Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell. ~ Shana Alexander
Racial prejudice has the backing of popular opinion at best, popular apathy at worst; while miscegenation and homosexuality are both considered crimes punishable by law. It’s a time in which better dead than red McCarthyism is in full swing, having little to do with empirical evidence and everything to do with suspicion and paranoia and rumor that the US, and Hollywood in particular, is rife with commie traitors to the country’s democracy. It’s a time in history when it’s just as dangerous to be accused of being red as it is to be suspected of being lavender.
And this is what some people call “the good old days.”
Frank Mackenzie is a WW II veteran studying physics at Clarence Tenn Polytechnic on the GI Bill. Frank is what you might call a regular Joe with a brilliant mind and a deep dark secret, a secret that young Doctor Collis Courtland shares. The two men meet under rather inauspicious circumstances, but what begins as a potentially disastrous set of affairs is only the beginning of a meeting of two beautiful minds.
Courtland is a prodigy, a genius in the truest sense of the word, who was already studying college physics while other kids his age were barely out of junior high. Col is also carrying a heavy burden on his conscience, weighted by the fact that he was an integral cog in the development of the atomic bomb that brought an end to the Pacific theatre of the war, but brought an end to scores of innocent lives as well. Which makes it all the more suspicious when the Feds show up in Southern California, sniffing around Col’s heels and insinuating he might very well be a communist sympathizer. That would be bad enough, but after a raid on a gay bar in which he and Frank were involved but managed to escape relatively unscathed after some quick thinking and the backing of the Courtland family name, it seems the FBI is not only interested in Col’s political leanings but his sexual leanings too.
It is an unwritten law of relativity that rumor travels at the speed of light, while truth is left to fend for itself and find its own way to the light. This is the heart of Lucius Parhelion’s Faster Than the Speed of Light, and is the soul of Frank and Col’s story, a friendship that is only that, a friendship, for years because for it to be otherwise would not only endanger them personally but would also compromise them professionally. The love that grows between these two men is built upon a foundation of restraint and mutual respect, and it progresses like a controlled burn, until the day they’re finally able to acknowledge and act upon their feelings and desires.
If you love a plot heavy book, then I don’t think this one will disappoint. It’s not a romance, this one, but there’s no denying that I anticipated the first kiss in this book more so than just about any other I’ve ever read, simply because of the circumstances surrounding Frank and Col’s enforced discretion. Their friendship was lovely, the sense of time and place perfect, and the supporting cast ideally placed to help tell their story, helping the reader to understand and feel a sense of empathy for what lengths men and women went to to protect themselves from scrutiny.
I wouldn’t hesitate to say this book is one of the better I’ve read so far this year. It certainly made me fully engage my brain, that’s for sure, and while I’m not at all sure that I feel any smarter for it, I gave it a good shot.