"A Dangerous Man" from Anne Brooke has been a long time in the making, to get it to the shelves of published novels available for purchase. I came across Anne some years ago and she was clearly someone who simply just had to write. She was working on "ADM" as she calls this novel, then. She’s also written other novels – "Pink Champagne and Apple Juice" being one of them – and seen them into print – go to her website, link above, to find out more and download more.
But, "A Dangerous Man" is the dark side of Anne’s writing. There is no sweet apple flavoured fizz to be had here. This is about a hard life on the periphery of society, a chance break, a look at love in its many forms and the catastrophic breakdown of what are proved to be, ultimately, perhaps, tenuous links in the homosexual community.
This is not at all what you might expect from this writer, and that is what adds to the intrigue. Can Anne get this part of the world right, when it comes to depiction, narrative and setting? What can a Surrey-based "Mrs" deliver here?
In a nutshell: Michael Jones is living a hard life in London. He’s an artist waiting for the right moment, but in the mean time he’s ventured into male prostitution, to make ends meet. Then, along comes an opportunity for his art to be featured and he grabs it with no reservations and makes a success of it. He also falls in love with his wealthy City-based sponsor and eventually discovers that the attraction is mutual, leading to a relationship. But behind this lies his past and his prostitution, things he will seek to hide at all costs. Someone in his past remains in his present and piles on the pressure. It’s just a question of time before Jones breaks and his new world erupts…
Written in a conversational style and from Michael’s point of view, the narrative has a pace to it. Ultimately, it’s modern parable with morality at its core. There’s a feel from the outset that Michael’s story will end in tragedy as he lives a life and pursues his dreams with much baggage and blackmail sitting on his shoulders. Tension is strong, with the knowledge that it’s just a question of time before something goes disastrously wrong in Michael’s world.
This is a very sad story. Blurbs and reviews so far indicate that it’s Michael’s ambition that drives this plot. I disagree. For me the drive was blackmail, with someone so full of jealousy and hell bent on not being able to entertain another (Michael) who simply wished to improve his life and move on, troubled though he is. It’s about having a "peer" who thinks they are really superior standing in the way at every opportunity. It’s also about finding success in a new world, but also finding that those already well established within it, don’t want to accept you.
Moving onwards and upwards in life and society can lead to tragedy. You will find the embodiment of that in this sad tale that propels into a tragic dénouement, with a twist that will contract your abdominal muscles and lead to a verbally expressed "Oh no!" moment of great sadness. A parable for the 21st century, I think Anne is asking "Have we really moved on and buried our prejudices?" Anne suggests not in this novel, but I believe you have to ask the question of yourself through reading. And it’s a good question to ask yourself, when it comes to morality. Is Michael really the dangerous man or is that the role of his nemesis? I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusion.
Interesting too, to ask these questions in the week that we finally have confirmation of the end of the Blair era, here in the UK. After so much legislation that attempts to destroy our prejudices and assist in the makings of an all-inclusive society – have things really changed and is opportunity really open for all? Anne’s tale of Michael’s resolve and the ultimate tragedy that ensues may lead you to think that nothing has really changed in this arena. But again, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusion.