Tuesday, 5 July 2016


His Steadfast Love and Other Stories
Author: Paul Brownsey
Publisher: Lethe Press
Genre: Gay Stories
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

In the world of Paul Brownsey, God is a camp old queen trying to split up a gay couple. Judy Garland did not die in 1969 and instead ended up wowing her fellow residents in a Scottish care home on karaoke night. A fan of musical theatre steals an Irving Berlin lyric as a Valentine's poem and spends decades contriving to hide the theft from his lover. After a one-night stand, two men maintain a distant awareness of each other's lives for a quarter of a century and then face the question: are we in love?

A couple find that over the twelve days of Christmas they experience everything that could possibly happen in a love affair, at least as recorded in popular songs from Some Enchanted Evening to For the Good Times. A gay couple discover Queen Elizabeth II injured on a hillside near her Balmoral castle and are torn between star-struck fawning and lecturing her on gay rights.

Often playful, Scottish author Paul Brownsey's stories in His Steadfast Love and Other Stories cast an imaginative eye on gay life-but, make no mistake, they deal with the life most gay men will recognise, in which meeting lovers and sustaining relationships go alongside the uneasy terrain of acceptance, both internal and external. And as a former philosophy professor at Glasgow University, Brownsey knows how our everyday lives embody the big questions, but he shows this with a light touch and dark humour.

I thought I would do the decent thing and start reviewing at the beginning, but find I'm interested in the title story, His Steadfast Love too much to overlook it as being 98 pages down and waiting. Most of the story plays out like a script with an argument starting from Jamie who tells his partner he has told Robert he's going to his party with him. Alex doesn't feel like going, and Jamie sees it as he is scared of commitment. There is a chance that Jamie might end their relationship, but over such a triviality? Who knows. Paul has Alex and Jamie as a comical couple who play off of each other in the best possible way.

Of all the things to read about in stories, I never thought I would hear about Mr Kipling's Deep Filled Bramley Apple Pies, but in Tea at Balmoral, it features along with an injured Queen Liz being looked after by two men; Dennis and Robin as Her majesty had suffered a slight sprain while walking on her estate. When she invites them to tea and pies, they think she will understand when the reveal they are both a couple, but next day the article is reported in the newspaper and they are not even mentioned.

Crispian and His Kind. It's war time and Hartmut has called Crispian from Berlin to remind him they had an affair there. He also mentions that he has news Berlin will fall unless he can send a message to Chamberlain that eventually Germany will leave Poland. Crispian remembers the time he had with Hartmut, but keeps it from his wife. Another thought occurs that his wife suspects they were more than just friends. Paul delivers a solid story of a man who wanted love but the memories they had together are marred by the coming of war.

In Damage Enough, Martin has an infatuation with Rajiv, a muslim youth he sees around a lot. One day he gets beaten-up and Martin watches the carnage, only calling for the police when it looks like he might die. Rajiv might live, but the outcome of Martin saving him might come across as creepy.

Paul doesn't mind creating stories with punch, wit or those that can make the reader feel uneasy. These take place anywhere and have characters anyone could know. The difference is we could, after reading these stories, want to know the characters if only for a moment.

His Steadfast Love and Other Stories is a great look into a writer I immediately wanted to know more about, and search for more books by him.