For two men with the looks of Adonis and Narcissus, it’s no surprise that Greece was the destination for a romantic getaway. Once there, however, the two men fall into the beds of others, with the duplicitous Martha striving to steal Charlie away from Peter after he has a moment of infidelity.
For the final installment of the Peter & Charlie Trilogy, Gordon Merrick widens his focus on the couple to include the village in which they’re staying, creating a web of deceit and lust that comes to a head in unexpected and satisfying ways, while the love between Peter and Charlie is tested repeatedly with the emergence of a passionate young man named Jeff. The bond between these two has spanned the years and the globe, but it could well meet its end here on the lush Greek shores.
About the Author
Gordon Merrick (1916–1988) was an actor, television writer, and journalist. Merrick was one of the first authors to write about gay themes for a mass audience. He wrote fourteen books, including the beloved Peter & Charlie Trilogy. The Lord Won’t Mind spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list in 1970. Merrick’s posthumously published novel The Good Life, coauthored with his partner, Charles G. Hulse, was a bestseller as well. Merrick died in Sri Lanka.
Read an Excerpt
Forth into Light
The Peter & Charlie Trilogy
By Gordon Merrick
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1974 Gordon Merrick
All rights reserved.
It was a bombshell: George Cosmo Leighton had been robbed of almost two thousand dollars! A theft on this tranquil Greek island where thievery was unheard of! The two thousand dollars George had been waiting for for weeks!
Exclamation points could be heard in all the voices commenting on the event.
A case might have been made that the money had simply been lost, but public opinion among the foreigners was formulated around tables set out on the quai in front of Lambraiki's grocery store and the foreigners pronounced in favor of theft. A suspect was quickly found. There had been other small vexing losses—or thefts, as everybody was inclined to regard them now—and the facts could be neatly arranged to point to only one possible culprit. A Greek, naturally.
The case immediately acquired curious and unexpected dimensions. To a not notably well-heeled community, it was a great deal of money. In that summer of 1960, it was enough to buy three or four houses on the island, enough for a foreign family to live for six or eight months, a native family for a year or more. In addition, Leighton was arguably the most distinguished foreigner in residence and certainly the most permanently established. Only Charlie Mills-Martin could dispute his preeminence, with seniority of property ownership in his favor, but in the scale of fame a nearly legendary literary figure generally outweighs a successful painter.
A prominent resident, a sizable theft—it was the stuff for lively gossip, but it quickly became much more than that. Before the day was done, relationships had dissolved, reformed, taken new directions. By the dawn of another day, rumors had begun to fly that even the Mills-Martins, symbols of stability, had been touched by the midsummer madness. Arrivals. Departures. Perhaps it all had something to do with the heat.
The day had begun like a thousand others. The sun rose in its accustomed place and cast a saffron spill over the milky Aegean. It took an hour or more for its rays to strike the port which lay in the close embrace of its twin promontories. By seven, the last rocky barrier had been surmounted and the town was exposed at last to a blaze of white stinging light, and the business of the day had begun.
The fruit and vegetable sellers had removed the canvas covers from their wares and were ready for trade. The water men had filled their square metal cans at the Good Well and were making deliveries with their donkeys among the waterfront cafés and restaurants. Small boys carrying blocks of ice in loops of string were spreading out and up the steep, stepped streets into the upper town. One of the three garbage collectors with his two mules, each laden with a pair of big basketwork panniers, was heading out toward the mole to dump his first load of the day.
Since there were no roads on the island and few machines, the sounds were all natural sounds. People shouted at each other, donkeys brayed, cocks crowed as they had been doing all night, cats wailed like babies in the fierce conflict of copulation.
It was a combination of these sounds that slowly waked George Cosmo Leighton, dragged him unwillingly into consciousness. A fly settled on his bare shoulder and he shrugged it away. He knew that it would alight again on the same spot. This knowledge obliged him to face the fact that he was waking up. Two women were screaming conversationally at each other nearby and he winced as their voices cut across his nerves. The fly touched down again and he twitched and cursed to himself. This small effort brought sweat streaming from him. It was hot, a heat so still and oppressive that his whole body felt helpless, hopeless in its grip.
He wasn't sure whether it was morning or afternoon—a siesta could induce this same deep drugged sleep—but in a moment some time mechanism within him told him it was morning and his mind fumbled for the events of the day before to confirm this judgment. Something had happened to give the day a particular flavor, something on the whole agreeable. Something ... the money had come. That was it. He felt eased and comforted and immediately sank into a pocket of vestigial sleep which contained a trace of consciousness. Sarah. Sarah. A boat. A dog talking to him.
The fly alighted again and jerked him back onto the track of memory. The money had come. Good. And then—yes, there had been the evening, the money flowing, simply because of the comfortable feel of cash in the pocket, probably a week's drink allowance gone in one night. There had been people, the usual crowd. His mind edged forward to the culminating row with Sarah. Had he finally said it all? Had he actually spoken the words that had been locked within him all these months? Had he told her that he never wanted to touch her again, that she was free to have any man she damn well pleased? No. His helpless love for her had made a coward of him. He remembered smashed glasses and a rage to say it at last but control continuing to operate. He unglued his eyes cautiously to see if there were any signs of his having brought the rage home with him.
He found himself sprawled naked on the couch in the big white room, his workroom, on the top floor. His erection was distasteful but reassuring to him. He would gladly renounce sex forever, but he clearly wasn't impotent; only Sarah made him so. Sarah's infidelity. Sarah's lapse (on days when he was feeling kindly toward her). Sarah's betrayal. He had thought at first of fighting fire with fire but he had found that there was more to infidelity than going to bed with an attractive body. It dislocated all the filaments of life, overthrew carefully tended balances, introduced chaos. The island was a festival of sex, strewn with pretty, willing girls, but he hadn't found one with whom he wanted to share the dissolution of his marriage. Renounce sex—except that he suspected Sarah had no intention of doing so.
The touch of the fabric under him became suddenly intolerable, damp, and clinging. His body was covered with a slick of sweat. His shirt and trousers were in a crumpled heap on the painted floor near the door, still holding the vague contours of his body, like a man with the air let out of him. Everything seemed to be in order. There was no litter on the floor—he hadn't indulged in his favorite drunken pastime of tearing up manuscripts. He closed his eyes with relief and tried to swallow some of the thick sour taste in his mouth. His thoughts flew back to Sarah and he could feel rage still smouldering in him—rage and hopelessness were all that love offered him.
He struggled into a sitting position, gripping the edge of the couch with his hands and swaying slightly. His stomach was in intense disorder and his heart was pounding dangerously. At least the money had arrived safely. The next few months were secure.
Gathering strength for the further effort of getting to his feet, he felt the erratic beating of his heart accelerate and he paused cautiously to ease it. He was practiced in the wiles of keeping panic at bay. Move around, get the day started. Everything would be all right.
He headed unsteadily for the little heap of clothes on the floor and, supporting himself on the back of a chair, leaned over and picked them up. He discarded the shirt and disentangled the brief shorts from a fold in the trousers and discarded them too. With difficulty, lurching and losing his balance, first on one foot and then the other, he managed to get his legs into his trousers and pull them up. These feeble exertions reduced his sex and produced rivulets of sweat. It flowed down his forehead into his eyes and trickled down his ribs. His belly was stretched taut with the drink of the night before. He had trouble getting his fly buttons closed.
The feel of the trousers against his thighs brought a memory of the reassuring feel of the thick wad of bills he had been carrying the night before. He slid his hands into the pockets for reassurance now.
There was nothing in them. He reached for shirt and shorts and shook them out and dropped them again. He stood frozen, motionless, and then a prickling chill of fear ran up his spine and across his scalp. Nonsense. The money was here somewhere.
He turned blindly and stumbled to the couch and began to poke about in it. He straightened and made an enormous effort to think clearly. He must have emptied his pockets downstairs. Otherwise, there would be something in them, if only his lighter or a box of matches.
He caught sight of a package of cigarettes under the edge of the couch. He lowered himself to his knees and peered under. His lighter winked at him and he fumbled for it and recovered it. No money.
A wad of bills couldn't roll under the furniture. He dropped back into a seated position on the floor and ran his fingers through his damp and tangled hair. He must have given the money to Sarah for safekeeping. He suddenly remembered having pulled it out at Lambraiki's. To pay for a round? Unlikely, since he always ran a drink bill at Lambraiki's. Still, he had definitely had it there toward the end of the evening. He must have pulled it out to give to Sarah. Had it figured in their fight? Had he flung it in her face in some mad gesture of defiance before he started smashing glasses?
Panic crept through his guard once more, a real well-founded panic. The money couldn't be gone. It was all they had to live on until he finished his new book. He had stretched his credit with publishers and agents and patrons as far as it would go. The book was going badly, had been going badly ever since——
There was no time to think about that. He had to make sure that the money was somewhere in the house. His writer's mind strayed from the immediate and leaped and faltered among general thoughts of money: the evil engendered by its unequal distribution, the distortion of values which must accompany its acquisition, the necessity of always combatting its enslaving grip. Enough of that. He had to find this particular goddamn money.
He pulled himself to his feet and made another fumbling, frantic search of the room before starting down through the maze of the house. It had once been two houses which added to its vagaries—cramped stairways that were almost ladders, arbitrary changes of level, heavily barred windows giving from one room into another.
By the time he reached the covered balcony which led to the bathroom he had pieced together additional fragments of the night before. He clearly remembered Sarah and himself struggling home in silence through the dark narrow uneven streets with the drunk's determination to steer a straight course, hostilities suspended in the common effort. She had been carrying her shopping basket. It would have been perfectly natural for him to have dropped the money into it. It served as a general catchall.
He paused ritualistically on the balcony to look at the view of sea and rocky hill but the sun's dazzle made him wince and he hurried on to the bathroom, clinging to the shade against the wall. His island paradise. The thought was ironic. Unlike most of the people who came here, he hadn't expected to find a panacea for all the world's ills. The long journey across Europe had been undertaken years ago to escape the demands of fame and the more time-consuming aspects of success. He could have as easily chosen a farm in Vermont or a ranch in Montana, but he was married to a romantic girl—yes, she was still a girl in many ways—who was captivated by what she read in books so their journey had ended on a Greek island. And he had found something here, a redefinition of freedom in his observations of a community released from all constraints, new judgments imposed by the clash of anarchy and order. Interesting. Rewarding. Until Sarah—— Until Sarah—— Fuck the good life. Fuck happiness.
He stood for a long moment in front of the toilet, half-dozing and swaying slightly as the liquid absorbed the night before drained out of him. Then he braced himself to confront the ruin of his face. The mirror over the wash basin offered no pleasant surprises. The eyes were red and puffy, the deep tan looked gray and lifeless, a stubble of graying beard blurred the jaw line. The celebrated George Cosmo Leighton. Well, perhaps not quite ... the once celebrated George Leighton? His flight from success had been perhaps more successful than he had intended.
The face, even in its present condition, was marked with sensitivity, in the eyes, around the mouth, but to his frequent surprise, with no trace of weakness. He knew that in an hour or so the fluids and tissues would have worked their mysterious miracle and he would be once more clear-eyed, strong, and capable-looking. What part did this trick of physiognomy play in his life? If he looked like a derelict, would he abandon hope and be obliged to concede defeat, discard pride, and plead with Sarah to save him?
He turned on a faucet and a trickle of water dribbled from it and died. God blast Jeff, he prayed, exposing his son to divine retribution. He knew that he shouldn't expect a seventeen-year-old prodigy to be always efficient in the performance of household chores, but all he asked of the boy was that he should keep the water tank full and this he regularly failed to do. He was caught in a sudden gust of rage which spread outward like running fire until it had touched everybody and everything—Sarah, the children, the house and its naggingly primitive plumbing, the island, his publishers, his critics—all of humanity and the whole world. He gripped the sides of the basin until sanity returned and then, trembling slightly and shaken, went to the emergency supply in the earthenware jar in the corner and scooped out a jug of water. He finished his toilet hastily with an inadequate pass at his hair with a comb. Sarah and the money. He had to face Sarah in order to find the money.
The full coffeepot on the stove in the cool dark kitchen told him that she was already up. The cup rattled in the saucer as he helped himself. His anxiety to check with Sarah conflicted with his reluctance to break his work habits. The morning was sacred to his work; if he exposed himself to the torments that any contact with Sarah risked arousing, the morning would be lost. He couldn't afford any more lost mornings. Here, sustained by the vivid picture of stability and order evoked by the kitchen—dark hand-hewn beams, rosy time-smooth stone floor, glow of copper, bunches of wild herbs hanging from the ceiling, loops of garlic and onions, rustic baskets overflowing with fruit and vegetables—he was almost lulled into feeling that the money didn't matter. And yet—out of some perversity in him, or because of a human inability to come to terms with Eden?—he sensed in the bountiful room a reproach. Was it frivolous to hope to live at peace in a disordered world?
He took a peach from a basket and tested it with his finger, postponing for a few more seconds the encounter with Sarah. He would have to pretend that last night's quarrel hadn't happened, even though he felt it as sharply as if they had attacked each other physically. Out of pride and embarrassment, because it was so alien to the qualities out of which they had forged their relationship, they had both refused to name the issue that lay between them, so that their quarrels were barren, missed the point, and left no opening for reconciliation.
He rejected the peach and set down the cup with a hand that still shook. Get on with it. He wouldn't be able to think about anything else until he had found the money.
He came upon her in the garden and his first glimpse of her aroused all his unguarded admiration. He made an effort of will to resent her taking such an unfair advantage of him. She was wearing a crisp white blouse and a freshly pressed blue skirt. Her hair was carefully arranged, her makeup impeccable. Everything about her testified to her blamelessness. One couldn't reproach this model wife for having been drunk and disorderly. She had scored the first point of the day.
Excerpted from Forth into Light by Gordon Merrick. Copyright © 1974 Gordon Merrick. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the third book, after The Lord Won't Mind and One for the Gods, in the Charlie and Peter trilogy. As with the second book, I enjoyed it, but not as much as the first.In Forth into Light, Charlie and Peter are now in their early 40s and living on a Greek island. They have 2 children with Peter's wife, Martha.The first half of the book barely deals with Charlie and Peter's relationship. Rather, it introduces other characters, especially Jeff, a troubled teenager just beginning to understand his sexuality.Charlie and Peter have an open relationship when it comes to women. This refers to developments in the second book in the trilogy. But when Peter becomes obsessed with a young woman (who admits to being gay), Charlie sets out to stake his claim.As with the second book, I had trouble understanding the quirks in their relationship. They remained loving with one another, but each continues to have affairs. This left me confused.But most confusing, I think, is the ending. For Charlie and Peter it's HEA with a reaffirmation of their love for one another and a commitment from both to stop playing the field. However, what happens to young Jeff is most upsetting. I really don't understand what the author what trying to convey.
You can't put this book down. The third of a series, and suggest that you read the other two first, but definitely the 2nd. The author keeps you in suspense throughout with his portrayals of these two hunky masculine lovers. In this book he brings in many other individuals and develops them thoroughly. Story is full of intrigue, cheating, unrestricted relations, and is very seductive. You will live with the individuals.