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London Triptych
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Three men, three lives and three eras sinuously entwine in a dark, startling and unsettling narrative of sex, exploitation and dependence set against London's strangely constant gay underworld. Jack Rose begins his apprenticeship as a rent boy with Alfred Taylor in the 1890s, and finds a life of pleasure and excess leads him to new friendships - most notably with the soon-to-be infamous Oscar Wilde. A century later, David tells his own tale of unashamed decadence while waiting to be released from prison, addressing his story to the lover who betrayed him. Where their paths cross, in the politically sensitive 1950s, the artist Colin Read tentatively explores his sexuality as he draws in preparation for his most ambitious painting yet - 'London Triptych'. Rent boys, aristocrats, artists and felons populate this bold debut as Jonathan Kemp skilfully interweaves the lives and loves of three very different men across the decades.
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About the Author

Jonathan Kemp teaches creative writing, literature and queer theory. He also DJs. Originally from the North, he has lived in London for twenty years.

Reviews

'Vivid and visceral, London Triptych cuts deep to reveal the hidden layers of a secret history.' JAKE ARNOTT 'Charting three very different affairs taking place against the backdrop of three very different Londons, Jonathan Kemp's first novel is a thought-provoking enquiry into what changes in gay mens' lives as the decades pass - and what doesn't. As the connections and reflections across the years reveal themselves, this is a book that will make you think - and make you feel.' NEIL BARTLETT 'Despite reaching across a century, Kemp's characters are believable and down to earth; the focus is not on period setting but on dialogue. A thoroughly absorbing and pacy read... a fresh angle on gay life and on the oldest profession.' TIME OUT 'Kemp's language is beautiful; his characters are carefully drawn and the dialogue engaging. The narratives overlap and are all the more moving for their subtlety. Drawing inspiration from the life and work of Oscar Wilde, just as Michael Cunningham's The Hours drew from Virginia Woolf, London Triptych is a touching and engrossing read.' ATTITUDE 'By turns explicit and energetic, Kemp's forceful prose uncompromisingly draws the reader in. A strange, squalid, rather interesting book.' METRO 'If you're looking for a summer read with a twist, London Triptych will keep you hooked as it explores the secret history of male prostitutes from the perspective of three men living in three very different eras. Together the stories entwine, shedding light on London's murky and marvellous gay underworld. A dark novel about exploitation and betrayal that's full of rent boys, aristos and artists. That's got to beat the new Marian Keyes any day, right?' BOYZ MAGAZINE 'London Triptych might find itself nestled between other works of gay historical fiction on the bookshop shelves, but its central theme - freedom and the pursuit of it - is universal. The debut novel by Stoke Newington resident Jonathan Kemp, it offers a gritty, sometimes smutty, glimpse into the hidden world of male prostitution in London via three lives in three decades.' HACKNEY CITIZEN 'From living outside the law to living outside the society, as the connections between these men reveal themselves, one realizes that times are irrelevant when it comes to the sentiment of gay men: one of turmoil, of irretrievable loss, of struggle over stigma, and of unrequited love. London Triptych captures these political and emotional battles with a lyrical beauty and raw lucidity.' A GUY'S MOLESKINE NOTEBOOK 'First time novelist Kemp's book is an intriguing look at the homosexual experience through the prism of male prostitution over the past 100 years.' HACKNEY HIVE 'It's very rare to feel the same sense of exhilaration after reading a book that you do after being lost in a fantastic movie. But Jonathan Kemp's London Triptych is such a richly painted and involving story, told from the point of view of three gay men living in London fifty years apart, that your mind has no problem at all visualising his words. A prostitute in Oscar Wilde's London, a repressed artist in the 1950s and a hedonistic rent boy in late 90s share similar experiences of sexual dependence and obsessive desire. The structure of the book is consecutive, i.e. each character takes chapter turns, so that after the first, you have to wait until chapter 4 to hear from that character again and so on - this caused me to race through proceedings since I was so taken with all three of them!' MADAME SAYS 'Every now and again a new voice appears, someone whose stories speak to us on many levels. This first novel by Jonathan Kemp is one of those books... It's the story of three different men, from three different periods of history who all have a few things in common; their attraction to men, their lives in flux and a blunt internal honesty about their decadent exploited situations. The patchwork crossover of their lives and destinies is explored with a voice that sometimes reminded me of Alan Hollingshurst and other times soared into the metaphorically agonised realms of Elizabeth Smart... Kemp is an academic and this shows in his attention to historical detail and his ear for sometimes salty dialogue; his summoning up of late Victorian London, 1950's suburbia and the underground gay scene of London is touch perfect... I didn't want this excellent book to end... let's hope that Mr Jonathan Kemp keeps up this momentum and delights us with the products of his vivid and insightful imagination for some while yet.' G-SCENE

Desire will out. No matter the risks of incarceration, opprobrium, pain, or even loss of self, the men in Kemp's debut novel are ruled by their physical attraction to other men. Kemp interweaves the stories of three gay Londoners across a century: Jack Rose, a carefree rent boy of the 1890s and a favorite of Oscar Wilde; Colin Read, a mid-20th-century painter tortured by his gayness and internalized homophobia; and David, a 1990s party boy-turned-prostitute who embraces sexual freedom but not much else in his life. While there are some slight literal connections among the three protagonists, the greater links are thematic: what it means to love men in a world that disapproves; how sex, or denial of sex, defines, or traps people; and how intimacy and love differ from sex. Throughout, the city of London is a constant presence, alluring, seducing, and comforting all three men. Verdict Light on plot but elegantly written, this novel, first published in the UK in 2010 and winner of the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award, is for readers who appreciate period detail and historical context about the gay male experience.-Devon Thomas, Chelsea, MI (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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