Imagine that you are “vacationing” in Key West. Normally a music reviewer, you have agreed to write a travel article about Key West for the New York-based newspaper that you work for. You dutifully fly down to Key West, check into an exquisite B&B, and after you wake up your first morning there (before your morning coffee even!), you discover a dead man in the empty black marble swimming pool. What do you do?
Well, if you are the unnamed first person narrator of The Black Marble Pool by Stan Leventhal, you completely place your journalistic responsibilities—and your plans to get laid in one of the few gay Meccas of the 1990s—on hold, and become an amateur sleuth. Although you have no experience solving murders (maybe it was an accident? or possibly a suicide?) you do have an insatiable curiosity, and you know how to ask questions; the other characters trust you, since you have no obvious connection to the victim. However, what starts as a diversion during your working vacation quickly turns into more than you bargained for.
Although this particular murder mystery is short, the pace is brisk: the plot keeps twisting, as no one is at all who they seem. Everyone (the victim, the other guests of the B&B, the B&B owner and pool boy, the closeted police officer assigned to the case) has a secret, and either is living some kind of lie, or lies to the narrator; even the narrator is not above lying to his lover back in New York, or inventing stories about the celebrities he’s “met” as a music critic and sharing them with the other characters. The story (and the narrator) may not be very deep or intense, but it’s all in good fun, like a mini vacation from one’s job (which is exactly how the narrator treats his entire stay in Key West: a break from his job, his relationship, in short, his entire life). Part of the fun is getting a glimpse of Gay life during the early 1990s, after the scourge of the 1980s, and before all of the technological advances that are now ubiquitous and completely taken for granted (never mind wi-fi or smartphones; there isn’t even any mention of the World Wide Web or cell phones).
ReQueered Tales is committed to bringing back into print the “treasure trove of fantastic fiction…notably gay and lesbian mystery, detective and suspense fiction”–especially written during the period of the 1960s through the 90s. To that end, they have begun reprinting series of gay mysteries and thrillers (another Leventhal title is due out in 2020), from forgotten writers as well as lesser-known titles by such names as Felice Pacino and Lev Raphael. So if you find The Black Marble Pool to your liking, they have more titles for you to (re)discover.
So, do you manage to solve the mystery? Do you manage to score with any of the other guests—if so, which ones? Will you meet a cute trick at Woody’s or Streets—or do you make it with the cute police officer? Will you ever write this travel article? And what are you going to tell your lover when you return to New York?
Reviewed by Keith John Glaeske