Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
When I read Dan Skinner’s first novel, Memorizing You, I was struck by the way he used words to draw pictures in the reader’s mind. Like the artist he is, many passages in this latest novel, The Price of Dick, not only cleverly illuminate traits and quirks of the various characters, they also serve to anchor us to the story itself, thereby making us a captivated participant in the unfolding story. And what a story this novel is, surreal and, at the same time, alarmingly real. The reality aspect may be due to the idea that parts of this story are autobiographical in nature. Once I was made aware of that fact, I immediately knew that I had the distinct pleasure of meeting one of the bravest writers I have ever run across. If even a tenth of this novel is steeped in reality (and I assure you it is), then dear reader know that author Dan Skinner is not only an amazing photographer, but a remarkably courageous man who is somehow able to laugh at himself and his past—his horrific past with the man named Dick.
Where to begin to recap the incredible nightmare that J.J. Johnstone’s life became after meeting Richard “call me Dick” Fitch? They meet in the gym and while Dick maintains his strict heterosexual persona, it quickly becomes apparent to J.J. that he is anything but straight. But Dick is also the most conniving, cold-blooded huckster to ever walk the earth. So, as the lives of these two men become further and further entwined, J.J. slowly begins to realize just how much of himself he is sacrificing to keep Dick happy. What begins as a simple offer of a place to stay turns into a relationship that will span more than a decade and which by the end will nearly destroy J.J., his photography business, and his health. Dick will systematically entrench himself into every aspect of J.J.’s existence. Somehow he will convince J.J. to lie about his being gay in order to save Dick from the wrath of his religious zealot of a mother and to keep his old college buddies from suspecting anything is awry. Dick, himself, so utterly believes the web of lies that he convinces himself that Dick is a victim and realizes much too late that the victim is actually he, himself.
What is most amazing about this novel, The Price of Dick, is the way in which author Dan Skinner ruefully admits that he allows himself to blindly accept the ruse Dick perpetuates. He signs off on financial papers with a trust so deep that he never questions what his is in actually agreeing to—things that will affect his life dramatically. He turns a discerning eye on his own life story and imparts such a shocking tale that you wish it really was complete fiction—anything but the truth that one person can use another so cruelly. This is a love story but not the sort you are used to reading. Instead it is through the retelling of a painful journey in his past that he finally achieves an awakening to a love that will not only heal J.J. but save him as well.
The characters were stunning. There were so many times that the dialogue and internal thought processes were so complete and real that I felt I was walking around inside J.J.’s skin. Never in my years of reading the m/m genre have I stumbled upon such a pathetic monster as the likes of Richard Fitch. Skinner took every religious right hate speech and wrapped them in the domineering persona of Eleanor Fitch, Dick’s mother. As he allowed his characters to sink to the bottom, he also found a way for them to resurface stronger and wiser than before. This is not your typical m/m romance and yet there is such love by novel’s end that you pick up your wrung out self and heave a sigh of relief that J.J. has not only lived through hell but came out on top, but oh the price he paid.
I cannot say much more other than to highly recommend this novel to you. I believe Dan Skinner’s novel, The Price of Dick, will be one of the highlights this genre has to offer this year.