BWW Reviews: Revisiting Anthony Bidulka's Russell Quant Series with AMUSE BOUCHE
mystery, Gay and Lesbian, LGBT, Anthony Bidulka, Russell Quant
Before Adam Saint was off making the world a safer place for Canadians, there was Russell Quant, Anthony Bidulka's first series detective. Smart, sharp-witted, gay. And before there was Bidulka, with Quant, there was Joseph Hansen with his investigator David Brandstetter. Originally published from 1970 to 1987, Hansen's Brandstetter was the first gay series detective that demanded to be taken seriously by both gay and straight readers, an insurance investigator who could have coined the idea of "hardboiled PI" but also, unavoidably polemical - it was a series that demanded to be taken seriously, but in doing so it had to make homosexuality a serious topic in the stories as it needed to reinforce Brandstetter's "normalcy" to a straight audience.
There have been, since Hansen, other creators of gay male series detective fiction. But some of it has been small gay press - John Preston's Alex Kane series; semi-erotica or more -- Preston actually rewrote the Alex Kanes to incorporate explicit sex; comic or semi-comic -- Derek Adams' Miles Diamond; or confined to gay-interest themes (Richard Stevenson's Donald Strachey). Bidulka's Quant is none of the above. Published by Insomniac Press, which is by no means a gay-only trade publisher, Russell Quant's stories have gay content, but they're not erotica with a mystery plotline, they're not gay-only cases even when the gay themes enter in, and they're not played for laughs. Brandstetter had to prove he was a "normal" macho male and explain that his gayness did not affect his ability to solve crimes; Quant, blessedly, forty years later, doesn't even question that he's just fine. Many of the older gay detective series feel dated in their gay apologetics; ex-cop Quant never complains, never explains, and simply gets through life like any other private investigator who needs a break in a case. And he's got a lot to recount - at four hundred or more pages per story in trade-size paperback, there's plenty of adventure per case.
As the series has been and is being re-released, even while Bidulka continues on with the new Adam Saint series, it's worth reviewing the books again for new readers. We'll take a look at AMUSE BOUCHE, the first Quant novel, four hundred pages' worth of dead-body goodness.
As a first in a series, yes, there's some explaining to do - who is Russell Quant, and why is he detecting? Saskatoon ex-police officer Quant now has his own shingle but not much in the way of clients. When a wealthy, closeted area businessman's lover, soon-to-be husband, fails to show up for their wedding and appears to be in Paris, Quant has little hesitation in taking on what appears to be a missing persons case that will take him on a trip to France. After a wild goose chase takes him along the highways and byways of France, always just narrowly missing his quarry, he returns to Saskatchewan in defeat, with the cream of Saskatoon society wondering over the disappearance. Even more baffling is his client's sudden disinterest in the disappearance of his partner - but, like any good sleuth, that only makes him more curious. Why does the jilted-at-the-altar lover suddenly no longer care about his fiancé?