexuality.† Particularly since itís so matter-of-fact.† Gay men are ordinary, thatís the point.† Dave Brandstetter, a man whoís just lost the love of his life, looks for a man who maybe rediscovered his.† The bookís ending makes me eager to read the next volume, as Dave learns desire didnít die with Rod.† Recommended.†

Buy Fadeout in the States from Lambda

Published by: Alyson Books and No Exit Press. ISBN: 1874061610