Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
During a violent storm at sea on an immigrant ship bound for Australia, young British student, Paul Canfield, meets and falls in love with Mike Armstrong, an adventurous American on his way to Port Hedland in the far north to work at his father’s mining concerns.
Due to a disastrous event, Mike is injured and lost in the vast and hostile desert. He is found by a roving tribe of aborigines and nurtured back to almost complete health.
Paul is determined to trace the tracks of his lost lover and undergoes many varied and perilous adventures on his quest to bring Mike back.
Bulldust by D.J. Brumb starts off with a Prologue in the year 2012. Paul and Mike are living in South Beach, CA and Mike has an accident and is transported to the hospital where Paul waits to see what happened to him. Chapter 1 flashes back to 1956. Paul and his family are on board the passenger ship MV Georgic. His parents are emigrating from Liverpool to Australia and this ship is taking them to their new home. The voyage has become turbulent and Paul is saved from falling overboard by American Mike Armstrong. Mike is also headed to Australia to work in one of his father’s mining concerns. From moment, the two young men become inseparable during the voyage, discovering not only that both are gay but that they are seriously attracted to one another.
Brumb is quick to authenticate the era the boys meet in. Mike is reading Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice (a favorite of mine) which was published in 1950. The ship is detailed down to the chairs bolted on the deck and the passage it takes from England to Australia is well documents as it sails through the Straits of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean toward Malta and on to Port Said and the Suez Canal. The author is meticulous in their research and it shows. However instead of an exciting journey, the voyage felt more like a stuffy travelogue, an unfortunate side effect of a narrative that felt more like a “as told to” then one we are in the middle of experiencing. Which is a shame because this cruise and the places it passes by offer untold promise and excitement that is never fulfilled.
Mike and Paul become close on the trip and sexually intimate to the point that saying goodbye at the end is heartbreaking for both. Perhaps not the reader but the main characters certainly. For me, I never could get invested in their relationship. It felt lacking any charisma or sex appeal or life for that matter. The dry tone of the travelogue carried over into every part of this story, including the new relationship between Mike and Paul.
It doesn’t get any better when Mike rents a car to travel by himself up to the mining town, a perilous journey he takes blithely. When the boys separate so does the narrative and the story starts jumping back and forth between Mike and Paul’s point of view. Sometimes, in other books, this format is successful in allowing the reader to become intimate with the interior thoughts and feelings of each individual. And sometimes it just muddies the flow of the plot. In Bulldust, it was definitely a case of the latter.
As you can guess from the blurb, Mike is injured and lost. So lost that he and us lose all sight of what little we had learned about who he was and what he was doing there. Mike becomes someone else and that takes us away from our connection to him and his relationship with Paul, what little of it is left at this point. Plus there was the factor that this segment of the story contains one of the best possibilities for bringing us into the native aboriginal culture of Australia and fails utterly to make it fascinating and believable. Not that the author didn’t do the research…Brumb did. But it never comes alive or allows us to feel as though we are part of the story and Mike’s situation.
Meanwhile back at the city or wherever Paul finds himself, time passes in multiple ways until Paul decides to look for Mike. Dusty travels ensue, via railroad and other methods of transportation and so does the lifeless tone of the novel.
I so wished I liked this story more. That darn blurb hooked me in with all the sort of details that trigger my interest. But that blurb turned out to be the most exciting thing about this story. Loved the research, but barely made it through the narrative. Plus that Prologue and Epilogue which pulls us back to 2012 adds little to the story other than to put it in a modern context and act as its own spoiler because the men are together in the present day. So much for the suspense of if Paul will find Mike.
What Bulldust has in factual information and length, it missing its equal in vitality and connection. This story felt as dry as the outback without ever making us feel as though we had been there. So much promise lost, so much potential in the plot wasted. I certainly hope that the next story I read by this author contains the research as well as the ability to lose us in whatever story Brumb wants to tell and makes us believe it with all our hearts. I want to be transported in feeling instead of being told I was on a journey.
Art work by Christine Griffin. I sort of liked the “oldtimey” feel to the cover. Could have been one of those adventure novels of the 50’s. But it didn’t take that far enough, and finally falls flat.
book, 150 pages
Published June 10th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art by
ebook, 150 pages
Published June 10th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press