Review: Just Outside of Hope by Ron Kearse

More than just one story of finding oneself in a time when everyone seemed to be living on the edge.

Synopsis:

Just Outside of Hope, the sequel to Road Without End, moves through the early years of the 1980s. It takes us from the Canadian Prairies to the pubs, bath houses and nude beaches of Vancouver, British Columbia.

It is now September 1980 and ex-Lieutenant Jim Whitelaw is dealing with the guilt he feels from the fall out of a military tribunal, and lingering family issues which make things worse. But just as he feels he’s getting his life together, cracks appear once more and he has to make some serious decisions.

Meanwhile, in a matter of a moment, Jim’s friend and sometimes lover Bert Gilhuis, finds himself trapped in a serious situation that eventually sees him set off on new adventures in Vancouver.

These are two more stories in the continuing series of the lives of gay men who lived through the most exhilarating and terrifying of times.

Excerpt:

Bert stares silently down at the table. This moment of silence seems like forever.

“I’m going to miss the hell out of you, Jim. It’s too bad you’re leaving. We could have had something really good together.”

Then he takes a deep breath. “What does it matter though? I’m probably going off to jail for the next little while, and even if you stayed here, I probably wouldn’t be seeing much of you for God-knows-how-long anyway.”

We’re silent again.

“I think it’s good that you’re going back to help your family in their time of need,” he says. “I really hope your father will be okay, somehow, and I really hope that someday you can come back to

Calgary.”

I smile at him and nod.

One of the guards knocks then opens the door. “Five minutes to count Gilhuis!” Then he shuts the door and goes back behind the counter.

“Count?” I ask, “What’s that?”

Bert looks at me sadly. “That means I have to go. They stick us back in our cells just to make sure we’re all still here,” he says with a sigh. “They do this to us about three or four times a day.”

We’re momentarily silent again.

“Bert, I won’t forget you.”

“Jim, I sure as hell will never forget you. Promise that you’ll write to me?”

I smile sadly and tell him I will. I slowly get up from the table. I look into Bert’s eyes wanting to say something, anything that won’t sound trite or superficial. But what do I say at a moment like this? I want to kiss him, to hug him, but I don’t dare, not in here.

It’s as Bert is reading my thoughts. “You don’t have to say anything, Jim. Just go. You have a life to live.”

I bow my head and leave the room. I open the door I look back to Bert. He has a sad but stoic look in his eyes.

“Goodbye, Jim.”

My voice cracks as I say, “Goodbye, Bert.”

I turn and walk through the door.

I feel overwhelming sadness. It’s strange where time brings everybody. I think of my life and twists and turns it’s taken over this past year and a half. I think of Bert, my father, Glenn, Bryn and Marcel, the military and the tribunal. I think of Cliff who has made a special trip out from Manitoba and is at my place packing some boxes for me. I think of how every change in my life seems to be more dramatic and comes at me more quickly. Somehow though, I seem to muddle through those changes and manage to carry on. I don’t know what these next years are going to bring, but I can tell you this much, I’ll conquer every single one of them. This I promise myself.

Ron Kearse writes complicated tales. Do not set your heart on any one person until the very end of one story and even then hit the pause button. Whew! This is a drama filled story. There is family complications due to prejudice against homosexuality. Then add in the “in closet” mindset of the early 1980’s and life was very different than it is now and acceptance is still difficult. Kearse places one person in the military and then introduces a completely different situation than Jim’s. 

I relate more to Jim’s story due to the fact that I served in the military during this time frame. When red lights above bar doors meant it was okay for gay people to enter. Before “ask do not tell” when you did not even ask, you made sure you had a beard all the way. 

The abuse Bert receives I have heard about many times from others. Kearse is matter of fact regarding these circumstances. This abrupt and short sentencing allows you to seperate yourself from the acts themselves.

Just Outside of Hope has an open-road ending. Take a step back in time and enjoy a little “fun”, some drama, and some totes with Hope.

I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

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The Road Without End Trilogy:

#1

From the Desk of Author Ron Kearse:

My novel, Just Outside of Hope, is the second book in a trilogy about gay men who came of age in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. The trilogy recalls the heady days of 1970s gay liberation and dancing in the streets, to a community utterly devastated by AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s. And how the community has triumphed in so many ways since.

Recently, I’ve been asked the following: In writing about the past, do you feel that progress has been made for the LGBTQ+ community today? Has the progress been positive? Has it benefited LGBTQ+ authors? And how? 

I’ve thought long and hard about these questions because I could answer them in so many ways. Just when I thought I had an answer, something else would strike me, and as a result I’ve rewritten this blog several times.

On one hand, things have become much better for the LGBTQ+ Community in so many ways, and yet we still have so much further to go. 

Let me tell you a story.

I came out as a young, gay man in 1975. I was eighteen, and being LGBTQ+ in Canada had only been legal for six years! At that time, I met many older queer men who came of age when being gay was still illegal. For their own good, they had to lead double lives. 

They had all of the trappings of a normal life: “happily married” with children, they had the house in the burbs with the two-car garage and TV antenna on the roof…and they were used to having to hide who they were. Many would frequent gay bath houses and pubs to clandestinely be with others who were like them. That was the way it had to be, or they would risk up to two years in prison if they got caught for being gay, Google: Everett Klippert.

Bill C-150, which sought to decriminalize homosexual activity between two consenting adults, was introduced in the Canadian Parliament in 1967 by, (at that time), Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau, and became law in 1969. “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation,” was what Trudeau famously had to say about the passage of the legislation at the time.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, we fought for our rights and danced in celebration of who we all were. The 1980s brought all of that to a screeching halt! History has recorded how many in our community were left to die alone and how we and our allies fought hard against willful ignorance to finally get to where we are today… and losing almost an entire generation of gay men along the way. 

Since that time, AIDS has become a chronic disease, rather than the death sentence it once was. The LGBTQ+ community has gone on to recognize both the Trans Community and Queer Communities of Colour. These days, I see the LGBTQ+ community open-heartedly embracing the diversity of races and binary/non-binary genders. Besides our Rainbow flag, we now have an array of flags that each one of us can fly.

So, as to the original questions: yes, I feel there has been significant progress being made by the LGBTQ+ Community. Yes, I feel those ongoing changes are very positive. Yes, it has benefitted LGBTQ+ authors in that over these decades we have become more visible, and now have a whole world of colour and cultures that are beginning to be recognized and heard. 

Just look at the LGBTQ+ authors that are widely being read and celebrated. We have numerous Canadian Queer Authors of various colours, cultures and backgrounds being read, winning awards, and our whole community is redefining itself and expanding as a result, Google: LGBT Writers from Canada.

Having said all of that, we are also recording high numbers of Trans men and women being hunted down and killed the world over, we are constantly hearing of incidents of cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, shaming, and sexting. The episodes of homophobic attacks ending in death are high, and many countries like: Russia, Brazil, Jamaica, Iran, many other countries in the world, are in the processes of outlawing LGBTQ+ Folks once more. In essence, young LGBTQ+ people face a whole new set of ugly things we Queer Elders never would have dreamed of facing when we were coming out!

The way I see it, there are two things the world is demonstrating to us right now. First, times are shifting and we are witnessing the dawning of a new world. There is a lot of hope and optimism in the air today. But secondly, because of these shifting times, authoritarian forces are becoming more authoritarian, and many governments all over the world are clamping down more severely on the rights of those who are perceived as different. 

I think of those older men I met when I came out those many decades ago, and how they hid from who they really were. The price was steep for them to be themselves at the time, fast forward to these days, and the price is still steep for being who you are. 

Tempting though it may be, please don’t hide, especially now. Now more than ever, the world needs you to be the person you are. It’s the most courageous and radical act you will ever commit.

If you feel the need to write, please write, compose music, photograph, paint, protest, politicize yourself, get involved, volunteer, dance, sing, be seen! Yes, it’s a big risk, but in doing so, you encourage others to do the same. 

For all these decades, we in the LGBTQ+ Community have fought alone for our rights, in the face of total indifference, intolerance, and rising violence. What we are witnessing right now is a revolution! We now understand that we no longer have to walk alone, and that’s perhaps the greatest difference between when I came out–and now. We now see that we have lots of allies, and our allies can count on us for support. 

Let’s proudly walk with women from all over the world, African and Indigenous Peoples, Asian People and folks of other cultures in celebrating our diversity knowing that we are building a better world. We are invisible no more!

Ron Kearse
Author
Road Without End Trilogy

Further Details:
Publisher: Filidh Publishing,  9781927848104, 20 March 2014
Series: Road Without End #2; Settings: Canada and British Columbia
Pages: 260; Sex: Rated R

Phoebe’s Note: 
On the Author’s website, Kearse states that Just Outside of Hope is the second book in a trilogy.

Promotion materials provided by Goddess Fish Promotions.

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