A HOT LOVE AFFAIR WHICH STILL CHALLENGES THE AGES ...
BRITAIN'S BBC SLEUTH 'SHERLOCK HOLMES' ASSUMES A NEW PERSONA ...
NEXT : DISCOVER ONE OF HISTORY'S MOST-CELEBRATED REAL LIFE ANCIENT-WORLD EROTIC ROMANCES ...
OPINIONS OF "THE HADRIAN ENIGMA" - brief excerpts from 22 USA & UK Amazon reviews ...
JANE (Canada), at Amazon USA
"...I recommend it to any historical fiction fan, especially any fan of the redoubtable Mary Renault. ..."
J.R. Tomlin, author of historical fiction, at :- http://jeannetomlin.blogspot.com/
"Five stars ... a tour de force ..."
Elisa Rolle, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer, USA & UK, & at : http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/1092070.html
" ... an absorbing new book ... compelling writing ... action sequences that are brilliantly staged & paced ... on a higher plane than mere homoerotic titillation ... courageous & convincing ..."
Reader Down Under (Australia), at Amazon USA
"... extensively researched picture of life in the Roman Empire ... a mix of mystery, comedy, gay & straight romance - is an entertaining read ..."
Laura Staley, Historical Novels Review, USA, at :-
"... an age-old love story with a twist ... an unexpected delight ... his storyline hooked me immediately ..."
Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson of READER VIEWS, Austin TX, USA
"... You will feel engaged and challenged ..."
Nan Hawthorne, author Beloved Pilgrim, at Amazon USA
"... extremely readable ... it's a page turner ... Gardiner has written an interesting & gripping story ..."
Kim at http://www.desicritics.org/ India
"... Five Stars ... a compelling crime mystery ... a hard book to put down ..."
Terence Charters, Hobart, Australia, at Amazon USA
"... An adventure through Hadrian's world. The story is easy to read and full of the homoeroticism that we love about this era. ..."
P. Novotny, London, at Amazon UK
"... a definitive Five Star read for me ..."
Aleksandr Voinov, UK, reviewer at Speak Its Name
"Five Stars ... A masterful recreation of Ancient Rome ... the historical details are a delight ... characters are outlined in a vivid way which is like meeting old friends ... "
Ernest Gill, Hamburg, at Amazon USA & UK
"Five Stars ... as a reimagining of the Hadrian-Antinous relationship in the context of the age it is fascinating."
Muriel Perkins, Texas, at Amazon USA
" ... this is a novel about the nature of love ... but this is far from just being a gay romance. ..." Kit Moss, historical author, at :- http://kitmossreviews.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/the-hadrian-enigma-forbidden-history-by.html
"A truly exceptional book on 'What Greek Love" is all about ..."
John R. Shelton at Amazon USA
"Five Stars. I so enjoyed this book. Highly recommend it ... "
NOTE: ***Amazon USA's book or ebook purchase site with its 22 reader's reviews (twelve awarding Five Stars for excellence!) can be read in full by clicking on :- http://www.amazon.com/Hadrian-Enigma-Forbidden-History/product-reviews/0980746906/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA: A Forbidden History
(C) George Gardiner
ISBN13: 978-0-9807469-1-4 (at Amazon USA, UK, Europe, Australia etc) in 498-page paperback or Kindle ebook.
The scene: ancient Rome, 130 years after Christ yet two centuries prior to Christianity being legal. Caesar Hadrian is the popular ruler of a vast pagan empire at the height of its power & wealth.
Hadrian, one of Rome's "five good emperors" searches for & eventually locates the love of his life .. Antinous, an elite Greek athlete, huntsman, & cavalry cadet. They become 'companions' under the ancient Greco-Roman mentoring tradition of an erastes (mentor) & his eromenos (student).
During an imperial pleasure tour of Egypt Antinous is discovered dead in the River Nile. Hadrian is distraught. Is the death a drunken prank gone wrong, suicide, murder, or something far more sinister? Hadrian assigns historian playboy Suetonius Tranquillus to investigate.
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA is the outlawed record of Caesar's investigation into one of history's most suspicious fatalities. It reveals more than Hadrian may want to know, or wants others to know. Set in a society increasingly reflecting facets of our own times, it portrays an era of torrid relationships, raging ambition, wealth inequalities, & uninhibited morals within a severely macho culture of honor, shame, pride & prejudice.
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COOL GAY STUFF now posts current selective miscellany in both columns ...
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
---- an introductory excerpt from an extended opinion-piece by John Walker at Fusion.net (Florida), 20 July 2016 :-
'..... Over a hundred gay men descended upon the same Manhattan hotel last week for a “Scruff meet-up” of sorts, though probably not the kind you’re picturing. The gathering was held in honor of the sixth anniversary of Scruff: a geolocation-based mobile app that many gay men—as well as plenty of LGBTQ folks who don’t identify as gay men—use to meet other people for sex, dating, friendship, articles they’re writing, and even professional networking.
While apps like Scruff, Grindr, Tinder, and Jack’d have been accused of everything from “ruining romance” to killing off queer nightlife, I’d suggest we consider their place within a different legacy. LGBTQ people have long used digital spaces as a means of connecting with others like themselves. .... '
---- see more of John Walker's substantial report at Fusion.net (with thanks) at :-
Monday, July 25, 2016
---- a selected par from an extended review of the final episode of a provocative tv series reviewed by J. Bryan Lowder at SLATE (USA), 22 July 2016 :-
'.... with Looking at an end, it’s worth asking what we found. Because precious few examples exist in the world, any art that seriously attempts to represent the gay experience will be asked to do an unfair amount of work, to meet the incommensurable expectations of an innumerable audience. For some, Looking was a gorgeous and subtle portrait of a specific collection of flawed humans by the bay. To others, all those moody hues were imbued with tropes too familiar and grating to ignore. And still others found it, well, boring. Haigh, Lannan, and company could never hope to satisfy us all. ....'
--- see J. Bryan Lowder's complete appraisal of the final episode at SLATE.com at :-
---- and visit too the 1'30" trailer for the final episode in the side-bar here (at right, after brief pop-up ad).
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
---- a very brief excerpt from an exceptional historical account published as the chapter “The Growth of Urban Gay Scenes, Berlin’s Gay and Lesbian Bars,” from Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880-1945, by Clayton J. Whisnant. professor of history at Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C. (with thanks to GAY.com (USA), 18 July 2016 :-
' .... On the stages of Berlin, the Tiller Girls showed off their legs, dancing a Rockettes-style performance that amazed and titillated spectators. In crowded cabarets, audiences admired “tableaux” of women posing naked or watched actors telling risqué jokes and singing lewd songs.
Clubs full of men wearing powder and rouge as well as shorthaired women dressed in tuxedoes offered images of a world seemingly turned upside down. For the general public, this world was bewildering—and quite possibly terrifying.
For Germany’s gay men and lesbians, though, Berlin represented promise. Its gay scenes offered exciting places to hunt for love and happiness. Christopher Isherwood, whose short stories based on his stay in Berlin eventually became the basis for the 1972 film Cabaret, with Liza Minnelli, put it simply enough: “Berlin meant boys.” ... '
--- see more of C.J. Whisnant's colorful pre-WWII history of Berlin's gay-&-lesbian scene at :-
[Clayton J. Whisnant's book is available August 2016 from Harrington Park Press, USA]
Sunday, July 17, 2016
---- a brief taste of an interesting recollection of a 'forgotten history', by Matt Baume at Unicorn Booty (USA), 17 July 2016 :-
'.... This month marks the birthday of a strange, groundbreaking yet mostly-forgotten sitcom: Brothers, the first TV show to have a gay lead character. It premiered in July of 1984.
Sure, there had been gays on TV before: most notably, Jody on the show Soap, played by Billy Crystal. He was a remarkable character, seen dating and having relationships and even winning custody of his child.
But he wasn’t a main focus on the show to the extent that the star of Brothers was. There were also gay episodes of shows like Maude, on which characters went to a gay bar — but that was a one-off. More than a decade before Will and Grace, Brothers was television’s first gay sitcom. .... '
---- see more of Matt Baume's perceptive revisit to an historical point in the evolution of television subjects at Unicorn Booty at :-
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
---- a selected quote from a sensitive critique by Gabriele Neher [Assistant Professor of History of Art, University of Nottingham], 12 July 2016 :-
' .... Debates about the validity of history in fiction are well rehearsed, but there are few better places to start than Hilary Mantel, who wrote in 2009:
The past is not dead ground, and to traverse it is not a sterile exercise. History is always changing behind us, and the past changes a little every time we retell it. The most scrupulous historian is an unreliable narrator … Once this is understood, the trade of the historical novelist doesn’t seem so reprehensible or dubious; the only requirement is for conjecture to be plausible and grounded in the best facts one can get.Mantel here argues for the value of informed conjecture. The medium of the historical novel allows us to think through the human element of history and the ways in which the seemingly fixed narratives we are familiar with might so easily have spun off into an unfamiliar and different direction. ....'
---- see more of Gabriele Neher's reflections on historical fiction (plus brief reviews of recent titles) at the always-interesting The Conversation (UK) at :-
Sunday, July 10, 2016
---- the opening pars of an extended ELECTION 2016 survey by Jeremy W. Peters at The New York Times (USA), 10 July 2016 :-
'CLEVELAND — Same-sex marriage and transgender rights are emerging as points of serious strain between social conservatives and moderates who are trying to shape the Republican platform, reviving a festering cultural dispute as thousands of party activists and delegates prepare for their convention.
Friday, July 8, 2016
---- the opening pars of an extended account by Isaac Butler & Dan Kois of a major 21st Century literary work by US playwright Tony Kushner at SLATE Magazine (USA), 28 June 2016 :-
'How Tony Kushner’s play became the defining work of American art of the past 25 years:- Twenty-five years ago this summer, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America premiered in the tiny Eureka Theatre in San Francisco’s Mission District. Within two years it had won the Pulitzer Prize and begun a New York run that would dominate the Tony Awards two years in a row, revitalize the nonmusical play on Broadway, and change the way gay lives were represented in pop culture.
Both parts of Angels, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, put gay men at the center of American politics, history, and mythology at a time when they were marginalized by the culture at large and dying in waves. It launched the careers of remarkable actors and directors, not to mention the fiercely ambitious firebrand from Louisiana who wrote it—and rewrote it, and rewrote it, and rewrote it again.
Its 2003 HBO adaptation was itself a masterpiece that won more Emmys than Roots. But the play also financially wiped out the theater that premiered it; it endured casting and production tumult at every stage of development, from Los Angeles to London to Broadway; its ambitious, sprawling two-part structure tested the endurance of players, technicians, and audiences. Slate talked to more than 50 actors, directors, playwrights, and critics to tell the story of Angels’ turbulent ascension into the pantheon of great American storytelling—and to discuss the legacy of a play that feels, in an era in which gay Americans have the right to marry but still in many ways live under siege, as crucial as ever.
Tony Kushner (playwright of Angels in America): Around November of 1985, the first person that I knew personally died of AIDS. A dancer that I had a huge crush on, a very sweet man and very beautiful. I got an NEA directing fellowship at the repertory theater in St. Louis, and right before I left New York, I heard through the grapevine that he had gotten sick. And then, in November, he died.
---- see more of Isaac Butler & Dan Kois's revealing essay about Tony Kushner's inspiration in creating this major theater work at www.slate.com at :-
Monday, July 4, 2016
---- the opening pars of a personal recollection by Julia Carpenter at The Washington Post (USA), 30 June 2016 :-
'It can feel like “coming out” is everywhere — people talk about coming as every letter of the LGBTQ acronym, coming out with mental illness. The New York Times has noted that the Orlando massacre has inspired more people to come out as gay.
But coming out usually isn’t a singular pronouncement — an Ellen DeGeneres moment or a “Glee” moment. Instead, it’s a series of moments.
For Tia Bryan, a 30-year-old bisexual woman in Dallas, coming out is a process that happens every day. She and her fiancee feel supported by an accepting community, but she still finds herself explaining the ring on her finger to co-workers, strangers and friends. Leading up to their wedding next April, Bryan and her fiancee are experiencing a variety of coming-out moments — big conversations with family members as well as quiet public displays of affection.
“It’s definitely a lot more than some proclamation,” she says. “Even something as small as holding someone’s hand or kissing someone’s cheek or brushing their hair out of their face can speak volumes when done in public. It’s saying ‘I’m not afraid to be who I am.’ ” ....
---- see more of Julia Carpenter's personal testimonial at www.washingtonpost.com at :-
Sunday, July 3, 2016
---- the opening pars of an extended literary review celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the publication of deceased Yale historian John Boswell's (1947-1994) ground-breaking account of the evolution of the Christian world's responses to homosexuality, published at The Gay & Lesbian Review (USA). 1st July 2016 :-
'IT WOULD BE NO EXAGGERATION to say that in gay historical circles, and more specifically gay religious studies, there is before John Boswell and there is after John Boswell. It can be argued that the 1980 publication of openly gay Yale historian John Boswell’s groundbreaking work, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century, by replacing one conceptual worldview with a radically different one, gave rise to the kind of paradigm shift that Thomas Kuhn talked about in his landmark 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
By analyzing biblical texts from both the Old and New Testament and the historical record up to the 14th century, Boswell upended the traditional Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of its gay members. And so, on the 35th anniversary of the publication of his magnum opus, it seems the right time to analyze this paradigm shift and explore the impact of such an intellectual and spiritual upheaval in the intervening decades .... '
---- see more.of Brian Bromberger's perceptive historical essay at www.glreview.org at :-
Saturday, July 2, 2016
---- a brief excerpt from an extended candid interview with longtime US theater icon Fierstein, reported by Adam Hetrick at PLAYBILL (USA), 30 June 2016, with thanks :-
'.... Hetrick: There are so many younger LGBTQ people who aren’t aware of the history of the gay rights movement that came before them. Too often I feel like I hear people say things that the Pride March isn’t for them, or that it doesn’t reflect them, or who gay people are now. What do you say to those people?
Harvey Fierstein: I just laugh. Children are always privileged. I don’t think I’m the first to notice that. You’re born into a world that is the way it is, and then it’s not even comfortable. It’s a hard thing to try and look back and see how you got there, especially since most of our history has been decimated. Our history was never written down, and most people who were gay had marriages, or beards of some sort. How many years do you have to go back—two, three—to find that that’s the way people lived?
It’s a very hard thing, and our history is not taught in schools, obviously. We are a minority, because there’s not as many of us as there are heterosexuals, but we are in every culture. We are every color, we are every religion, we are every social and economic background, in every country, in every tribe, and we’re everywhere. So it’s very hard to create a community out of such disparity. ....'
---- see more of Adam Hetrick's candid interview with Fierstein at PLAYBILL at :-
Thursday, June 30, 2016
---- a brief excerpt from a substantial, sizzling interview with Alexander Skarsgard (Tarzan in "The Legend of Tarzan") by Chris Azziopardi at PrideSource (USA), 28 June 2016 :-
'.... I don't know if you know this, but gay men love you.
They do. Is that surprising to hear?
Well, I don't know. I've always been... I don't know how to answer that question, but thank you. That's very flattering to hear.
It's always been the most natural thing to me because my uncle and godfather is a gay man and so growing up, even as a little toddler, it was just as natural as being straight. My aunt would show up with her husband and my uncle would show up with his husband. He was, by far, out of my father's four siblings (Alexander's father is actor Stellan Skarsgard), the most fashionable and the most trendy, cool guy. So, when I was a kid, he was the one I looked up to. I thought he was really badass: fit and awesome and cool, and obviously not because he was gay.
When I became a teenager and the kids made fun of other teenagers who were gay, I never really understood that. It just baffled me because my idol, my godfather, was gay, and he was the coolest guy I knew. I just couldn't understand how that could be an insult. ....'
---- see all of Chris Azzopardi's wildly entertaining interview with actor Alex Skarsgard at :-
---- and check Mr. Skarsgard's physical tone in playing Tarzan in the side-column, opposite.
---- "THE LEGEND OF TARZAN" is now screening in many global cinemas.
Monday, June 27, 2016
---- selected lines from the opening pars of a news report by Nico Lang at ADVOCATE.com (USA), 27 June 2016 :-
'Pope Francis believes that it’s time for Catholics to apologize to the LGBT community.
.... “I believe that the church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended,” he said, “but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.”
"The church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times — when I say the church, I mean Christians!” he added. “The church is holy, we are sinners!" ....'
---- see Nico Lang's entire controversial report at www.advocate.com/religion at :-
---- see another perspective on this issue at The Boston Globe (USA), 28 June 2016 :-
Sunday, June 26, 2016
---- the brief introduction to a news report by Yesim Dikmen published at HAARETZ (Israel), 26 June 2016 :- ,
'REUTERS - Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London on Saturday for an annual parade celebrating gay and transgender rights, with many expressing concerns as Britain gears up to part ways with the European Union after Thursday's referendum.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
---- the opening pars to a news report by Zack Ford at Think Progress (USA), 24 June 2016 :-
'President Obama announced Friday that he is officially declaring a national monument at the Stonewall Inn, commemorating the historic rise of the modern LGBT movement that started there. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the gay bar, spurring the LGBT patrons to riot and begin organizing resistance efforts that turned into what is now known as Pride.
Technically the new national park is Christopher Park, the area directly across from the Stonewall Inn. Obama’s proclamation notes that the park has become “a popular destination for LGBT youth, many of whom had run away from or been kicked out of their homes,” as well as a place of organizing for other LGBT milestones ....
----- see more of Zack Ford's commemorative post at http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt at :-
Friday, June 24, 2016
---- the opening pars to an extended essay by Mike Albo at Daily JSTOR (USA), 24 June 2016 :-
'.... it is Gay Pride month, the LGTBQ community is increasingly visible, and the society at large is slowly embracing new definitions of sexuality and gender. Just this week, Jamie Shupe of Oregon, who prefers the article “they,” is the first American to be granted the legal right to pronounce themself “non-binary” under the law.
Then, the shooting in Orlando happens, and we are in darkness. What becomes visible is the hate and anger towards sexual identity outside of the heterosexual norm, and once again, questions about the relevance of gay sexuality bubble to the surface, as they have so many times in the past.
The core issue always seems to boil down to: Should gay people be alive? Are we as “worthy” to humankind as heterosexuality? Are gays ancient? If not, it follows that we gay people are simply modern cvreations. ....'
---- see more of Mike Albo's insightful essay at http://daily.jstor.org/gay-culture at :-
Thursday, June 23, 2016
---- as part of the brand's Pride Month effort, writer Kristina Monllos submits an exclusive. Here is the opening par to Kristina's report, published in ADWEEK (USA), 21 June 2016 :-
'If you pick up this Sunday's print edition of The New York Times and thumb through it, you'll find that it features a couple full-page print ads from American Express that show the brand's support for gay marriage.
It's no coincidence that the brand is rolling the ads out on Sunday, June 26, since that's the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling to legalize same-sex marriage.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Issues Statements in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month 2016 and the joint guidance on transgender student protections provided by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the Department of Justice ---- the opening par of a formal statement by the US Commission on Civil Rights, published at PR Newswire (USA), 20 June 2016 :-
---- see more of this formal statement at www.prnewswire.com/news at :-
Monday, June 20, 2016
---- at a time of the western world's tendency to be prejudicial about aspects of Islam or the Muslim members of their societies, we present the opening pars of a lively & challenging interview with USA-Iranian (& Muslim) comedian Negin Farsad, published at SALON online magazine, 18 June 2016 :-
'Salon talks to Farsad about her debut memoir and the power of comedy to combat racism and launch social change.
New York City-based comedian, writer and director Negin Farsad’s debut nonfiction book, “How to Make White People Laugh” (Hachette Book Group, 2016), is best described as 'memoir meets social-justice-comedy-manifesto'. ....
.... Her illuminating memoir offers a frank and hilarious conversation about growing up as an Iranian-American Muslim woman in a post-9/11 world, as well as what it means to have a hyphenated identity. It’s at once a comedy and a reflection on the power of comedy to initiate social change — with plenty of research, graphs, images, and footnotes to back it up. Salon spoke with Farsad about her career as a social justice comedian, and what inspired her debut. ....'
---- see more of this striking interview with Farsad at www.salon.com at URL :-
Thursday, June 16, 2016
---- at a time of continuing challenges by advocates of Judeo-Christian puritanism, Joe Morgan at GAY STAR NEWS (UK/USA) offers 25 concepts from religious authority which dispute a grossly puritan interpretations of doctrine :-
'Take a look at the actual facts that should have homophobes who pick and choose what to preach quaking in their boots :-
1. There is no record whatsoever of Jesus preaching against homosexuality.
2. Paul writes: ‘Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolator, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.’ While this is another line that many use to attack gay people, others suggest ‘homosexual’ is actually a [16th Century] mistranslation of ‘prostitute’.
3. The Bible explicitly tells you not to force people into believing or boasting about your religion.
4. The church sanctified gay marriages in the so-called Dark Ages, with one being the Byzantine Emperor Basil 1 (867-886) and his partner John. ....
.... and 21 further related appraisals of the status of homosexuality in religious texts.
---- Check Joe Morgan's full list of 25 facts at GAY STAR NEWS at :-
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
---- the opening pars of a substantial publishing announcement at USA TODAY (US), 15 June 2016 :-
'Prince William is offering a show of royal support to the LBGT community in one of its darkest moments.
A day after signing a condolence book for victims of the Orlando shooting, he has become the first member of Britain's royal family to appear on the cover of a gay magazine with the July issue of Attitude, akin to America's Out.
The magazine, which went to press mere days before the massacre at Pulse, arrives on newsstands next week. The digital version is already available for purchase. .... '
---- see more of the Attitude report at USA TODAY at :-
[ Note: Text-only items received by smartphone users as SMS's (short message services) will possess supporting images or videos at the twin-columned Blogger Cool Gay Stuff platform at url :- http://mmromancenovels.blogspot.com.au/ ]
Sunday, June 12, 2016
---- the opening pars to a substantial news report [via Associated Press] posted at The Star (Toronto, Canada), 11 June 2016 :-
'WARSAW, POLAND—Thousands of people marched Saturday in colourful gay pride events in Italy, Poland and Croatia urging support for minority rights in the mostly Catholic nations.
Friday, June 10, 2016
---- brief pars from the introductory section of a substantial book review at The Guardian (UK), 10 June 2016 :-
'A Boy’s Own Story chronicles a teenager’s journey to adulthood in the 1950s midwest USA. .... A Boy’s Own Story is both a masterpiece in the literature of adolescence and a pivotal book in the history of gay writing, opening up the landscape of teenage homosexuality with revelatory frankness. .... More than 30 years on, in a culture in which sexual truth-telling is ubiquitous, it retains its power to startle: in the tense insouciance with which it describes a 14-year-old’s lust for his father, or his earning money to pay for a hustler; or in the hair-raising betrayal that brings the novel to its close, a wilful act towards which we see the whole narrative has been moving with an awful logic. .... '
---- see more of Alan Hollinghurst's appraisal of US author Edmund White's highly-regarded book at www.theguardian.com (UK) at :-
---- • A Boy’s Own Story is a 1982 196-page semi-autobiographical novel by Edmund White. It is now to be published as a Picador Classic on 16 June.
SELECTED TRAILERS OF RECENT GAY-THEMED (OR SIMPLY GAY-INTEREST) MOVIES ....
Don't Ask, Don't Tell is recalled ...
HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY review of "THE HADRIAN ENIGMA" ...
A fair-haired young man, dressed in rich ceremonial armor, is found dead in the Nile River. When he is identified, everyone realizes the dangerous political implications of this death, because Antinous was the eromenos—the lover and protégé—of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
A grief-stricken Hadrian appoints two members of the court, Suetonius and his patron Clarus, to find out how and why Antinous died. They have two days to find the answer, permission to interrogate anyone except the Emperor and Empress, and the promise that they may forfeit their lives if they fail to satisfy Hadrian.
Failure is a distinct possibility. While Antinous was well-liked and respected, the circle of suspects is wide, as it often will be when the victim is the confidant of an absolute ruler. The two sleuths quickly draft unlikely but able assistants to help them, including a scribe and an observant, multilingual prostitute.
The book offers an extensively researched picture of life in the Roman Empire of 130 AD. Gardiner is equally convincing when writing about imperial politics and succession laws, marriage and sexual customs, philosophy and the theater.
But The Hadrian Enigma—a mix of mystery, comedy, gay and straight romance—is an entertaining read.
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA - an unedited review by historical novelist NAN HAWTHORNE ...
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA | A review by historical fiction author J.R. Tomlin ...
" .... In 130 AD, while accompanying the Emperor Hadrian on a tour up the Nile, the beautiful youth Antinous plunges into the Nile and drowns. Hadrian, near maddened with grief, declares Antinous a god. However, Suetonius just happens to be along on this imperial tour. Already the author of juicy books on contemporary Roman life, he is perfectly placed to investigate this mysterious death, so Emperor Hadrian commands him to investigate and find the murderer within 48 hours or suffer the consequences.
In the imperial compound on the Nile, Suetonius searches for clues. Here, semi-isolated, the bubbling cauldron of the Roman court has been transplanted to a fabulous tent city. Yet, the mystery of Egypt is an ever present backdrop to this baffling death. .... Why was Antinous clad in heavy ceremonial parade armor and weapons when he died? How did he come by a slit on his left wrist and strange marks on his throat? And how can Suetonius unravel all this when the Emperor refuses to let Suetonius even touch the body to examine it? The characterization is vivid and the historicity meticulous in this novel. I enjoyed savoring the characters and setting as Suetonius unraveled the imperial goings on. .... "
See more of J.R. Tomlin's review at her author's blogsite "Writing & More" at : http://jeannetomlin.blogspot.com/
AN UNEDITED REVIEW OF 'THE HADRIAN ENIGMA"....
By a reader down under (New South Wales, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is for: THE HADRIAN ENIGMA: A Forbidden History (Paperback)
George Gardiner's absorbing new book, which focuses on the relationship between the Roman emperor Hadrian and his young paramour, Antinous of Bithynia, quite possibly heralds the thrilling emergence of a new Mary Renault. (As uneven as it is in some places, to my mind it is a big improvement on Margeurite Yourcenar's book on Hadrian from the 1950s).
Gardiner begins his narrative with the discovery of the dead body of the beautiful youth, who has apparently drowned in the Nile. He coopts as his central figure cum narrator the actual historical figure of Suetonius Tranquillus, who is charged by the supreme colonial ruler Hadrian Caesar with the urgent responsibility of uncovering the reasons for, as well as the manner of, the death. Suetonius works night and day as a kind of investigator/ prosecutor and his dogged inquiry drives the plot. The narrative unfolds as a kind of antique murder mystery, then, and one of the book's great strengths is in the well-paced twists and turns of the plot, throwing up a number of suspects and scenarios along the way that keep the reader intrigued until the very end. Gardiner's humour shines through this character, who is forced to carry out his investigation under the double pressure of a pressing deadline (why is Hadrian so intent of winding it all up in such a short time, we wonder) and the threat of execution if he doesn't come up with the answers.
This is compelling writing. Suetonius is a good choice, as he is known for his history of a dozen Caesars, and the author brings him vividly and humorously to life. Indeed, Gardiner skilfully and imaginitively re-works established historical figures and creates a cast of composite characters where necessary to serve his narrative ends. The fact that he can do this convincingly, with such an extraordinary mixture of ethnicities and beliefs, is writing of a high order. The mastery of research is remarkable, not only for Gardiner's command of the details of ethnic artefacts, weaponry, costume, architecture and so on, but also for the complex politics of Roman colonial expansionism in its abrasive encounter with other cultures. The era was marked by a complex intermingling of belief systems, and Gardiner's fictional world is woven from a rich and amazingly detailed fabric. Very occasionally the research seems almost oversupplied but for the most part it serves to underpin his imaginative reconstructions with persuasive authenticity.
Also among the book's strengths are the finely imagined conversations between characters, both historical and concocted, that move the investigation so beautifully along. There are certain set action sequences pieces, too, that are brilliantly staged and paced--the boar hunt, for example, when Hadrian rescues Antinous, and the marvellous climactic scene where Suetonius brings his prosecutorial charges home (albeit uncertainly, with some lines of inquiry that don't pan out).
The only thing that broke the spell for me was Gardiner's occasional jarring choices in language idioms. There's no doubt that the language(s) of the time and place would have been salted with colourful vulgarities, and the dialogue should reflect that, but some of the terms chosen have such strong contemporary associations for us, here at the beginning of the 21st Century, that they they jar and jolt in the reading. `Toyboy' is one example, `getting your rocks off,' `muscular stud' and `gaga' are others that don't ring well to my ear. It's a pity, because sometimes they drop the reader right out of the spell he weaves so skilfully, otherwise.
In contrast, many of the scenes and dialogue move with stately Latinate constructions within a convincing and well-sustained narrative voice. Gardiner has set himself the difficult task of creating a hybrid language that can include both convincing formal language, and everyday vulgarisms, that ring true within his own reconstruction, yet sound right to our contemporary hearing. It's a delicate juggling act and sometimes he drops his balls. (If he had perhaps reserved their use strictly in dialogue, say, to help with characterisation? Perhaps some of his choices might be better realised in a second edition.)
Another of the book's great strengths is hinted at by the book's sub-title. It's a `forbidden history' not simply because Hadrian issues an edict that only the official `party line' should be recorded (and by implication, Suetonius' project of recording events for us to read goes dangerously gainst the edict of his Emperor). It's forbidden history too because Gardiner has constructed a counter-narrative to the centuries of heavily judgemental readings of this iconic same-sex relationship. Positive affirmations of same-sex bonding were exiled in silence as soon as the early Christian commentators started to impose their dominant narratives over all acceptable behaviours and ideals.
In Yourcenar's 50s version, Antinous's moody adolescent pouting makes Hadrian looks like a bit of a fool for dallying with the youth, but Gardiner proposes a heroic reading here that highlights the finer elements of the erastes/eromenos partnering, which was not only tolerated but celebrated in ancient times. For me, this moves the book onto a higher plane than a mere homoerotic titillation and places the relationship where it belongs, in the heroic company of Patroclus/Achilles and the legendary band of Theban warrior-lovers.
Gardiner successfully and daringly recuperates the much-despised and consistently misrepresented ideal of man-to-man love, here based on respect, admiration and the inspiration of noble ideals, as much as the undeniable and enjoyable erotic attraction, which we see only fitful glimpses of among sporting figures and others today. During the continuing culture wars of our own times it's a relief to read this inspiring alternative with its healing potential as an affirmative voice emerging from the diminishing, culturally imposed silence.
In a strange way `The Hadrian Enigma' is reminiscent of E.M. Forster's gay-affirmative novel `Maurice', which Forster was unable to publish during his lifetime. Forster's wistful happy ending for a same sex coupling was unthinkable in the mid-twentieth Century, and even today, it's hard to read such partnering as anything other than morally sinful - such is our pervasive indoctrination by churchmen - or psychologically misdirected (`homosexuality' is still construed as a kind of `failed development' in conventional psychological readings). Certainly such a relationship will still be regarded as second best to the pressing imperative of reproduction. Gardiner has struck a blow with this courageous and convincing re-telling.
So, for me this is a 5 star book for the outstanding and detailed research and the creative work that underpins the imaginative reconstructions; at least 4 stars for its plotting, but only 3 stars for the strange inconsistencies in his prose style. This averages out to a solidly earned 4 stars.
I do hope Gardiner is deep at work on his next book of historical fiction. He certainly has all the skills required.
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Bye-bye for now from George Gardiner's THE HADRIAN ENIGMA news site ...