Deep Hanging Out
by Richard Gwyn
Readers addicted to Hemingway will love this book. It’s all there: the hot sun, the sand, the blood, the bells, the sea, the beautiful passionate women, the bulls, the peasants, the booze and drugs.
One of the protagonists is the highly intelligent and enigmatic Ruben: we are never quite sure what he is up to. He is a charismatic and witty Argentinian - handsome, elegant, and irresistible to women. The other man, Cosmo, a talented painter, has romantic Irish good looks (although he is not Irish) and is almost an innocent. He has a sweet nature, and never quite understands the wiles and weirdness of other people. He is physically strong, even though he imbibes, from time to time, every prohibited substance. Like the reader, he is never quite sure what is going to happen next.
Of course there is foul language, heavy smoking, and rather a lot of sex, both deviant and fairly straight, besides the consumption in quantity of almost every type of alcoholic drink, but it all adds colour to the story. The novel is set in Crete and there is a surprisingly romantic interlude where Cosmo takes Alysa, his lover, trekking across the cool, rough Mountains of the Moon. They follow the faint, narrow tracks of mountain sheep, and sleep in deserted shepherds’ huts and remote sandy beaches close to the sound of the sea. Cosmo is deeply in love with Alysa but we are never quite sure about beautiful Alysa’s feelings until the tragic ending of the book.
The Cretan landscape is described as only a lover would see it: the sea is a deeper blue; the evening sun kisses the craggy mountains the colour of wild roses, and the dark blue night is full of stars; the sand and the dry grasses hold the heat of the day.
The dark mystery of espionage and counter-espionage sets off to perfection Gwyn’s sharp, edgy humour and spry wit.
This clever, raunchy novel is very modern, especially in its pace and its punctuation. It never slows down, and Gwyn’s economic and elegant prose gives it its beauty and its strength.