Scroll To Top

Straight talk

Straight talk


Christopher Rice sits down with straight pal Gregg Hurwitz to discuss the best-selling novelist's penchant for gay characters

The July release of The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz was met with rave reviews and glowing endorsements from such mystery-writing legends as Robert Crais and Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, who called it "a quantum leap forward in the realm of American suspense literature." But this anticipated novel from one of the most critically acclaimed mainstream thriller writers also features an unabashedly gay character, whose impact on a novel marketed to the mainstream remains to be seen.You introduce the gay character in a startling way. Your protagonist, Drew Danner, has been accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend while in a blackout triggered by a brain tumor he didn't even know he had. Everyone he meets is either treating him like a killer or a wounded victim. Then Preston--the gay character--shows up and literally rips the drapes off his windows and tells him to stop acting like a baby and get on with his life. This is a far cry from the gay male "girlfriend" we see in so many romantic comedies. You're right. I wanted to cross a line with him. Preston isn't your average stereotypical or politically correct gay character. On the one hand he's not a pantywaist, and on the other he's not kind and sensitive. He doesn't run an orphanage. And he's not in a comfortingly long-term relationship with a partner who works in social services. He's an irreverent shit. I have a great many gay friends, and the thing I gravitate toward in them is their irreverence. In terms of humor, nothing is off-limits. I hate that generalization: "My gay friends are all so clever." But in my case, my gay friends and I arrive at an unvarnished truth a lot quicker then I do with my other friends. That's something I used in crafting the relationship between Drew and Preston in the novel.

So if it's irreverence that draws you to your gay friends, what do you think it is that draws them to you? I think the closeness comes from the fact that there's no whiff of competition within the same social hierarchies, and it leads to a kind of conversational openness that I don't have with my other male friends. I've also formed a lot of friendships with gay men through work. My attorneys, who signed me right out of college and got me my first agent, were both gay men. And one of my early agents, who is still a trusted reader, has had a big influence on my work. His editorial notes are like Oscar Wilde on crack. For a while there, my whole team was gay, but then I had to add a few straight people.

Because your novels are marketed to a mainstream audience, do you run the risk of alienating readers when you include major gay characters like Preston? My Navy SEALs thriller, Minutes to Burn, had a prominent gay character in it, and I got the typical knuckle-dragging e-mails about it being Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve--the sort of literary high wit to which Im sure you're accustomed. This didn't bother me because I think all good writing involves some daring, but for the most part, having a major gay character no longer constitutes a huge risk.

Because Preston is so irreverent, and so beyond codes of political correctness, who seemed to have more of a reaction to him: your gay friends or your straight friends? My straight friends. For example, Drew calls Preston "Herr Brokeback" and a lot of my straight friends reacted by saying, "Are you allowed to write that?" The funny thing is I never get responses like that about female characters or characters of a different race. Also, when people read a book during the early stages, they're always preoccupied with how imaginary others are going to respond. [It's] similar to how people will try to censor a book because they believe it will corrupt other people's thinking, not their own. Everyone who has read Preston (so far) seems to have taken to him, but a few folks think I may have pushed the line a little too far. But as I said, all good writing involves some daring, and I pride myself on being an open-minded writer. Genuine writing often comes from surprising places. If you lock down your plots or characters, either based on too-rigid planning or on personal prejudices, you're not really writing, you're just filling in the blanks.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Christopher Rice