“Desert Run”– Love and the Mob


Thornton, Marshall. “Desert Run”, Torquere Press, 2011.

Love and the Mob

Amos Lassen


This is the second book by Marshall Thornton and I must admit that I am a fan. I loved “The Perils of Praline” (reviewed on these pages) and I love “Desert Run” and the two are as different as day and night.

“Desert Run” is set in 1973 in Palm Springs. Our hero, Don Harris, a piano player, is “on the lam”. While in a fight in a bar, he killed the son of a Chicago mobster and knows that he is being looked for. One night a met a god-looking blonde who was in Palm Springs for a convention and the two spent the night together. Little did he know that was the now grown up sister of his best friend. Even worse, she tells her brother where Don is and he is running and looking for a safe house.

By mistake, Don went into a gay bar and gets picked up by a young hunk, Harlan (now how did Thornton know that my best friend and fraternity brother was named Harlan, a name you do not see or hear very much). As Don stays with Harlan and the mob continues after him, he begins to feel something for Harlan who also has problems. Don’s falling for Harlan puts both them in a precarious place as now both of them are in danger. Don is so smitten with Harlan that he steps in to help when Harlan has trouble. Don knows that he has to save Harlan and with that he will be able, perhaps, to save himself.

The book is a bit of a guilty pleasure. I could not stop reading it and I am sure that is because Thornton is such a good storyteller. However, Thornton is clever and he has Don tell the story and as he does, the reader (at least, I did) falls for him. He pulled me into his world and I stayed even with knowing the mob was not far away.

Another interesting aspect of the story is Don’s sexuality. He supposedly is straight but when desperate any port will do and so he hitched up with Harlan. Now Don is not gay but he loved Harlan and there is a lesson here– love really knows no gender. Of course Harlan is super desirable and the two men together are quite the couple. It is interesting to watch how the reader reacts to the two subjects here—loving Harlan and running from the mob. We must remember back some 30 plus year and try to remember what being gay was like back then. We certainly were nowhere near where we are now.

Thornton has a lot going on here—the romance, the lam, being gay and reliving the past. Everything is nicely tied together and does so with wonderful prose. Don and Harlan are perfect examples of how Thornton builds characters and his details about everything are wonderful. Another interesting aspect is that Thornton was able to fully develop his characters and give us a wonderful plot in less than 200 pages and that, in itself, is no easy feat.

Do I have a complaint” Yes I do but it really has nothing to do with the book. I just had a look at the other books Thornton has written and realize that I have some reading to do. Once you start reading Marshall Thornton he pulls you in just as his plots do.