The Rushes by Richard Natale is aptly named: like any Hollywood action blockbuster, it rushes forth at breakneck speed, replete with drama, romance, sex, and humor. Natale, a veteran of the movie industry himself, captures perfectly the frantic, frentic pace of the business, and its ruthless politics and ingrained prejudices as well. The two male leads are Jamie Alford and Carson Thorne: working as an editor of video games and a coffeehouse barista as the novel opens, the two BFFs first met as freshmen at Westford, an exclusive prep school in remote Oregon before entering and graduating from CAL U School of Film. Although they first bonded over their shared sexual orientation, their initial physical relationship is short-lived and eventually becomes superseded by their mutual love of film.
Intent upon someday making films together, Jamie and Carson gradually climb up the Hollywood ladder: the former lands an assistant position at a post-production house, rising to junior editor, while the latter is hired to be first assistant to Zach Corrigan, a volatile producer at Timbuktu Studios. Similarly, their love lives also begin taking off: Carson, normally über-focused on his career, falls fast and hard for Clete, an equally ambitious screenwriter, when he arrives at Timbuktu to pitch a film, whereas Jamie meets Lance, a dashing young producer who is too good to be true. (And even distracting enough to make Jamie forget about his tortured, closeted, and hyper-religious ex Owen. Almost.)
Naturally, the course of true love—or of one’s career trajectory—never did run smooth, especially when the two are so hopelessly entwined. Both Jamie and Carson end up being betrayed by their respective lovers and the business; and like a good buddy flick, both must come to the aid of the other when their professional and personal lives fall apart. They do have help, of course, supported by David Mendoza, a former professor of theirs who not only helps them get their feet in the door, but continues to mentor them. In a business where its members are too competitive to be truly cooperative, David provides a rare model to both Jamie and Carson of how to get ahead in Hollywood without losing one’s soul. (And forgive the spoiler, but I think that it is telling that Jamie and Carson each end up with a partner outside of the industry.)
Amidst the work tragedy, relationship drama, and family dysfunction, at its heart The Rushes is a tale about friendship, and that is what I find so unusual and appealing about it—most M/M stories I read nowadays presume that the two male protagonists will end up into bed together, and that is not the case here. And in a story about the betraying, back-stabbing business that is Hollywood, it is heartening to read that the two men at the center of it not only are friends (without that annoying qualifier “just”), but remain friends throughout.
Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske