skygiants: a figure in white and a figure in red stand in a courtyard in front of a looming cathedral (cour des miracles)
[personal profile] skygiants
Some of you may recall that time I discovered a perfect lost book two years ago by a mid-century author I had never heard of and immediately decided to embark upon a quest to read everything Audrey Erskine Lindop had ever written.

This turned out to be more difficult than anticipated, but after several years, I finally found a copy of another one of her books in the wild: The Singer Not The Song (1953), which is marketed on the cover flap as a deeply intense personal struggle! for the soul of a small town! between a priest! and a bandit! "The fact that they grow to like and respect one another in the course of their conflict adds considerably to its tension and excitement!" announces the back cover flap!

"Well, that sounds like it could be PRETTY gay," thought I, "but I don't want to assume. After all, The Way to the Lantern, while AMAZING, was not notably gay."

The determined priest Father Keogh meets the bandit Malo, who loves only cats (and is rumored to turn into one at night)!

[Father Keogh] was not prepared for the beauty he saw in Malo, explains the book, and then goes on for a paragraph about his bone structure!

That night, Father Keogh has his first Intense Malo Dream:

He turned round to ask for silence and when he turned round again he had his arms about the shoulders of Malo. [...] He gave Malo his Roman collar. The sword that Malo gave him in exchange was real. He could feel the heat of Malo's cheek pressed closely against his own [...]

"OKAY," I announced to myself, and also to Twitter, "I now feel safe assuming!"

Father Keogh is determined to save the town from Malo, and also save Malo's soul; Malo is equally determined to kill Father Keogh to prevent the church from threatening his hold over the town. But, you know, in a way that shows his deep appreciation and respect, and makes all his sleazy bandit followers feel a little weird about it!

"I tell you, I know this priest."

"And I tell you you love him," Vito spat, and something like jealousy showed in his eyes.

"If I love him it's just as well," said Malo. "I might underrate him otherwise. It's a good thing to know the value of someone you're going to destroy."


Malo, for the record, is not the only one who's impressed with Father Keogh. The good father also befriends an American drunk named Sam, who loves him very much, and an local preteen named Locha, who loves him uncomfortably much. Audrey Erskine Lindop is now two for two on plotlines about adolescent girls developing awkwardly intense crushes on her protagonists -- who, to my great relief, in both cases react with HARD YIKES, but it's not my favorite plotline! I feel like Lindop is maybe working through some stuff!

(It's also worth being aware of that the book is set in Mexico and Lindop definitely steps into a few of the pitfalls that one might expect from an English author writing about Mexico in the 1950s.)

Anyway, all that said, the main focus of the book is Father Keogh and Malo's EXTREMELY INTENSE Battle Of The Soul! !! !!!

MALO: You are arrogant in this faith of yours. You cannot believe it will not win. That makes you a fool -- and it turns me into a fool for admiring you for it.

FATHER KEOGH: I believe that any risk is worth the salvation of this man's soul.

I will put further plot details under a cut so anyone who might wish to get ahold of the book (or the film! there's a film, which I haven't seen yet, but will DEFINITELY be attempting to) can experience them for themselves unspoiled, but trust me, they are GREAT.



A broad timeline of Father Keogh and Malo's relationship:

- Malo half-heartedly sends a mediocre assassin after Father Keogh, and is thwarted by a turtle

- Malo half-heartedly attempts to sabotage a car to send Father Keogh off a cliff, and is thwarted by Father Keogh's cigarettes-and-prayer break

- Malo decides to adopt a wait-and-see approach to Father Keogh

- Malo's favorite elderly henchman gets tired of waiting and attempts to assassinate Father Keogh; Malo, not wanting his favorite elderly henchman to get arrested, goes to try and save Father Keogh's life!

"Oh dear," Father Keogh said.

Malo turned round on him angrily. Father Keogh held a handkerchief to his mouth. His shoulders were shaking.

"I fail to understand the joke, my friend."

Father Keogh said: "Yes, you really must forgive me -- it's just -- well, you sitting there as my bodyguard [...] Look here, when he does turn up, what are we going to do with him?"

"If you are not laughing too much, my friend, I will put myself between you."


- ALAS, Malo's henchman does attack, and succeeds ... in getting himself AND MALO arrested for trying to kill Father Keogh!

- FATHER KEOGH IS DISTRAUGHT. It's unjust! This particular time, after several murder attempts, Malo was trying to save him!

- THERE'S A SHOOTOUT

Father Keogh reached his side and shouted, "Anyone injured up here?"

"One of my men got your boy friend."

"Malo?" Father Keogh asked.


- MALO GOES TO PRISON FOR FIVE YEARS

- Father Keogh visits him every week despite the fact that Malo never says a word to him back!

"I don't want you to face defeat when you come out of here. I don't want you embittered by failure. I want you to succeed in your new life and I want it to be a new life [...] That's why I'm talking like this and why I shall continue to talk like this while there's still a tongue left in my head. I can think of no way you can get your own back on me except by refusing my help. Incidentally, I'm looking after your cats."

- FINALLY, with three weeks left to go, Malo speaks!

- TO DELIVER AN AMAZING RANT ABOUT THE HYPOCRISIES OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

"I despise it because it hides behind the names of charity, love and kindness. It grinds the souls of the millions under the jackboot of hypocrisy with its threats of spiritual extinction, its pistol points at hell. And it does it in the name of God. [...] It is mercenary, it is ruthless, it has a history soaked in blood."

- AND THEN: "In that rotten, money-grabbing spiritual tyranny there is something which has appealed to a man like you -- I am willing to find out what that is if only you would show me. In that you have discovered my weakness, Father. In that is your chance to beat me."

- and so Father Keogh invites him BACK to the town

"You think we shall not be welcome, Father?"

"You'll be damned unwelcome."

"You have promised to be my friend."

"Would I make up for a town full of enemies?"

"Yes."


- and stands his ground despite the fact that the ENTIRE TOWN is like "please, Father ... we've been terrorized by bandits playing sinister mind games for literal years ..... we're tired ......."

- and then Malo MOVES INTO HIS HOUSE because NOWHERE ELSE WILL HAVE HIM

- and they spend long domestic nights together arguing over spirituality, murder, and who makes better hot chocolate, Malo or Father Keogh's housekeeper!

"We sit here drinking Chela's chocolate --"

"We sit here drinking
my chocolate --"

"We sit here drinking
your chocolate --"

"You see," Malo told him triumphantly, "you could not tell the difference. It was only loyalty speaking."

"Well, whomever it was," said Father Keogh, "we sit here drinking it. We sit here apparently at peace with one another and yet if the opportunity presents itself you wouldn't hesitate to kill me. It makes you hard to understand."


- but alas this domestic bliss cannot last; Malo has a Cunning Plan to Get Rid of Father Keogh Once and For All (without having to murder him)

- and that plan is FORCED HETEROSEXUALITY

- Malo kidnaps Intense Teen Locha away from her wedding to another Nice Teen boy ... by convincing her that he is the only person who can understand and sympathize with her forbidden crush on a priest ........

- and then he politely explains to Father Keogh that if Father Keogh elopes with and marries Locha, it will crush the faith of the townsfolk to see a priest behave in such a shady manner and Malo can win without murdering him! aaaand he will murder Locha if Father Keogh doesn't agree

- AND YET: Looking at Malo's shadowed face he wondered deeply at the power it possessed. While inspiring no trust it could still inspire hope [...] Father Keogh knew that he too would never give up hope and that he would welcome it as an excuse. What extraordinary complications of power must be concealed behind a face that could mirror a man's doom and yet not destroy his hopes.

- however, Malo stands strong against the power of the church: "Father, you could have had a convert in me perhaps, if your beliefs were worthy of what they have made of you. But you as the outcome of them are a tower of strength and the things that gave you that strength are pitiful."

- anyway Father Keogh pretends to agree to the Shady Elopement Plan and then basically shouts "NOPE!", shoves Locha at her Nice Teen Boyfriend, and returns to town

- at which point Malo is like "well, I warned you" and sets up an ambush

- which goes HORRIBLY WRONG

- and Malo and Father Keogh BOTH end up shot and bleeding out on the floor!

- MALO ... FEELS BAD ABOUT IT??

There had never before been a moment when Malo regretted causing pain. It was a sensation that brought him an agony of bewilderment more severe than the wounds that were nagging his body.

[...]

Father Keogh's voice faltered: "Oh merciful Father whose love never fails ...' Anacleto -- press my hand."

Malo moved his good hand. It caught Father Keogh's sleeve. It felt its way down from the elbow with a deliberate care as if it feared that it might go astray. Then it found the priest's fingers -- and pressed them.


- so Malo dies! and then Father Keogh dies! hand in actual hand!

- ... until Father Keogh's drunk American friend, who also loves him very much, comes to drag him away; Father Keogh, with his dying breath, begs Sam to tell him if Anacleto looks peaceful

- meanwhile, Father Keogh's last letter to the bishop: if I could feel I had aroused in Anacleto one single moment's awakening to pity, I could die a happy man.

- well done Father Keogh, you were out here trying your best every day and you [kind of] [sort of] [a little bit] saved a hot bandit's soul with the power of love!

- (but not with the power of the church because we're all still a little dubious about that, honestly Malo made some very good points)

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ETA: [personal profile] movingfinger has turned up a SEQUEL? in which Lindop RETCONS Father Keogh's death?? and is HAUNTED BY MALO'S GHOST???? I need help reacting to this.

Date: 2019-03-15 04:43 am (UTC)
genarti: Baby sloth looking over edge of cardboard box, with text "...duuuude." ([misc] duuuuuude)
From: [personal profile] genarti
EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK SOUNDS AMAZING

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] conuly - Date: 2019-03-15 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2019-03-15 05:06 am (UTC)
alias_sqbr: Faith holding a spray can next to "Buffy the Vamprie Slayer" with Faith scrawled over the top (faith)
From: [personal profile] alias_sqbr
Oh my gosh. Amazing.

Date: 2019-03-15 05:17 am (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Boggle!

Date: 2019-03-15 05:50 am (UTC)
sovay: (Jonathan & Dr. Einstein)
From: [personal profile] sovay
"Incidentally, I'm looking after your cats."

GOOD GOD WAS THIS GENERATED BY THE POWERS OF AO3 COMBINED?

I hope the turtle's in the movie.

P.S. [Father Keogh] was not prepared for the beauty he saw in Malo, explains the book, and then goes on for a paragraph about his bone structure!

I mean—

Edited (PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE) Date: 2019-03-15 08:23 am (UTC)

Date: 2019-03-15 06:04 pm (UTC)
genarti: Baby sloth looking over edge of cardboard box, with text "...duuuude." ([misc] duuuuuude)
From: [personal profile] genarti
......Goodness gracious.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] sovay - Date: 2019-03-17 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2019-03-15 05:53 am (UTC)
littlestclouds: (:O)
From: [personal profile] littlestclouds
This sounds entirely amazing.

Date: 2019-03-15 08:10 am (UTC)
sheliak: Handwoven tapestry of the planet Jupiter. (Default)
From: [personal profile] sheliak
I approve of the turtle. And "Incidentally, I'm looking after your cats."

Date: 2019-03-15 09:32 am (UTC)
landingtree: Small person examining bottlecap (Default)
From: [personal profile] landingtree
I need to make a 'boggled approval' icon. For now, little curious leaf figure will have to do.

Date: 2019-03-15 12:19 pm (UTC)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu
"Incidentally, I'm looking after your cats."

I cannot _believe_ that this is verbatim dialogue. How amazing.

Aww I'm sad they die though! I guess it's only to be expected given. I confidently await the Yuletide fix-it.

Edit: I wrote this from the reading page and only came to read the comments after. Everyone loves incidentally looking after cats!
Edited Date: 2019-03-15 12:21 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu - Date: 2019-03-17 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2019-03-15 02:02 pm (UTC)
osprey_archer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] osprey_archer
This sounds deliciously nuts in the best way. WHY DO THEY HAVE TO DIE THOUGH???

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] movingfinger - Date: 2019-03-17 08:21 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] osprey_archer - Date: 2019-03-17 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2019-03-15 03:00 pm (UTC)
annotated_em: close shot of a purple crocus (Default)
From: [personal profile] annotated_em
That is pretty super gay, right down to the doomed ending. Goodness.

Date: 2019-03-15 04:21 pm (UTC)
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (celebrate)
From: [personal profile] larryhammer
Yup, yup.

Date: 2019-03-15 04:02 pm (UTC)
copperfyre: (phryne smile)
From: [personal profile] copperfyre
Wow, I did not expect this to go ALL THE WAY and THEN IT DID. Amazing! I, uh, think I need to read this now.

Also I agree with everyone else that 'incidentally I'm looking after your cats' is fantastic.

Date: 2019-03-15 06:29 pm (UTC)
shati: TEDDY BEAR version of the queen seondeok group photo. (Default)
From: [personal profile] shati
Who's taking care of the cats now D:

Date: 2019-03-15 07:30 pm (UTC)
brownbetty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brownbetty
THIS IS A LOT

But also, I just. Like. Imagine you're the acquiring editor, pitching this book. WHAT IS YOUR ARGUMENT?

Date: 2019-03-15 09:41 pm (UTC)
movingfinger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] movingfinger
...There's a sequel ...wait... how can there be a sequel? The Judas Figures.

Surely ILL can find a copy of it somewhere.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] movingfinger - Date: 2019-03-17 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] conuly - Date: 2019-03-17 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2019-03-15 10:05 pm (UTC)
aamcnamara: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aamcnamara
DIED HAND IN HAND omg

The Power of Gay Love absolutely is greater than The Power of The Church and I'm glad Audrey Erskine Lindop agrees.

Date: 2019-03-15 11:12 pm (UTC)
conuly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] conuly
So really truly they just faked their deaths and ran away to the big gay paradise in, uh... where was the big gay paradise back then?

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] conuly - Date: 2019-03-17 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2019-03-16 02:05 am (UTC)
etirabys: (Default)
From: [personal profile] etirabys
I was slumped on a couch in despair at work, taking a break and scrolling through my rss feed in an attempt to recover from the giant blegh field I had around some annoyingly screwed up code I'd been bashing my head against for hours, and then I read this review! And was so delighted and emotionally rejuvenated that after finishing it, I let out this happy sigh and strode back to keep working.

Date: 2019-03-16 04:34 am (UTC)
chestnut_filly: A close-up photograph of auburn hair in a French braid (Default)
From: [personal profile] chestnut_filly
Found this through my network, and THANK GOD.

This is the best thing I've read all week. It's like if Death Comes for the Archbishop had had Gay Conviction™.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] conuly - Date: 2019-03-17 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2019-03-16 09:17 am (UTC)
littlerhymes: the fox and the prince (Default)
From: [personal profile] littlerhymes
I'm weeping THIS IS BEAUTIFUL.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] conuly - Date: 2019-03-17 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2019-03-16 10:55 am (UTC)
schneefink: River walking among trees, from "Safe" (Default)
From: [personal profile] schneefink
This sounds amazing xD

Date: 2019-03-16 02:32 pm (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Watercolour of barn owl perched on post. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
Golly!

Date: 2019-03-16 04:23 pm (UTC)
breathedout: a blonde woman laughing (laughter)
From: [personal profile] breathedout
This was a wild, wild ride. I'm so glad you shared it with the world.

Date: 2019-03-16 05:49 pm (UTC)
greywash: Eliot smokes; drinks; has a lot of feelings. (GAY DRAMA)
From: [personal profile] greywash
oh

my god????????

Date: 2019-03-17 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] plinythemammaler
"Incidentally, I'm looking after your cats."

Date: 2019-03-23 02:56 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
missed this til now BUT OH MY FUCKING GOD WOW

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