Nathan Doyle & Matthew Spain

Created by Josh Lanyon
Pseudonym of D.L. Browne

“Inside Union Station was a madhouse. Porters hustled, families greeted and friends good-byed, the sheer volume of sound rising from the marble floors and Spanish tiles, soaring up and disappearing into the cathedral-high ceiling and the gigantic iron chandeliers. Nathan scanned the milling crowd for Pearl’s hat — a silly little fur doughnut balancing on Pearl’s silly little platinum head. But there was no sign of either the hat or Pearl as he avoided small children, animal carriers, and stacks of luggage, pushing his way through the mob of holiday travelers and GIs.”
— Nathan tails a story

Who says they don’t write ’em like they used to?

M/M author Josh Lanyon shows off both pulp and classic film noir chops with “Snowball in Hell” (2007), the first in a proposed series set in Los Angeles in the 1940s, featuring conflicted crime reporter NATHAN DOYLE and hard-ass homicide dick MATTHEW SPAIN.

Yeah, they’re fags. Now get over it.

The gay theme would have never flown back in the day — hell, it would have been deemed pornography and Lanyon might have been sent to Tehachapi just for writing it.

But that’s no excuse for not reading it now. It’s simply one of the most pitch-perfect evocations of World War II-era Los Angeles I’ve ever read, both familiar and unfamiliar, like a long-lost Black Mask tale that goes down mean streets Chandler never dared dream of.

Terse and dark, it’s an unsettlingly dark tale of guilt and redemption, murder and betrayal, war and honour, loneliness and dread and fear and maybe, just maybe, a chance at something better. The grim reality of the homosexual demi-monde of the time is portrayed with bitter but sympathetic strokes, right down to the tawdry one-night stands, the cancerous self-loathing of a life lived in the closet and the thuggish, gay-bashing cops who prowl MacArthur Park at night looking for easy targets.

Imagine Fred Nebel’s McBride and Kennedy series played out, not as farce (or screwball comedy, à la Torchy Blaine) but as tragedy, the booze-soaked male-bonding transformed into something blacker, nastier and yet, ultimately more moving.

Yeah, they meet cute: wounded vet Doyle is just back from a stint with the Eighth Army in North Africa, back on the crime beat for The Tribune-Herald, when he’s asked to cover the murder of a society blackmailer, but Homicide Detective-Lieutenant Spain — who saw action in the Pacific Theater — thinks Nathan may just be the killer.

An Eppie Award winner and a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, an Edgar nominee, and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads All Time Favorite M/M Author award, Josh Lanyon is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English amateur sleuth series, the Neil Patrick Rafferty P.I. series, and Puzzle for Two (2023), a standalone cozy featuring rookie California gumshoe Zach Davies.



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. But please take this all with a grain of salt. I’m married to the wench.

One thought on “Nathan Doyle & Matthew Spain

  1. Kevin, your post truly evokes the pathos of this story. My heart broke for Doyle and Spain: the fear, the self-loathing, the need for secrecy. I’ve reread it several times, and it grabs my emotions anew every time. Another brilliant work by the great Josh Lanyon. Thank you.

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