Reviewed by Patty Inglish
Fellow Travelers targets both the Communist-and-gay-friendly people that support the rights of groups without joining them. Sometimes, the supporters will not even admit their advocacy. This novel portrays an American Cold War government of many such leanings and secrets.
In 1991 Estonia, at the American Embassy in Tallinn, Hawkins Fuller is at the close of his government career, ending as Embassy Deputy Chief. He receives an unexpected letter that recalls his earlier life with all of its excitement and lack of backbone.
He had helped a youth struggling with homosexual thoughts to secure a position in Washington, D.C. with Republicans involved in the McCarthy witch hunts. He did this to seduce the youth as a steady sexual conquest to keep handy. However, he nearly closed the gap to falling in love with Tim Laughlin, only stopping short of commitment.
Tim’s family revered McCarthy, but Tim was in constant danger of exposure as a homosexual, although he was uncertain about it. However, he had fallen in love with Fuller, who sought only a stable of men and a wealthy wife.
Fellow Travelers contains sections that are surprisingly entertaining–alongside portions that are riveting. Author Mallon connects the Cold War era’s fear of both Communism and homosexuality together as a witch hunt that has continued well past the fall of the Berlin Wall.
When Fuller testifies before the Committee on Un-American Activities, he is required to walk across a room to determine if he has a “homosexual walk” and to read from Of Human Bondage to see if he “sounds homosexual.” These tests and the lie detector all fail, and he and beats the rap to revel in a visible federal career. He also enjoys a wealthy wife and a long, though diminishing, series of men that breaks Tim’s heart. Tim had joined the army to escape, but Fuller continues to reappear and hurt Tim repeatedly, more harshly each time. Finally, Tim breaks away, becomes celibate, and has the last word through a mutual female friend.
This is an adult story to be enjoyed while comparing it to Cold War facts. Although fiction, it could all be true.
Armchair Interviews says: This was originally published in April 2007 by Pantheon, in hardback, now in paperback.