The Gate by J. S. Cook (review)

Tagline: A gay man sees a seedier, dark side of the wartime effort

7&7 Anthology Book Cover

Vice #2: Anger
Title: The Gate
Author: J. S. Cook
Genre:  Gay Historical (WW II/ Noir)
Format:  Short Story (21 pages)

Series: 7&7 Anthology

Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)

Bonus:   Free on publisher’s site

Rating: 2.75 stars (out of 5)

   (Fans of Noir fiction will enjoy it more.)

DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of J. S. Cook’s short story is the vice of anger.

Two American gay men, working hard at their own businesses in wartime Newfoundland, encounter each other in unpleasant circumstances.  When the new dry cleaner next door blocks alley access to his cafe, Jack storms over and confronts Mark.  Despite the tension, the men grudgingly get to know each other, learning some of the  other’s secrets, one of which they have in common.  The author captures a bit of the gritty flavor of a wartime port city and a realistic reminder of the dangers and opportunities for a gay man in the Second World War. There is also a sudden, surprising flare of the urban American background of one of the main characters.  This is not out of place in a hardscrabble historical, “noir”  story (but likely something of a surprise for those who typically read romances, possibly very unpleasant for some).  The story was a quick (and a bit surprising trip) to the realities, prejudices, and somewhat rough and tumble environment of the era.

As a period piece focusing a gay man in a bit of a hard-edged setting and era, it was an interesting if a bit dark story, worth a read for those who like LGBT noir or historical fiction.  However, as a story about the vice of “anger” this was a “fail” for me, no doubt based on my personal point of view. (I guess one could see the surprise ending as representing some kind of ultimate result of anger, but to me it appeared more as a calculated  “business” move rather than heated or even long-simmering emotion.)

I will say the initial “confrontation” scene had some evocative language, but overall it didn’t

Personal aside: I will say the initial “confrontation” scene had some evocative language, but overall it didn’t register as overly angry to me, let alone as consequences of anger as a vice.   As one who grew up on the south side of Chicago, for me the initial “angry” confrontation seemed just like two guys simply and typically sizing each other up a bit.  If I stretch, based on my time in the upper Midwest (Minnesota and Wisconsin),  I could see some of my “Minnesota” nice friends seeing this as “angry.”  I have seen radically different social temperaments among the various places I have lived, and the social norms in the working class neighborhood of my youth remind me of New York or Philly toughness, which contrasts to what I experienced living in the upper Midwest (generally rather “nice”), in the American South (rather “polite”), or California (rather “laid back”).  In short, what might register as very angry to some barely rises to notice in others (I guess like me).

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