Not a Step — A Novel

Martin's Father's Secret

by Russell Dyer
published:  sep 22, 2016;  revised:  dec 23, 2017;  readers in past month:  143

My novel starts in June 1958 when the main character, Martin is about ten years old. He lives in New York with his mother—his parents are divorced. His father lives in Rome and works at the Vatican embassy. Early in the novel, Martin visits his father there.

His father is an erudite and not very affection towards him. Originally, this character was aloof and shallow. But I’m starting to understand how he might best fit into the dynamics of Martin’s life. I realize now that he’s homosexual. He doesn’t admit this to anyone, though, or even to himself. This accounts for why his marriage to Martin’s mother ended. Instead of developing a relationship with a man after his divorce, he becomes asexual. This isn’t a conscious choice: he just numbly becomes this way, not perceiving or considering he has alternatives.

At this time—it’s just after McCarthyism—“homosexuality became framed as a dangerous, contagious social disease that posed a potential threat to state security” (quote from WikiPedia on McCarthyism and homosexuality). This is why he wants his son to visit him: he wants to portray himself as heterosexual to his colleagues and society. He wants them to think that he is single because of his dedication to his career.

To extend some of the inner turmoil for this character, I was thinking that in time, after a few years into the story, I could have him start to explore his sexuality. I might even have Martin, when he’s about 12 years old, notice some interaction between his father and another man. It could confuse Martin at the time, but years later Martin might understand it and appreciate that his father was seeking to come to terms with who he is and to find happiness. This is one of the themes of Martin’s story, what he learns through his life.