There are some fantastic characters:
- Andy, the narrator's rent mentor, who is straight with a wife and child but earns money through gay sex
- Jacko who has "an arse like a reservoir"
- Paolo, bitter about new rents on the racks
- Zenda, who read a book once and took his name for it, perhaps the most compassionate of the rents, who becomes impotent, except when he can have sex in a threesome with the narrator
- Lorna the lesbian prostitute with whom he shares a flat
- Larry the drag queen
- Roger who, the narrator discovers after they have shared a bed, likes sweetcorn
- Deaf Joey
- Marti and Matthew
- Brian his school friend who has a girlfriend who won't do oral so would Steve mind ...
- Sophie from work, her uncle Winston who invites Steven into his home to discuss classical music, his gay son Leonard who has sex with Steven, Leonard's sister Tamara with whom Steven has an affair ...
- Alan, the teacher, who organises parties of young men
- Sheba, also from work, desperate to lose her virginity but all her boyfriends want to wait,
There are mind-curling stories about the tricks he turns: the completely black room behind the coffee bar where clients and rents get naked and have orgies, no one knowing who is doing what to whom; the man who likes to be urinated on in the bath; the country house orgies he attends; the queue of clients in the toilet waiting to take turns buggering the boy in the stalls; the time when he has sex with a girlfriend who uses contraceptive foam which sets and glues them together by their not-so-private parts. It was shocking and disturbing and hilarious by turns.
But in the end it was mostly about a child being paid to be abused by older men. Again and again and again.
Some of the most memorable moments:
Some of the most memorable moments:
- “From the age of about six (or it could have been even younger) until just before my teenage years, my father used, or rather, abused his privileged position of trust by ‘having a bit of fun’ with me – at least twice a week. This ‘fun’ never extended much beyond masturbation and oral sex but for a little boy who, even if I do say it myself, was rather sensitive – it was bad enough. He always impressed upon me the importance of not telling anyone else, “Especially your mother. She wouldn’t understand”. Like a fool, I obeyed.” (A very normal childhood)
- “Because it was virtually the only show of affection I ever received from him, I felt honoured and hankered after repeat performances.” (A very normal childhood)
- “I wonder what would have been said had she known how often she’d rushed through the front door and dashed up to use the lavatory, not realising that the last thing to be flushed away was my father’s sperm, dutifully coaxed from his straining penis by her puny little brat of a son.” (A very normal childhood)
- “In the daylight they were dark, claustrophobic, narrow and faintly sinister. At night it could easily have been taken for a landscape created by a modern Bosch or one of the regions through which Virgil guided Dante. The poor lighting made it even more grotesque and disturbing. Crumbling public houses struggled to make ends meet from their limited catchment of locals. Shops were converted into dubious coffee bars. Illegal clubs furtively catered for speciality amusements and existed in the back rooms of private houses. Cellar bars with little or no ventilation, peeling walls and tiny, intimate dance floors. There were bombed churches where only weeds, desperate lovers and the occasional stray cat formed the congregation. These, and other places too numerous to mention, were the markets where anything could be bought by the punter who had the craving and the cash – and sold from a supplier who had the time and inclination to close their sordid little transaction.” (You Dirty, Old Town)
- “Everywhere one explored, unexpected niches and dead–end tracks honeycombed this small, desolate, self–contained world. The only people to be found were those misfits in society who felt the desire for adventure, danger and solitude. Many tried to find some meaning and outlet for their doleful lives through the bottom of a meths bottle or squirted from the point of a syringe. To parody the old maps – here be meat racks for every form of pleasure, for whatever fantasy a mind could devise – no matter how debauched. It was a depressing stigma on the surface of the city that frequently and unpredictably exploded into crazed violence. But, lest you think there was some sort of inverted romance about the place, I regret to inform you that, in the main, it was merely an irksome wasteland of abandoned buildings which attracted few sightseers and even less attention from ‘Lily Law’, the police. The many ill tended, unlit public toilets erected as monuments to Victorian aspiration had become, instead, nocturnal orgy rooms.” (You Dirty, Old Town)
- “School teachers became drag queens; men of the cloth became leather submissives; off–duty policemen became happy members of the community which, whilst on duty, they persecuted so vigorously.” (You Dirty, Old Town)
- “It was romantic – but it was the romance of a consenting pair of sado–masochists.” (You Dirty, Old Town)
- “I had something for which older men would pay. It had also given me a delicious feeling of power.” (A First, Tentative Step)
- “I had discovered I had a jewel to sell, but I didn’t know the location of the pawnbroker.” (A Semi Regular)
- “There were some clients who enjoyed having a collection of local kids around for a low–key orgy. At these parties, I always half expected to meet some of my school friends, but I never did. The main supply came from either the local grammar school, or the public school that resided in our borough.” (Rates and Brian)
- “The meagre pocket money I received from my parents was still in the area of single figures from the shilling department. The income from my other life amounted to the grand average of about twenty pounds a week, which was, in the late fifties, the wage of a well–paid grown man. It was a size of income, which could have reasonably housed a family of four in some comfort.” (Rates and Brian)
- “My nerves were shaking my guts about like a pair of Jack Russells fighting over a favourite toy.” (Andy)
- “Colour and patterns of paintings held me spellbound and I adored the challenge of trying to recreate the work of the great masters.” (Crisis Time)
- “It was my Pandora’s Box where Degradation rather than Hope was left behind.” (Crisis Time)
- “There was a lot of competition from other rents. I had no idea there were so many boys and young men who were on the game. Many were students who topped up their meagre grants by selling their bodies. It was easier, quicker and far more lucrative than serving bitter coffees in clapped out cafés.” (Crisis Time)
- “Because it was so dark, it was impossible to know who you were feeling, wanking or fucking. The only brief respite from the gloom occurred when the curtain was lifted and the door opened to allow the access or exit of a client. The room was usually packed with sweating bodies and, on especially busy nights, there was a queue in the café itself, waiting for ‘Calcutta’ to empty a little. I dread to think how many arses my young, eager cock stretched. By moving to another part of the room, it was easy to avoid being screwed, although many people tried, Also, if someone was busy working on me, I could easily remove my weapon from the grip of their hands, lips or bottom and make out I was shooting my load in copious quantities, which, of course, I wasn’t. It was fun and quite exciting having to feel for sex. In the dark, heads, and bodies contorted in all sorts of seemingly impossible positions. Hands groped and enjoined with adjacent mini–scenes. There was one time I remember when I had two open mouths on my cock, one on my balls, a couple more tonguing my arse and more who were licking and feeling my body. I must confess, that time, I did come. Well, who wouldn’t?” (‘Alfio’s’)
- “I had no desire or intention of becoming submissive. Andy was more versatile – he didn’t care. I’ve lost count of the number of times our pick–ups played ‘piggy–in–the–middle’. Me shafting and Andy being shafted.” (Four’s Company)
- “His eyes, mongoose like, were mesmerised by my hidden but bulging trouser cobra.” (Prodigal Sons)
- “On a slack night, the evenings produced about five to ten punters. On a busy one, I could get through as many as twenty or thirty.” (Aftermath)
- “I had to wear a jacket, trousers, shirt and tie. Strangely, on the racks, my popularity grew slightly. Don’t ask me why. I had always believed that the punters hungered for the scruffy look – a nice bit of young, rough trade. It’s true, a lot did – but I found there were many who didn’t. The clean–cut look was as much in demand as the ruffian. A youth who looked much younger than his age but dressed to look older was, to many, highly attractive.” (Freedom)
- “Looking about twenty, he was tall, blond and built like the proverbial brick shit house. His light blue, open necked shirt contrasted with and broadcasted a dark, all over tan which could only be associated with an outdoor existence. His tight, bleached out blue jeans showed off his slim waist and muscular thighs to perfection.” (Farmer Joe)
- “He had about him a pure animal physicality that crept out and stalked any viewer's senses.” (Farmer Joe)
- “I've often found that the more butch a guy looks the bitcher he wants to be treated.” (Farmer Joe)
- “He was staring, unseeing at a scrawny Buddleia, which was trying to draw nourishment, from a toppled wall.” (Further Adventures)
- “But, I got into this game for the fun – the excitement – not just the cash.” (Pam)
- “Those guys are in there to buy and be bought. I am here to be bought. You have to accept that.” (Sign Language)
- “He brought in from the freezer two trays of ice cubes. “I want you to make use of these.” Puzzled, I said, “Okay.” He knelt on the floor. I thought a little clarification was needed. “Um, Matthew. I hate to sound completely stupid but – what do I do with them?” He bent over and spread his legs. “Shove ’em, one by one, up where the sun don’t shine – right up inside me.” Luckily, he was facing away so he couldn’t see the horrified look of revulsion that I must have worn. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘this will be a first.’ As he wiggled his posterior in delicious anticipation, he gasped, “I simply adore the coldness. The pressure on my colon slowly being eased as the ice melts is very satisfying. You should try it.” “Thanks, but if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll give it a miss.” It was strangely phenomenal to observe the cubes being sucked up into his ring. His muscular control to keep the frozen enema inside was admirable. I wondered if Matthew’s little bottom abuse with the ice cold mini–dildo’s was healthy and what internal damage he might be doing to his body in the long term.“ (Marti and Matthew)
- “I was sixteen, a rent boy, unhappy at home and, in many ways, immature.” (Marti Revisited)
- “Even if, as I suspected, my sperm couldn’t be bothered to plunge on and power–swim to Marti’s egg, I was having a lot of fun firing the starting pistol.” (Marti Revisited)
- “Two young lads, who were an affair, broke onto the scene. They were both exhibitionists but they didn’t want anyone else involved in actual physical sex. They offered Tableaux Vivant which entailed them posing, frozen in set pieces of a highly sexual nature so that the clients could get off on the vision the lads created. I suppose you could think of them as performance artists who had become living pornographic photographs. All their ‘pictures’ were highly elaborated and catered to any fantasy their clients desired. Their motto was ‘Look – even closely, but don’t touch.’” (Racking)
- “From that moment on, she grabbed almost every nettle and practically threw herself at anyone and everyone who she believed would score the goal in her hungry net.” (A Pregnant Pause)
- “He leaned forward and whispered something so excitedly and at such a high pitch, it was utterly incoherent except, perhaps, to dolphins, dogs or bats.” (Pop Goes My Weasel)
- “I looked around the room and, apart from my mother, I’d had sex with every single one of them.” (Party Time)
- “The major stumbling block was that we were both a couple of slags and not yet ready for any long term commitment.” (Flat Life)
- “Using all her skills as a woman of the night, she’d done herself up to the nines – actually, it was more to the ninety–nines.” (Shattering My Chains)
- “He was a sweet lad who inhabited the wrong side of dim.” (Three’s Company – or Not)
Is it fact or fiction? It purports to be a memoir and I suspect it is. It has a rambling structure, a sort of picaresque, in which one thing happens after another, to a large cast of characters; most of the stories are unresolved; in short, a typical novel would have been neater and better organised. So I suspect it is true.
It ought to be dreadful. It is fundamentally about older men abusing a young child. It is about exploitation. The fact that the narrator was lucky and survived the experience, psychologically as well as physically, should not make what happened less dreadful.
But it is well-told. The author is a born raconteur. It is stuffed full of anecdotes and, as listed above, it has a most wonderful cast of characters.
It's a long book but it is worth every moment of the investment. An excellent read.
Another memoir about a man abused by his father who becomes a child prostitute and rent-boy, who ends up working in a brothel, a rather angrier and bitterer memoir than this, is Making Beds in Brothels by Adam Brock.