Golden Years - John Preston
(An Alex Kane novel)

Ladymol's Review

This book is part of a series about Alex Kane, a sort of Rage-like gay superhero. Sounds good? I thought so too until I actually read it. This is the sort of novel that you’d be embarrassed for anyone to know you read—the gay version of Mills and Boon, which is possibly doing a disservice to Mills and Boon. No one is real in this book. I had as much emotional involvement with these men as I could with a mushroom. They are all physically perfect, of course. It’s the sort of novel where guy one is described like a living God, but guy two is the one who devised that God, guy three the one who puts them in the shade and so it goes on, hyperbole after hyperbole.

The novel is a strange mix of worthy polemics about being gay and outrageous porn-style sex—again, no emotional involvement, but always the hardest erections and the longest shots of sperm. It was remarkably unsexy.

An odd feature of the novel is that it’s told by lots of varying viewpoints, none of which integrate very smoothly. I think it’s just badly written, a suspicion that was proved in the last few pages. In a scene between two men, Carl and Tony, the author seems to mix them up and ends up with lines like: Tony bent low and licked Tony’s tongue. Hmm. Good if you can do it. The premise of the book, that old gay men are being conned out of their savings with false promises of a gay retirement home, didn’t really convince me or grip me particularly.

If this is being published then there is no justice in the world. I won’t be bothering with another from the series. What a shame… a gorgeous gay avenger….

Cerisaye's Review

This is the second in Preston’s series featuring ex marine Alex Kane, originally published in 1982 but reissued in a revised (sexed up) edition in 1992.  I couldn’t find the first novel for a reasonable price anywhere.  It only took a couple of hours to read the book and it was a wee bit disappointing given how much I enjoyed Preston’s Hustling for style and assured writer’s voice.

Preston rightly highlights problems facing aging gay men, the same difficulties as all elderly people plus particular concerns such as absence of dedicated retirement home provision sympathetic to their particular needs and lack of family support.

The main problem I had with the book is its hero, Kane.  I just couldn’t get emotionally engaged.  I felt more connection with Joe, 72 year old New Yorker living alone since the death of his longtime partner Harry.  That may be deliberate.

Kane was in Viet Nam, where he became involved with James Farmdale, a soldier who taught him it was okay to admit his sexuality, that love between two men could be as deep and fulfilling as straight relationships.  James was killed by a homophobic army officer, leaving Alex emotionally empty, seeking solace in drugs and casual sex. 

However James’ wealthy father saved Kane, gave him a mission as a kind of avenging angel bringing appropriate justice to homophobic evil doers, cases ignored by regular crime fighting bodies.  Dedication to the good fight doesn’t leave room for much of a private life.  Kane hasn’t let go of his lost love, despite attracting the interest of 19 year old Danny, whose story presumably was the focus of the first book.

Kane meets sexy cowboy Luke when his superhero activities take him to Arizona to investigate the unexplained deaths of elderly gay men in the northern part of the state.  They have a good time together and I assumed Kane had found the man to help him move on.  But no, Preston has other ideas.  Maybe if I’d read that earlier book Danny would’ve meant more than the annoying kid who takes Kane away from Luke.  We don’t even meet him until near the end, while Luke is a vibrant presence, a man right out of the old West like Dakota Taylor.

I think it was a mistake to update the book to the early 90s because it’s clearly written pre AIDS in an era closer to Viet Nam. The sex is good, as you’d expect from Preston, but the characters are rather one dimensional and the writing just fails to take off somehow. 

I think I liked the idea of the book more than the reality.  There’s a real need for a gay superhero- QAF has run with the idea of course- and Alex Kane is just the kind of tortured hard man with a heart I’m drawn to.  Kane is delightfully sexually active, as Preston celebrates the physical aspects of gay life alongside the crusade against homophobic oppression.  Unlike Joseph Hansen who subtly incorporated gay issues into his Brandstetter stories, however, Preston’s political agenda overwhelms the characters as he bends them to fit his purpose, so the whole thing becomes contrived.  And Michael Halfhill’s Jan Philips novels though more fantastical with their international adventuring elicit a deeper emotional response because the characters are more human and less agenda.  There are 6 Alex Kane stories, and I’d read more to see what happens with Kane & Danny.  After all it took me a while to warm to Dave Brandstetter.


Buy from Lambda Rising in the States