James Lear Talks LGBTQ* Mysteries
RT believes strongly in the importance of diversity in fiction, across all genres. Today we're talking with mystery author James Lear, who has some theories on why his LGBTQ* themes work so well in the mystery genre.
I started writing gay-themed mystery novels because I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan, and I always felt there was an untapped reserve of erotic potential in her work. People have secrets and hidden motivations, and it’s the detective’s job to discern what’s really going on beneath the social veneer. What could be queerer? If the suspects are hiding their true sexual nature as well as their crimes, then the stakes are even higher — and you need a detective who is willing and able to dig into the darkest corners of human sexuality.
My first mystery novel started out as a simple homage to Christie — a 1920s country house weekend, a dead body falling out of a closet, a cast of characters with secrets to conceal, and a detective with an insatiable sexual appetite. Something clicked with that book, both for me and my readers. The detective hero has now solved four cases, in all of which he’s had to seduce an awful lot of men in order to get to the truth.
My other strand of gay mysteries is set in present-day America, with an ex-marine, Dan Stagg, getting involved in a series of dangerous and deceptive adventures. The first novel was directly inspired by Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books: my hero was thrown out of the USMC for having an affair with a fellow officer, and is now living in a shadowy world of guilt and desire.
In both sets of novels, the hero is equally motivated by sexual desire and a need to find out the truth. Both cheerful, sexy Mitch and moody, macho Dan are pushed into situations where their ability to investigate a secret, hidden homosexual underworld turns them into detectives. For Mitch, it’s the morals of the 1920s that force him into secrecy: today he’d be a happily out gay man, and probably not a detective at all. For Dan, it’s the closeted world of the military, and his own self-loathing, that provide the conflict and the need to hide. Both Mitch and Dan blunder into situations through sexual desire, but they have to use deductive reasoning to get out of them.
The mystery genre is all about seeing through appearances to the awkward truths beneath. All I’ve done, really, is make blatant what is implicit in the books that I love.
Thanks for your thoughts, James! James's latest mystery, The Sun Goes Down, will be out June 14, and you can preorder your digital or print copy here for $10.99+ (prices vary across vendors): Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo. For more mysterious tales, why not visit our Everything Mystery page?