In Search of Pretty Young Black Men
Stanley Bennett Clay
The title reads like a coy personal ad, and the book has a pervy sweatiness to it that seems appropriate for the back pages of your average alt-weekly. In Search of takes place in tony Baldwin Hills, seat of Los Angeles’ landed black gentry. Apparently all of Baldwin Hills’ women of a certain age are on the hunt for pretty young black men, and they pay through the nose to get them. Another thing that goes through their noses is cocaine. Nobody’s making any pimps ’n’ hos, crack-rock analogies here; the dissolution of these women comes mainly from boredom, excess of money, and going unfucked by their husbands.
One pretty young black man in particular, Dorian Moore, enters the picture and blows everybody’s mind, so pretty and sexy is he. His madam, Elaine, is best friend to one Maggie Lester-Allegro, a Woman With a Secret who retains a regal, Diana Ross-like beauty. Elaine decides to do Maggie a favor and sets her up with this young Dorian. Now, interspersed with Maggie’s recollection of this awesome night of paid-for booty—all told in flashback—are memories of the baby she had to give up, the baby she was pregnant with when she married her boring, rich doctor husband. The baby she got from a Black Panther, killed before his son was born. The baby with the distinctive birthmark that she gave away to loving adoptive parents a little over 20 years ago—perhaps you can see where this is going, and, you know, ew.
The description of Dorian and Maggie’s coupling, and the delicate social dance that precedes it, heaves Stanley Bennett Clay’s story into some good old-fashioned stroke-book territory—or would, if some of it wasn’t so weird: “His soft lips parted like loose clean foreskin”—did they? Did they really? Maggie sees the birthmark just as she’s about to come, which, besides being a real bummer for her, causes her to lose her mind, and when Dorian turns up dead she’s convinced she’s to blame.
Tucked away in all Clay’s Vaseline-smeared, soft-core soap operatics is an interesting concept, something about the cleansing, spiritual power of sex, with Dorian Moore as some kind of rentable Sex Angel. At least, that’s what you can tell yourself as you read it for the thoroughly enjoyable smutty pulp that it is.