The Back Passage – James Lear

TBPThis must be the most scurrilous book that our group has discussed and, amazingly, was chosen by a young member who usually looked down his nose at silly or over-erotic books.

Another member couldn’t read it on the bus because of the nude man posing on the cover.

The title refers to a rabbit warren of staircases for servants in a large country house and numerous sexual encounters take place therein. Burroughs likes to watch

There’s a murder investigated by detective who says that he is ruled by two passions – cock and crime and that he ‘Followed my prick instead of examining the evidence.’

There’s the college jock who got far more cock than he would by being effeminate. Then again, it is 1925 when straight men didn’t get it from their girlfriends.

Leonard Eagle has a hypnotic sneer on his face. Men still wore Brilliantine.

Games include communal pissing, Roundheads and cavaliers. Were the municipal architects trying to facilitate sodomy? ‘Thank God for the obedience of the British working classes.’ What do you expect when you bring the lower orders into the house?

There is much implausibility:  sex in a police station, bellowing in orgasm with no fear of being discovered, police using sex as torture, a body dragged in different direction, someone in handcuffs yet able to reaches for the sergeant’s testicles and perineum, a policeman with a gun.

There are some unusual, maybe pretentious, words:  Glabrous = free from hair, smooth-skinned; Maenad = votary of Bacchus

However, there is a serious indictment of the stereotypes of the period: ‘All you have to do is whisper the words queer and murderer and an innocent man will go to his death.’

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