Fires of London

Written by Janice Law
Review by Viviane Crystal

Francis Bacon is a flamer, for sure, in more ways than one. Because of severe asthma, he can’t serve on the front in World War II but instead is an ARF warden whose job is to make sure blackout conditions are kept, to rescue those hurt and to clear away the dead after the gruesome bombings occur. But this semi-military job doesn’t really get under way until we discover that he’s also a homosexual artist who flourishes with his boyfriends, who like to dress up like women or put on flashy brightly-colored lipstick and eye makeup. Unfortunately, they also like to practice some nasty games, which lead to the possibility of mortal danger.

So it is shocking and yet not so shocking when an acquaintance of Francis, Damien Hiller, dies from a slit throat. A detective, who leads a double life as cop and gay boy, wants to pin the ghastly murder on Francis. Numerous scenes follow in which either the coppers or other vagrant boys beat up Francis and he crawls, wheezing, home to elderly but very savvy Nan, who cares for him like a mother. As the war enters the bombing phase of London, the murders start to increase as well, and Francis is cajoled by the detective into finding the murderer.

The reader can feel the tension, see the bombs fall, see houses shatter into miniscule shreds of fire and stone, and so much more. Will Francis survive the bombing, let alone find the killer? Fires of London is not for the timid, but what a story it tells about a whole other slice of historical gay life and the inside story of the German bombing of London, with gas masks, shelters, and people running furiously to what is hoped to be a less fiery future. A unique historical mystery!