It is refreshing to come upon a new writer who is skilled at telling stories free of pretenses, and able to utilize the spectrum of language to incorporate both eloquent narrative and spicy colloquialisms. And these are only some of the gifts Christopher Beckwith brings to his debut novel WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?, a significant tale of pan sexuality in the African American community and the overriding importance of both genetic and extended family in coping with variations from the 'normal' modes of living.
Ron Davis is a successful architect in an Atlanta based company: he loves his work, enjoys his co-workers and appears to have it all in place, with the exception of a significant other. Ron is surrounded by devoted friends, especially his best friend Randy who is a campy party person always encouraging Ron to find the right partner. Ron is closeted at work and when his boss sends him to Houston to critique and assist a housing project, Ron is tense as he is traveling with his very straight partner Steve. Once in Houston (and quite out of the blue) Ron meets Sam, a partner in the firm he has been sent to advise, and the two men find a surprising and richly fulfilling relationship: Steve likewise pairs off with a beautiful partner and through an accidental meeting, Steve discovers Ron's sexual proclivity and, to Ron's surprise, is completely accepting of the 'new Ron'. The stay in Houston is meaningful but short, and when Ron returns to Atlanta he discovers a tragedy that crumbles his world. The remainder of the novel deals with how Ron works through his loss and how his own family as well as the families of his friends and acquaintances not only accept Ron's sexuality, but how they all are support systems far beyond what the previously paranoid Ron could imagine. It is a coming out story rich in details and told with a surety of prose that makes this novel eminently readable.
Christopher Beckwith writes so well that his use of vernacular phrases and conversational language of the African American community highlight his book rather than control it. Too often authors attempt to tell an entire story in an idiosyncratic lingo that at times demands a translation footnote! Not so with Beckwith: the verbal interchanges of his characters add flavor while allowing the novel's flow to be uninterrupted for those who may not be familiar with such terms and phrases. Beckwith has a gift for describing sexual encounters (both gay and straight) with highly charged eroticism while never crossing the line into the seamy territory. His physical encounters described so well are about passion and love and his ability to fill his book with such language without alienating any reader is amazing.
Beckwith develops is characters extremely well, so well that they become part of our own reading family as the novel develops. There are no loose strings and no matters left unattended. If the novel relies a bit heavily on spiritual matters (how many times is it necessary to hear the prayers before eating?), then Beckwith sews these threads into the flavor of his community with the respect that such spiritualism holds. It is a bit troublesome that the editor of the book found it necessary to place a disclaimer about the model whose presence on the beautifully designed cover of the book sets just the right mood for the story inside: 'The sexual orientation and/or preferences referenced in this work do not constitute those of the model'. Perhaps with more understanding books such as this one by Christopher Beckwith such homophobic actions will dissolve. This is very fine writing from a very fine new author. Recommended reading for many reasons. Grady Harp, August 08
Beckwith, Christopher. "What's In It For Me"? BookSurge, 2008. Filling the Gap Amos Lassen One of the things very obviously missing in gay literature is books by and about African-American gay people. There are a few but not nearly enough. Along comes Christopher Beckwith that adds something. Beckwith is a new author who gives us a thriller about Ronald Davis, an architect in Atlanta and who travels to Houston where … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Ronald Davis, a promising Atlanta Architect, has grown content with the coveted life that he has accepted as his destiny. Although there's no questioning the fact that he's been dealt a desirable hand, the lack of true love proves to be the underlying attribute missing from his otherwise fulfilling existence. At the adamant request of a favorable yet unyielding boss, Ron finds himself compelled to travel to Houston on an untimely business trip with his co-worker Steve Sullivan. Making the best of the situation, Ron soon realizes that Houston has more to offer than he expected. To his surprise, the visit presents him with a positive twist as he meets the love of his life in the least likely of prospects. After spending several fun-filled days in Houston, Ron returns home to find himself blindsided by the tragedy of a lifetime. Forced to confront the heartbreak head on, Ron grievously ponders the question, "What's in it for me?"