fine writing by lesbians and gay men since 1999
Rid England of This Plague
In the early 1950s the Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyffe, claimed he would 'Rid England of this Plague' - the plague of homosexuality. "Paradoxically," says author Rex Batten, "It was the reaction to the zeal with which the Establishment carried out the Home Secretary's behest that resulted in the setting up of the Wolfenden Committee when the first steps were taken to rid of the plague of Homophobia
That period, now labelled the 50s Purge, is the setting for Rex Batten's novel. It is based on his experiences in coming to terms with the Law, Media and Church when being gay labelled you a 'Pest to Society'. "I wrote it as fiction," Mr Batten explains, "To give me more scope, and a wider perspective, in creating the atmosphere and feeling of that era."
The reaction of a student who had seen that period as almost ancient history says everything. "I knew of the high profile cases that made the national press, but this book brings alive a world in which two ordinary young gay men asked for nothing more that to be allowed to live as a stable gay relationship in the London 'queer' world that has not been previously documented. The arrest in Dorset, on charges of gross indecency, of Tom's first lover, brought the police, the probability of jail, and the appalling realisation that the press coverage could destroy their families. And this within living memory! The interrogation by the police is graphically described, as is the offer of immunity from prosecution if they will turn 'Queen's Evidence', though there is a certain irony in the twist that they did not fit the stereotype queer."
The two young men turn to the Church for consolation and Tom is forced to examine his conscience to decide if he was corrupted when members of the army and navy helped to develop his sexual identity in the latter years of the Second World War. He had to face his Armageddon being groped on the underground coming into Queensway! He lost that particular battle, but it set him on course to win the war.
"a cautionary tale that should be compulsory reading for judges, police and moralising politicians"
"In the days when same sex love was illegal, following his natural desires leads Tom into a frightening and soul destroying brush with the law. Yet many he meets hold on to their principles, believing a better, kinder way must be found."
Alan Keslian, author of Goodmans Hotel comments,
ISBN: 978 1 904585 08 4
320 pages paperback; £8.99
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Rex Batten studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, as a contemporary of Joe Orton and Alan Bates. He spent a few years in touring companies and doing bit parts in films before deciding that acting was not for him. After some freelance writing for radio, Rex spent most of his working life as a teacher.