Entering into the spirit of the Jazz Age with gay abandon
Book One of The Merry Millionaire Duology
My GoodReads’ Star Rating: 4 stars out of 5, which means I really liked it!
Artuccino’s bookish observation
Our world has changed in many ways, our European based cultures have become more reasonable and all inclusive of religious philosophies, racial and cultural differences and sexual orientation. Of course pockets of resistance still exist and resound through the voices and actions of the un-enlightened. That said, I have a certain conservative view of the world, so it was with hesitation that I decided to read this novel from this genre, which follows the journey of a “gay” character. The Captain is a very rich English gentleman, whose lifestyle could be looked upon today with a critical eye, in light of our society’s courageous attempt to protect the young.
The richness of this story gives us a window into the fascinating world of privileged English toffs during the 1920s and 1930s. We journey with Captain Ronald Fry, the merry millionaire, and his mentoree, Mervyn Watson, shrewd beyond his years, as they travel surrounded by the sumptuous luxury of their world, edged with the secrecy and danger which accompanied their similar “inclinations”.
The book follows an unpublished fictional-memoir, discovered after the death of the main character, Captain Ronald Fry. The Captain lived a double life, being a gay man living in a world where to be gay was illegal and unacceptable in the light of day, but with discretion, deceit, and a lot of money, it was possible to be “merry”.
J.A. Wells has written a jaunty tale of a the Captain’s life, his travels and adventure, set squarely in historical events of the time. J.A.Wells’ descriptions of magnificent cruise liners share with the reader his love of gorgeous interiors, clothes and theatre. His detailed depictions of luxurious ships, gentlemen’s clubs, seedy bars, sleazy nightclubs, and magnificent mansions, give a texture to the story, encouraging you to stop and absorb a sense of place and time. He can put you right there, just as though you are in a room and relishing its opulence, its colour and light, its sounds and smells.
The story covers Ron’s experiences during the First World War, how he accepts his gayness and adapts to its demands. Then later, he and Mervyn become mentor and mentoree in the Greek sense. Ron showers Mervyn with generosity; generosity that includes Mervyn’s sisters, brothers, mother, father and his group of friends. They swan around England’s West Country, cruise Norwegian fjords, and later, go on a rescue mission to Egypt. It’s the glamorous 1930’s. The unlimited supply of Ron’s wealth, gives his family and friends access to many wonderful experiences.
This story is a tapestry filled with colour and texture bordered by dark edges. It is driven along by Ron’s story, and how he side steps society’s rules of behaviour and at the same time is a likeable character, with all the traits of a benefactor. He does much good for others, but at the same time uses his position of power to place himself perfectly for questionable opportunities.
Reading this story with the sensibility of the political correctness of today, and the knowledge that all is not “good” or “right” within the life of the main character, adds a thought provoking edge to what is otherwise a rollicking tale of a very MERRY millionaire.
A good read!
A little about the book
Throughout this fictional memoir of a British millionaire, using the voice of Captain Ronald Fry, ex army captain, scout master, philanthropist and benefactor, the author tells how it was to be gay in the 1930’s, when homosexuality was against the law and punishable with years of hard labour and ran the risk of blackmailers, entrapment, robbery, violence, and even murder. The story is set in the thirties, and is written in the style of a faux-memoir. The two main characters, two gay men, Ron and Mervyn live a privileged life joining the era’s waning fast-set, cruising the Norwegian fjords on luxury ocean liners and sailing up the Nile, disregarding the rumblings of war.. The backdrop of the story is the bygone age of first class sea travel and luxury oriental hotels, summer on the glaciers, and the heat of Cairo’s social season. Most of the characters encountered in the story, once lived, but their names have been changed for the story.
A little about the author
J.A. Wells (John) is a multi-talented man bursting with creative energy. I met him years ago when he was providing plein-air watercolour workshops via a community college; I was one of his students. During our workshops most of us became more confident with our drawing and watercolour skills through John’s enthusiastic encouragement, and while we went seriously about capturing the scene in front of us, John would regale us with stories, making the day full of delight.
Prior to arriving in Australia, John was a professional actor of stage and screen, performing in several musicals, and then he changed direction honing his artistic skills to have a great deal of success with creating murals and trompe L’oeil in houses, restaurants, swimming pools and in public spaces, first in the UK and then in Australia.
It was after a visit back to the UK to visit family and friends and timely discovery of some old photographs, along with a diary, in a long forgotten suitcase, J..A. Wells start writing and he hasn’t stopped. The stories have pored out of him, many being seeded by his ancestors’ history.
His readers will find that John is unusual in his choice of leading characters because sometimes they are gay. In times gone by authors of adventure stories and mysteries rarely recruited gay characters into their leading roles. John’s personal connection with the LGBTQI community and his knowledge of what it was like be gay in a time of persecution gives him the ability to write a mystery and adventure stories from a fresh point of view.
The Merry Millionaire is J.A. Well’s first series, his second series is The Durra Durra Trilogy, and he is working on another series with a working title of Charlie Fuller’s Journey. The stories keep coming, and bring history alive again.
Genre – Fiction
Faux Memoir, Historical Fiction, Adventure, LGBTQI
The Jazz Age through to 1939
Next in the series
Pomp and Circumstance – Book Two of The Merry Millionaire Duology
Other books by the author
- Thurlow – Book One of The Durra Durra Trilogy
- Mutt Mutt Billy – Book Two of the Durra Durra Trilogy
- Durra Durra – Book Three of The Durra Durra Trilogy