Bawdy, squalid and irreverent, James Lear's sexually graphic novel transports us to London of 1935 and into the life of eighteen-year-old Paul Lemoyne, a waif and wild child whose fleshy adventures play out amongst the rarefied world of music halls, train stations, public toilets and the sordid back alleys of South London. Escaping an abusive and alcoholic father, who cannot help but conceal his shame beneath a pitiful display of hostility ,Paul escapes from Sussex and hops on a train to London from Sussex.
Although Paul has very little education, he possesses a fierce natural intelligence; it's not surprising then that he is able to secures employment as a stage hand at the South London Palace of Varieties, a bawdy and ramshackle music hall, smelling heavily of unwashed bodies, cigarette smoke and perfume. Under the tutelage of Mr. Nicholas Holly the General Manager, Paul begins his services in this grand life of hard physical labor, that involves clambering around scaffolds and sweeping the stage, and also allowing Holly to give Paul oral satisfaction when Holly so desires it.
But it is in the gentleman's cloakroom in Waterloo station which really cements Paul's career as a procurer of male needs, where one can "wash and brush-up for a sixpence" and where at the urinal involving two young gents in identical black suits, Paul has his first true sleazy experience where he also gets to earn his first crown. Soon enough Paul's consumed with the idea of getting sex wherever and with whoever he can, becoming a master of this extracurricular work.
While Paul aches to conquer the red-headed Kieran, his affable young work colleague, he's also helped by Vera, a genial and somewhat effeminate dresser in business like ambition of servicing many of the "toffs and stage-door johnnies" that come to the performances, especially the giant Mr. Newsome with his hands on his hips, "his huge weapon throbbing before him," and where he and Paul end up taking pleasure in each other as "crudely and as brutally" as they liked.
Paul rapidly becomes an enterprising young man, luckily blessed with a true tart's instinct for divining the wishes of his clients and he begins to ply his trade at the various pubs that pepper the East End, low dives, frequented largely by stagehands, prostitutes, laborers and itinerants. The stink of beer and fags and unwashed men requiring him to be crude and coarse and above all dirty. But it is through Paul's association with Mr. Albert Abbott who takes a beneficent in him forcing him to do dirty things with a handsome art deco paperweight that Paul is eventually thrust into bigger markets in an effort to make real money and perhaps also the chance to make something more of himself.
Although Albert swiftly becomes the ruling passion in Paul's life, he's always there playing Paul like a puppet, even pecuring him the genius artist Mikhail Boleslavsky while also levying a certain amount of his cash flow. Albert Abbott is just one just one of a dozen colorful characters who populate Paul's little world, they're the supporting players in a smut-filled dream of which Paul is always the hero. Author James Lear's unashamed descriptions of Paul's sexual philandering is shocking, but it is the author's colorful combination of 1930's London and its world of vice along with descriptions of Paul engaging in some of the most degrading sexual activities that make this novel so unbelievably entertaining and also so shocking. Mike Leonard August 08.