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After Christmas Eve
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General Fiction Discussions > After Christmas Eve by Michael Rupured

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Ulysses Dietz | 1608 comments This is not a romance, although it is about the redemptive power of love.

To be poetic, this book is like the description of a flower blooming in the desert. The desert is a metaphor for the lives of gay men in America in the 1960s, when we were essentially criminals who did our best to stay under the radar and live our lives in peace.

Set in last days of 1966 and the first months of 1967, After Christmas Eve begins with a tragic suicide and a heinous murder; two events that send the comfortable life of Philip Potter into a tailspin.

Philip is a curator at the Smithsonian (which is why I got tagged to write the review), and he is a lover/protector of a beautiful younger man whom he rescued from the streets. Philip has managed—as many gay men did in the 1960s—to find happiness and fulfillment, supported at work by people who don’t judge him for his private life. He also has the support of his married sister Mary. For Philip Potter, the harsh realities of being gay have been held at bay by his own wise choices and sheer good fortune.

Then, on Christmas Eve, it all goes to hell.

Rupured’s narrative takes us through Philip’s journey, from the tragedy that shatters his holiday and his life into an uncertain future where he is under the full scrutiny of the law and a hostile world. It is a mystery/thriller about a serial killer, and a tale of survival in the face of ignorance and prejudice.

I don’t want to give away any of the plot here, because it is fascinating and compelling, and all too familiar even today. There are times when Rupured’s writing seems a awkward, but the cast of characters he gives us allowed me to forget any complaints I might have had.

Aside from Philip himself, we meet Beau Carter, a southerner hiding from his family and desperately afraid of losing his job. He appears as a white knight at Philip’s darkest hour, but transforms into something less shining and more complicated as the story evolves. George Walker and Tripp Clarkson, two married gay men, each play crucial roles in Rupured’s narrative, and each offers us a different perspective on the subterfuges gay men have adopted to survive.

On the flip side is Shirley White, a lone black sergeant in the Washington DC police force, fighting her own battles as a non-white woman in a profoundly biased profession. As she tries to make sense of the killings of half a dozen young gay men, she has to come to terms with both Philip’s potential role in the murders, and her own feelings about homosexuals.

Like Michael Rupured, I came out at twenty in the late 1970s—technically in 1975, but to my family in 1976. It is hard for anyone under 40 today to understand the profound changes that had already happened in terms of gay life in America between 1966 and 1976. As a child of the post-Stonewall era (or, I suppose a teenager of the post-Stonewall era), I knew that I faced prejudice and all sorts of hurdles by living opening as a gay man. But by the time I was in college in the mid-1970s, things were exponentially better for us than they had been just a decade earlier. For me, it was all about possibility.

What this means is that, for me, After Christmas Eve is a story that sits on the leading edge of a moment of change in America. The disquieting murder mystery is really just the outer layer of this book’s meaning. The book becomes a microcosmic look at that time in our country’s history when things finally began to change for the better, when that first hopeful, brightly-colored bloom unfolded its petals in the desert, warmed by the sun of a brighter future.

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PaperMoon | 665 comments Oh this does sound good - on my TBR list immediately. Thanks Ulysses.

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