Although you won’t find it on lists of LGBT classics, I would nominate Jonathan Kellerman’s long running Alex Delaware detective series as one of my favorites. It features a new twist on the classic formula of detective-plus-sidekick, professional-plus-amateur. In this series, a straight man and a gay man are best friends and colleagues—a connection that is treated in a natural, matter-of-fact way.
Their relationship is not a "bromance." There is no unspoken sexual tension. It’s simply a part of life. What a revolutionary idea. It’s particularly striking since this series has been around since 1986, when Kellerman won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel with his debut Alex Delaware novel, When The Bough Breaks. Since then, he has produced a book a year, more or or less.
Alex Delaware, the protagonist and narrator, is a former child psychologist who has become a forensics consultant for the L.A. Police Department. He is wealthy, good-looking and urbane. He’s a sensitive type who appreciates fine wine and good food. He owns a French bulldog. He has an on-again, off-again relationship with a significant other—an attractive, supportive musician who makes classical guitars for a living.
Milo Sturgis, his sidekick, is a detective with the LAPD. Milo is a big, hefty man with too much belly and not much taste in clothing. He sports a perennially bad haircut and pock-marked skin. Milo isn’t a picky eater, as long as portions are ample. He lives with his significant other of twenty years—an attractive, supportive partner who works in the emergency room of a Los Angeles hospital.
You’ve probably guessed which of the two is gay.
So much for stereotypes.
The Alex Delaware books aren’t highbrow literature. They are sophisticated mysteries. "Novels of psychological suspense." In other words, pure entertainment—although they are well-written and believable, from the psychological standpoint. But without being preachy, they send a message: LGBT people are as diverse as straight people. They can’t be stereotyped. They aren’t necessarily struggling internally about sexual orientation. In the Kellerman novels, Milo’s biggest struggle is with the homophobia of the LAPD. They go to work, have friendships with gay and straight people, go on double dates with work colleagues.
A little more about the author: Jonathan Kellerman is a former child psychologist. He is married to a woman named Faye Kellerman, who also writes detective novels. Jesse, the oldest of their four children, is also a novelist. Interestingly, the Kellermans are part of a Jewish religious community (Modern Orthodox) that is not traditionally known for its acceptance of LGBT people. It makes Kellerman's affirmative, natural portrait of a gay cop all the more impressive.
(Written for Red Room's blog topic of the week: Write about your favorite LGBT book.)
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