Saturday, 4 March 2017

Goldsmith Jones - Sam Taylor-Pye - A lawless historical romp

My Review of Goldsmith Jones by Sam Taylor-Pye

Goldsmith Jones - It's like Oliver Twist with sodomy!

Set in the wild west, in the gold rush era, the eponymous character is a teenage rent boy and he is a damn' fool! He just never learns from his mistakes and he gets himself into many risky situations he could so easily avoid, yet lands himself in scalding water, again and again.

I'm not really sure why I found this book so engaging, but I rolled with it and really rather enjoyed it. It's certainly different and darkly exciting.

Goldsmith Jones "My name's not Nancy or Boy" arrives, with his long blond hair tucked beneath a greasy cap, in San Francisco in the mid 19th century to find it a lawless and poverty ridden place.

Orphaned and soon on the run from the law, he begins a life of male prostitution to earn himself a roof over his head and a crust and soon falls in with a succession of unsavoury characters, who in the main, treat him badly, apart from the nearest he finds to a real friend, half breed native American boy Raccoon. Everyone else has an ulterior motive and most of them involve sex, violence or law breaking. 

It's quite strange and rather explicit and covers a lot of rather graphic gay sex scenes, most of them involving or even instigated by the hapless main character who, when the book begins, is only 14! Hmm, it should be SO very wrong, but it is historical fiction and this kind of thing undoubtedly went on. Not for the faint hearted reader though.

This book reads well, its a rollicking romp through the cesspit that is Saint Francis town (San Francisco) filled with bullies and beasts and paedophiles and I couldn't put this book down. It's full of larger than life dislikeable, flawed and enigmatic characters, including two cross dressers I rather did like, Ally a woman who dresses as man and Violet, a man who dresses as a woman, (but I thought she was a woman until she let herself slide and began to grow facial hair) He has a love/hate relationship with a sailor he calls Sweet Virginia from the fragrance of fresh tobacco he always has, and is taken under the dubious wing of gang leader the vicious and unpredictable Saul Suarez.

If you're offended by a child earning his crust by giving blowjobs to drunken sailors up a filthy back alley and the frequently used term c***sucker offends you, I think it's best you don't read this book.

There is a lot of violence as well as a lot of sex in fact there's a fair bit of violent sex. This is a brutal old world, yet its so easy to become immersed in this dark and gritty tale about the dank underbelly of gangland San Franscisco.

It reads like part western (reminded me a little of The Sisters Brothers by Patrick De Witt) part gangland tale. Sometimes Goldmsith comes across as an ingenue, sometimes he's far too knowing, he can be calculating and canny but he always calculates wrongly, always he's a fool to himself and charges in where an angel fears to tread without ever assessing the possible consequences. For much of the book I was thinking "Oh for Goodness sake, you're never going to do that are you?" but he does, and ends up bloody and even more damaged and hurt and I have to be honest I never warmed to him quite as much as I hoped as I just wanted him to grow from his experiences and he really doesn't!

If you're looking for a fast paced, gritty read that's very different from the norm, give this a whirl as long as you're not looking for hearts and flowers, cause you sure won't find any of those here.

The Blurb

San Francisco, 1863. Fourteen-year-old Goldsmith Jones is left stranded in crime-ridden, gangland territory. He finds himself living at The Shades, a home to local street kids.

While selling sexual favours downs the Dead Man's Alley to survive, Jones is charmed by a seaman he knows as Sweet Virginia. Moving further away from the relative security that The Shades and his best friend, Raccoon, offered him, Jones is drawn ever closer to the manipulative Sweet Virginia.

When Raccoon falls gravely ill and is taken to convaless on the rural Rancheria, Jones is left under the controlling powers of the unscrupulous navvy.

Swindled and wrongly accused, he is unexpectedly rescued by the leader of the villanous Suarez Brothers, the charismatic Saul.

Faced with a choice between becoming Saul's 'little brother' and saving Sweet Virginia's life, Goldsmith Jones must embark on a dangerous journey which will change his young life forever. 

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