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Ralph Eckhart meets "Thersites" on the Internet. The manager of a Greenwich Village bookstore and politically to the left, Ralph agrees to an F2F (face-to-face) meeting with Thersites in Washington, D.C., where his friend Nancy writes speeches for a popular woman senator. With his penchant for Shakespearean drama, Ralph should have seen the elements gathering for tragedy...or farce. Thersites proves to be a young, attractive, and enthusiastic lover. He is also Republican, in the closet, right-wing, and the author...
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Gossip: A Novel

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Ralph Eckhart meets "Thersites" on the Internet. The manager of a Greenwich Village bookstore and politically to the left, Ralph agrees to an F2F (face-to-face) meeting with Thersites in Washington, D.C., where his friend Nancy writes speeches for a popular woman senator. With his penchant for Shakespearean drama, Ralph should have seen the elements gathering for tragedy...or farce. Thersites proves to be a young, attractive, and enthusiastic lover. He is also Republican, in the closet, right-wing, and the author of a tell-all book that spreads gossip about several Washington women, including a footnote about a lesbian affair between a speechwriter and a "happily married" senator. In a town where rumors can kill a career, such words may be fatal. And despite his passion, Ralph is disturbed by his new lover's politics...and then stunned at being charged with his murder. Christopher Bram joins dark satire with chilling suspense as Ralph is arrested for first-degree homicide and becomes a "cause" in the gay community.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Bram, whose last novel (Father of Frankenstein, 1995) focused on Hollywood in the 1930s, makes a bold, imaginative leap with considerable skill in this new tale, taking on gay involvement in the '90s Republican comeback in Washington.

East Village bookstore worker Ralph Eckhart, a vague, progressive fellow with a few powerful friends, a prominent gay activist and a senator's chief speechwriter among them, is gliding happily through life when he agrees to meet someone from an Internet chatroom and finds his core beliefs challenged. The date, Washington-based Bill O'Connor, is a good kisser, but he's also a rising Republican star, a right-wing journalist with a book trashing Hillary about to come out. Strange bedfellows indeed, Ralph and Bill hit it off, even going together to a Christian Coalition conference on the family where Bill is the featured speaker. But when Ralph discovers that his lover's book also accuses a lesbian speechwriter, his best friend, of an affair with her boss, he indignantly ends the relationship. Unfortunately, Bill is murdered soon after their breakup, and Ralph is jailed as the prime suspect. His activist friend Nick jumps to his defense, making his a cause célèbre exemplifying knee-jerk homophobia, but as the media machine cranks up in his favor, Ralph is shaken to discover that Nick is in fact also an FBI informer, and the one who turned him in. Freed before the case comes to trial, Ralph then unwittingly stumbles on the trail of the real murderer and has to face the consequences.

It's hard to bring this sort of story off with such a low-key protagonist, and the plot has more than a few idle moments. But ultimately this is a closely wrought psychological portrait of both a decent man and the sharply divided gay world he inhabits. In hindsight, the story seems at least as subtle as it is slow.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452273382
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/1/1998
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 338
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Bram
Christopher Bram

Christopher Bram is the author of eight other novels, including Gods and Monsters (originally titled Father of Frankenstein), which was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Bram was a 2001 Guggenheim Fellow and received the 2003 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. He lives in New York City.

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Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, June 24th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Christopher Bram, author of GOSSIP.

OnlineHost: Thank you for joining us tonight, Mr. Bram. Let's go to our first audience question.

Question: Do you consider yourself a mystery writer first and foremost, or a gay mystery writer? How would you rather be remembered?

Christopher Bram: Well, I consider myself first a novelist, and since I'm gay and always write about gay characters, I could be called a gay novelist. I'm not really a mystery writer. But I love the genre and like to visit it now and then. I love Michael Nava. His Henry Rios series is extremely good. Each book works as a mystery, but together they work like serious fiction. The character of Henry grows from book to book. Of the classic mystery writers I love, of course, Raymond Chandler. He wrote beautiful prose.

Question: What's the writing process like for you? Are you a 9 to 5 writer?

Christopher Bram: I'm more a 10 to 3 writer. I wake up, drink coffee, and read for an hour every morning. I read just about anything. And then when I'm awake enough, I turn on my computer and start writing and won't let myself stop before 3 o'clock. I'm a creature of habit, so it's a pretty easy habit to stick to. Friends will tell me they envy my discipline. But it's not really discipline, it's just habit. I'm happier when I'm writing than when I'm not writing. I feel guilty when I'm not writing. It's a healthy and useful guilt. )

Question: Do you write for any journals, or does your work ever appear in magazines?

Christopher Bram: Yes, now and then. I got my first break as a writer appearing in Christopher St. Magazine, which was the first serious gay and lesbian literary magazine, and since then I will write for anyone who will pay me, or anyone who will let me write about what I want to write about. But I've reviewed movies for Premiere magazine and books for the LAMBDA Book Report. And I once wrote about Marie Dressler for Architectural Digest.

Question: Do you ever think about tackling "gay men's health crisis"/ AIDS issues in your work?

Christopher Bram: Yes, and I have, twice now. I wrote a novel entitled IN MEMORY OF ANGEL CLARE, which was published in 1989, and it was about a circle of friends, men and women, gay and straight, dealing with AIDS and the death of a friend of theirs with AIDS. It also dealt with the politics of AIDS. And also in my new novel, GOSSIP, one of the plot lines deals with AIDS politics -- the frustration of it and the frustration in particular of a character, Nick, whose lover is very sick. It's hard to be a gay man and not write about AIDS in one way or another now.

Question: Is your hero, Ralph, based on a real person, and if so, would he date me?

Christopher Bram: [laughing] Alas, Ralph is purely fictional. But he's friendly, open, and intelligent, and I'm sure if he did exist he'd be interested in meeting you!

Question: What's on your bookshelf?

Christopher Bram: Oh Lord! Probably two thousand books. I love to read and will read almost anything if it's well written. I'm a very promiscuous reader. Currently I'm reading THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS by David McCullough. It's wonderful. It's about the building of the Panama Canal. And he's a terrific writer. He knows how to structure a story. He's not just a good historian. He's an excellent storyteller.I love the scope of the book. And the human drama he's able to find in, of all things, this grand engineering project. It's an American epic. Not just American, it's an international epic. I would love to write a novel with this kind of scope. I'd like to mention one other book on my shelf, before I go to the above question. The book I read before that isn't on my shelf but on a pile on my floor right now. It's the manuscript for a new novel by Allan Gurganus. It's called PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS. It's a great title. Wonderful title. It will be published in November by Knopf. It's a glorious book. Young writer moves to New York from the South, develops friendships with men and women, gay and straight, all of whom love their art as much as he loves his, and then AIDS breaks into their lives. As a southerner myself -- I'm from VA -- I found the book one long shock of recognition. He took something that has become too familiar to many of us, and by making it his has made it completely new again.

Question: I've noticed a bit of sarcasm and satire in your writing, especially in GOSSIP when you talk about Washington and politics. Is this the way you normally view the world?

Christopher Bram: Good question. I am nothing if not critical, but my jokes and sarcasm are not meant to be glib. They're a way of expressing my criticisms without damning what I'm criticizing. My own feelings about most things in the world are too mixed for me to completely write something off. Humor is a way of keeping contradictory feelings in balance.

Question: Of all your books, which is your favorite?

Christopher Bram: That's very hard to say. There are things I'm proud of in each of my books. For its sheer ambition [I'm proud] of ALMOST HISTORY, which is my novel about a gay man in the State Department. For the quality of the prose I'm very proud of FATHER OF FRANKENSTEIN, which is more poetic than most of my other books. But just because it's my newest child, right now my favorite book is GOSSIP. I feel I bit off a lot in it. And I'm not sure people will see how serious my intent really is. But, talking to readers here and there, I feel it has connected with them. In each of my books I am trying to work out my own mixed feelings about something. I still have not worked out the mixed feelings that are in GOSSIP. I still don't know what is the best way for a good person to do good in this new world we live in of trash media and shallow politics. We can't simply walk away from it, but how do we confront it, and what do we do about it?

Question: Well, I really like your writing. Do you have a fan club?

Christopher Bram: That's cute. Thank you, only a secret society of very intelligent people.

Question: Do you read your reviews? What do they do for you?

Christopher Bram: Yes, I read all my reviews. I can't say that I ever really learned anything from them. Except they sometimes will give me a clue as to how people read and misread. I've been very lucky in my reviewers. And even some of the critical ones have been very smart. Perhaps I only pick up ideas from them the same way I pick up ideas from conversations with friends. Most writers grow accustomed to being misunderstood. They simply hope they'll be misunderstood in their favor.

Question: I'm interested to learn what gay men's novel and memoir you think are the most compelling and representative of the community.

Christopher Bram: Well, the community is so vast and various it cannot be represented by one or two books. In fact, instead of the word "community," we should probably say the word "communities." Of recent books, however, that I think capture some of that diversity and contradiction, there's an anthology titled BOYS LIKE US GAY WRITERS TELL THEIR COMING OUT STORIES, edited by Patrick Merla -- published by Avon -- that captures some of that sweep. Twenty-some-odd writers each tell their very different story, and the book spans from the 1950s to the present and gives some suggestion of how many different ways there are to be gay. Something I find exciting about gay literature as a whole right now is that there are all these different writers telling all these different stories. From someone like Allan Gurganus, who writes about happily married closet cases in North Carolina, to Norman Wong, who describes what it's like to be gay and Asian-American, to Randall Kenan, who describes growing up in a black religious community in North Carolina.

Question: What do you think of love over the Internet? Would you ever meet up face-to-face with someone you'd only met electronically? Is the risk too great?

Christopher Bram: I've been with the same boyfriend now for 17 years. So it's not really an issue for me. But even just to meet someone for coffee, I think I'd need to just hear their voice first. I'm kind of old-fashioned that way.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Great Story

    Christopher Bram is one of my most favorite authors. I have read most of his books, but apparently missed this one. I have yet to be dissapointed by any of his work. This story moves right along as he deals with issues that truly plague gay LGBT culture. Dr. August still remains for me his best.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2004

    Exceptional page turning mystery!

    'Gossip' is one of those 'read until 3am 'cause you just can't put it down' novels. You, too, will be caught up in the Washington gossip wheel, the neck-breaking speed of a murder investigation, and the torrid love affair of two seemingly different yet appealing men, one a closeted Washingtonian, another an 'out, proud, and loud' New Yorker.' The sense that you're on a train bound for disaster is palpable. How one character (insert self here) could end up in such desperate, dire circumstances-when it becomes hard to breathe-is truly mind reeling and dizzying. A totally satisfying read! Read it...trust me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2001

    A MUST!

    I cannot believe that I am the first person writing a review for this great book! Previously, I had read 'Father of Frankenstein' and 'The Notorious Dr. August' by Mr. Bram, which were excellent. 'Gossip' was totally beyond anything I imagined. A great story. Realistic characters. Plus, the story is a slow boiling, escalating whodunnit. Bravo, Mr. Bram. A real page-turner. You will be up until the middle of the night reading it.

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