Terrence Bottom wants to change the world. Little does he know the world is already changing, and his part in it won’t be what he expects. A prelaw student at Columbia University, Terrence’s interests range from opposing the draft and the war in Vietnam, to civil rights for gays, to anything to do with Cameron McKenzie, the rugged blond hanging around the Stonewall Inn. Too bad Cameron bolts whenever Terrence looks his way.
College dropout Cameron McKenzie left tiny Paris, Kentucky, with dreams of a career on Broadway. Although he claims to be straight, he prostitutes himself to survive. Now the Mafia is using him to entrap men for extortion schemes. He’s in over his head with no way out—at least not a way that doesn’t involve cement shoes and a swim in the Hudson.
Terrence finally confronts Cameron, and they return to the Stonewall Inn during another police raid. But this time the patrons aren’t going quietly. While Terrence sees his chance to stand beside his friends and stand up for his beliefs, Cameron sees the distraction of the riots as an opportunity to escape—even if it means walking away from the only man he’s ever loved.
What’s in a Word?
The 1969 Stonewall uprising is the backdrop for Happy Independence Day, my new release from DSP Publications. Going into this project, my knowledge of the riots was limited to what I’d picked up over the years from gay friends. All I really knew was that a bunch of queens fought with New York City police during a raid at the Stonewall Inn.
Some would call any group of gay men a bunch of queens. Queen has long been part of the gay lexicon. It’s a flexible word that can be a compliment, an insult, or a term of endearment. Without context, the intended meaning is hard to decipher.
Stonewall and queen are inextricably linked. The day after the raid, the Village Voice ran a story: “Homo Nest Raided: Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad.” The article was even more offensive than the headline and is credited for causing another night of rioting.
The Stonewall Inn was a popular destination for homosexuals of every persuasion and from all walks of life and was the only place in New York City where same-sex couples could dance without getting arrested. The music came from two jukeboxes. Motown hits, classic R&B, and pop dance tunes filled the backroom jukebox. The front room jukebox featured Patsy Cline, Judy Garland, and Broadway show tunes.
“Queen” is often half of a two-word label. The backroom at the Stonewall Inn was a hangout for drag queens, flame queens, scare queens, and fright queens. Except for drag queen, the terms haven’t been used for so long, their meaning is unclear. Whatever their differences, the various queens had one thing in common: they did not conform to gender norms.
In the days before equal protection under the law, individuals who would likely identify as trans* today had a hard time finding jobs. Many had left home in the teen years, before finishing high school. Some ran away; many were kicked out. Those who landed in New York City found a home in backroom at the Stonewall Inn.
Two unidentified patrons—a masculine lesbian and a drag queen—are believed to have been the first to resist the police. In response to excessive force by police, the normally passive patrons joined the fight. At one point, the police barricade themselves inside the Stonewall Inn for protection from the angry mob.
Philip Potter, Terrence Bottom, and a few of their friends from No Good Deed (the second Philip Potter Story) end up in New York City the weekend of the Stonewall uprising. They befriend Kreema Dee Kropp, the reigning queen of the backroom at the Stonewall Inn and the only friend of Cameron McKenzie, a male prostitute who can’t break free from his Mafia employer. Cameron meets Terrence, the riots break out, and both lives are forever changed.
Review by Debbie Attenborough
Terrence is a law student and wants to change the world. Visiting bars that openly serve gay men leads him to meet Cameron. But Cameron runs from Terrence every chance he gets. Until Cameron meets a lady who whoops him upside the head and makes him see who he really is. He just needs to be with Terrence one time, before he disappears.
This is the second in the Philip Potter series I’ve read, but it is book 3, I think. There is one I have still to read so am reading them out of order. I don’t think it matters too much, though.
Terrence is in New York, studying pre-law and has a wide and varied circle of friends. They spread time at the Stonewall Inn, which is a bar run by the Mafia catering for openly gay/lesbian people along with those who colour between the lines. Cameron catches his eye but runs away all the time. Cameron does have good reason, though. Being bait for his Mafia boss’ blackmail scam has jaded the man. He knows he doesn’t have long left, he is, after all, getting old, but Cameron also knows he needs to get away before he is made gone and ends up at the bottom of the river with concrete boots.
I really enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as No Good Deed, and I the only reason I can maybe pinpoint, is the crime/thriller element is not here. Its based around the Stonewall Riots of June 1969, the run up and the few days after. So there are are murderous thoughts from some people, but none that take flight. We get how one police officer feels before and after, how two amazing women stand up to the police, how people watching nearby felt. Its very deep, in the emotions that run through it, and I did like that.
Its also a little steamier than No Good Deed, not too much, still very mild, but in keeping with the fact that, times they are a-changing, if albeit slowly.
As well as Terrence and Cameron, we get Philip Potter, and George, his lover; we get Harold and Abigail; we get several other characters too and it gives a huge amount of insight into what happened at Stonewall Inn that fateful night.
It took a long time for things to start moving but many believe this event was the birth of the modern LGBT movement.
As I said, I enjoyed this read, but not as much as No Good Deed, but it still gets….
Meet Michael Rupured
Michael Rupured joined the Athens Writers Workshop in 2010 and has since published four novels: Until Thanksgiving in 2012, After Christmas Eve in 2013 (rereleased as No Good Deed in 2016), Happy Independence Day (a 2014 Rainbow Award runner up rereleased in 2016) and Whippersnapper (January 2016). He’s on the faculty of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia and has received numerous awards for financial education programs he’s developed over the last thirty years for youths and low-income families and served in a variety of leadership roles at the state and national level. Visit his blog (http://rupured.com), follow him on Twitter (@crotchetyman) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichaelRupured), or send an email message to email@example.com.