“It Takes Two” by Elliott Mackle— February, 1949

Mackle, Elliott. “It Takes Two: A Novel”, Alyson Books, 2003.

February, 1949

Amos Lassen

What began as a nice day in 1949 in Fort Myers, Florida suddenly did a complete reversal. Early gun shots at the Royal Plaza Motor Hotel saw two men dead—one white, one black. The white man’s widow rushed the investigation brandishing a gun. Dan Ewing who was sitting in his car should not have been anywhere nearby and was lucky that his friend, police detective Bud Wright saved him. Now we learn that Bud and Dan are not just friends but share a secret relationship. Dan manages the Caloosa Hotel and the Caloosa Club, a very special, secret place that provides its members with a variety of discreet services. The town is not happy about this and Bud isn’t either.

The dead white man we learn is a wealthy car dealer and the dead black man is his wife’s former maid’s husband. The sheriff wants to push the investigation off track and we begin to suspect that this murder/suicide has some ties to the Caloosa Club. We get a look at small town southern life that is dealing with the changing modern age.

Gambling and mixed-race servers are illegal in town and same/sex relations are a felony. Nonetheless Dan and Bud are carrying on a love affair. On the grounds of the Caloosa Hotel a cross was burned and the Klan has assembled on the grounds. Bud and Dan begin their private investigation but Dan has nightmares and these concern him. He is yet to come to terms with his sexuality and the newest crime is a way for him to say hidden. Bud, on the other hand, is fed up with the power structure of the town.

Because the book begins with the murder/suicide we are led to believe that this is what the book is about. This is not the case, however. This is a story about the relationship between Bud and Dan. Dan had been a soldier in the Pacific during World War II and how the job he has was one that he was chosen for. He met Bud at a casual affair and the two became fast friends and then lovers. Dan has no problems with his sexuality but Bud is cautious and still has a girlfriend. The novel is sat at a time in our history when there was little tolerance.

When we meet the two guys, their romance was still young and they both become involved in the investigation of the shooting. Mackle combines his murder mystery with a look at some interesting themes—returning from war, intolerance—the Ku Klux Klan and small town mentality, politics, conservatism, religion and love. Everything comes together under Mackle’s clever hand and the characters are excellently drawn.