Adrenaline by James Robert Baker

Adrenaline by James Robert Baker is a perfect book; if you’re in the mood for it. The mood for it is not a happy mood, nor a passive one, but an active, vengeful mood. The kind of mood that wants to see someone go to extremes against the man once and for all. If that’s the kind of mood you’re in, or have ever been in, then Adrenaline is the book for you.

Adrenaline tells the story of Nick and Jeff, who spend one passion filled night together only to have a pair of wildly homophobic cops break in on them. The cops assault Nick and Jeff who successfully fight back and end up taking one cop as a hostage. When the SWAT team mistakenly shoots the cop and puts the blame on Nick and Jeff, they take it on the lam. The rest of the books follows them through the highs and lows of Los Angele society as they try to escape to Mexico.

Adrenaline is not for the faint of heart. None of James Robert Baker’s books are. They are all products of the 70’s/80’s zeitgeist of pent up anger at the homophobic America that elected Ronald Reagan twice and sat by clucking their teeth while so many gay men died of AIDS. Clearly, Mr. Baker had many issues with the world at large, homophobic cops and preachers along with closeted Hollywood moguls, in particular.  He was able to find the satisfaction in his novels that he could not find in real life. Nick and Jeff get to enact revenge for all of us, often in ways we wouldn’t really ever consider doing. But we can, sometimes, enjoy reading about it.

Adrenaline is my third James Robert Baker novel. I’d rank it above Anarchy but not as high as Tim and Pete. Mr. Baker’s work is not for the faint of heart. He goes places polite society would rather we didn’t go. But in the end, Adrenaline features the triumph of good over evil in an almost Hollywood finish. If you’re a member of Mr. Baker’s cult following, you’ll find lots to like about Adrenaline.

This review first ran on my old blog Ready When You Are, C.B. in November of 2008.  James Robert Baker was already a forgotten figure by that time.  The angry queer writing of the 1980’s and 1990’s had already given way to a much more polite, literary form, the kind of stuff you can find in Micheal Cunningham and David Leavitt’s work. As a group, we decided we didn’t need the rage of the ACT UP days anymore.  At least not in our fiction. 

But I don’t know.  Rage has its place. Rage has its usefulness.  Reviewing this old post in my comfortable home in 2014, I  wonder what James Robert Baker would be writing about today had escaped the epidemic that killed so many and spawned so much rage.