Friday, July 13, 2012
Review: It Takes Two by Elliott Mackle
U.S. Navy veteran, Lieutenant Dan Ewing has suffered from survivors’ guilt and nightmares ever since he lost his best buddy and sexual partner of 18 months when his ship was sunk by a submarine and the majority of the men were lost at sea. In Spencer 'Bud' Wright, he finally seems to have found the man whose company helps him find solace. Unfortunately, Bud fights the reality of their attraction and relationship. Sergeant Bud Wright, veteran and ex-sharpshooter, is now a Lee County detective. He and Dan are having what he thinks of as a friendship with occasional sexual benefits. Bud is not beneath playing a little grab-ass, but a homosexual? No. He is confused and scared of the consequences, but most of all afraid 'mixing it up' with Dan might be more than just the fulfillment of a teen-age fantasy. What poor deluded Bud doesn't understand is that sooner or later Dan always gets what he wants.
Managing the Caloosa Hotel with its private club where gambling, drinking and loose behaviors are only acceptable behind closed doors becomes a dangerous proposition for Dan, especially after he inadvertently becomes involved in one of Bud's murder investigations. In a hotel room located at the edge of 'Colored Town,' two men are found shot: a colored soldier and a white man. The white man is husband to the daughter of the most influential man in town. All hell breaks loose when the white man's widow shows up and shoots up the scene, almost shooting Dan in the process. Bud and Dan get mixed up in a whydunit that involves powerful players, bigotry, the KKK, civil rights advocates, and corruption.
It Takes Two is written in the first person narrative from Dan's perspective. In Mackle's hands the first person point of view becomes quite effective as he creates a quick, intimate connection between the reader and the narrator's emotions. The result is that he reeled me in from page one. However, (and this has become one of my favorite aspects of Elliott Mackle's writing style), Bud and the secondary characters, as seen through Dan's point of view, are just as fleshed out as Dan is himself.
The story must be read and the characters viewed from a historical and not a contemporary perspective. These characters have just been through war, seen the world and experienced situations that vastly changed their lives and their points of view. Yet, with few exceptions, when they return home America remains much the same as before these soldiers went to war, particularly in places like Fort Myers. The time is right after World War II and Mackle certainly succeeds by using the right historical touches and creating an atmosphere that transports the reader to place and time. Personally, I love the way language is consistently used throughout to maximize all of the above.
Mr. Mackle utilizes the whydunit aspect of the story as a tool to enhance the historical elements, Southern atmosphere, and to develop the budding romance between Dan and Bud. Mackle also weaves in the subject of PTSD seamlessly and with authority, and by using ex-servicemen and women as central and secondary characters gives this story a wonderful military-on-leave atmosphere outside of the military environment that feels true to time and place, making It Takes Two an excellent read.
Last year, I fell a little in love with Elliott Mackle's writing style after reading Captain Harding's Six Day War because of the way he drew me into the story, but along the way found myself falling rather hard for his characters. Fortunately for me It Takes Two was reprinted and re-released because this time I fell rather hard for both his writing style as well as with his wonderful characters -- I loved Dan and Bud! This is a book I will re-read, so it is definitely highly recommended.
Category: LGBT - Gay Historical/Romance
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/June 1, 2012
Source: ARC from author
Visit Elliott Mackle here.