February, 1950. Lee County, Florida. In the freewheeling, celebratory aftermath of World War II, survivors and veterans are starting new lives, resuming old ones, or just picking up the pieces.
Former Navy officer Dan Ewing feels safer than any gay man might expect in a segregated, dry county where the Ku Klux Klan is still strong. Managing an ultra-private club-hotel in Ft. Myers with a mixed-race staff, untaxed alcohol, high-stakes card games and escorts of both sexes, he’s been acting like he has nothing to lose: business is good and his romantic life is better. Lee County Detective Bud Wright, a former Marine sergeant and Dan’s secret lover, is outwardly strong and brave, but uneasy with the knowledge that, every time he and Dan get naked together, they’re breaking laws he’s sworn to uphold. It’s nothing that a few drinks can’t get him past, especially when moonlighting as security for Dan’s hotel. Both men have their work cut out for them, however, once a hurricane evacuation brings to the hotel wealthy, well-connected non-members who happen to own Sunset Island, a secluded resort fronting the Gulf of Mexico. Their arrival sets in motion a turnover of hotel staff, sensual and sordid seductions, brutal assaults, the discovery of looted art from Holocaust victims, and, of course, murder. After drowned men start washing ashore on nearby beaches, Dan and Bud must set to work unraveling war-related mysteries and exploring the implications of a rapidly changing society in those postwar years.
Elliott Mackle—who has been called “the Tom Wolfe of gay fiction” and “the gay Pat Conroy”—is also the author of the multiple-award-winning Captain Harding trilogy. Sunset Island is third in a series that includes Lambda Award finalist It Takes Two and International Rainbow Award winner Only Make Believe.