Clay, Stephen Bennett Clay. “Looker”, Astria Books, 2007.
“Looker” by Stanley Bennett Clay is a beautiful book which has a universal story and theme—knowing that you have found love. Brando Heywood is in his 40s and is an entertainment lawyer. He is very good looking and has everything but love. His ten year relationship recently ended and he has lived the life of a monk for two years. He lives sexually through his best friend Omar who is very sexually active. He is not a happy man.
His career suddenly takes a turn when he is asked to defend a good friend who murdered her rapist. To keep her out of the penitentiary he has to work very hard mainly because the rapist is a war veteran and highly decorated. All the while his friend Omar is involving himself with youngsters because he realizes that he is in love with Brando and the young boys replace, temporarily, the feelings he has.
The story resounds with loss and regrets as well as love and uses the theme of redemption admirably. It is not often that we get books about the African American gay scene and this one engrosses.
Clay’s prose has style and he gives us an erotic and dramatic look at the quest for love. The themes of self-loathing and self-recrimination help the plot unfold beautifully and as our characters, which are carefully and unforgettably drawn by Clay, reflect upon their lives, we get a deeply personal look at what African American gay men feel. Even thought Brando and Omar realize that true love has always been right there in front of them, the journey to that realization is filled with some of the most memorable phrases of the English language.
Clay’s descriptions are incredible—he paints a scene with words and his characters seem to be sitting right next to you as you read the book. Both Brando and Omar are very real as are all of the other characters including Miss Zara and Ramon Alexander. The novel is filled with emotion and the writing is very sensual and his courtroom dialog is right on the button. There is also a subplot on the “down low” practices of the community and he confronts the issue of monogamy.
This is one of those rare books that should not be missed. It has a little of everything but it is the prose and the story that make it so good.