Good as you paul flynnDownloaded 23 June 2017 and published on 27 April. Charting the 30 years from Smalltown Boy and Relax hitting the charts and HIV hitting the population to the advent of gay marriage in the UK through the lens of popular culture, this book has a warmth brought by the interweaving of the author’s life into the narrative; as he’s an exact contemporary of mine, it was really interesting to read his story alongside the wider cultural sweep. As he says, he’s in an ideal position to tell “that strange transition that happens in a gay man of my age’s life, from feeling like an enemy of the state to being its friend”.

As a journalist, he’s been able to access all sorts of figures, from those behind the scenes or running events and hospitals to people like Kylie, Will Young and Lord Chris Smith, covering, among other things, gay icons, coming out in politics, the soap operas helmed by Tonies Holland and Warren and the rise of gay Manchester. At one point he asserts that there’s a gay man behind every cultural happening in Manchester; he finds this strand throughout popular culture as a whole, too. He also celebrates the variety of role models and visible gay people, charting Holly Johnson, Jimmy Somerville and later Brian Dowling as giving a sort of normality to gay lives in the media.

The book is not afraid to cover the darker, more difficult topics of HIV / AIDS and the work of the Terence Higgins Trust and the Lighthouse, or of homophobia in football, still going on now, and he tells both celebratory and harrowing stories, as he should do. This gives the book light and shade and makes it a serious resource, pulling together all these cultural threads.

A generally positive and forward-looking book that goes right to the source where it can – I would have liked to see a list of sources in the back, but maybe this is to come as these are effectively proof copies; I’m left assuming that all the interviews were his own, so perhaps they were. There’s also a slight habit of dropping in a name or concept, wandering away and leaving it hanging, then coming back to it, which because slightly jarring or confusing at times, but it was a pattern so became more comprehensible over the book.

Another good read from NetGalley, kindly provided by Ebury Publishing, Penguin Random House UK.