When I was in college at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florham, I went into a bookshop in Morristown, NJ one afternoon desperately looking for gay fiction. I was an English major and I'd been reading nothing but heteronormative fiction all year. All I wanted was something gay, with gay content, and I would have settled for anything at that point. I knew this was a good old time bookshop and I figured I might find something there.
And that's where I stumbled across The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren. It was way in the back of the store, on a bottom shelf, in the "Gay/Lesbian" section. That's how they used to classify LGBT books. I bought it and read it the first time in two sittings, and I've re-read it so many times over the years I've lost track. And when I first found The Front Runner in the 90s it had already been out there for years. I also couldn't wait to buy it in digital format a few years ago. It had to be in my digital library, too. The Front Runner was, and still is, one of the most important classic works of gay fiction ever written.
With that said, I was so sorry to hear that Patricia Nell Warren passed away. I followed her for over 10 years on social media, and looked forward to her posts and comments. The few times we interacted personally I was thrilled just to connect with her. She was one of the nicest people I've ever met on social media. Even though I can't say she inspired me to write fiction, because I'd already decided to do that by the time I read The Front Runner, she did inspire me to read more classic gay fiction. She will be missed, I'm sure.
This is GREAT story!! It's wonderful in its exploration of sexuality and masculinity. The story is well done and beautifully done. The story flows beautifully and the characters are wonderfully written.
Even though Kendle is an openly gay ex-Marine, he's been questioning his masculinity all of his life. He's always been what people expect a man to be, in spite of the fact that he's never been completely comfortable living up to these expectations.
He also has a few secrets. The kind of secrets a man can only talk about with the most intimate people in his life. One of those people is his best friend and part time lover, Dale. And their relationship is not without a few unusual quirks and ironies either, especially when it comes to the way Kendle explains his relationship with Dale to his own parents.
After a string of bad career decisions and awkward mistakes, it's not until Kendle meets a young guy named Walter that his life begins to come together. It's a journey filled with as much joy as heartbreak, with a few bittersweet twists in between. As Kendle opens himself up to new possibilities, he finds himself in the midst of life altering changes that leave him devastated. And there's a point where he's not sure he can get through any of it.