CLUBBED by Robert A. Karl (review)

I was a little late to the party with this book—especially seeing as Part Two of this three-part series is now on our doorstep—but for those of you who haven’t discovered this fictional slice of gay history yet, you’re missing out. Perhaps it’s a Roman à clef, or perhaps the author just has an innate talent for writing in a meandering, autobiographical style—either way, it’s addictive, so much so that a normally pedantic reader like me buzzed through it in a matter of a few hours. 

This volume covers the hedonistic era of disco, drugs and rampant sex leading up to the first signs of GRID/AIDS in 1981. But whilst it whirls through the party aspects of queer culture, one eye is kept firmly on the struggles that the LGBTQ community faced in that era: the rampant and unchecked discrimination, the bashings, the murders, the harrassment and abuse perpetrated by police. As queer people in the twenty-first century, we must never forget how much harder our recent forebears had it, and how much we owe our relative current freedoms to the battles they fought and the tough lives they led. 

At first, “Clubbed” appears to follow a straightforward first-person narrative as seen through the protagonist Joey’s eyes, with him recounting stories of the many people who touched his life. But in a clever move, the author slips seamlessly into third-person narrative, handing the lens over to many different characters, and thus allowing them to tell their tale with greater insight and intimacy—sharing thoughts and feelings that the protagonist couldn’t have known had he simply been telling their story for them. 

I’m certainly looking forward to devouring the next installment!

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