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The Leaping Lord: Volume 19 (A Nick Williams Mystery) Paperback – Import, 8 Mar 2018
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We are now in August 1957 (when I was just past my second birthday), and this book opens with a fictitious column about Nick and Carter from the very real Herb Caen in the San Francisco Examiner. Caen teases Nick, but is clearly not one of his enemies. We learn that Nick and Carter have established their new life in France, and are settled into a comfortable and successful routine—owning hotels, hobnobbing with the elite, living in an opulent villa overlooking the Mediterranean.
So, it’s all good, right?
This is one of the books in this amazing series where most of what happens in internal—psychological, if you will. Not that there’s no action. They find that their mysterious English spy friend, Lord Gerald Whitcombe, has gone missing—from his mother no less (and she’s a gas). On top of that, the newly-crowned Princess Grace of Monaco, pays a visit and asks Nick and Carter for their help in a family matter.
This all seems like plenty going on, right? And, once again, Frank Butterfield spins out this tale of 1950s Nice with realism and charm. We see a Carter Jones who now speaks French pretty well, and a Nick Williams who still picks up stray gay people to help them, cares enormously about his employees and his extended family. They have become ideal French citizens, lavishing their wealth on the deserving and building France’s post-war economy.
But the core of this book is really in Nick and Carter’s hearts and minds. They are still exiles from American, from their home and families in San Francisco. In spite of their good deeds and unfailing generosity, they are spied upon and hounded by political agencies from the FBI to the East Germany police. Their only crime is being gay—even though that word is still never used here.
Maybe Nick’s inability to pronounce even the simplest of French names is a psychological clue. As much as he and Carter love Paris and Nice, it’s not home. They are still on the run, still hunted. Butterfield gives us a side of our boys that we’ve seen before.
It’s hard being a superhero when all you want is to live your life and be left alone.
I don’t know how Frank Butterfield does it. This series never fails to amuse and intrigue, and it also never fails to touch me. Beneath the glamor and the Mediterranean sun, the harsh truth about being gay in the bad old days remains.
This is just the beginning of Nick and Carter’s journey, so it seems.
This time Nick & Carter are realizing life has become stagnant and that they need more than just nice. The two main plots of this caper dovetail in time for the boys to discover that waiting for life to happen is really a waste of time.