Freeman
by Clare London, contemporary (2009)
MLR Press, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-60820-004-7


Freeman sees author Clare London attempting to adopt a noir approach in its tone and story line. We meet the mysterious Freeman who comes back to an unnamed city for a purpose that only he knows at first. See? This is supposed to be a story that is all "Ooh!" and "Cool!" or something. It isn't long before he is captivated by Kit, who is also too "Ooh! Cool!" to have a last name. Kit is a hustler who services folks that include George Marshall, a man whom Freeman is keeping an eye on for another one of those mysterious purposes that will be revealed as the story progresses.

I end up feeling disappointed about Freeman. All that mysterious build-up in the story has me expecting a dark and violent noir with gritty romantic overtones, sort of like what happens when Quentin Tarantino discovers MLR Press, I suppose, but unfortunately, nothing of that kind happens. What I find here instead is endless maudlin mooning over love and other pretty excuses for angst as the characters wander around, making surly faces and posing prettily. There is not even a single explosion or anything like that. Just another stereotypical tale of an older man lusting after a much younger hustler, the staple story of every low-budget queer flick that goes straight to video every month.

And the characters don't improve matters by being obvious stereotypes. Kit is the damaged tart who naturally needs TLC in order to feel whole again. Ms London falls into the same trap that caught many of her peers by having Kit occasionally bursting into stilted speeches about love and other finer feelings in a manner that feels out of character. As for Freeman, well, he isn't allowed to do much in this story other than to brood and sneer. Meanwhile, the villains are skanky and over the top when it comes to talking the talk, but like the good guys, they also don't have much to do here. Everything is so predictable here.

Perhaps if Freeman has less mooning and pouting and more gratuitous violence and bloodletting instead, this one won't be such a bore of a read. Ms London has a clean prose and she manages to turn Freeman into a somewhat cool fellow despite the fact that the poor man doesn't get to flex his muscles and show the world how bad-ass he really is, but I feel at the end of the day that I have been led by the synopsis and the packaging to expect something that this book isn't.

So, people, adjust your expectations before you read this one. Think moony gay guys pretending that they are in an MTV special featuring lots of "tough" rap songs in the background instead of a genuine noir, and then we'll be alright. Otherwise... well, I know from my experience that playing The Lonely Island's Incredibad CD in the background helps alleviate the doldrums while reading this story.

Rating: 76


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