I have a guest on the blog today, the lovely A.L. Lester. They’re here to talk about their brand spanking new release, Eight Acts. The main characters in this book was featured in Taking Stock, a book I absolutely adored, so I’ve looked forward to this since Ally told me about it. I was lucky enough to get an ARC, too, so it’s all loaded into my e-reader, waiting for me.
But enough babbling from me. Help me welcome Ally to my blog, please! 🙂
The History behind Eight Acts
Hello there! Thank you so much to Nell for inviting me to pop in today to talk about Eight Acts, my newest release! It’s a twenty thousand world novella set in 1967, just after homosexual sex between two men stopped being illegal in the UK. You can read all about it if you scroll down to the blurb below; but I wanted to use this space to talk a bit about how the story evolved.
It features Adrian and Percy, who are minor character in Taking Stock. Once I got that finished last summer, I spent a few months wondering how they got together. They seemed so solid in Taking Stock, a contrast to the confusion felt by the main characters. Percy teaches maths and science at a boys boarding school. The story is told from his point of view. He’s in his early thirties, sensible and steady, but lonely. He meets Adrian when he and his friend Les, a fellow teacher, decided to spend a summer in London teaching English to adults at a language school. Adrian is a criminal defence solicitor, a few years older than Percy and very down to earth and grounded.
They are both middle class, educated, and formed by a time when it was against the law to have sex with another man in the UK. By default therefore, they lived their professional lives in the closet.
Having said that there was still a vibrant, connected queer community in London during the period between the Labouchere Amendment in 1885 and the relaxing of the law against ‘gross indecency’—mostly used to prosecute gay men for acts other than anal sex—in the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. I tried to reflect that in both books.
Then during the period I was writing, an acquaintance of ours died. He had lived with his partner since 1968. It suddenly brought it home to me that although technically 1967 is history…it’s more than fifty years ago, after all…it’s still living memory. I knew that already—my mother still grumbles about the second world war being taught at GCSE!—but it didn’t really resonate with me until I realised these two lovely men had lived through all of this. I went away and did some reading at that point and I found this lovely book, Between the Acts, which is transcribed from interviews of gay men recorded some time in the 1970s.
I really recommend have a look at it if this period of UK history is your thing. Things have changed so much in the last fifty years. We’re not there yet by any means, but we’re moving forward. I’ve put more references on my blog if history is your thing.
It’s the summer of 1967 and the Sexual Offences Act has just decriminalized consensual gay sex in private between two men over twenty-one. Percy Wright and his friend Les Baker have both taken temporary jobs teaching English as a foreign language in London during their long summer break from teaching at a rural boarding school near Oxford.
Thirty-three year old Percy is keen to soak up some theatre, music and general culture, whilst the younger Les is also keen to experience the varied gay social scene. When Les picks up a man called Phil at the box office of the Albert Hall when he goes to buy tickets to a Promenade Concert, Percy inadvertently gets thrown together with Adrian Framlingham, Phil’s friend.
Adrian is all the things Percy likes in a man…funny, kind and steady. When Les gets hurt, Percy turns to Adrian for support, but as the end of the summer looms it seems as if their affair will come to a natural end.
What will happen when Percy goes back to his everyday life as a house-master? Will he and Adrian stay in touch? Does he even want a long-distance relationship when arranging to meet someone for sex is still illegal, even if the act itself is not?
A 20k novella that’s set five years before Taking Stock. Stand alone.
About A. L. Lester
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat and some hens. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.