This introductory novel from gay activist Rod Shelton sets out the adventure of Everton Jones, a young, mixed race gay man who has been catapulted onto the London gay scene while trying to find a fortune expertly hidden by his father. His father, who worked in close quarters with Bokassa, the head of state of the Central Africa Republic from 1966-79, mysteriously disappeared when Everton was a child. Bokassa’s Last Apostle is a tale of murder and deceit, love and loyalty, which would be particularly enjoyed by anyone with an interest in the murderous dictator Bokassa and his demonic period in power.
After being contacted about the prospective fortune, Everton travels to London to find out more. A mugging shortly after arriving in the city leads him, naked, to Hampstead Heath and his saviours, Kash and Édouard, two men who happen to be there handing out condoms. They take him in, and what follows is a totally improbable but vaguely intriguing pursuit of Bokassa’s fortune.
Well-researched with regards to Bokassa’s dictatorship and the terror he ruled with, the reader will almost certainly find themselves rooting for Everton, his new friends, and his absent father to begin with. Very witty at times, the novel begins like a funny, gay, version of The Da Vinci Code with our characters on a quest to discover the riches (financial, in this case), while coming up against challenges, demons and the necessary carnal distractions. However, as the story progresses the reader’s support for the guys does become overshadowed by the book’s failings.
Character description and development is generally lacking, which makes the characters difficult to identify with and at times difficult to even like. For example, the age of our characters seems to have been omitted, perhaps in an attempt to appeal to a wide audience. The result, however, is a group of characters whose appearances remain blurry in the reader’s mind. This is a real shame; through their language the characters come across as fun, and colourful descriptions of their appearance would have gone a mile for the reader experience.
In terms of language, the Polari slang is accurate and an interesting insight into a language that has been dwindling for some time. However, the slang used by the characters in general conversation is dated and a little embarrassing. Coupled with the stereotypical, overly used “darling” during conversation, readers may find themselves cringing.
Stereotypes aren’t restricted to the language, unfortunately. The romantic relationships, social lives, and preferred London haunts paint a picture, on the whole, of extremely camp men. The brief mention of lesbians borders on insulting in the butch descriptions and aggressive language. With an extremely diverse LGBT scene in real life, the writer has alienated a large portion of the LGBT community with these dated stereotypes.
This novel is worth reading for something off the beaten literature track – it could certainly never be accused of not being original. However, it may be memorable for the wrong reasons.