I have a lot I wanted to say about G. Winston James’s book, Shaming the Devil, but the stories have left me relatively speechless.
First a warning…this is not light reading and I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart. Shaming the Devil is a brutal and disturbing look at individual, familial and societal ideas of sex, desire and the often-unsettling outcomes of those urges. It’s an emotional, erotic thrill ride that leaves the reader no choice but to continue to turn the pages, and it doesn’t let up until the very last one.
The collection starts off with “Uncle”. Written from the point of view of a six year old as he tries to understand the “secret” games his older brother playswith him, and the growing “love” he feels for his uncle Paul. It ends with his religious mother overreacting to the first completely innocent moment in the story, and the outcome of her shock and rage.
“With my uncle holding me like that I can feel my…thing pressed against his stomach. It’s doing like my thumb did after daddy accidentally smashed it in the door. It feels like it’s turning on and off like a lightning bug. I only notice it when I’m playing with my brother, and sometimes when I’m around my uncle.”
I found “Somewhere Nearby” a brilliant mix of sexual cruelty, and violence during the self-examination of one man’s life as he faces death at the hands of two vicious and homophobic men.
“The cold of a gun barrel against my right temple is unlike anything I have ever felt. It is a shunt against rationality. My mind instantly fills with an even deeper dread than I have beenfeeling these last few minutes. Like falling from a high building, I am ill-equipped for the myriad unbearable sensations that may follow if I’m forced to live this particular cruising experience fully conscious to its end.”
There are twelve stories in the collection and like most collections, some stories are better than others, but there’s not one page you won’t want to turn. The author gives each character a unique voice with shocking and alarming honesty. There were several moments where I hadto set the book down and walk away, yet I always returned to resume the relentless thrill ride that Shaming the Devil provided me.
If brutality, sexual cruelty, violence and self-hatred bother you, then this collection is not for you. However, for those of you who can handle these and other honest portrayals of sexual life, than you are in for one hell of a ride.
Reviewed by William Holden