I really do love this ongoing series by Frank W. Butterfield, and have books 5 and 6 on my Kindle.
Presented as the richest gay man in the world, Nick Williams is the rainbow Batman. Butterfield has taken care to capture the lingo, the material settings, and the overall atmosphere of 1950s America. A great deal of it is not pretty. Gay folk were people who lived in shadows, self-assigned to closets and clubs where only special members were admitted. To be honest, there were probably very rich gay men in 1950s America, and I suspect that most of them were both deeply closeted and worked to support the forces of anti-gay suppression. Money historically trumps self-identity. Self-preservation quashes generosity of spirit.
That’s why Nick Williams is a superhero; he is a fictional fantasy of what each of us would love to do if only we had the money. Putting Nick and his vast fortune in the post-McCarthy fifties just makes it all the more fantastic. Nick is neither lonely nor afraid. He loves Carter Woodrow Wilson Jones, and refers to him as his husband long before anyone of his generation dared to utter that word. But my husband and I had an uncle who found love with another man in California in the 1950s, so we know it was possible.
In this book, Butterfield has let us confront something we’ve only heard about tangentially: Carter’s past. His nasty, bigoted father is murdered, and so our boys have to fly to Albany, Georgia, to see what they can do, and to confront Carter’s unhappy childhood (and his unhappy mama). Of course, being Nick, they charter a Lockheed Constellation, which happens to belong to Howard Hughes. So we get up close and personal with the ugly side of the Old South – racism and homophobia and corruption of justice. And yet, we also get to know another truth that existed then (as it exists now in places like North Carolina), that there were not only gay folks who survived and thrived in the South, but straight people who loved and protected them. Butterfield is careful to create a world that isn’t Mordor versus the Shire, but a world that seems plausible in its good and in its evil.
I’m so old, I don’t want to fly or be invisible any more. (I’m tired of being invisible.) I wish I was a billionaire, so that I could counter the selfish and damaging behavior of people like Donald Trump and Peter Thiel. I wish I could rent airplanes and bankroll abused gay kids’ college educations. Nick uses his money for good, and seems to have a magical ability to turn dross into gold. That’s my wished-for super power.
Keep ‘em coming, Mr. Butterfield. 2016 was a dark year for democracy in America. Nick Williams is a superhero for the coming times.
- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Pub (24 January 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1542708494
- ISBN-13: 978-1542708494
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 399 g
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