‘Cockeyed’ by Richard Stevenson
Author: Drewey Wayne Gunn
September 16, 2010
The eleventh Don Strachey, Albany, New York, P.I., novel is not so much a mystery as it is a meditation on what the gay movement has gained and, even more, what it has lost in the process of its struggle for equality.
True, a mother does disappear from her nursing home, and there is suspicion of foul play: but there is no real sense of menace. Don is hired by Hunny Van Horn to handle the problems that arise—primarily from importuners and would-be blackmailers—as a result of his winning “the first New York Lottery payout of one billion dollars.” Hunny, Don quickly discovers, was one of the drag queens at the Stonewall Inn riots and has never given up his larger-than-life persona, much to the embarrassment of his conservative gay nephew.
As the latter says apropos of his uncle’s appearance on the Today show, “Did Uncle Hunny do himself any good—or the cause of gay rights or gay marriage any good—by complimenting Matt Lauer on his ‘nice basket’?” As his outrageous behavior (by present-day standards of gay decorum) continues, to the great delight of “Focks News,” only the radical faeries of Vermont come to Hunny’s defense.
The generally satirical and wisecracking Don Strachey is strangely subdued in this outing, generally yielding the spotlight to Hunny, but Cockeyed is the most thought-provoking of the novels being reviewed here. Don, acting (one senses) as the author’s mouthpiece, says early on: “In a world of gay folks like us who are busily turning queer life in America into a kind of insipid parody of our parents’ dull, stable existence, Hunny is this horrifying creature climbing out of the primordial homo ooze. I have to say that I find him alternately hair-raising and beguiling.”
The under-50 reader can gain a real education about a rapidly disappearing and largely ignored part of his heritage by reading All of Me and Cockeyed.