The topic itself is fairly unique - a simple country hick from the southern states gets used as a pawn in the wider plan of the FBI and Naval Intelligence to locate and arrest suspected German spies seeking to use confidential information on the comings and goings of American ships in the Atlantic. That's the wider background to the novel but the story works on a micro level as well. Erich, the European Jewish man on conscription to Naval Intelligence is a rather more complicated and ambiguous character. In Tom Driberg's biography by Wheen there are a few pages of his visit to the US before the war in which he witnesses and comments on the activities of Nazi rallies and supporter meetings in New York.In a visit to Yorkville Driberg commented on the availability of newspapers from Stuttgart and Berlin along with pamphlets of Nazi propaganda so the wider story is based on fact - little known facts perhaps but facts none the less.
Jake's beating death floored me and the ending haunts me.
The story of an innocent, sexually active gay sailor wrangled into working at a brothel in order to ensnare queer German intelligence officers during WW2. While Bram made Juke seem rounded enough to me, and the other characters are duly implicated in their own racism and misconceptions, its still treacherous territory, and as a white man I cannot judge how fair the depiction is. Second, the story is tonally uneven.
I loved it and had to skim ahead for the second time, to make sure my new OTP get through the dangerous bit (the first time I got so involved, I checked Hank was still on the last page), only to see, black on white, that Juke was beaten to death, really killed.
Christopher Brams Hold Tight: A Novel is a curious thing. Hank is placed undercover in a gay brothel with the hopes that some of his clients will be spies, and thus the government can apprehend them and their contacts. Hold Tight makes us question the US government in that time.
Hold Tight is one of my favorites from among Christopher Bram's books -- and I know I'm going out on a limb when I say this, because he's written some very good books, and readers and critics are very divided about Hold Tight. I know of about ten novels by Bram, and he's one of the incredibly rare writers of gay fiction who's had a book actually filmed -- not "optioned" or planned, but actually filmed. (It was Father of Frankenstein, which was filmed as Gods and Monsters, starring none other than Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser!) Hold Tight was only Bram's second novel in print. but I also think Christopher Bram himself would tell you, it was the "safe" gay novel, with "bulletproof" subject matter. But Bram's next book, Hold Tight, took all kinds of risks -- and therefore got all kinds of response! One of the things I liked most about Hold Tight was the way Bram evoked the 1940s. but the same reader/reviewer would tar The Maltese Falcon with the same brush, so I'd be cautious about awarding demerit points to Hold Tight because Bram used the same "device" of the '40s "voice" that worked for Hammet. Also I have a strong feeling the reviewer who calls Hold Tight trashy probably doesn't even know who Hammet is, and has probably never seen a movie made in 1942 -- not some Hollywood reconstruction with CG effects, mind you!) One of the most difficult aspects of the novel -- Bram handles it with aplomb -- is the '40s attitude toward racial differences. I admire Bram for having the courage to tackle this because he must have known some readers would either misunderstand, misconstrue, or be ignorant enough of American history to assume the book is racist (which is sad). For me, the supposed cliches didn't bother me, the "voice" entertained me, I liked Hank Fayette a lot, I know enough about American history to admire how the really delicate matters of racial differences were written; and the end of the book ... I think he did, which is why I'm listing Hold Tight among my favorite novels.
Started reading this on the beach yesterday and I am definitely hooked and intrigued to see where these plots take me.
Condon won an Academy Award for his adaptation.