During the summer of 1988, as I was returning from a hectic day at work, I decided to stop at this magazine shop in the gay village where they also sold a few paperback novels on a rack at the back. You know, the latest releases and stuff. One of them was Doris Mortman’s FIRST BORN. I was immediately drawn by its red colored front cover featuring a close-up shot of a woman’s half face. Suffice to say, I wanted to know more about this novel. You see, I lived—and still do—for this type of fiction, and during the ‘80s there were tons of them. Some were good some were bad. And this one seemed decent enough.
Excited at the prospect of starting it, I chose the least damaged book on the rack (why are they always so scuffed?!) and proceeded to the cash register behind which stood a hot-looking employee. I had met him before at a nightclub somewhere and couldn’t help but flirt a little, and vice versa. Anyway, as I was heading home I realized half-way that my wallet was missing. A clear image of it lying in front of the cash register came to me. Yikes! I immediately ran back to the store and prayed that my money and credit cards were safe and sound. They were. As it turned out, Mr. Cutie Pie had kept the wallet for me. I’d love to say up to that point that he and I became an item but no such luck. After I insisted on giving him 20 bucks for his kind gesture, I never saw him again.
It took me three tries to finally read FIRST BORN from cover to cover. Not that it was garbage; it’s just that the investment was a challenge since the novel happens to be a hefty one: over 700 pages. The plot centers around the ups and downs of four career gals, all cousins, who meet up with a female stranger who turns out to be the half sis of one of them. In other words, she’s an illegitimate child. I know, it smells like a LACE rip-off but don’t be fooled. FIRST BORN manages to stand on its own with a riveting plot and a rich narrative, not to mention a fleshed-out characterization. Mortman is one gifted-storyteller, and I can guarantee you won’t find a better novel in which to invest. I can even confess that the book made me shed a tear or two in some parts. And that’s a rare thing for me, since I’m a cold-hearted bastard when it comes to fiction reading.
Until next post—Martin