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Indecent Assault

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Mayflower, London, 1969
(price: 5/-; 288 pages)
first published by Andre Deutsch, 1967

The blurb on the back:

Scandal in high places.
David is the art-student son of Mark Coulsdon, Minister of Communications, an ambitious man with aspirations to be Prime Minister.
But Coulsdon feels that his chances could be embarrassed by his brother Julian, a homosexual living with a flamboyant young actor.
So David, deeply involved in his own affair with the girl Karen, is all the more astonished when his requests to live away from home are finally met – on condition that he move in with the notorious Uncle Julian. Against his will, David is drawn into Julian’s
ménage. Into a reputation-destroying plot. Into the screaming headlines of scandal. Into the merciless intriguing after the highest political office in the land.

opening lines:
My uncle, you see, is a homosexual.

Written at a time when homosexuality and politics were bedfellows (the legalization campaign was just reaching fruition), this is a curious and quite charming little piece. The story’s told by an art student, who’s precocious and pretentious in equal measure, and it’s slight enough – cabinet minister finds his career killed by his brother getting nicked – but charmingly told. In particular, the fact that it’s told retrospectively (the student of the tale is now married with children), and is supposedly about a public figure, allows some games to be played, as in this footnote to a comment in the text:

Readers of AJP Taylor’s brilliant book on the crisis of that time will know how misguided this was; but at the time it seemed likely enough. (p.149)

There’s also an odd twist that the central character is not simply gay, but a pederast, an element that is flagged up early with a quotation from Lolita prefacing the book. This is either playing to the prejudices of those who regard all gay men as child molesters, or is a plea for tolerance of those with different tastes – i.e. it’s an easy way out, or a courageous step forward. I don’t know which, but it’s interesting nonetheless:

‘I know it’s wrong, evil, sinful, the lot. I know that you may corrupt a kid for life, change him – pervert him. But knowing all that doesn’t stop me wanting to put my hand round his little waist or stroke his tight, rounded little bottom.’ (p.40)

My guess is that you couldn’t publish this quite so easily these days. My, how we’ve progressed.

It's a nice book, actually. Worth getting hold of, I reckon. The British Library catalogue tells me that Mr Goff had earlier written A Short Guide to Long Play: How To Enjoy Music On and Off the Record (1958) and LP Collecting (1960), wich sound very fine indeed.


like this? try this:
Maurice Capitanchik, Friends and Lovers