I’ve had a terrible time trying to write an introduction to this review. Maybe it’s enough to say this about Shadows Flying: If you think you’ve encountered some messed up relationships over the years, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The author has often been confused with Howard Browne, a writer of hardboiled fiction who sometimes used "John Evans" as a pseudonym. The paperback edition (1955) retitled the book Love in the Shadows.
Shadows Flying by John Evans. Knopf (1936), 263 pp.
Jacob, a sensitive and naive man in his twenties, develops a loving but non-sexual relationship with Runyon, a moody and self-centered fellow of his own age. After living together in San Francisco for three years, they visit Runyon’s mother and sister at their ranch near Big Sur. Jacob comes to enjoy the beautiful landscape and hard work at the ranch. But he becomes disturbed when Runyon’s mother appears to display an unseemly interest in her son.
This unusual story is told almost entirely from Jacob’s viewpoint. The author succeeds in describing both Jacob’s acceptance of his homosexuality and his obsessive interest in Runyon. The reader is not surprised that Jacob fails to comprehend the nature of the relationships among members of Runyon’s family. The ending is thus less startling to the reader than it is to Jacob. Despite its subject matter, the book is neither graphic nor salacious. It remains of interest as an early example of California fiction with an openly and self-consciously gay protagonist. The author’s point about sexual attraction is not quite clear, however. Maybe he ultimately wants to remind us that many sorts of love can be blind.