The books

A Place Called Winter (2015)

To find yourself, sometimes you must lose everything. A privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything. Forced to abandon his wife and child, Harry signs up for emigra …

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A Perfectly Good Man (2012)

Pendeen Watch ‘Do you need me to pray for you now for a specific reason?’ ‘I’m going to die.’ ‘We’re all going to die. Does dying frighten you?’ ‘I mean I’m going to kill myself.’ When 20-year-old Lenny Barnes, paralysed in a rugby accident, commits suicide in the presence of Barnaby Johnson, the much-loved priest of a West Cornwall parish, the tragedy’s reverberations open up the fault-lines betw …

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The Whole Day Through (2009)

When forty-something Laura Lewis is obliged to abandon a life of stylish independence in Paris to care for her elderly mother in Winchester, it seems all romantic opportunities have gone up in smoke. Then she runs into Ben, the great love of her student days and, as she only now dares admit, the emotional yardstick by which she has judged every man since. Are they brave enough to take this second …

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Gentleman’s Relish (2009)

Patrick’s second collection of short stories appears thirteen years after his first, Dangerous Pleasures and, like that volume, shows how the shorter form seems to draw out a darker side to his imagination. The benevolent, forgiving narrative voice familiar from his novels is still there occasionally, but so too is another voice, darkly mischievous, even malevolent. Typical of the first would be t …

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Notes from an Exhibition (2007)

When troubled artist Rachel Kelly dies raving in her attic studio in Penzance, her saintly husband and adult children have more than the usual mess to clear up. She leaves behind her paintings of genius – but she leaves also a legacy of secrets and emotional damage it will take months to unravel. Patrick Gale’s latest novel is the story of a woman he has called “my most frightening mother to date” …

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Friendly Fire (2005)

Patrick off to his first day at Winchester College, aged 13. Friendly Fire is structurally simple, in that it is told from a single viewpoint and presents events in chronological order. In some ways it is autobiographical in a manner similar to the structurally more complex Rough Music, in that a large chunk of his own experience is threaded through the heart of it. Where the latter novel drew on …

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A Sweet Obscurity (2003)

A Sweet Obscurity is told from the alternating viewpoints of four characters. Eliza is a musicologist who has lost her way, wrecked her marriage with a foolish liaison and is now living in some squalor in a council flat. Giles is her estranged husband, an operatic counter tenor. Julia is his girlfriend, assistant to his machiavellian lesbian agent. Pearce is a Cornish beef farmer, as yet unconnect …

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Rough Music (2000)

For his fortieth birthday, a gay bookseller is given a holiday in a seaside cottage in North Cornwall. He takes his parents, who need the break because the mother has early onset Alzheimers, his nephews and his married lover, who just happens to be his brother-in-law. Meanwhile, back in 1968, the forty-something governor of Wandsworth Prison also takes his wife and small boy on holiday to Cornwall …

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Outlines: Armistead Maupin (1999)

Published as part of Absolute Press’ chicly packaged Outlines series of gay lives, this commission made use of Patrick’s friendship with the Tales of the City author and charismatic gay activist to winkle out a deeply personal version of his biography. Lively, shamelessly partisan, it startled both men with the things it dragged out of their pasts. By coincidence each was currently working on a no …

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Tree Surgery for Beginners (1998)

Lawrence Frost is a tree-surgeon, a man whose feelings run deeply but who is crippled by inarticulacy. To the despair of his theatrical mother and sophisticated uncle, he adores his wife and child but is in danger of losing both to a more glamorous candidate because of his emotional inadequacy. When his wife goes missing, presumed dead and he finds himself arrested on suspicion of murdering her he …

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The Facts of Life (1995)

Edward Pepper is an exile, saved from Nazi Germany in the Kindertransport as a child, ostracised in England as a German Jew, then cut off still further by developing TB. He is saved, in every sense, by Sally, the doctor who becomes his wife. Thanks to their unmarried benefactors, they set up home in The Roundel, an octagonal house always inherited by women, where she supports him as he struggles t …

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Caesar’s Wife (1991)

A stylish, thick-skinned publisher is thrown into confusion when the wealthy businessman who has long maintained her as his mistress is widowed. Now that he’s free to marry her, does she want to give up her independence? Or could she, perhaps, engage his gay son to help her find him a new wife? Notoriously the hardest title to track down in Patrick’s backlist because it was published under the tit …

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The Cat Sanctuary (1990)

Joanna, a Junoesque American photographer shares a lovely, lonely retreat on Cornwall’s Bodmin Moor with her novelist lover, Judith. On an assignment to an African principality, she feels compelled to meet up with Judith’s estranged sister, Deborah, whose husband has just been murdered by a bomb meant for someone more important. Impulsively she rescues Deborah from the respectable compassion of in …

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Little Bits of Baby (1989)

Candida is a breakfast television presenter with a sweet baby, a fairly sweet little boy and a sexy husband in advertising but her profile is waning and she begins to suspect a spiritual void in her life. She tries to fill it by announcing that the baby is to be christened and that she wants her childhood friend, Robin to be a godfather. Viewed in one light Robin is the perfect candidate, given th …

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Facing the Tank (1988)

Evan Kirby, an American academic specialising in angelology and demonology, visits the English cathedral city of Barrowcester (pron. Brewster) to pursue his studies at the cathedral’s ancient library. There he finds that the chintzy perfection of the place masks a network of passionate secrets – one woman on the run from the cardinal who impregnated her, another haunted by her feral child, a young …

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Kansas in August (1987)

A young teacher with a secret tap-dancing habit, Hilary lives his life as if it was a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, fuelling his optimistic search for romance with doses of South Pacific and The Sound of Music. When he stumbles upon an abandoned baby in a subway and takes it home with a drunken view to taking care of it his little life turns upside down. A process not helped by his strict psych …

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Dangerous Pleasures (1986)

This collection of stories is a celebration of Patrick’s first ten years as a published author that also celebrates the friends for whom each story was written. The stories range from Borneo, his first published story which was shortlisted for the one-off Whitbread Short Story Award back in 1985 and arguably his first excursion to Barrowcester, to Wig, a nightmarish fable of murder and make-up wri …

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Ease (1985)

Domina Tey, a successful playwright on the brink of unwilling middle age makes a brief bid for eccentricity and independence. In search of inspiration and a little adventure (but nothing too dangerous), she walks out on her academic hubby and beautiful Bristol home to take up residence in a house of bedsits in Bayswater. Under an assumed identity she can’t resist entering the lives of her fellow r …

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The Aerodynamics of Pork (1985)

Patrick’s first novel was written as a way of subverting the recently launched Betty Trask prize, which was then solely for romantic fiction. It is an alternative romance in two senses; almost every love affair in it is gay, lesbian or somehow twisted and the narrative alternates between chapters devoted to Seth, a gay schoolboy on the verge of turning sixteen and Mo, a lesbian police detective wi …

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