OK, folks, how did I miss this one? I bought it. It was on my Kindle, but I skipped from “The Rotten Rancher” to “The Adroit Alien” and didn’t seem to notice that I’d jumped over a bunch of plot. Yeesh, how dim am I?
I think I thought it was a Christmas short, and not part of the main series. Well, I was wrong. “A Happy Holiday” is a lynchpin in the Nick and Carter adventures. It is another step in the startling journey these two young men have taken since they appeared from Frank Butterfield’s pen. It is, in spite of its title, possibly the darkest of all of the books, because Nick is haunted by death, both past deaths and the threat of his own, throughout the story.
We follow Nick and Carter and their extended family across the country in a desperate quest to have one last Christmas together before they begin their exile to France. In the crosshairs of everyone from J. Edgar Hoover to the San Francisco Mob, Nick is finally beginning to see the real downside of being the most famous homosexual in the world. Even his money, he realizes, can’t keep him out of danger.
Once again, Frank Butterfield has done marvelous background research to create authentic settings that bring the book, and the historical period alive. He has played (quite openly) fast and loose with historical reality. This is in complete harmony with my vision of Nick and Carter as a sort of rich gay Batman and Robin (who, frankly, were really pretty gay). Butterfield posits a world that, while full of homophobia and plain meanness of spirit, was also full of allies in unexpected places. Nick’s real super power is finding people who either need his help or are willing to help him.
People also say “I love you” a lot in this book, and that’s a crucial element, especially with the off-kilter holiday theme of the narrative. Love is exactly what gay folks did not have in the bad 1950s (this story takes place the year I was born). Gay men and women sought community below the radar of 1950s moralism and conformity, but often couldn’t find it. Butterfield looks at a fantasy world of gay interconnectedness, and makes us wonder, at least, if it might not have been at least partly true. Ultimately, the power of these supposedly light-hearted books is the way they highlight how badly gay people were treated my lifetime, and how dramatically different today is, with all the uncertainties we still face as a community. Even with all the money that Nick and Carter have, it is ultimately the love surrounding them, and the love they give to others, that is their salvation.
- Paperback: 326 pages
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Pub (18 January 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1983964700
- ISBN-13: 978-1983964701
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.1 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 426 g
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