Third You Die by Scott Sherman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I wrote to Scott Sherman after I finished the previous book in the Kevin series and we had a great email series going for a while, but then I mentioned two points of advice, after which I never heard from him again.
I don't imagine my email had much impact on him, but the fact is with this new book, he did take both those points and action them.
The first was to put more of Kevin into the character of Kevin and less of himself. In the second book there was a reference to a quarter not being worth what it used to be, something no 21 year old would say. There were numerous references to Judy Garland and the old Hollywood musicals. The problem was that Kevin sounded like a 45 year old man. The author seemed to be writing himself rather than his character and I wanted more Kevin, otherwise just write a book about yourself.
The second point I made was the moralizing. It was too much. In the second book there were pages of point form notes defending gay marriage. Whoever those notes were for, they weren't being read by whoever was reading the book. People against gay marriage and gays in general do not read books about a gay prostitute who solves crimes in his spare time. I encouraged the author to give his audience a little credit, that the people reading these books were sexually mature informed adults and the endless justification of the gay lifestyle needn't be so prevalent. Add to the moralizing the fact that Kevin worked for an AIDS service organization as a volunteer and a daycare manager at a church and, I don't know, saved the whales or whatever else he did, it was too much.
So the good news is that in this book all that stuff is gone. References to Judy Garland have been replaced with references to Lady Gaga. The moralizing toned down, the volunteer work finished. More realism and believability reign.
But unfortunately the problems aren't over in this, the weakest of the three books.
Part of why you read a book about a sex worker who solves murders is to hear about the life of a sex worker and for the juicy murders. Well, Kevin is no longer a sex worker and the murder doesn't show up until about 60% of the book is finished.
The double-edged sword with Scott Sherman is his earnestness. His character`s are so earnest, they could be used as the dictionary definition of the word. They try hard, they are ALWAYS sincere and they want to be liked. But at the same time they`re unsure of themselves and generally inconsistent.
For example, Kevin hates when his partner Tony criticizes his sex work or the sex industry. But he himself is quick to point out that many of his clients he never had sex with, that he did "clean" sex work, with no insertion, which somehow in his mind, and in Sherman's, allows Kevin to be on a holy pedestal. Kevin may have been a common hooker, but in Sherman's fantasy world, this involves men paying him to smell his hair or do things that involve not only no insertion, but generally no nudity. It's a justification used by weak people. I may be a whore, but I'm not one of THOSE whores. Tell it to the judge, sweetheart. This is the same line used by gays for a generation as they were looking for acceptance. I may be gay, but I'm not one of THOSE gays. I don't have sex and do drugs all night, I sit at home with my husband. Which is an understandable plea for acceptance, but also throws the others under the bus.
Then there's Kevin's love life. Quentin Crisp wrote of the "Great Dark Man." The man who will be aloof and masculine and straight and have eyes only for you, the man of gay men's dreams. The problem was that after he showed his vulnerabilities he wouldn't be those things any more. He wouldn't be strong and masculine and aloof. This concept is alive and well in this book.
Part of what keeps Kevin's relationship with Tony working is that tension. Kevin is always hoping he'll change, lead the pride parade and tell his son he's gay. But the reason Kevin likes him is his aloofness. Kevin lives for that tension, the moment where Tony makes a small concession to him. He treasures those moments, and then is constantly frustrated with the one step forward two steps back reality. Frankly without that tension, there would be no relationship. It seems Crisp was right, that Kevin wants something he doesn't actually want. And especially as Sherman draws him, Tony only exists to provide that tension. His character is the absence of fleshed-out, almost a footnote in the books.
I enjoyed seeing these characters again. I enjoyed the scene at the adoption agency, even if it could have been drawn out longer and even though Sherman used it for a "Julia Sugarbaker" style speech from the pulpit.
The plot of the book was the Brent Corrigan story, with the name of Brent even left unchanged. I would have preferred something more original.
I felt like with the escorting out, Kevin had to fill his days. I have no idea what his actual job is on his mother's show, he seems to just go in to work to advance the plot.
The author talks about a fourth book which I see going one of two ways. Either the two leads skip down the yellow brick road to happiness land, yawn, or what I'm hoping is the series gets a reboot. Kevin goes back to hustling, and a new man comes in to his life that challenges him mentally, not just presses his buttons for his need for acceptance and to be liked. I'll be reading the back of book four to see which gets chosen before I commit to reading it.
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