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[223] Prime Time – Douglas Dean

“He had almost forgotten the intoxication of such moments, it had been so long since anything like this had happened to him. God, he thought, this is just what I need. A lusty affair. Not just a one-night stand but a real affair. His blood rushed..” [80]

Consider that Douglas Dean had been a fixture of the theater scene in San Francisco, and that he had been a columnist and feature writer for The Advocate, I’m a late boomer to his (posthumous) literary glories. Under the pen name of Douglas Dean, Dean Goodman published twelve paperback novels and Prime Time is his last, released in 1988.

What separates Prime Time from other gay paperbacks is Dean’s knack of instilling in a linear plot passages of lyrical and poetic beauty. To be honest, what kind of gay fiction would it be without sex scenes? But Dean has handled these scenes with grace and moderation. The flow of intimate moments is so natural and reasonable, erotic but not lewd. It springs from the heart. Prime Time indeed explores the human condition of gay men.

His earlier instincts had not been wrong. He and Craig O’Brien had exchanged subliminal messages during their first meeting, and the messages they exchanged today were even stronger. [80]

Once again Eric felt the surge of power. He was amazed at the passion which this man awakened in him, welling up like a furious flood clamoring for release behind a concrete dam. [141]

Set in San Francisco in the mid 80s, a few years into the regan administration, the novel chronicles the story of three friends: Eric, Albert and Kentucky. An actor, a novelist, and a playwright, respectively, who still have dreams of scuuess and new height in their career. While the book touches on many literati, art, and gay scenes across America with flashbacks of the men’s lives, the main focus is Eric Chamberlain, whose acting career has been stagnant and underestimated. His frustration with life’s most mundane, like coping with Social Security that might go bust, and battling with retarded management of a dyfunctional public transit agency, doesn’t seem unfamiliar even today, 20 years later. At work he has to defend himself against treacherous professional enemies who out of jealousy thrive on attacks and destruction in order to discredit him.

He felt as if he were a character in a story by Edgar Allan Poe, trapped in a room without doors and the walls of the room were closing in on him, coming nearer and nearer until they would suffocate him and crush the life out of him. [101]

In the midst of all these is a soul searching process that would eventually lead to an understanding of self-worth. The title Prime Time, after all, is pun-intended. It bestows a sense of urgency to seize the moment to love and to be loved. The witty prose explores how people with different moral values and outlook in life have to negotiate their difference, even to compromise in order to achieve success in relationship. Between physcial and emotional fidelity, there ought to be a balance that would make a relationship feasible. It’s a fairly new concept to me who is more concervative when it comes to exclusivity. Dean, however,does have a point about taking a chance in what might be a lifetime happiness.

315 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

7 Responses

  1. It sounds like a book that would apply to just about anyone, and could even change the way you look at life. Great review!

  2. I am intrigued by the sentence, “Between physcial and emotional fidelity, there ought to be a balance that would make a relationship feasible.” Sounds like it would be interesting to read!

  3. I didn’t know he had a “new” book out in 1988. He stopped writing novels in late 70s and the ones I have are way back in times.

    I read an article about him a couple years ago. He had lived in a small, shag-carpeted, rent-controlled apartment on Geary Street for over 30 years. From knickknacks to chiming clock, surely everything here has a story to tell about his seven decades as a man of the theatre. I’m very interested in reading this book.

  4. I’m very interested in this one. His words are universal…we all have felt passionate about someone.

  5. This book sounds extremely interesting. I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on it. Thanks for the great review.

  6. Thanks Matt. I’ve quietly enjoyed reading your site for a few years now. I’ve not heard of this author before and look forward to reading this book. Have you or any of your readers read Wingmen by Ensan Case. I have a paperback published by Avon in 1979. I’m wondering if anything is know about this author.

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