Title: The Major and the Miner
Author: Barry Lowe
Publisher: Lydian Press
Release Date: July 5, 2019
Genre(s): Romance, Epic Erotic Saga
Page Count: 249
Reviewed by: Bob-O-Link
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
In an era when same-sex love is a crime, what is an ex- army major to do when he falls for a sexy young coalminer?
Run out of the country town because of his illicit relationship, former army major Dr. Damien Bouton flees to the relative anonymity of a poor, inner-city suburb where he deals with the loss of his lover, Josh, ministering to the needs of a startlingly eccentric mix of supportive characters. Josh, his eyes and his heart newly opened to love, chases after his lover but, in his innocence, falls prey to con men and the razor gangs that abound in Depression-era Sydney. When Damien and Josh’s paths finally cross again, they are almost strangers and their social circumstances make any sort of relationship impossible. Until fate steps in. But is it too late for them to rekindle their love?
First – no waiting! This is a wonderful, vast book: all you can ask. It makes us familiar
with a large, diverse cast; it follows many of them over years of interactions and episodes; we are engaged with their ups and down – both in the story line and, yes sirree, in the bedroom too.
Mr Lowe’s The Major and the Miner presents a grand reissue of this finely retro novel. If its genre must be identified, it would likely be Picaresque. Not to be pedantic, but that ilk historically most often designates a type of realistic fiction dealing with the episodic adventures of a roguish protagonist, going from place to place, usually in an attempt to survive in a corrupt society. [For example, think of just a few enduring classics: Candide; History of Tom Jones; Joseph Andrews; Huckleberry Finn; also much of Dickens.]
Frequently humorous, this work can also be properly designated as in a classically erotic subset – such as were often sold under-the-counter in the earlier part of the last century.
Put another way, Mr Lowe’s The Major and the Miner might well be the kind of book a gay-curious teen could luckily find in his father’s sock draw, and then secretly read at night under his covers.
Superficially similar (only in spelling), this piquant adventure novel is wonderfully structured, continually surprising with its twists and turns, and masterfully descriptive in its explicit sexual components. Mr Lowe has found just the right voice, as he moves Dr Damien Bouton from 1932, when the story opens, back to his days in the First World War, and forward into his subsequent adventures in Sydney, Australia. Neatly, he also gives the reader an inserted aside, permitting us to “catch up” with Josh’s doings at that same time. No surprise – but the “doings” of both men frequently entail undressing (or at the least, unzipping) and are always heated, usually comically tinged, and totally without reservation. “He did so with alacrity and I guided him into my warm opening. He was a tight fit but I concentrated on my labor of love . . ..” What a joyful presentation!
Humor, too, is always at hand: “The local doctor has retired suddenly on medical grounds – death they called it . . .”
Author Lowe captures the era. The Depression setting is front and center. References to current queer sexologists and their writings are cleverly dropped. Allusions to Agatha Christie and Poirot also help fix the period. The legal and moral sexual limitations of the age are repeatedly noted: “I knew they would not have been supportive of us as soldier had they known we spent the night in bed together sharing our illegal love with our bodies caked with each other’s semen.”
He well uses what seems likely to be 1930’s Australian sounds and phrases: “ . . . in the morning . . . we must be up at sparrow’s fart for work, . . .” Also (perhaps sardonically prodding with its pretentiousness) he amuses us, using a preponderance of pseudo upper-class words, such as: prepossessing; ostensibly; opprobrium; alacrity; antipodean; vainglorious; perspicacious; abstemious.
With this approach and tools in hand, The Major and the Miner provides a period epic, full of real people with time-appropriate difficulties and emotions, and we are joyful witnesses to their experience. So, with alacrity run, do not walk, to get this novel.