Review: Warriors & Outlaws

Seeking relief from the onslaught of porn currently weighing down the gay bookshelf? Or something other than Hollinghurst, Maupin and E. Lynn Harris? Then take note of John R. Gordon's latest effort, Warriors & Outlaws.

In his third novel, Gordon continues to explore the diversity of gay life in London, and specifically that of black gay men, a subject still largely ignored by mainstream authors. His previous works, Black Butterflies and the ground-breaking, acclaimed Skin Deep, are amongst the most important gay literary novels in recent times. Larry Duplechan (author of Blackbird) described the latter as "thought-provoking and funny; subtly erotic and in-you-face nasty by turns; often deeply touching and at times, surprisingly wise." Indeed.

Warriors & Outlaws (Gay Men's Press, ISBN 190285226-5) opens with Jazz, an aspiring politico and leader of the Panther Posse, shooting a cop and seeking refuge with black drag queen Carly, a neighbour he has (up until now) ignored. Their relationship is as far from the "boy-meets-boy in club/bar/sauna, and love blossums" formula as one can imagine. Racism and homophobia complicate their relationship: Jazz's followers must deal with the fact that the man they look up to - idolise, in fact - is "suddenly" gay, whilst Carly's white fag hag friend Molly is threatened by the politicisation Jazz inspires in Carly.

Gordon is adept at constructing a fast-paced, character-driven narrative that thrives on incident and debate. The shifting first person narrative makes for a deceptively easy read, and leaves the reader with a sense of having digested some complex issues - almost without realising it.

Novels dealing with black gay life are few and far between, and rarely as good as this. Miss Warriors & Outlaws at your peril.


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