THE SCAR LETTERS The victim of a brutal hate crime, never resolved, confronts his assailants eighteen years later, courting both violence and romance...
Beautifully written...a valuable player in the social battles today.
-Elise Wallace, The Editorial Freelancers Association
There is certainly no question that Richard Alther's new novel, The Scar Letters, transcends the genre of gay fiction, but to label it 'literary fiction' could too easily dissuade a sensible reader from picking it up, reading a few pages, and then sitting back with a sigh of satisfaction, knowing that here is a really good book.
The Scar Letters is narrated by Rudy Dallmann, a gay man in his forties, who was brutally attacked and raped some twenty years earlier, and has lived in semi-isolation ever since. Forced by his longtime and closest friend, Tex, to confront the issue, Rudy sets about in his own quietly determined fashion to reconcile his past with his present and hopes for the future. Rudy is not the sort to 'assert himself into everything dead-center,' but he is an honest man, with himself and others-not a small accomplishment in a gay or any other world.
This is a very compelling story-a universal story-difficult to believe anyone could have told it better. Alther handles narrative and characters like a truly gifted film director or cinematographer. We are in Rudy's head, but the camera sweeps, darts, settles, focusing on one aspect and then another of the well-developed supporting cast. Location and action merge effortlessly into memorable scenes, and the often troubling past is filtered through the emerging present leaving narrator and reader (as Rudy says after hearing Mahler) hushed, drained, somehow elevated. There is never an awkward sentence or a sentiment that disappoints.
Alther intersperses his story with accounts-often just a few sentences, a full chapter in one instance-of the horrifying treatment homosexuals have encountered throughout recorded history. There is nothing heavy handed about this; it is simply there to remind the reader that it has always been there and for a variety of reasons. At this particular time, as the country grapples with the issue of same-sex marriage, Alther's calm recitation of this horrendous heritage should certainly give pause to those of us who have never lived with this kind of fear.
-Bookreview.com considers The Scar Letters a must-read.
RICHARD ALTHER'S first two novels are THE DECADE OF BLIND DATES and SIEGFRIED FOLLIES. He is also a Master's Swimmer and exhibiting painter, living in Vermont and Southern California with his husband Ray Repp.