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The Iniquitous Investigator: Volume 8 (Nick Williams Mystery) Paperback – Import, 3 Feb 2017
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There’s a kind of “aw shucks” sweetness to the Nick Williams stories that makes them feel rather like a television series of the period (and indeed, Perry Mason was one of Butterfield’s inspirations). Nick and his longtime partner Carter Jones call each other “husband,” much to the amusement of their friends and family.
But book 8 in the series takes Nick and Carter to a darker place: they are arrested for vagrancy in Sausalito, when they try to report being accosted by a group of young men intent on gay-bashing them. The jaw-dropping injustice—unconstitutionality—of the whole procedure is hard to grasp in light of modern law, and yet it falls well within the kind of action that both politicians and police were inclined toward in the years before gay liberation really began to take off.
As always, there is a sub-plot that involves Carter’s family; and another one that requires flying around in one of their private planes—because what’s a superhero without his toys, right? The richness of the story is amplified by all of the various characters who swirl around Nick and Carter’s world.
I love these books, but they are fairy tales. There is rich truth in them, historical truth that we need to keep in mind; but their sunny atmosphere belies the real fear that gay folk felt (and black people and any minority subject to the whim of those in power) in the years after McCarthy’s fall, when conformity was the only safe path to the American dream.
Book 9 is already on my Kindle. I suppose I’ll get bored someday, but today is not that day.
The books also serve as a timely reminder of how things were for people "in the life" back in the 50's; not always a bed of roses.