“Boystown 4: A Time for Secrets” by Marshall Thornton— Late Summer, 1982

Thornton, Marshall. “Boystown 4: A Time for Secrets”, MLR Press, 2012.

Late Summer, 1982

Amos Lassen

I first read Marshall Thornton’s three Boystown series about two years ago and became a fan on the spot. Now he returns with a full length mystery about private detective Nick Nowak and I see that my feeling about his writing is reinforced and more so. Nick is in the midst of a case involving finding the lost lover of a retired man and what he soon learns is that he is in the middle of an old murder case which is tied to a man who plans to be the next mayor of Chicago. At just the same time, Nick’s lover, Bert, has formed a friendship with an ambitious and young reporter which gives Nick reason to think about where their relationship is headed.

I am amazed at what I find in Thornton’s writing and I learned early on that it is the mysteries in the series and not the romance that moves the stories forward. Thornton has created a very well character in Nick who is a bit complex and plenty intense. He is not a master sleuth but a man who knows how to use what he has both physically and mentally. He is the character that propels the plot and he works hard and loves hard. A Polish ex-cop who lives in Chicago’s, Nick is a man who is dealing with the new sense of gay pride that is emerging in America and it is through him that we get a look at the gay community; of men who are proud of who they are.

Thornton also deals with AIDS and we see as the horrible epidemic that we lived through and the way that the writer does this is to have Nick realize that his partner, an older gay cop, is ill with the disease and while Nick is worried about him, he does not stop having unprotected sex which illustrates how little we knew about AIDS at first and it took deaths for us to realize that something must be done.

Thornton’s dealing with the murder as a look at the oppression of gay men is handled with flair and while the story is complicated and we read of corruption and lack of morality.

Nick gives us a first person account of the story and he establishes the setting and time and the fact that It is set in the beginning of the AIDs epidemic makes it a fascinating yet sad read. I will refrain from giving any details about the plot for fear of writing a spoiler but you should know that Thornton was up for a Lambda Literary Award for his earlier Nowak series so that should let you know that he is indeed a writer worth reading.