Mark Hyatt isn’t a name known to many but it will be now. The poet and novelist was born in London in 1940 and died, by suicide, in 1972. He had no formal education and only learned to read and write as an adult. Up until now his writings have only really been known to a group of researchers and his novel, Love, Leda, existed only as a manuscript among his personal papers. Now it finally comes to us, resurrected by Peninsula Press, and offers us an invaluable glimpse into pre-legalisation gay life in 1960s London.
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Love, Leda follows the 20-year-old Leda, a queer vagabond, as he wanders the streets of Soho, frequenting its bars and clubs looking to pass his life away. It is a novel of gestures and glances, homosexuality being still illegal at this point, but once in private our characters embrace the life they’re never allowed to show.
Perhaps Love, Leda offers us more value as a cultural document rather than a novel on its own terms, but through its candid exploration of a world truly in the past Hyatt offers us an open and frank account of gay life that is years ahead of its time.
Love, Leda by Mark Hyatt is out on January 21 (Peninsula, £10.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.
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