Pomp and Circumstance
Book Two of The Merry Millionaire Duology
Further adventures with The Merry Millionaire.
Entering into the spirit of the Jazz Age
with gay abandon.
A story based on true events.
About the book
In this second book of his duology, J.A.Wells utilises his finely tuned sense of period and historical fact to transport us to a world of caleches, feluccas, mummies and mosques, through which his masterfully drawn characters cavort with gay abandon, caring little for what might be around the corner and naively ignorant of the catastrophe which would end a decade of decadence and depression. Played against a backdrop of spy-ridden Egypt, pre war England, abdicating Kings and unexpected coronations, we continue to share further travel adventures with our intrepid explorers, Ron and Mervyn, as they discover far more than simply the mysteries of the orient.
After a venturesome jaunt up the Nile, back in Cairo we find Ron and Mervyn at Shepheard’s Hotel, where the fascinating Lee Miller has invaded the Long Bar. A flamboyant party at Baron Empain’s Palais Hindou serves to whet their appetites for the supernatural. Then joining the luxury ship that will take them home, they rub shoulders with Egyptian royalty, learning more than they should regarding the secrets of the palace. Using his newly found entrepreneurial skills, Ron organises an on board concert, Mervyn’s angelic voice and good looks stealing the show. Ghosts are on the agenda once more at an overnight stay at London’s Great Western Hotel.
What may become of the pairing of Ron and Mervyn, poles apart in age and class, yet similar in inclination?
A few snippets from the story
Extract from Chapter Ten: Ali began to shuffle the cards, and to tell the truth, it dawned on me that I had never really noticed his hands. They were quite beautiful. Not those of a man who makes carpets, beats copper, or digs the road. His were hands intended to hold books, his fingers to turn pages and hold a fountain pen.
Extract from Chapter Twelve: As our lonely felucca slipped between the towering lock walls of red granite, the massive gates behind us slowly closing, it was suddenly an eerie silent world we entered, with only granite to the left and right, the sky above and water beneath. That is, until water began cascading through two sluices situated at the dam side of the lock.
Extract from Chapter Thirteen: It pleased me to see Ali beginning to understand how to deal with Mervyn. In Mervyn’s case, using flattery was the best weapon, since he was unable to resist sweet talk. But he was silent for a while, the only sound, the water lapping the hull, creaking ropes, and the occasional crack, as the wind caught the sail. When he finally spoke, his voice was so hypnotic I was almost sure I was about to fall asleep.
Extract from Chapter Fourteen: “It’s the only way of life I know Ron,” he replied. “We Egyptians live by the tempo of the Nile. He’s our beginning and our end. Our companion. Our father. The giver and restorer of life. I cannot imagine a world without him.”
What others are saying:
Our world has changed in many ways, our European based cultures have become more reasonable and all inclusive of religious philosophies, racial and cultural differences and sexual orientation. Of course pockets of resistance still exist and resound through the voices and actions of the un-enlightened. That said, I have a certain conservative view of the world, so it was with hesitation that I decided to read this novel from this genre, which follows the journey of a “gay” character. The Captain is a very rich English gentleman, whose lifestyle could be looked upon today with a critical eye, in light of our society’s courageous attempt to protect the young.
The richness of this story gives us a window into the fascinating world of privileged English toffs during the 1920s and 1930s. We journey with Captain Ronald Fry, the merry millionaire, and his mentoree, Mervyn Watson, shrewd beyond his years, as they travel surrounded by the sumptuous luxury of their world, edged with the secrecy and danger which accompanied their similar “inclinations”.
The book follows an unpublished fictional-memoir, discovered after the death of the main character, Captain Ronald Fry. The Captain lived a double life, being a gay man living in a world where to be gay was illegal and unacceptable in the light of day, but with discretion, deceit, and a lot of money, it was possible to be “merry”.
J.A.Wells has written a jaunty tale of a the Captain’s life, his travels and adventure, set squarely in historical events of the time. J.A.Wells’ descriptions of magnificent cruise liners share with the reader his love of gorgeous interiors, clothes and theatre. His detailed depictions of luxurious ships, gentlemen’s clubs, seedy bars, sleazy nightclubs, and magnificent mansions, give a texture to the story, encouraging you to stop and absorb a sense of place and time. He can put you right there, just as though you are in a room and relishing its opulence, its colour and light, its sounds and smells.
The story covers Ron’s experiences during the First World War, how he accepts his gayness and adapts to its demands. Then later, he and Mervyn become mentor and mentoree in the Greek sense. Ron showers Mervyn with generosity; generosity that includes Mervyn’s sisters, brothers, mother, father and his group of friends. They swan around England’s West Country, cruise Norwegian fjords, and later, go on a rescue mission to Egypt. It’s the glamorous 1930’s. The unlimited supply of Ron’s wealth, gives his family and friends access to many wonderful experiences.
This story is a tapestry filled with colour and texture bordered by dark edges. It is driven along by Ron’s story, and how he side steps society’s rules of behaviour and at the same time is a likeable character, with all the traits of a benefactor. He does much good for others, but at the same time uses his position of power to place himself perfectly for questionable opportunities.
Reading this story with the sensibility of the political correctness of today, and the knowledge that all is not “good” or “right” within the life of the main character, adds a thought provoking edge to what is otherwise a rollicking tale of a very MERRY millionaire.
A good read!
Source: A bookish observation from Artuccino