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Encounter in Key West by Richard Lockridge
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Encounter in Key West (1966)

by Richard Lockridge

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What a strange, and ultimately disappointing book. I'm a huge fan of the Frances and Richard Lockridge mystery series, as anyone can tell from my catalog. I have been trying for years to put together a complete collection of their works, and I'm coming very close. I have never enjoyed Richard's solo works as much as the collaborations he and his first wife Frances did. This one, however, is a real puzzler. There is no mystery to it. It's a character driven story, and nothing much happens, or rather the same thing happens several times, and gets a bit tiresome. The premise is this: 30-ish Janet Grey is cruising with a retired Admiral (whose wife leads a separate life most of the time) on his lovely yacht. Janet is three years out from the failure of her marriage (on the honeymoon) to a man who realized on their wedding night that marrying a lovely girl wasn't going to change the fact that he was a homosexual . She feels she "failed" him in some way, because just being with her wasn't enough to "cure" him. So she is "hiding" in a formalized relationship that involves no emotions, few demands, and all the sun, sours and seafood a girl could want. The admiral doesn't know the details of her marriage, and doesn't have any interest in knowing (until he eventually hears about it, when he goes over the edge, literally.) Her ex has gone slightly over the edge himself into drink and obnoxious behavior, and he keeps crossing her path unexpectedly in Key West (where a lot of "them" hang out.) Lockridge's attitude on the subject of homosexuality is hard to figure. His Admiral Burleigh abhors what he calls "pansies and fairies", referring to them as "scum" who should leave "decent people" alone, and Lockridge clearly does not identify with HIM. Yet the only homosexual character we get to know at all is crippled with self-loathing, and the heroine certainly doesn't have an enlightened outlook. All the stereotypes are wedged in somewhere. The book was written in 1966, and I suspect the subject was difficult to deal with at that time; I wonder why Lockridge attempted it, and I'd be really curious as to how it was received. I don't have a grasp of the historical context with regard to the subject, but it would appear that in the mid-'60's homosexuality was considered deviant behavior, distasteful, but not entirely willful--that is, it might be a form of mental illness that could be cured?? It seems to be suggested that attitudes had advanced from considering it merely wicked and sinful.

A common Lockridge theme does play through this book--that of the pretty, bright young woman beset by self-doubt who runs away from the wrong thing, in this case over and over and over. But in the end, the right man is the solution to her dilemma. Naturally. Usually, I champion the man who sees through the poor girl's fog and persists until she wakes up--this time, since I had very little sympathy for her, I was almost hoping he'd give up. The Lockridges usually handled that male superiority (as in "I know what this girl really needs") thing a little more evenly, so that even I could succumb to the romantic rightness of the foregone conclusion. I wonder if my cynicism is deepening. *sigh*
March 2007 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Mar 24, 2007 |
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