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Caffinated and pacy, we meet the whimisical Leda as he makes his way around 1960s London. Existential, whimsical, poetic.
Why we love it
It's rare to hear from a working-class queer writer in 1960s literature, and I loved the insight into Leda's life. His days are measured by cups of coffee, cups of tea, and the favours and shillings they cost him. We meet him in his 20s, an existential, whimsical young man harbouring an unrequited love for a married straight man, and glimpse a series of days in his life.
"It's mid morning. Cool. Not many coffee bars open. I, the brave one, god of any telephone kiosk, walk down Dean Street, see the man of the day; raincoat, shoulders round, hair black, falling out; heavenly blue eyes cast down into his own...
"It's mid morning. Cool. Not many coffee bars open. I, the brave one, god of any telephone kiosk, walk down Dean Street, see the man of the day; raincoat, shoulders round, hair black, falling out; heavenly blue eyes cast down into his own hell. Bold as brass I cross the road stopping dead in front of him. He raises his eyes, so sadly that I love him for it." Leda is lost. Bouncing from job to job, from coffee bar to house party, he spends his days watching the hours pass and waiting for the night to arrive. Trysts in the rubble of a bombsite follow hours spent in bedsits with near strangers, as Leda is forced to find intimacy in unusual places. Semi-homeless and estranged from his given family, he relies on the support of his chosen one: a community of older gay men and divorced women who feed and clothe him, gently encouraging him to find a foothold in a society which excludes him at every turn. And then there is Daniel, a buttoned-up man of the Lord, for whom Leda nurses an unrequited obsession - one which sends him spiralling into self-destruction. With a foreword by Huw Lemmey, this newly discovered, never-before-published novel - which pre-dates the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 - is a portrait of lost a Soho, as well as an important document of queer, working-class life, from a voice long overlooked.
Peninsula Press is an independent publisher of boundary-pushing fiction and essays.