Ever wonder what Nick Williams looks like to other people?
In the first installment of a new series, set in the San Francisco of the early 1950s we know from the Nick Williams mystery series, Frank Butterfield takes us into the story of Ben White and Carlo Martinelli, who appear only as supporting characters in the other novels. Ben is a cop and Carlo is a fireman, and they meet on a blind date arranged by Nick at the Top of the Mark. Unfortunately for Ben and Carlo, this happens to be the night of Nick’s notorious and fateful public slapdown of George Hearst. Nick’s plan was to make Ben an ally on the police force, but fate has other ideas, and, as we all remember, Ben and Carlo end up unemployed because of Nick’s little powerplay.
So how does Ben, a half-hearted policeman with dreams of Hollywood, react to the famous Nick Williams, richest fairy in San Francisco? He hates him. Unlike Carter, Ben is not attracted to Nick, although he can see how others would be. (Carter, on the other hand, seems to be desirable to every breathing human, as both Ben and Carlo acknowledge.) Ben sees Nick as determined, arrogant, sure of his birthright and the power of his money to get what he wants. White privilege anyone? (Of course, this was also true for Batman, my favorite period comparison for Nick Williams).
“The One He Waited For” is a truly romantic journey of rediscovery. It is written in the same, quirky offhand style that seems to find the tone of the period, and makes us feel transported into the past through Butterfield’s careful attention to detail. Ben—small, blond and pale—falls hard for Carlo—big, dark and muscular. Both men, just about 30, find themselves jerked violently out of the delusional fog in which they’ve lived their adult lives. In the midst of loss, they are offered the chance to see themselves in a new way. Nick’s arrogance allows them the freedom to start to live authentic lives. It is a gift of great price, despite coming at great cost. There were moments in this story that really moved me.
Both Ben and Carlo are blindsided by the turn of events triggered by Nick’s antis. Nick, with the cushion of a vast fortune (and the big strong arms of Carter Jones), doesn’t stop to think about what it is to be an ordinary queer in a hostile world. Even filled with remorse, Nick uses his cash and his connections without asking—he creates a new life four our boys. His impulse is good and generous, and completely altruistic; but really, how DARE he?
“Again, it felt to Ben as if Nick wasn’t talking to them. It was as though he was either trying to convince himself or someone else.”
His father perhaps? Calling Doctor Freud…
I love seeing this perspective on Nick. I love the wash of emotions, from befuddlement to despair, that sweeps over these two middle-class Joes, caught up in the injustice of a nasty world, and thrown onto the mercy of an angry gay millionaire. Here are two guys who don’t see themselves as sick, but just sort of walk blankly through their lives, afraid to think of who they really are for fear of…basically everything. And yet we know—I know personally—gay men who lived and found love in the 1950s in America. Nick Williams gives Ben and Carlo that chance.
You don’t need to know the mystery books to appreciate this book. But it helps to have the background.
- Paperback: 234 pages
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Pub (2 May 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1546410473
- ISBN-13: 978-1546410478
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 322 g
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