The Price of Dick - Dan Skinner
Don’t be fooled by the tongue-in-cheek title or the neon cover that holds this novel together. What may seem to an outsider like a comedy romp with an appropriately named antagonist is actually quite a dark read. Dan Skinner is back with another novel that both defies and defines the genre. In a world of sexually explicit erotica, Skinner has once again stripped away layer after layer to give his readers a deeper, more complex view of the human condition. And what a view it was.

This book is not your traditional romance, despite the main themes running through being that of love and acceptance. While most authors tackle their stories with a typical boy meets boy start, middles out with a rift in the relationship, and by act three gives everyone an HEA, Dan Skinner has taken this opportunity to test the bounds of real love; the love we have for ourselves. This is a story of one man’s journey, not to find the man of his dreams but to find enough love inside for himself that he can escape the clutches of an unhealthy obsession with the book’s villainous stud, Dick.

Written, from what I understand, based on real events in the author’s life, I found myself both sympathetic and completely infuriated with J.J, our protagonist-come-anti-hero, frequently rolling my eyes as anyone outside this kind of unhealthy match might do. As with all toxic relationships, it’s easier to see the flaws when you are on the periphery, and this tale documents the ignorance and blindness that we, inherently, as human beings, are constantly subjecting ourselves to when in the throes of an emotional tryst.

The character of Dick was pure evil; a hot-shot manipulator in the body of God, reeling in the trusting J.J and abusing not only him but anyone Dick encounters, hiding behind his oppressive mother’s Republican regime as a means of garnering sympathy and explaining away his self-built closet. To read his manipulations on the page had me both cringing and relating to how easy it is to fall trap to the devils snare, particularly when the devil is wearing the mask of a handsome, successful, god-like man. In our lives, we have all met this man, though most have not experienced this form of manipulation to this high a degree. Skinner opened his heart, his mind and his studio door to show the reader the catastrophe that unravelled his world at the hands of this man, though it is unclear where fact leaves off and fiction steps in.

As usual, Skinner’s work is beautifully penned in artistic flare, with prose that had me gripped from the onset. I could not fault a single word written, and though there are plenty of sexually explicit words to read, the story did not suffer at the hands of cheap titillation. Every sentence seemed to stand alone, and if you were to pull one from the book and read it without context, that sentence would read like poetry.

To summarise, what we have here is a deeply profound, psychologically explorative read that examines not only the traditional themes of the genre but also things we are afraid to look at too closely; our own flaws, our own self esteem issues, what we are willing to sacrifice in the name of infatuation. This book, much like his last, is one of the most courageous and thoughtful pieces I have had the pleasure of reading, and though a long read, I devoured it in one sitting.

If you’re looking for something fluffy, then look away. This is not for you. If you want to read the story of how J.J Johnstone’s life was turned upside down by his love of Dick, then get your copy now. This, to me, is what all books should be like, and I adored it from first page to last, humbly thankful to the author for such a penetrating look behind the doors of the closet he never chose to dwell in. Five stars. Five beautiful shining stars for this exceptional new piece of non-conventional literature.

Reviewed by BJ at The Novel Approach