Never Let Me Down
|Title:||Never Let Me Down|
|External Links:||Shoshanna's Pros fanfic via Wayback / The Circuit Archive|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Shoshanna's story summary for it is a quote from the band, Depeche Mode: "I'm taking a ride with my best friend. I hope he never lets me down again."
From On the Double: "A new relationship-driven novel which offers a refreshingly adult Bodie and Doyle, confronting their emerging relationship in a realistic, (and very, very, very sexy) story."
The zine is now online in several locations:
- On Shoshanna's own site, here (link goes to her Pros fic section; you can see her comments and a link to any warnings before clicking the story).
- On the Professionals Circuit Archive, here.
Immediate ReceptionIn early 1993, Rachel Sabotini posted the following review to the Virgule-L mailing list. It is reprinted here with permission:
Not everyone agreed with Rachel's assessment of the story. Alexfandra soon followed with her critique of the zine (quoted with permission). The exchange was fairly typical for the Virgule-L mailing list which prided itself on offering frank reviews."Shoshanna's B/D novel "Never let me Down" is a wonderfully realistic portrayal of a man's introduction to the gay community and all it entails. It's written from an emotion-centered perspective, so it's light on the action-adventure stuff. But I found it well-written, and 'gay life' realistically portrayed. (Okay, I admit it. I went through the same transitional stages that Bodie did, and so empathized a major amount with this particular characterization.) In addition, AI (anal intercourse) isn't the 'be-all' and 'end-all' of the story. The author stays strictly in Bodie's POV, and his transformation from 'perception of self as straight' to 'perception of self as gay.' If you are looking for a non-stereotypical slash romance with a realistic (as opposed to romantic) edge, I heartily recommend it."
"Well, I hate to tell you this, but I DID NOT like "Never Let Me Down". I found the writing style awkward (did get a little better after chapter 3 or so), with very little descriptive ability, and the dialogue often sounded unnatural. Worse, it failed to convey B&D to me--they just didn't SOUND like B&D a lot of the time. I couldn't "hear" their voices when reading the dialogue.
The first few chapters seemed quite rushed, as if the author hurried through them in order to get to the first sex scene. (I think this is confirmed by the fact that the sex scenes are much better written than the rest of the novel.) There is no convincing CI5 activity going on, either--little bits of unimportant assignments pop up haphazardly, thrown in to interrupt the sex. I could tell the author didn't care about those parts at all, which made them rather boring.
As for the "realism" of the gay/bi sexual "awakening", this didn't work for me either. [Warning: some plot revealed here]: Basically, in the first chapter Bodie discovers that Doyle is bisexual (D makes a pass at him); Bodie violently rejects Doyle and the whole idea of his being bi, acts repulsed, disgusted, and angry. But then, in the next few weeks, he finds he just can't stop thinking about Doyle and the whole concept of making it with a guy, and by chapter 3 he's ready and willing to have sex with Doyle, out of a mix of curiosity and jealousy. Later, he "suddenly remembers" a sexual encounter he had with his best friend when he was 14, and how he must have blocked it from his memory until now. Now I can buy all of that as realistic experience, but as one of my esteemed Clarion Workshop instructors always said, "Real life is no excuse for fiction." I'm not going to say a novel is good just because it "really happens like that". Yeah, of course it happens like that. But Ms. Green failed to convince me that it was believable for her characters to go thru those sorts of actions/reactions. She failed, first of all, to convince me that these guys WERE Bodie and Doyle, which is a major failing in my view. She further failed to convince me that Bodie would go thru such extreme psychological changes so quickly. Basically, my feeling was that the first part of the novel was terribly rushed, motivations/relationships skimpily developed, and all she really wanted to do was get to the first sex scene. Nor did I believe Bodie so thoroughly forgot his teenage experience. Again, the author failed to make this believable; it sort of just popped up there, almost like, "Oh, by the way, I just remembered that my best friend and I got it on..." I guess what I'm saying is that every situation she set up that had tons of angst potential was written in that rushed, skimpy fashion, more telling than showing, and her descriptive ability was practically nil.
Oh, and it also didn't sound "British" enough for me, which is fairly essential to my enjoyment of B/D.
I will add, in order to be nice, that the second half was better than the first, and the scene(s) where Bodie goes to the gay club were much more believable than the other parts. But one or two believable scenes in a 100-page novel isn't good enough--I give this one a thumbs down.Sorry to be so negative, but it was a very disappointing read."
The 2009 "Reading Room" Comments
There are 199 comments at the CI5hq Reading Room. Many of them comment on the story itself. There is also much discussion on sexual politics, American language usage, sexual labels, what is "gay," domesticity in fiction, internalized homophobia...
A few of these comments are included in the next section. For the rest, see the CI5 Reading Room discussion pages.
NEVER LET ME DOWN is a novel by Shoshanna published in 1992 by Manacles Press and now oop. The zine comprises 100 pages and 56,000 words. It's printed on good-quality stock with a plain but attractive cover and interior lay-out, and dark, legible typefaces.
Manacles Press zines are generally well-edited and well-presented. Typos are not a problem in this particular zine, and punctuation and grammatical faults are minimal. My main complaint in this regard concerns a tendency to include different speakers in the same paragraph rather than making conventional divisions, but that's likely the author's style rather than the press. I saw a few American spellings, but they weren't particularly intrusive since the general vocabulary creates the sense of an English setting; the word-choices didn't jar me. I'm not a Brit reader, though, so mileage will vary.
Shoshanna is an adept stylist. She doesn't create textual fireworks, but her writing is straightforward and accomplished. Her style perfectly suits the telling of this particular story, which charts in small, lavishly detailed increments the growth of the B/D relationship. This novel is, quite simply, about sex. The story's thrust, its string of major scenes, and its purpose are all bent to a leisurely exploration of a developing sexual relationship. Specifically, it's the story of a Bodie who perceives himself as straight and a bisexual Doyle who initiates his partner into the dynamics of male/male sexuality, along with the romantic and emotional intimacy that accompanies the sex.
Doyle, well aware of his nature, has been in love with his partner for years. When he eventually takes a chance and reveals his feelings, his reward is a broken partnership and a burnt bridge to their old relationship that can never be rebuilt for either of them. What ensues instead is the building of a new relationship as Bodie slowly explores both his own previously unplumbed emotions and an awakening interest in gay sex. The beauty of this novel is the slow pace at which the author takes Bodie (and us) through the gradual steps of his learning about himself and the new possibilities in his life. An act which disgusts and horrifies him--such as his partner kissing him--becomes, after days of pondering and some burgeoning fantasies, both a source of curiosity and a marker of emotional revelation. That is, when Bodie is himself ready to kiss Doyle, the act is for Bodie both a study of the physical differences in kissing a man rather than a woman, and a step further into his realisation of his emotional commitment to Doyle as something other than, yet allied to, partner and friend. Each physical act they perform together is explored within the context of Bodie's fears and pondering, his curiosity, framed with his ever-increasing awareness of the crucial part of the equation: that it's not just a man he's with, but Doyle.
The tight Bodie-pov is used effectively to generate the tension that underlies even innocuous actions:
They settled into a pattern they'd played out many times before: Doyle chopping and cooking, Bodie helping, laying the table and snitching bits of the rice and veg whenever Doyle put down the big-bladed knife. Only this time there was a difference, like an electric charge, so that whenever they touched, whenever they brushed past each other in the kitchen or their legs met under the table as they ate, Bodie felt the jolt, through his stomach and into his chest and his groin. Doyle's tongue, eating, endlessly drew his gaze, the way his throat worked when he swallowed. Would he swallow like that when...?
Tension, or apprehension, or anticipation: Bodie felt as though the whole day, the run, the dinner and all their talk were leading up to that implacable moment when he would be in bed again with Doyle, naked. And then....
Readers who don't like leisurely explorations of both nuance and event might not enjoy this novel; I happen to love finely detailed texts that are willing to take all the time they need. Nothing is shorted in this exploration; nothing is rushed or skipped. Kissing; frottage; oral sex; Bodie's first visit to a gay pub; the huge step that is anal intercourse: each of these events is explored with attention to the feelings of a man who is working his way into a strange, new country. Providing links between the intimate scenes and Bodie's pondering about the changes in himself and his life are glimpses of ops. The working partnership as an integral part of the relationship is given proper weight; these characters are of CI5 although the story's focus is on their private relationship. The characters are recognisable and refreshingly mature. Doyle is the experienced one here, Bodie the reactive initiate.I enjoyed reading this novel very much. As it happens, a specific element in the relationship dynamic militates against the novel working for me personally, but that's entirely subjective and has nothing to do with the quality of this text. I probably shan't ever reread this story for that one subjective reason alone, which is a pity. I regret it because this novel is rewarding on almost every level. I recommend this zine to anyone who enjoys a mature and in-depth exploration of the growth of an emotional and sexual relationship between Bodie and Doyle. 
Jen may have more to say on this, since Manacles published it. It was written by [Shoshanna], and gets my vote for best pros novel of the year -- possibly best slash novel of the year; I'll have to think. It is very gay male feeling, while still definitely slash. A nice trick to pull off. Very realistic romance; first timer. I loved it. 
(Depeche Mode is playing in my head right now.) I liked this one. In fact, I like it better than most. These are real people, dealing with their new truths realistically. Other fen I talked to didn't like the realism, which floors me. I appreciated the fact that one of the partners really doesn't like anal sex (seems a new idea in slash? Given the wide variety of human sexual activities available, I'm sometimes amazed at the sexual repetition in slash stories.) Well, I will just go reread this novel, for the pleasure of it. Thank you, Shoshanna. 
Thanks for bringing up a perfect example of what I dislike. I have NOT cared for Shoshanna's Pros stories, and now I think I know why. See my earlier reviews of "Never Let Me Down." 4th wave writers who don't seem to care that much about the ORIGINAL source material do not speak very well to 1st and 2nd wave readers. Not to this one, anyway.... In looking back over my review of "Never Let Me Down", I note that my main complaint was that it "didn't sound or feel like Bodie and Doyle to me". This is the same sense I get from many A/Us, as well. 
Doyle is a difficult character. There is no easy gimmick to hang on him except for flying temper and sharp tongue. Pages and pages of "Bodie said nothing" as a response to something that bothers or upsets Bodie, feels right, as he swings between the puerile boasting type, the soft, wounded, vulnerable type and the dangerous silent type. However, it seems a strange response for Doyle (unless he's sulking, I think). Fretting and tormented by ideas, he is the most chatty one of the two (though that might be more fancanon than canon), not one to keep quiet. His major defect seems to be hot temperament (Cowley and Bodie in dream memories in Discovered in a Graveyard both told him so). With Doyle's police background, It seems to me that his training in communication should be vastly superior to Bodie's, as many situations (domestic, hostages etc...) are resolved through talk and negotiations, and Doyle was a good cop (tops, Bodie had said in that same episode). This idea tallies with my one experience as an official French/German translator in a police station. Doyle is harder to define. Just as from one angle to the next, physically, he seems to be a different person, there appears to be some creative fluidity in his mental make-up.Your sex-scenes, Shoshanna, were enthralling and educational. Sex scenes, although I enjoy them, are seldom the highlights of a story for me. as I usually prefer intricate plots (that I don't necessarily understand). Sex scenes, then, act like the cream on the strawberries. But your rendition of them seems researched and accurate, and I One frustrating thing about your story, is that you often refer to dialog, rather than flesh It out. Do you have problems with dialogs? (this would explain this avalanche of "Doyle said nothing's). The dialog there is is lovely: Murph talking about his sister was nice. I personally would have wanted much more of Murph's reaction as a third party (both because I yearn for third parties reactions in stories, of which I am often deprived, and because I am mightily fond of Murphy). I loved to watch Bodie squirm. The last bit about Bodie explaining to Doyle that what he did wasn't what Doyle thought, though it was, was great too.
Never Let Me Down -- Frankly, this one let me down. I distinctly remember finishing it and thinking, where was the joy?. For me, a lover of angst-ridden Sebastian (face England and curtsey 5 times) stories, this was an alien thought until I realized I didn't mean happiness, but intensity. 
Never Let Me Down is a long, relationship-driven, CI5-universe fic - my absolute favorite kind of Pros story. Interwoven throughout are details and events from their work, but the focus of the story is entirely on the gradual evolution of Bodie and Doyle's relationship. And I do mean gradual - this is a story in which the relationship issues aren't immediately or handily resolved. Instead the relationship progresses haltingly, incrementally; it stutters, two steps forward one step back, as they deal with new experiences, both physical and emotional, and face and attempt to overcome the various hurdles that arise. It's both painful and hopeful, and so realistic.
The biggest hurdle is Bodie's difficulty coming to terms with his attraction to men, and the author's depiction of this is one of the things I like best about the story. Roused unwillingly from obliviousness to the truth of his own nature, Bodie finds himself faced with an unwelcome self-realization. He reacts first with misdirected anger and then attempts denial, but he is fundamentally honest with himself, and ultimately he can't - won't - ignore what's at the bottom of all this: the reality of his feelings for and attraction to Ray. So Bodie struggles with his identity, with his fear of how others might view him, with the idea and reality of sex with another man, with the displacement caused by such a rapid change in his self image.
These struggles ring very true to me, accurately reflect how I think the character might react and behave, and they are sensitively, movingly, and beautifully handled. Some of Bodie's feelings aren't very admirable, but he never becomes a caricature, he's never portrayed as one-dimensional, and I never stopped liking him and feeling for him - a testament to the author's skill and understanding of the characters. Shoshanna always lets us - if not Ray - see through Bodie's outward behavior to the very real pain and confusion and fear he's feeling; we never lose sight of his fundamental decency, and we can see how deeply he cares for Ray. Bodie's "gayness" clearly extends beyond Ray, but you get the sense that he'd live pretty happily in denial if Ray didn't mean so much to him; his struggle is in a sense a testament to the strength of those feelings.
Bodie's coming to terms with himself, adapting to a new way of thinking about himself, is a gradual process, though never ponderous or boring, and one of the things that makes this story compelling for me is its measured pacing. The author lets it all unfold in its own good time; it's a journey, and the author gives due weight to each step. This gives the story a particularly realistic feel. It also gives us a chance to really "get to know" the characters, to understand them and become attached to them as they move slowly toward togetherness. And the characterization and voices are excellent. The story is written tightly from Bodie's point of view, but the author quite effectively gives us insight through Bodie into what's going on with Ray. The insights aren't Bodie's, but we can make our own interpretations of Bodie's perceptions; this is what makes third person limited so powerful when done well, as it is here. Of course there were times I wished for more knowledge of what was going on in Ray's head - that's inevitable when the POV is limited to one character, I think - but this would have required that the author write another fic; switching between the viewpoints in a single story would, I think, have significantly diluted its impact.
As it is, the story, for all its measured pace, is exceptionally powerful and memorable. And - quite importantly for me! - the author manages to craft a wonderful, incredibly satisfying ending without compromising the realism. It's not a utopic ending - you know it's still going to be difficult for them; all the problems aren't resolved. But it's got an incredible sweetness, and you also just know that they're going to be together in this, together through it all. I like that feeling - that there's much more to come, but a fundamental barrier has been surmounted, so the outcome is inevitable - they're going to make it now.
And there's something incredibly sappy-smile-inducing about seeing these hard, tough guys fumble with tenderness and accept with somewhat bewildered and hesitant joy the spectre of real love.So: we have a long, relationship-driven novel, exceptionally skillful and controlled writing, appealing, authentic characterization, very good smut, a little angst, a happy ending, all in just about perfect proportions. That right there is a recipe for my ideal slash story - and Never Let Me Down has a permanent place of honor on my bedside table. 
Ah, yes, now this one I can completely see. Though the lads do inadvertantly hurt each other, it's not done out of malice. And I think Bodie's gradual acceptance of his new feelings for Ray are especially true to life. I really enjoyed how he went from shocked hesitancy to an aggressive, "I want to know all about it" attitude. Seems just like him. 
...when I first read it, I was fairly new to fandom and barely knew Pros at all, and I felt like it was far too dark. When I picked it up again a few years later I couldn't imagine what I'd been thinking - dark? Not hardly. I mean, it's not schmoopy at all, but it's so moving in so many ways, and it's got such a nice uplifting ending.
And yes, I totally agree about Bodie - I could sympathize with his desire to know. It was harder for me to understand why Ray was so unforthcoming - his explanation at the end didn't seem like quite enough. In fact, my only real issue with this story is that sometimes Ray was a little too opaque, even for a story written in tight third; I wished sometimes for a bit more material (Bodie's perceptions, of course) from which to attempt to interpret and extrapolate the reasons for some of Ray's actions.
For example, one thing that left me feeling a bit skeptical was in the final scene - how Ray, who was apparently experienced in being in that position sexually, hadn't attempted to evoke those responses from Bodie earlier; how he was so surprised at the end to learn that Bodie liked it, as if he didn't realize blokes sometimes do. You'd think he would have known that and would have attempted earlier to see if Bodie would react that way.
On the other hand, though people have sometimes complained about it, I had no trouble at all believing that Bodie would "forget" the impact his behavior in that last scene would have on Ray, how Ray would figure out from what Bodie was doing that something must have happened. I could see Bodie being so overwhelmed by all this new stuff and these rapid changes that he would just ... forget.(I'm trying to talk about this without giving too much away, in case someone who hasn't read it takes a look at these comments - hope I'm not being too cryptic!) 
I am reading the story now and enjoy it though I know strictly nothing to the show and its background and whereabouts (so, I'd like to get some short explanations). I was just a little surprised by the abruptness of the first move from Doyle, who tries to kiss his partner without warning;I know there must be a case to set the misunderstanding necessary to the plot, but it's a little hard to believe; I would have expected some ambiguities in the previous scenes, that could have somehow coloured the mood in sexual or at least sentimental shades. And Bodie's reactions seems to me really excessive, not in his inner feelings (he may be deeply shocked) but in their outward expressions; Afterall, if I understood well, he was a soldier and homosexuality is not uncommon in the military world! In fact I would better see the roles reversed...But I have still to get throughout the story. 
One of my favorite slash tropes is the straight man who finds himself attracted to a male friend, and has to deal with that. This story handles that scenario brilliantly, with a bisexual Doyle making a pass at a very surprised Bodie. The connection between them is so strong that Bodie has no choice but to come to grips with the notion, because the thought of not having Doyle in his life is unacceptable. There's no sudden resolution, no easy slide into acceptance and arousal -- this is a slow, halting process that feels very real.
A skillfully written, beautifully paced novel that draws the reader in early and keeps their attention until the last paragraph. The setting is pure CI5 - the characters feel real, the friendship finely detailed. When things become complicated, when Bodie finds out that Doyle is bi and can't deal with it, when the knowledge brings his "internalised homophobia" (author's description quoted on Pros Lib) to the surface, it's the thread of friendship that keeps them talking and prevents them breaking apart completely. 
I couldn’t put the story down (I love reading online and I hate zines with a deep and abiding loathing) but I don’t think I’d re-read it.. I think the fascination and ‘page turning’ stemmed from the study of the gradual turn-around of Bodie’s thoughts and feelings and the light that shed on some homophobic attitudes. I really wanted to know how he would resolve it all and from that point of view the story was compelling and satisfying. As a psychological study it worked. I wasn’t too aware of the Americanisms until somebody pointed them out. What does sometimes irritate me (in a lot of stories) is the way life in the seventies and eighties is portrayed... However, I can ignore this whilst I’m reading if the writing is otherwise good - and it is. Where dissatisfaction crept in, for me, was in characterisation. I’m very ‘multi-fandom’ in my reading and I trust authors to remember that not all their readers will be as familiar with canon as they are. In this case, I do know the canon quite well but if I hadn’t I’d have been truly confused. Yes, it’s from Bodie’s p.o.v. but we get no real view of Doyle - very little physical description, no clues as to his behaviour, tastes etc. And we get very little more about Bodie, outside the relationship. There is nothing in the story to tell me why these guys should even trust each other as partners, let alone fancy each other physically or regard each other as close friends. Although there’s a lot of CI5 detail none of it is followed through so we don’t get any sense of the kind of work they do overall. Their backgrounds/histories are alluded to but there is little or no clarification. I notice other people wondered why Doyle wouldn’t tell Bodie anything and various reasons have been put forward - all the answers are pure speculation and based on Doyle as we know him from the series, not on anything the author tells us. So the story was written purely for dyed-in-the-wool fans. I accept that - just saying that that kind of story isn’t for me. Whilst a shared canon can add to the enjoyment of a story I prefer a story that can stand alone. This doesn’t. 
... it is one of my all times favorite, if not THE favorite. I keep re-reading over the years, and it never stops griping me... I love first time fics, but, for me, this one is one of the best because of its' realistic feel. When I read it, I always feel like this is exactly how it would happen in real life, if Doyle made a pass at a seemingly-straight Bodie. Bodie's initial reactions, transforming from shock, to anger , to not wanting to know, and finally, curiosity, just feels "right" to me. Can't imagine a man , especially one with a strong character like Bodie, who believes himself to be attracted to women only, just jump for joy and enthusiasm when his best mate makes a pass at him… Also, Doyle's reaction to being hit by Bodie also feels just right to me. I can't bear fic's with an effeminate, damsel-in-distress Doyle. It's just SO not how I remember him from so long ago… 
I still haven’t finished this story but I wanted to bung this down before it got lost in the whole concertina-effect and apologies for any repetition.
I loved the story, I loved the voyage of discovery Bodie makes (with Doyle’s assistance) and for Doyle, too, it seems like an awakening exercise for him because I suspect it’s the first time he’s actually been in love with a man (or I get the impression it is) so I would imagine it makes the whole act of sex different for *him* - more a thing of wonder (as opposed to a purely physical need) because it’s Bodie he’s having sex with, his Bodie.
I love the way the writer traces Bodie’s feeling, his thawing towards the idea that Doyle wants him and that he, in turn, might want Doyle. I love the way he gets used to the idea - justifies it - the way he gradually convinces himself that sex with his partner is the natural corollary of their friendship.I love the realism, the plausibility, Bodie’s confusion because I think he *would* be confused. (*I* was confused by Doyle’s insistence that it wasn’t just about sex for him when that’s all he seemed to centre on, initially – he doesn’t try and talk about it with Bodie first, which I think he might have done seeing as they were best mates etc.etc. and I don't think he even has an inkling that Bodie's feeling might mirror his, so it was an enormous risk). 
...the first story that really impressed me was "Never Let Me Down" by Shoshana. Foolishly, I objected against some aspects of the characterization while I had only read three or four stories at the time. I got flamed, even on "metafandom", and brutally so, with the result I decided to stay in the fandom and fight back. A long time later, having bought and watched the DVDs, I concluded that my first opinion about Bodie's character was...perfectly right... [second post a day later]: Questionable is maybe too strong a word. First I must say I really liked the story, which, much later, I told Shoshanna (who, by the way hadn't been part in the skirmish, or even aware of it, and was rather amused by the whole shebang). My feeling was the incident that triggered the clash between Bodie and Doyle (the kiss) just came out of the blue, with almost no preparation and, moreover, given what I knew of Bodie's (at the time very little) Bodie's reaction was very excessive and rather out of character: I could have seen him embarrassed, annoyed, or taking Doyle's move as a bad joke and, either mocking him mercilessly or pushing him away without much consideration, but not behaving as he did in the story: belting him brutally and asking for a break of the partnership. Of course the story line and its plot needed a clash but the cause should have been much more serious. My opinion is still the same, especially after having watched the episodes. 
- Close Quarters: Desert Island Episode/Zine/Fic dated July 18, 2009; reference link.
- archive is; WebCite
- archive is; WebCite
- from Nell Howell at The Hatstand
- Sandy Hereld, December 7, 1992 at Virgule-L, quoted on Fanlore with permission
- from Nicole V in Strange Bedfellows #3 (November 1993), quoted here with permission
- Alexfandra, May 21, 1993, comment at Virgule-L, quoted with permission
- from Strange Bedfellows #2 (August 1993)
- a comment on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (September 7, 1993)
- from a 2004 comment at Crack Van
- from a 2004 comment at Crack Van
- from a 2004 comment at Crack Van
- from a 2004 comment at Crack Van
- Fic Recs, The Professionals, by Arduinna, 2005
- by kiwisue at The Reading Room;WebCite, (March 2009), see that page for the other 198 comments, accessed 1.2.2011
- from moth2fic at The Reading Room;WebCite, see that page for the other 198 comments, accessed 1.2.2011
- from ronitr at The Reading Room;WebCite, see that page for the other 198 comments, accessed 1.2.2011
- from comments at The Reading Room;WebCite, see that page for the other 198 comments, accessed 1.2.2011
- from franciskerst at Safehouse, June 28 and 29, 2014