NEXT : DISCOVER ONE OF HISTORY'S MOST-CELEBRATED REAL LIFE ANCIENT-WORLD ROMANCES ...
OPINIONS OF "THE HADRIAN ENIGMA" - quotes from 23 USA & UK Amazon readers ...
JANE (Canada), at Amazon USA
"...I recommend it to any historical fiction fan, especially any fan of the redoubtable Mary Renault. ..."
J.R. Tomlin, author of historical fiction, at :- http://jeannetomlin.blogspot.com/
"Five stars ... a tour de force ..."
Elisa Rolle, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer, USA & UK, & at : http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/1092070.html
" ... an absorbing new book ... compelling writing ... action sequences that are brilliantly staged & paced ... on a higher plane than mere homoerotic titillation ... courageous & convincing ..."
Reader Down Under (Australia), at Amazon USA
"... extensively researched picture of life in the Roman Empire ... a mix of mystery, comedy, gay & straight romance - is an entertaining read ..."
Laura Staley, Historical Novels Review, USA, at :-
"... an age-old love story with a twist ... an unexpected delight ... his storyline hooked me immediately ..."
Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson of READER VIEWS, Austin TX, USA
"... You will feel engaged and challenged ..."
Nan Hawthorne, author Beloved Pilgrim, at Amazon USA
"... extremely readable ... it's a page turner ... Gardiner has written an interesting & gripping story ..."
Kim at http://www.desicritics.org/ India
"... Five Stars ... a compelling crime mystery ... a hard book to put down ..."
Terence Charters, Hobart, Australia, at Amazon USA
"... An adventure through Hadrian's world. The story is easy to read and full of the homoeroticism that we love about this era. ..."
P. Novotny, London, at Amazon UK
"... a definitive Five Star read for me ..."
Aleksandr Voinov, UK, reviewer at Speak Its Name
"Five Stars ... A masterful recreation of Ancient Rome ... the historical details are a delight ... characters are outlined in a vivid way which is like meeting old friends ... "
Ernest Gill, Hamburg, at Amazon USA & UK
"Five Stars ... as a reimagining of the Hadrian-Antinous relationship in the context of the age it is fascinating."
Muriel Perkins, Texas, at Amazon USA
" ... this is a novel about the nature of love ... but this is far from just being a gay romance. ..." Kit Moss, historical author, at :- http://kitmossreviews.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/the-hadrian-enigma-forbidden-history-by.html
"A truly exceptional book on 'What Greek Love" is all about ..."
John R. Shelton at Amazon USA
"Five Stars. I so enjoyed this book. Highly recommend it ... "
NOTE: ***Amazon USA's book or ebook purchase site with its 22 reader's reviews (twelve awarding Five Stars for excellence!) can be read in full by clicking on :- http://www.amazon.com/Hadrian-Enigma-Forbidden-History/product-reviews/0980746906/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA: A Forbidden History
(C) George Gardiner
ISBN13: 978-0-9807469-1-4 (at Amazon USA, UK, Europe, Australia etc) in 498-page paperback or Kindle ebook.
The scene: ancient Rome, 130 years after Christ yet two centuries prior to Christianity being legal. Caesar Hadrian is the popular ruler of a vast pagan empire at the height of its power & wealth.
Hadrian, one of Rome's "five good emperors" searches for & eventually locates the love of his life .. Antinous, an elite Greek athlete, huntsman, & cavalry cadet. They become 'companions' under the ancient Greco-Roman mentoring tradition of an erastes (mentor) & his eromenos (student).
During an imperial pleasure tour of Egypt Antinous is discovered dead in the River Nile. Hadrian is distraught. Is the death a drunken prank gone wrong, suicide, murder, or something far more sinister? Hadrian assigns historian playboy Suetonius Tranquillus to investigate.
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA is the outlawed record of Caesar's investigation into one of history's most suspicious fatalities. It reveals more than Hadrian may want to know, or wants others to know. Set in a society increasingly reflecting facets of our own times, it portrays an era of torrid relationships, raging ambition, wealth inequalities, & uninhibited morals within a severely macho culture of honor, shame, pride & prejudice.
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COOL GAY STUFF now posts current miscellaneous selections in both columns ...
Thursday, September 29, 2016
---- two brief opener pars from an extended opinion-piece by Julie Moreau PhD at NBC News (USA), 26 September 2016 :-
'This election season has been marked by a significant amount of attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the issues that affect them. ....
.... While in certain battlegrounds states, LGBTQ voters might help tip the scale red or blue, nationally the LGBTQ population -- about 5 percent of registered voters -- is much smaller than other historically marginalized groups, such as African Americans and Latinos. And despite Trump's insistence that he is the real friend to "the gays," if history (or recent polls) is any indicator, Clinton has the LGBTQ vote shored up. So, why all the fuss? ....'
---- see more of Julie Moreau's perceptive view at www.nbcnews.com at :-
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
---- a new impressionistic video-collage to whet your appetite for visiting this most elegant of cities, published 22 September 2016 :-
Now for a change of pace :- for those of you taking seasonal holidays in the early Fall, you can't do much better (especially if you've never been there before?) than spend an idyllic week or more in the most distinctive urban environment of them all : Paris, France.
At the tail-end of summer, in late-September/early-October this city - Paris - really shines. It's a grand metropolis where twenty centuries of tumultuous history underpin a rich classic culture, heroic architecture, innovative artistry, a uniquely seething urbanity, leading-edge modernity, and a sophisticated lifestyle (let alone the obsession with food and wine), all come together to impress even the most picky of tourists across all price-ranges.
Complete with its own gay scene (especially in the colorful inner-city district of Le Marais), Paris and its denizens are very easy on the eye too.
For proof, visit the elegant new 2'30" YouTube video "impression" of Paris Today in the right-hand column, or alternatively visit it online at YouTube at :-
(Don't forget to come back to COOL GAY STUFF afterwards.)
Monday, September 26, 2016
---- a 2mins30sec revelation of fantastic ski skills, including by 'out' US gay ski-icon Gus Kenworthy, published 13th September 2016 at YouTube (with thanks) ...
One day of filming in the terrain park at Perisher Ski Resort in New South Wales, Australia (inland south of Sydney) with skiers Gus Kenworthy and Øystein Bråten.
Naturally, there's snow ... while it's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it's winter in the Southern's Australia.
---- two brief excerpts from an extended essay by Brack Thompson at Washington Blade (USA), 23 September 2016 :-
'.... What issues surrounding mental health are of particular importance to gay men?
Generally, LGBTQ individuals are three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. Additionally, gay men experience identity issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide ideation, substance abuse and body dysmorphia, among others. ....
.... There’s a dynamic between gay men and heterosexual/religious communities. That is, there’s a sense of wanting to remain acceptable within the eyes of a majority that had recently rejected us. This may be changing as younger generations enter into adulthood. However, I do feel as if many of us expect to face homophobia or discrimination at some point. Whether this makes us sensitive, defensive or want to seem impressive, I’m not sure. But there’s something there that has an effect on our mental health. ....'
---- see more of Brack Thompson's interesting summary at www.washingtonblade.com at :-
Friday, September 23, 2016
---- opening phrases from a substantial report by Orie Givens at The Advocate (USA), 22 September 2016 :-
'From art to protest, the inextricable ties between black life and LGBT life are an “integral part” of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. (See pic in right-hand column.)
It shouldn’t be a surprise that talking about African-American history includes lessons about black LGBT people, and now that history is on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, opening this weekend.
“It’s difficult to tell the story of African-American history and culture without acknowledging the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans who cover a spectrum of identities and experiences, including gender identities and orientations,” curator Aaron Bryant tells the Center for Black Equity.
"Our goal is to tell the story of America’s history through an African-American lens, and so the museum embraces and celebrates the fact that black communities are diverse, as is American culture and history.” ... '
---- see more of this revealing article by Orie Givens at www.advocate.com/race at :-
Thursday, September 22, 2016
---- the opening pars from a news report by AFP (Agence France-Presse), 22 September 2016 :-
'UNITED NATIONS, United States — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday warned countries that criminalize homosexuality they were “bucking the tide of history,” during the first UN high-level meeting on LGBT rights.
Held on the sidelines of the General Assembly, the meeting was attended by US Vice President Joe Biden and leaders from some 20 countries defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide.
Ban said it was an “outrage” that hundreds are killed in anti-gay violence every year and millions “live their lives in the shadow of discrimination and disapproval.” .... '
---- Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/817801/un-holds-first-leaders-meeting-on-lgbt-rights#ixzz4L2x6CCQZ
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
---- the introductory pars from an informative summarizing essay by San Francisco psychotherapist, Tom Moon, at the San Francisco Bay Times (California, USA), 21st September 2016 :-
'Blake Spears and Lanz Lowen have been together in an open relationship for over 40 years, and in past columns I’ve reported on their in-depth research on the viability of long-term open relationships. In the past, they write, most research on gay male couples has shown that approximately two-thirds of long-term male couples who have been together for five years or more are non-monogamous.
But they have just released a new study of younger gay men, aged 18–40, called “Choices: Perspectives of Younger Gay Men on Monogamy, Non-monogamy and Marriage,” which suggests that an historic change has been occurring in the attitudes and behavior of gay men in relationships.
“The most striking finding of this study,” they report, “is younger gay men’s greater inclination toward monogamy. We see this in the overwhelming number of relationships that are monogamous (86%). In addition, 90% of the single younger gay men were seeking monogamy. This is a sea change compared to older generations of gay men.”
Even in a cohort of interview subjects recruited from the hook-up site Grindr, a whopping 81% of the 325 single men reported that they were seeking monogamy. .... '
---- see more of Tom Moon's informative report on this phenomenon at the San Francisco Bay Times, plus connecting source links, at :-
---- the defining phrases from a (very useful) report by Adam Dupuis at Instinct online magazine (USA), 17 September 2016 :-
'When you get someone into your pleasure palace, do you go all vanilla or balls to the wall? Do you rely on someone else to take the lead and show you new things or do you have all the tricks of the trade memorized?
Have you and your loved one become routine in the bedroom? Well there's an app for that.
If you need some inspiration when it comes to your loved life, check out the 69 Positions app and see what happens. The app has 26 fully illustrated positions (each with written descriptions as well) in the free version, and 113 in the paid version.
The app is for couples and by the looks of it when I downloaded it, not threesomes of foursomes, and it's for straight couples. But sex is sex and holes are holes so I am sure it would work for us. .... '
---- see more of Adam Dupuis' deeply personal research into "Sixty Nine Positions" at his report's linked graphic (at Instinct) at its url address of :-
Monday, September 19, 2016
--- two selected introductory pars from an extended essay by Jan Plamper, Professor of History at Goldsmiths in London, on why the institution is launching an MA on LGBTI History, and its choice of the word 'Queer', published at Gay Star News (UK), 18 September 2016 :-
'In terms of legal rights, political representation and social and cultural acceptance, the 21st century is a much more hospitable place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) than in years gone by. At least, in much of the West.
But the direction of travel has not always been forward. There have been backlashes against progress, while many regions of the world were untouched by progress in the first place. ....
.... There is now an established body of interdisciplinary thought known as queer theory which tries analyze and explain these aspects. But practical hands-on historical research is as important as theory, and researchers will be able to search what will become the National Queer Archive at Goldsmiths for important material, such as the personal literary estates of those who self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in the past. .... '
---- see more of Professor Plamper's announcement at www.gaystarnews.com at :-
Friday, September 16, 2016
---- brief moments from news published at Out'n Proud (UK), 15 September 2016 :-
'A new trailer has been released for The Pass, a film about a closeted footballer in a famous London Football Club.
The film was adapted from a play of the same name, in which Russell Tovey also starred in 2014. The production, which was held at London’s Royal Court Theatre, was a resounding success. ....
.... Earlier this year, Tovey told the Evening Standard about his desire to see a pro-footballer come out as gay in the next few years .... '
.... The Pass is out in UK cinemas this December.
---- view the 2-minute trailer for the approaching movie version of The Pass in the right-side column, and/or visit the Out'n Proud website at :-
---- see too a comparable report at the Daily Express (UK), 21 September 2016
PS: Russell Tovey recently played a key character in the HBO-USA series "LOOKING ".
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
---- a selected paragraph from an extended interview introducing a new book by Matt Todd, former editor at Attitude magazine (UK), reviewed by Stuart Rodger at Common Space (UK), 13th September 2016 :-
'.... The shame that gay people inherit while growing up is, he thinks, subsequently compounded by the hyper-sexualization and objectification of gay people.
“I think objectification is a massive problem for gay and bisexual men. Because I think on many different levels gay men objectify everybody. Sex sells, the same as it does with straight society. But if you have an emotional wound and you want to have a relationship with somebody it involves connecting that sensitive, real part of you and that is painful. And so it’s much easier just to have sex with somebody.” .... '
---- see more of Stuart Rodger's review of Matt Todd's "STRAIGHT JACKET: How To Be Gay & Happy" at www.commonspace.scot at :-
‘Straight Jacket: How To Be Gay And Happy’, published by Bantam Press UK, is out now
---- three brief excerpts from a controversial post at QUEERTY.com (USA)
'Pornhub recently released data on the top porn searches broken down by gender. The survey found “gay male porn” as the second highest searched topic by straight women. This begs the question: What about straight dudes? How many of them are also looking at man-on-man porn? And what might be their motivations for doing so? ....
.... In our research, we learned that straight men don’t just watch gay porn for sex tips. They also watch it to get off. .... But hold your preconceived notions for just one moment. Isn’t it possible there are more gray areas in human sexuality than anyone really knows, or is at least willing to admit? And isn’t looking at porn in the privacy of one’s own home the safest place to explore one’s curiosities? .... '
---- see the entire provocative article and its links at www.queerty.com at :-
Saturday, September 10, 2016
---- the final summarizing paragraph from a brief survey of gay life and attitudes in Korea today, at AllKPOP (South Korea), 8 September 2016 :-
'Six things you didn't know about Korea's gay culture. .... Just in case you were curious where to go, and what to do and where to stay when visiting Korea for any gay related reason, there is actually a useful resource made just for the LGBTQ community! The Gay Seoul Guide of 2016 (which updates every year) gives you all the trending information such as where the hottest bars are, which hotels are cheapest and closest to gay nightlife, and it even offers sites such as 'travelgaysia' for you to discover the gayest parts of Seoul and more! ...
.... see AllKPOP''s entire article and its six pieces of advice on gay shopping, saunas, gay apps, and social attitudes etc at :-
---- the opening lines from a substantial health-information post by Greg Jameson at The Gay UK (UK), 8th September 2016 :-
'We talk about our physical well-being all the time; discussing everything from our gym and dieting regimes through to our sexual health and exploits. Our mental health is all too often overlooked, even though LGBT people are known to suffer disproportionately more from poor mental health compared to the straight population. Recovery can be a long and arduous road, so it’s important for anyone suffering from poor mental health to be able to access the help they need.....'
---- see more of Greg Jameson's timely post at :-
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED online in Chinese, Beijing Comrades is a first-person narrative with unadorned prose and vivid sex scenes. Set in the sociopolitical unrest at the end of the 20th century, China is steeped in social and economic change. However, old ways still dictate many aspects of urban life. For example, one does not marry out of his or her class. Parents pressure sons and daughters to marry, which is one of the conflicts that Chen Handong experiences in a country that views homosexuals as degenerates. ....'
---- see more about Beijing Comrades at The Gay & Lesbian Review at :-
Sunday, September 4, 2016
---- a YouTube trailer for a doco about a daring contributor to the evolution of porn from its heyday to being a viable publishing format, and his equally daring engagement in decades of sexual politics, USA-style, 30th August 2016 :-
'Seed Money is the story of Chuck Holmes, a San Francisco pornographer turned philanthropist. Holmes helped create and shape gay identity in the years after Stonewall, and later became a major contributor to gay advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBT Victory Fund.
Later in life he would come to find that, while his money was welcome in philanthropic circles, he sometimes wasn’t. ... '
---- visit the 1'38" trailer at YouTube (in the column at right) for details of this movie.
Saturday, September 3, 2016
---- excerpts from a news report by Elvis Michael at Morning Ticker (USA), 1st September 2016 :-
'Sir Ian McKellen revealed his homosexuality back in 1988 and has since become a powerful voice in the LGBT community. What many didn’t expect, however, was for him to declare that gay men are typically more masculine than straight guys due to spending extensive time around others of the same gender.
Despite being widely celebrated and accomplished, McKellen says he is still subjected to hate speech and homophobic abuse. However, the actor says none of that bothers him as he considers himself more masculine than the average guy. .... '
---- see more of Elvis Michael's brief news report at Morning Ticker at :-
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
---- selected excerpts from the introduction to a provocative essay by John Stonestreet, author, at cnsnews.com (Virginia, USA), 30 August 2016 :-
'According to one Christian thinker, it’s time to get on the LGBT bus or be thrown under it. .... And then I thought of the stunning article by Christian ethicist David Gushee. And if you follow me on Twitter, you know what I did next. I hit “Tweet.”
In his article at Religion News Service, Gushee fired a warning shot across the bow of conservative evangelicals and religious traditionalists. He writes, “[y]ou are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it … neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance … Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.”
Now, there have been honest attempts by people on both sides of these issues to offer third-way sensible solutions, even compromises, that accommodate religious freedom and LGBT rights. Still, I think Gushee is right when he said these solutions will largely be rejected, shouted down by demands of a full embrace of the LGBT agenda.
What bothered me, however, deeply about Gushee’s piece, was how he framed the struggle of those who hold strongly to the historic Christian vision of sex and marriage. Conservative religious holdouts, Gushee writes, “are organizing legal defense efforts under the guise of religious liberty, and interpreting their plight as religious persecution.” .... '
---- see more of John Stonestreet's challenging, even controversial, essay at cnsnews.com at :-
Friday, August 26, 2016
---- the opening pars from a personal opinion-piece by Bruno Russell, University of Southampton (UK) at The National Student (UK), 17 August 2016 :-
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
---- two opening excerpts from an LGBT report on the Olympic Games 2016 by Ross Forman at the Windy City Times (USA), 22 August 2016 :-
'When the caldron was extinguished Aug. 21, culminating the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a true mix of wide-ranging emotions endured—jubilation, celebration, anger and embarrassment.
And that was just a start of the look back at Rio 2016, from an LGBT perspective. Rio 2016 was the gayest Games ever, as at least 53 out athletes competed in Rio, according to Outsports and Olympic and LGBT historian Tony Scupham-Bilton. There also were three out coaches. There were 42 lesbian or bi women, 11 gay men and no out transgender Olympians.
The 2012 Summer Games in London featured 23 out LGBT athletes, it was reported. Others have come out publicly since they competed in London. ....
.... "In a country that typically has a bad reputation for LGBT acceptance, it was beautiful to see the country of Brazil, the Olympics, and the whole world accept these successful and openly gay athletes," said college swimmer Ayrton Kasemets, who attended Mundelein High School in Chicago's northwest suburbs and is openly gay. .... '
---- see more of Ross Forman's report at www.windycitymediagroup.com at :-
Monday, August 22, 2016
---- brief excerpts from a New York arts-retrospective opinion-piece by Blake Gopnik at ArtNet.com (USA), 22 August 2016 :-
'At El Museo del Barrio, Lopez helps gay desire go mainstream. .... In the early 1960s, there was the “camp” moment, when a series of coded markers for gayness – Tiffany lamps, Mae West, cappuccino – started to be popular among straight culturati.
But note that it was the code rather than the thing encoded that had made that transition: Art Nouveau fabulousness was “in” but homosexuals could still barely come out.
As late as 1964, when Hollywood had happily picked up on the camp craze for all things Edwardian, Life magazine could still wax indignant at the fact that “homosexuals are discarding their furtive ways and openly admitting, even flaunting, their deviation.” .... '
---- see more of Blake Gopnik's interesting article about artist Antonio Lopez at ArtNet.com at :-
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
---- the opening pars from a substantial opinion-piece by Timothy Rawles at the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News (SDGLN) (USA), 15 August 2016 :-
'There has been a long-held stereotype that gay men love musicals. For the most part that is a fair assumption. That’s not to say that all gay men love a book filled with song, but for those who do, it may have something to do with Hollywood’s closeted past.
In a new video called “Musical Theatre is SO gay! – Representation (Part 1)” on YouTube (video of 'Part 1' is in side-column, at right, with thanks), there are some connections that can be made between the LGBT community and the entertainment business which to this day has a stigma about being out in Tinsel Town. ....'
---- see more of SDGLN Community Editor Timothy Rawles' perceptive report, plus its two hilarious YouTube video demonstrations, at sdgln.com at :-
---- check #1 of the two videos in the sidebar at right.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
---- three selected pars from a substantial news report by John Ibbitson at The Globe and Mail (Canada), 12 August 2016 :-
'As early as this autumn, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will apologize on behalf of all Canadians to those who were imprisoned, fired from their jobs or otherwise persecuted in the past because of their sexuality.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
---- the opening phrases of an extended opinion-piece by Hannah Smothers at COSMOPOLITAN (USA), 9 August 2016 :-
'"Even in female-centric spaces, there are always men."
Last year, a flurry of articles and documentaries revealed what's been a long, slow phenomenon — lesbian bars are disappearing around the United States. Gay bars and bars that have ladies nights (nights for women who like women, not nights where girls get cheap booze) are still around, but the bars that cater specifically to queer women are shuttering their doors and stacking up their chairs for the last time. ....
it was often community formation as much as it was hooking up," said Jack Halberstam, a professor
of gender studies at the University of Southern California, in the Last Lesbian Bars, a Broadly documentary
released last year. For women who identify as gay, queer, or lesbian, places to find a sense of
community and other like-minded people are disappearing. .... '
NOW : SELECTED TRAILERS OF RECENT GAY-THEMED (OR SIMPLY GAY-INTEREST) MOVIES ....
HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY review of "THE HADRIAN ENIGMA" ...
A fair-haired young man, dressed in rich ceremonial armor, is found dead in the Nile River. When he is identified, everyone realizes the dangerous political implications of this death, because Antinous was the eromenos—the lover and protégé—of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
A grief-stricken Hadrian appoints two members of the court, Suetonius and his patron Clarus, to find out how and why Antinous died. They have two days to find the answer, permission to interrogate anyone except the Emperor and Empress, and the promise that they may forfeit their lives if they fail to satisfy Hadrian.
Failure is a distinct possibility. While Antinous was well-liked and respected, the circle of suspects is wide, as it often will be when the victim is the confidant of an absolute ruler. The two sleuths quickly draft unlikely but able assistants to help them, including a scribe and an observant, multilingual prostitute.
The book offers an extensively researched picture of life in the Roman Empire of 130 AD. Gardiner is equally convincing when writing about imperial politics and succession laws, marriage and sexual customs, philosophy and the theater.
But The Hadrian Enigma—a mix of mystery, comedy, gay and straight romance—is an entertaining read.
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA - an unedited review by historical novelist NAN HAWTHORNE ...
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA | A review by historical fiction author J.R. Tomlin ...
" .... In 130 AD, while accompanying the Emperor Hadrian on a tour up the Nile, the beautiful youth Antinous plunges into the Nile and drowns. Hadrian, near maddened with grief, declares Antinous a god. However, Suetonius just happens to be along on this imperial tour. Already the author of juicy books on contemporary Roman life, he is perfectly placed to investigate this mysterious death, so Emperor Hadrian commands him to investigate and find the murderer within 48 hours or suffer the consequences.
In the imperial compound on the Nile, Suetonius searches for clues. Here, semi-isolated, the bubbling cauldron of the Roman court has been transplanted to a fabulous tent city. Yet, the mystery of Egypt is an ever present backdrop to this baffling death. .... Why was Antinous clad in heavy ceremonial parade armor and weapons when he died? How did he come by a slit on his left wrist and strange marks on his throat? And how can Suetonius unravel all this when the Emperor refuses to let Suetonius even touch the body to examine it? The characterization is vivid and the historicity meticulous in this novel. I enjoyed savoring the characters and setting as Suetonius unraveled the imperial goings on. .... "
See more of J.R. Tomlin's review at her author's blogsite "Writing & More" at : http://jeannetomlin.blogspot.com/
AN UNEDITED REVIEW OF 'THE HADRIAN ENIGMA"....
By a reader down under (New South Wales, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is for: THE HADRIAN ENIGMA: A Forbidden History (Paperback)
George Gardiner's absorbing new book, which focuses on the relationship between the Roman emperor Hadrian and his young paramour, Antinous of Bithynia, quite possibly heralds the thrilling emergence of a new Mary Renault. (As uneven as it is in some places, to my mind it is a big improvement on Margeurite Yourcenar's book on Hadrian from the 1950s).
Gardiner begins his narrative with the discovery of the dead body of the beautiful youth, who has apparently drowned in the Nile. He coopts as his central figure cum narrator the actual historical figure of Suetonius Tranquillus, who is charged by the supreme colonial ruler Hadrian Caesar with the urgent responsibility of uncovering the reasons for, as well as the manner of, the death. Suetonius works night and day as a kind of investigator/ prosecutor and his dogged inquiry drives the plot. The narrative unfolds as a kind of antique murder mystery, then, and one of the book's great strengths is in the well-paced twists and turns of the plot, throwing up a number of suspects and scenarios along the way that keep the reader intrigued until the very end. Gardiner's humour shines through this character, who is forced to carry out his investigation under the double pressure of a pressing deadline (why is Hadrian so intent of winding it all up in such a short time, we wonder) and the threat of execution if he doesn't come up with the answers.
This is compelling writing. Suetonius is a good choice, as he is known for his history of a dozen Caesars, and the author brings him vividly and humorously to life. Indeed, Gardiner skilfully and imaginitively re-works established historical figures and creates a cast of composite characters where necessary to serve his narrative ends. The fact that he can do this convincingly, with such an extraordinary mixture of ethnicities and beliefs, is writing of a high order. The mastery of research is remarkable, not only for Gardiner's command of the details of ethnic artefacts, weaponry, costume, architecture and so on, but also for the complex politics of Roman colonial expansionism in its abrasive encounter with other cultures. The era was marked by a complex intermingling of belief systems, and Gardiner's fictional world is woven from a rich and amazingly detailed fabric. Very occasionally the research seems almost oversupplied but for the most part it serves to underpin his imaginative reconstructions with persuasive authenticity.
Also among the book's strengths are the finely imagined conversations between characters, both historical and concocted, that move the investigation so beautifully along. There are certain set action sequences pieces, too, that are brilliantly staged and paced--the boar hunt, for example, when Hadrian rescues Antinous, and the marvellous climactic scene where Suetonius brings his prosecutorial charges home (albeit uncertainly, with some lines of inquiry that don't pan out).
The only thing that broke the spell for me was Gardiner's occasional jarring choices in language idioms. There's no doubt that the language(s) of the time and place would have been salted with colourful vulgarities, and the dialogue should reflect that, but some of the terms chosen have such strong contemporary associations for us, here at the beginning of the 21st Century, that they they jar and jolt in the reading. `Toyboy' is one example, `getting your rocks off,' `muscular stud' and `gaga' are others that don't ring well to my ear. It's a pity, because sometimes they drop the reader right out of the spell he weaves so skilfully, otherwise.
In contrast, many of the scenes and dialogue move with stately Latinate constructions within a convincing and well-sustained narrative voice. Gardiner has set himself the difficult task of creating a hybrid language that can include both convincing formal language, and everyday vulgarisms, that ring true within his own reconstruction, yet sound right to our contemporary hearing. It's a delicate juggling act and sometimes he drops his balls. (If he had perhaps reserved their use strictly in dialogue, say, to help with characterisation? Perhaps some of his choices might be better realised in a second edition.)
Another of the book's great strengths is hinted at by the book's sub-title. It's a `forbidden history' not simply because Hadrian issues an edict that only the official `party line' should be recorded (and by implication, Suetonius' project of recording events for us to read goes dangerously gainst the edict of his Emperor). It's forbidden history too because Gardiner has constructed a counter-narrative to the centuries of heavily judgemental readings of this iconic same-sex relationship. Positive affirmations of same-sex bonding were exiled in silence as soon as the early Christian commentators started to impose their dominant narratives over all acceptable behaviours and ideals.
In Yourcenar's 50s version, Antinous's moody adolescent pouting makes Hadrian looks like a bit of a fool for dallying with the youth, but Gardiner proposes a heroic reading here that highlights the finer elements of the erastes/eromenos partnering, which was not only tolerated but celebrated in ancient times. For me, this moves the book onto a higher plane than a mere homoerotic titillation and places the relationship where it belongs, in the heroic company of Patroclus/Achilles and the legendary band of Theban warrior-lovers.
Gardiner successfully and daringly recuperates the much-despised and consistently misrepresented ideal of man-to-man love, here based on respect, admiration and the inspiration of noble ideals, as much as the undeniable and enjoyable erotic attraction, which we see only fitful glimpses of among sporting figures and others today. During the continuing culture wars of our own times it's a relief to read this inspiring alternative with its healing potential as an affirmative voice emerging from the diminishing, culturally imposed silence.
In a strange way `The Hadrian Enigma' is reminiscent of E.M. Forster's gay-affirmative novel `Maurice', which Forster was unable to publish during his lifetime. Forster's wistful happy ending for a same sex coupling was unthinkable in the mid-twentieth Century, and even today, it's hard to read such partnering as anything other than morally sinful - such is our pervasive indoctrination by churchmen - or psychologically misdirected (`homosexuality' is still construed as a kind of `failed development' in conventional psychological readings). Certainly such a relationship will still be regarded as second best to the pressing imperative of reproduction. Gardiner has struck a blow with this courageous and convincing re-telling.
So, for me this is a 5 star book for the outstanding and detailed research and the creative work that underpins the imaginative reconstructions; at least 4 stars for its plotting, but only 3 stars for the strange inconsistencies in his prose style. This averages out to a solidly earned 4 stars.
I do hope Gardiner is deep at work on his next book of historical fiction. He certainly has all the skills required.
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Bye-bye for now from George Gardiner's THE HADRIAN ENIGMA news site ...