Mendez’s Rainbow Milk was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn prize. They are working on their second novel.

Until​ March 2022, I’d never seen an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the biggest queer cultural phenomenon in TV history. Even straight friends considered me a pariah. But then I went to stay with a friend who was determined that I lose my Drag Race virginity. Season 14 was midway through; over the course of two evenings, he took me through the first seven episodes, each an hour...

George Michael was the biggest selling musician in the world in 1988. He was 25 and seemed ready to outdo Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince and Madonna. In Freedom Uncut, Liam Gallagher describes him as a ‘modern-day Elvis’. Fans and the record business wanted more: more music, more appearances, more concerts, more everything. Almost disdainfully, he signed a multimillion-dollar, multi-album deal with CBS, and, with Michael installed as its flagship act, Sony bought out the company for $2 billion. By the end of the 1980s, anti-gay sentiment, compounded by the Aids crisis and the passing into law of Section 28, was widespread; the ideology of ‘gayness’ was trashed in the mainstream media in the same way that ‘wokeness’ is today. The wild success of Faith and the accompanying world tour induced PTSD-levels of overexposure in someone who had something to hide.

SamSelvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956) was one of the first British novels to be written in creolised English. It turned London, as the critic Susheila Nasta has said, into a ‘Black city of words’. The protagonist, Moses Aloetta, is an Afro-Trinidadian who arrived early in the Windrush era. After almost a decade in the city, he has become a reluctant welfare officer for...

Did he leap? ‘Harlem Shuffle’

Mendez, 16 December 2021

Colson Whitehead​ planned Harlem Shuffle as a comic relief project after the trauma of writing The Underground Railroad (2016), his novel of captivity and escape set in the 19th-century American South. Following Trump’s election, however, he felt unable to detach himself from the reality of institutional racism in the US. The Nickel Boys (2019), the book he began instead, was inspired...

David Keenan’s​ first novel, This Is Memorial Device: An Hallucinated Oral History of the Post-Punk Scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and Environs 1978-86 (2017), documents the rise and fall of a fictitious (though awesomely real) band called Memorial Device. Its members are from Keenan’s home town of Airdrie – about thirteen miles east of Glasgow – and the book takes the...

Strut like Mutya: Paul Mendez

Nicole Flattery, 22 October 2020

Rainbow Milk is a candid, sometimes un­even novel. But at moments it’s electrifying – an algorithmic pop ballad that suddenly transcends itself and sounds different, more affecting, like the opening...

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