Thursday, 1 August 2013

Mysterious deaths, drag queens to the rescue, Fanny and the Hulk, grief, revenge, superhero sex and a long-list

It's been a bit of a busy few days - a leaving do/reunion, shopping, gardening, enjoying the sunshine (and storms)... and of course, work.

However John-John, Paul and I were shivering with anticip...ation as we trolled along to the last summer outing of "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari, hosted by the equally peerless Mr Paul Burston, on Tuesday evening.

Why the particular excitement on this occasion? After all, Polari has been a regular fixture in my social calendar for five years. Uniquely, on this occasion we had a good friend to support, as our very own Ange Chan was making her debut as a reader rather than just a supporter...

After the familiarly flamboyant introductions from Mr B, our Ange took to the lectern to open the show. If she was nervous (and I guess she must have been), it didn't show, as she treated us to her marvellously pithy short story about a family estranged from one of their number, and the discovery by our heroine of his (her brother's) dead body in mysterious circumstances. Gripping stuff, and very well done indeed.

We were clapping like proud dads as she received well-deserved applause from the appreciative audience (that included usual suspects such as Val Lee, DJ Connell, Peter Daniels, Emma and Toby, Joe Storey-Scott, Krys Fitzgerald-Morris, little Tony and - a first for him - Ange's hubby Steve). The story itself and much more will be available via Ange's F***book page (link above) soon.

Next up was another newcomer, Stevie Hendon. He read for us a rather wonderful extract from his first book The Lost Boy, the Doodlebug and the Mysterious Number 80, a tangled web of relationships between gay men in 1970s London, dream fantasies and murder. However, the piece he chose for us was not as grim as that may sound - a hilarious account of the novel's protagonist, the young gay boy Charlie, his unfortunate decision to "lose his cherry" (while pissed) with a creepy pervert with a sling, and his triumphal rescue by a bevy of drag queens armed with dangerous stilettos!

It tickled me pink - and I hope to get around to reading more of these salacious adventures soon.

Our final reader in the first half was a familiar fave, the poet Neil Alexander. He read for us a typically varied selection of his excellent work (little of which is available online these days - one assumes because he is on the verge of a publishing deal), including a tribute to our heroines "Fanny and Stella", one about 80s AIDS campaigns, another about his recent redundancy, and this one - The Incredible Hulk:

After the break, it was the turn of the lovely VG Lee - not to perform any of her work, but to announce the eagerly-awaited long-list for this year's Polari First Book Prize!

The prize is for a first book which explores the LGBT experience and is open to any work of poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction published in the UK in English within the twelve months of the deadline for submissions (this year Feb 1, 2013). Self-published works in both print and digital formats are eligible for submission. This year the prize has a new sponsor, Société Générale UK LGBT Network, who will be kindly donating £1000 prize money to the winner of this year's prize.

The Polari First Book Prize Longlist:
  • The January Flower by Orla Broderick
  • Five To One by Chris Chalmers
  • Counting Eggs by Peter Daniels
  • Realisations by Andie Davidson
  • The Governess by Rachael Eyre
  • The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah
  • Tony Hogan Bought Me An Icecream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson
  • The Sitar by Rebecca Idris
  • Catching Bullets - Memoirs of a Gay Bond Fan by Mark O’Connell
  • Readings from the Book of Exile by Pádraig Ó Tuama
  • The Tale of Raw Head & Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf
What a list! Can't wait to find out how they whittle that down.

Anyhow, it was time to get back to the "show". And my word, what an excellent reader was in store...

Denise Marshall's book Soul Assassin is a harrowingly personal observation of one woman's reaction to her betrayal by a lover (whose affair is exposed by a very publicly reported terrorist atrocity at her place of work while she is elsewhere with another woman). Breathtaking in its honest depiction of the central character's grief and painful self-examination, Ms Marshall had the entire room transfixed in an eerie silence throughout the reading. An utterly superb, if emotionally draining experience.


Breaking the tension somewhat, our star turn - and a rather gorgeous one at that - was Italy's premier gay author Marco Mancassola, here reading for the first time an extract in English from his best-seller The Erotic Lives of the Superheroes. A bizarre concept, taking the super-powered heroes of the classic comics and imagining them growing older, and focusing in particular on their intimate relationships.

In the first extract from his book, Mr Mancassola focused on the homoerotic first meeting of an out-gay Batman and the flawless teenage Robin. With his purring Italian accent, he could have read the telephone directory out loud and I still would have needed to mop down with a damp sponge. The piece itself was beautifully sensuous (as was his second extract starring the retired and sexually obsessed former "Mister Fantastic", who used to be able to stretch every part of his body - oo-er - but can do so no more), fascinating, and totally unique. We loved it.

And with the customary gathering of the night's readers back onto the stage, that, as they say, was that.

An utterly magnificent evening, as ever - and I am going to miss Polari until its return in September!

The next Polari is on 11th September and features Lois Walden, Bernardine Evaristo, Susie Boyt and Nick Field. The shortlist for the Polari First Book Prize 2013 will be announced.


  1. Another dazzling literary evening ( well done Ange ) and yet another bona ney fantabulosa review.

    They realy should be published in the press.

    You could use the rather coquettish pic of your good self to header your monthly article.

    1. Compliments indeed, darling - thank you. Jx

  2. You're looking great, I hasten to add!

    1. The lighting was very flattering :-) Jx

  3. It was a great evening - I purchased Stevie Hendon's book

    Ange read very confidently - we were all feeling proud of her

    I'm sadly away for Sept.'s Polari, so it will be Oct. before I sample Polari again …

    Have a lovely time in Amsterdam xox

    1. It was fun, and "our girl done good"!

      Shame you can't make the 'Dam - see you soon...


  4. Replies
    1. Sweetie! We are all stars at Polari!

      Lovely to see you again. Jx

  5. Great report. Looks a fabulous evening. I was wondering if I could use the photo of Val announcing the long-list for the UKLesFic blog?

    1. Thank you, Clare. Of course you may use my photo. (If you can sneak in a link to my blog too, I would be grateful :-)


    2. Hi Jon,

      Thanks! Of course - I'll include a link to this post.


  6. Fabulous blog, as per, darling. Thank you so much for your lovely comments. My musings on the evening can be found here and my short story is on the Polari Facebook page for a few days here

    See you in the 'Dam! Not long now! xx

    1. It was a great reading - thank YOU, Ange.

      See you in Amsterdam!


      PS Thanks for the WordPress link to your blog; however the FB one says "You must log in to see this page". Which I can't, as I don't use F***book. Hey ho...


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