Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Dyer Cambell learned early that escaping into make believe was the only path to survival for him. Life with an abusive father taught him to hide his true nature behind a facade, the pretense of being something he wasn’t kept him alive if not always able to duck a fist or boot. And once stuck in that behavior Dyer never came out of it so the profession of actor was the perfect one for a man who never stopped acting.
Dyer tries out for the role of a lifetime becoming one of two actors in the running. But when the producers of the new gay dramedy decide to cast only gay actors in the lead roles, Dyer sets out to make sure they see him as a gay man even though he is straight or is he?
Dyer’s best friend brother is the solution to all his problems. Derrick Verns is gay and has know Dyer for most of his life. Surely Derrick won’t mind playing along with Dyer’s scheme by pretending to be his boyfriend? Derrick reluctantly agrees but with one provision, one that will have a profound impact on both their lives. Is Dyer up to the challenge of letting Derrick see the man behind the mask?
Havan Fellows’ short story packs an emotional punch in only 34 pages. Dyer’s abusive upbringing has taught him to escape deep into himself while leaving only a mask to face his father and real life. Fellows’ narrative slowly introduces Dyer’s painful childhood, bringing the abuse into stark relief as it recounts the broken bones, bruised body and face that came with life with a violent drunk as a father. It’s a sharp contrast to the glib, scattered young man that the rest of the world sees, with the exception of his best friend Harry. Harry is the only one who knows the extent of the abuse Dyer took at home. His casual acceptance of Dyer’s crazy schemes is telling for only a friend who can see past the mask would put up with the front Dyer presents to the world. Havan Fellows descriptions and dialog presents the reader with not only a young man hiding from himself but a portrait of a long term friendship. It becomes easily not only to identity with Dyer but to understand how Harry has been his only support….at least up until now.
Enter Derrick Verns, gay older brother of Harry and struggling artist. Derrick is a startling change from Dyer and Harry. He is bold, openly gay, and sure of himself. The contrast between Dyer and Derrick is both needed and well defined. Dyer who has hidden so long he is no longer sure of who he really is inside versus Derrick, the self assured, self confident gay man. And once Dyer is presented with someone who is everything he wanted to be, it is no wonder he starts to crumble. A terrific choice by the author in choosing how to define the main characters of her story.
I loved this story. Havan Fellows introduces us to this damaged young man and then proceeds to show us not only why we should care for him but how he became the man he is. It’s troubling and painful, especially when you take into account how many young gay youth have trod the same path as Dyer. The need to hide their true sexuality, even from themselves, in order to survive a childhood of hate, abuse and bullying. How can we not love him?
Derrick too comes into his own as a multidimensional character. He is older, artistic and self assured. And he is also compassionate. So we get it that while he is affronted by Dyer’s offer he also sees something in the man before him that makes him want to help Dyer too, just not in the same capacity as Dyer plans. The author’s plot is a dramedy itself, veering from a slight comedic scene to one of gravity , then moving on to one of compassion and total sexiness.
I only wish that the story had lingered a bit longer at the end so we could see a little more of what the future holds for this pair. But it’s still such an amazing story piled into 34 pages that I heartedly recommend you pick it up immediately and start reading.
Cover Art by Pamela Sinclair. The cover is delicious and I love the subtle inclusion of the film reels down at the bottom of the graphic. Great job.