Author: Terry O’Reilly
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Pages: 134 (paperback)
Characters: Tom Clarkson, Alan Daniels
POV: 3rd Person
Before the advent of the Internet, men looking to make sexual contact with other men would cruise rest stops, shopping malls, and parks. There they often left messages on the walls of restrooms hoping to meet someone of like interest.
Alan Daniels, a young Vietnam veteran, has recently been questioning his sexuality. He takes a chance and writes a note in the john of his local municipal park.
Handsome, sensual Tom Clarkson, a college student going to school mainly to avoid the draft, is intrigued by a new message he finds in the park bathroom.
Is Tom destined to spend another night indulging in meaningless sex, or could the note lead to something more? Only one way to find out…
In July, Terry O’Reilly offered the first chapter of Graffiti as a free read called Parks and Recreation. It was just thirteen pages long, but after reading it, I was entirely hooked. I couldn’t wait for the rest of Tom Clarkson’s story, and now, here it is. I think it was worth the wait.
This is a story that takes place during the Vietnam era, a time in which a young man like Tom was either drafted into the military, or found ways to get around it. Tom’s means of dodging the draft was to become a college student, much to the disdain of his ex-Marine father. Living in a crappy little apartment, working in a bakery, going to school, and meeting random men in the park near his home pretty well encompasses the whole of Tom’s existence.
In the days before the internet and Grindr, there weren’t so many ways for men to hook up. For Tom, meeting a man who’ll take the edge off his physical needs means cruising the park and perusing the messages on the bathroom wall to find the next random guy to scratch his itch. Tom does have standards and rules he follows, though, and the order of his encounters has always been fairly simple. Until he meets Alan Daniels, the man who comes along and, with a single kiss, blurs all the lines Tom has drawn in the sand when it comes to his physical relationships.
Alan is twenty-seven and has only just accepted the fact that he’s gay. He’s absolutely lost when it comes to the nuances of meeting men and it’s only by a random occurrence that he and Tom meet the first time, though things don’t quite turn out the way either man would have expected. It ends with what seems like a missed opportunity, but not for long, as Alan takes the first step to find Tom again, a move that ultimately complicates Tom’s life in ways he didn’t want but that he’s powerless to resist. But Tom doesn’t give in without a fight.
As one would expect, there’s a lot of sex going on in Graffiti; that’s what Tom’s life is about, after all: sex without emotional attachment is his prime directive. Tom doesn’t do love. He tried it once and got screwed over big time, so a long line of random men is his way of getting off without getting hurt. The one thing he never counted on, however, was meeting someone who would make him want to throw away all those rules that keep things uncomplicated. But rather than compromise the order of his life, he ditches the man, which gives the story a major boost in the emotional quotient and gives purpose to all those random encounters.
This might be one of those stories that the reader either really likes or really doesn’t. It might depend upon how much romance one demands in a book. Graffiti isn’t all sweetness and light, though there is an undeniable sense of romance to the plot—the concept that there’s someone out there for everyone, someone who is worth turning your life upside down for, for the sake of risking a connection with the one who could make you believe it’s all worth it in the end.
Personally, I’m in the “really likes” category with this one.
Reviewed By: Lisa