The Torqued Man is a very difficult novel to pull off. It has to accurately replicate the atmosphere of Nazi Germany in World War II, introduce two queer heroes enmeshed with each other without the Tragic Homosexual trope, present a novel-within-the-novel that tweaks the story without it losing momentum. become a high wire spy tale in the tradition of Furst and LeCarré, and do all of this in a way that entertains while seamlessly blending multiple genres.
And man oh man does Peter Mann do it. The wild son-of-a-gun, he did it.
This book was so much fun to read. It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you (or maybe just me) want to finally read Norman Ohler’s Blitzed (apparently, the Nazi High Command did in fact use a lot of drugs). It’s so good.
Ostensibly, it’s a spy novel, but like a lot of contemporary spy novels, it uses the genre to examine identity. What is our identity? Our nationality? Our race? Our religion? Our sexuality? Both characters feel so real and lived in, thus giving the story depth and allowing it to carry the huge amount of weight it does.
One small thing in the grand scheme that I really appreciated: Mann allows Adrian to really examine what it means to live in Nazi Germany. Is he a perpetrator? Certainly not as much as party members and SS officers but he does find methods of survival knowing full well the evils of their government. And even if it’s the smallest role possible, he is technically part of the war effort. He’s not guiltless. So many books want to talk about Nazi resisters but that representation is in abundance relative to their numbers and impact. He paints Adrian as fatally doomed but also doesn’t let him off the hook.
An excellent work of fiction, my favorite of the new year by far.