What We Thought:
This is a real Marmite of a book. You either love it or you hate it. I first read Shameless several years ago and I laughed out loud many times while reading it. The book is like Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City - except with far more drugs and gay bitchiness.
Paul Burston was a well-known writer on gay topics for the London-based Time Out magazine by the time Shameless, his first novel, came out in 2001. He has published three novels since, and several short stories.
Thirty-two year old Martin works in advertising. He is kind and decent, unsuited to the cut and thrust of corporate life. At the start of the book, his boyfriend of four years has run off with a male prostitute. His friends John and Caroline are far too distracted by their drug-use and egotistical problems to be of any use to Martin. With no one to turn to, he decides to throw himself into a wild, hedonistic lifestyle. One that he feels he missed out on in his youth.
This is when Burston exposes Martin to the full on, and potentially destructive world of late 1990s gay London. The caricatures of gym bunnies, leather men, twinks and cocaine clubbers are brilliantly drawn. Martin is drawn into the excesses of a shameless, self-obsessed, cliquey world. Because Burston writes this as a morality tale, Martin ultimately finds that there is a price to pay.
Paul Burston’s style of writing is fresh and easy to read. His observations are shockingly accurate. I cannot tell you how I know this. Trust me, they are.
Shameless is witty, bitchy, trashy, camp, sweet and frothy, but always lots of fun. The characters of Martin, John and Caroline are fully formed and true to life. The essence of the London club-scene jumps from the pages. Paul Burston's books are accessible and unpretentious. His stories rocket along, like an express train. They are filled with humour, pathos and occasional insight.
I strongly recommend this book, unless you are of a nervous disposition. If you are, I would simply say, you should get out more.
You’ll enjoy this if you like: The Gay Divorcee: Paul Burston, Tales of the City: Armistead Maupin
Avoid if you don’t like: Occasional explicit sex description and drug usage
Ideal accompaniments: A very pink gin
Genre: Humour, LGBTQ
Available from Amazon