Monday, 1 February 2016

Myra Hindley, S&M, a sex-shop brawl, a missing child and the Bisset Surprise

"I think about a world to come
Where the books were found by the Golden Ones"

It was the first outing in 2016 for "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari on Friday, and I, Paul, little Tony, Wayne, Emma, Toby, Roland, Bryanne, Simon and the rest of the (impressively big for a pay-day Friday in January) audience were champing at the bit... As usual, our host Paul Burston was equally energised but, after a suitably muted tribute to (the mentor of all of us) David Bowie, it was time to introduce our readers for the evening.

Mr Stevie Henden read us a mere snippet from his new novel - Anna Himmel and the Gold Sovereign - (apparently based on a true story) Andy Blenkinsopp's Tale. A young gay man in 1960s Manchester goes cruising. A car pulls up, and a blonde woman with a man in the passenger seat offers him a threesome, which he almost accepts - were it not for an apparition wearing said gold sovereign, which warns him off. It didn't really take "Miss Marple" to work out the fact that the couple were the notorious Moors Murderers, and when the penny drops for Andy, he realises he has had a very lucky escape indeed. Although somewhat predictable, it did tease us with what all this has to do with the greater meaning of the apparition with the medallion...

[Photo: Tony Wood]

Next up, an author who is becoming a bit of a regular at Polari, Anya Nyx (or is it Tanith today?; we're never sure). Her story was another sinister one (from the short story anthology L is For...) - Frankie and other F-words: all about a lesbian S&M threesome that goes disastrously wrong, with blood, death and a flight from the authorities. I somehow doubt they will ask Cliff Richard to read the audio book.

[Photo: Tony Wood]

I was up to Mr Timothy Graves, therefore, to turn up the jollity factor, as he grabbed his friend and fellow thesp Penelope Maynard to join him for an extract from his new work Pharmakeia - here involving a three-way argument in a sex shop between the leading protagonist Mahvand, a prostitute and the tranny proprietor of the store. Of course:

Wonderfully manic - and particularly appreciated by their acting tutor and mentor (who we were intrigued and overjoyed to spot in the audience), Hi-De-Hi's "Sylvia" Miss Nicki Kelly herself!

With that level of excitement, we needed a break for a fag and a trip to the bar to recover.

[Photo: Tony Wood]

Part two brought on the "big guns". Ms Alex Marwood is always a joy, and her reading - from her latest blockbuster The Darkest Secret - definitely did not disappoint. It's a marvellously intriguing tale - full of horrid, selfish bastards, and the enduring mystery of what exactly did happen to the three-year-old girl who disappeared from her bedroom while the pampered adults in her wealthy father's coterie were preoccupied enjoying themselves in splendour? [Shades of the Madeleine McCann case, methinks.]

None other than best-selling Scottish crime writer Val McDermid described it thus: "A genuinely shocking thriller where nothing is what it seems. So good I wish I'd written it myself." The story's blurb doesn't begin to do it justice:
When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, a media frenzy breaks out. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea, and the guests’ talent for publicity pushes the case into the public eye.

But what really happened to Coco? Over two intense weekends - the first when Coco goes missing and the second, twelve years later, at the funeral of her father - the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed...
We loved it.

Finally, it was time for another gem of a writer and our "headliner", the novelist and literary critic Adam Mars-Jones. He read some rather fab passages from his latest book Kid Gloves, a memoir about his years of clashing wits with his homophobic father, a renowned High Court judge. From the Guardian review:
His lawyerly refutations of Adam’s sexual orientation include The Princely Parallel (“he assured me ... that the older woman procedure had done the trick for Prince Charles”) and The Bisset Surprise, according to which Adam cannot be gay because Dad alleges that he once played with himself during a Jacqueline Bisset film.

It takes a finely honed sense of the comic value of the everyday to survive these wounds. Mars-Jones concedes with magnificent understatement that “the dynamics between homophobic judge and publicly gay writer son, tolerating each other at least to the extent of sharing a roof, are probably not standard”. When 'The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse' is published in 1983, Sir William asks pointedly if Adam has edited it. Mars-Jones sniffs: “If I did decide to use a pseudonym, I would try to do better than the name on the book’s cover, Stephen Coote.”
This was a marvellously erudite way to end a brilliant evening.

Our next outing for Polari will be its LGBT History Month special on 16th February, featuring our fave Jonathan Harvey at the top of the bill with his new novel The Secrets We Keep, none other than "Ida Barr" herself Chris Green, who has written a new book Overpowered! about the history of hypnosis; plus historian Jennifer Ingleheart, novelist Sarah Walton and poet David Clarke.

Should be fantabulosa, and provide the perfect opportunity to show off my glowing tan from our week in Spain!

Polari. We love it.


  1. It was a good night, great to see everyone again, and I look forward to February's Polari.
    Now go enjoy that holiday x

    1. I certainly intend to, dear. Great to see you, too! Jx

  2. Great blog reflecting a great night... Thanks Jon! Good to see you x

    1. It was delightful to have your company, dear boy... Jx

    2. Brilliant! As ever you perfectly capture a Polari evening! X

    3. Thanks, sweetie - see you for the next instalment tomorrow! Jx


Please leave a message - I value your comments!