Lance Ringel’s latest novel, Floridian Nights, unfolds against a background that at times, surprisingly, can feel as distant as the World War I France of his award-winning debut novel, Flower of Iowa.
August, 1988 – the hottest summer in more than a century in New York, a city shadowed by the AIDS epidemic. Gary Gaines is 35 years old and three years past losing, in the most sudden, unexpected, terrible way, the love of his life, Becker Barnes. And then again, he is not past it at all. One night, to forget their mutual pain, Gary and his best friend Julia Stern, an even more recent widow, venture out to a funky East Village restaurant. There Gary meets, in the most unlikely circumstances, Rick Fennell, a 22-year-old waiter freshly moved from the Midwest. Despite the generation gap between them, a relationship slowly begins to develop. But Gary cannot bring himself to take Rick seriously, and his tight circle of family and friends, all of whom adored Becker, share his skepticism. Abruptly, circumstances cause Gary to decamp from New York to his parents’ home in Florida. As the days and nights pass, he is forced to face the consequences of his paralyzing grief, and make decisions about the future.
Floridian Nights captures a unique moment in time – a pre-digital age, when easy public affection and equality in marriage remain faraway dreams, but an organized community has finally emerged into the sunlight, and a gay man can find complete acceptance within his own family. The terror and tragedy of a killer epidemic stalking the land will be all too familiar to contemporary readers, even as they enjoy a culture-clash romance that ricochets between the unexpectedly comic and the deeply poignant.
In this moving portrayal of the ebb and flow of grief, pain is drawn with sharp clarity, combining passionate recollections with uglier rifts.
Floridian Nights is a deeply pleasurable read. Ringel creates flawed, complex and sympathetic characters we care about, one of whom is grappling with grief after his lover’s horrific death. Set in New York City and Florida during the AIDS crisis, the book overflows with atmosphere, terrific dialogue, tenderness, and insight into the human heart. … A flat-out wonderful book.
Sebastian Stuart, author of The Hour Between,
winner of the Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction
A rich, character-driven foray into a harrowing time. … it feels like a brilliant stage play, as the verbal sparring smartly highlights queer culture and generational differences.
Kirkus Book Reviews
Lance Ringel’s Floridian Nights is the tale of Gary, 35 and still struggling to cope with the sudden loss of his partner three years earlier, and Rick, an idealistic 22-year-old. Set in 1980s New York and Florida and told in an engaging, chatty voice, it is pitch-perfect and hugely entertaining.
James Lovejoy, author of Joseph Chapman: My Molly Life, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance