A REVIEW OF DEAD MAN’S THOUGHTS BY CAROLYN WHEAT
Dead Man’s Thoughts by American novelist and former criminal defense attorney Carolyn Wheat (born 1946) was published by St. Martin’s Press, New York in 1983.
Dead Man’s Thoughts
Author Carolyn Wheat is a Legal Aid attorney, so it isn’t astonishing that she wrote a murder mystery with a Legal Aid lawyer as heroine. What is astonishing is that she is willing to give us a portrait of a boy–lover who is a warm and caring human being.
Nathan Wasserstein was on the way to becoming one of the top lawyers in the country until he was caught by the vice squad with a minor. His large and influential law firm was willing to cover up a first offense for a lawyer as good as he was, but Nathan wasn’t about to give up boys. Eventually he was fired, his wife divorced him and Nathan withdrew into a severe depression. His career should have been ruined, but a friend hired him on at Legal Aid, as long as Nathan promised to be discreet in his sex life. This worked out very well. The central character, Cassandra Jameson, never suspected that he was involved with boys as well as her. At least she didn’t until Nathan was murdered and a teenage hustler with the street name of Paco was arrested as the prime suspect.
Paco said he was innocent and Cass Jameson believed him. She was the only one who did. It was easy to accept the story that Paco had gotten angry about being “exploited” by Nathan, and strangled him. Cass couldn’t believe that Nathan would be so insensitive and unloving. She knew that he cared deeply about his clients and always tried to get them off the street and into job training programs. Nathan had cared about Paco. In the process of finding out the truth about Nathan’s death, Cass learned to accept what Paco had been to him, and Paco, who had been a severe homophobe before he met Nathan, learned to accept himself by the end of the novel.
This is not a book to read if you’re looking for hot sex scenes or a great love story centering on a man-boy relationship like Wallace Hamilton’s Kevin. What you will find is non-stop suspense as the plot weaves a tortuous path through a string of seemingly unrelated deaths. Cass tracks the connecting thread between them, uncovering corruption among the rich and powerful. The convincing details that Ms. Wheat brings to the novel from her experience of the seamy side of the law, make this book especially lively and valid. Dead Man’s Thoughts is a good read with the bonus of Cass and Paco’s growth toward a positive attitude about man/boy love.
After Cass’s last meeting with Paco, she realizes that the best thing that could happen to the boy now would be to find another man who would love him and care for him the way Nathan did. If only all fair-minded people of every sexual preference could look at the facts of what NAMBLA is really about, and reach that same conclusion.
Reviewed by Linda Frankel in the NAMBLA Bulletin (New York), Volume IV, no. 10, December 1983, p. 7.