Title: River Queens
Author: Alexander Watson
ISBN 13: 978-1939710-857
Publisher: Orangefrazer Press
Publisher’s Blurb: River Queens is at once a romance of men and the river, a fantasy come to life, an unparalleled adventure story, one of the best travel journals around—and a glad picture for our turbulent times.
I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review. Thank you Alexander Watson!
Alexander Watson’s writing is elegant and the story of River Queens is so compelling I’m having a hard time finding my objectivity. I want to write a fair review without seeming to shill for him. But damn this book was good. It’s one of the better ones I’ve read over the summer.
The book releases mid-October, they haven’t even gotten this one out yet and I’m already asking what he’s working on next. That’s how much I want him to succeed and keep writing great books so I can keep reading them.
When I was in 6th grade, my family lived in Hannibal, MO. The three things which stand out in my mind all these decades later are the mannequin of Becky Thatcher with ankle long blonde braids, the address at which we lived, and the Mississip’.
We were a nomadic family and so were only in Hannibal for one school year. But the impression that big brown river made on me stays, and makes me homesick for a place I’ve overly romanticized in my childhood memories.
Which is to say, I can relate in some small way to the call of the river. And that is what Alexander and Dale, their spotted dog Doris Faye, and a left for dead 1955 forty-five foot Chris-Craft Corsair answer.
It starts in Texas where Alexander finds the wooden yacht, and ends with a refurbished beauty which they sail to Betty Jane’s home berth in Cleveland.
I was smitten pretty early on. A gay couple is gonna fix up their boat and sail it into unknown territory. In the South. They are going to sail right into the belly of unallayed bigotry, and count on the kindness of strangers to help them along the way.
I knew it was going to be good when Watson relates the story of finding The King & I (later renamed Betty Jane). The man who handles the transaction for the boat tells them, “They think wood boats just sink or break apart … for no reason. That’s bull. They fail ’cause somebody quit lovin’ ’em.”
This is a hard life they’re putting themselves into, and it becomes apparent they have enough love for all concerned. Alexander and Dale go into this knowing it’s going to be one of the hardest things they’ve ever done, and they do it anyway. And they keep doing it, even when it gets harder than anyone could have expected.
Watson does not sugar coat anything. Nor does he dwell on the difficulties. He writes about it all. And there are some heartbreaking moments in this book.
Awkward’s in there too. One that had I been within earshot, I’m not sure I could have looked either of them in the eye afterwards. Watson doesn’t flinch in the telling. Their loud argument has a good reason to be in the story, it’s not there as some sort of nod to, “See? We’re just like straight couples, we argue too.” Nothing in this book is done to make anyone feel Alexander and Dale are other than what they are.
And they are two men who love each other fiercely and work together to rebuild this boat and fulfill their dream. The people they meet along the way, for the most part, are polite and helpful. River folk in the South are friendly and say, “See ya down the river.”
Even when they question what two ho-mo-sex-u-als are doing in their river. And there are several encounters that make me wince for the state of grace which cannot allow people to just be people.
Gods and goddesses what adventures these two have. It makes me want to pay for adult beverages while they regale me with tales and tell me how they got through heartbreaking death, horrifying weather, and the sweltering humidity of life on a boat on a river.
There’s not a whole lot wrong with the way this book is written. It’s elegant in a way that so few books these days are. It’s evident Watson worked hard, and lovingly, on River Queens, but it doesn’t read like hard work at all. It reads smoothly, like a lazy day on the river when all is right with the world.
I am grateful Alexander Watson reached out to me and asked I read his book. And I look forward to reading more of his writing as it becomes available. The country could use a few more gentlemanly intrepid travelers.
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