The Yellow Brick Road

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Zine
Title: The Yellow Brick Road
Publisher: Gryphon Press
Editor:
Author(s): Kate MacLean
Cover Artist(s):
Illustrator(s): no art
Date(s): September 1999
Medium: print
Size:
Genre: slash
Fandom: Professionals
Language: English
External Links: online review of the zine
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
Yellowbrickroad.jpg
another cover

The Yellow Brick Road is a 104-page slash novel by Kate MacLean.

This story is discussed in Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean.....

Summary

Publisher's summary: "This novel charts Bodie and Doyle's relationship right from the start of their partnership in CI5. After he gets over his initial dislike of Bodie, Doyle's feelings gradually change from friendship into something much more. But Bodie? With Bodie, who could tell?"

Reactions and Reviews

This is true confession time—while it's pretty universally held that Kate McLean and Sebastian are two of the very best of what Pros fic has to offer, they are authors I approach with extreme caution. I don't disagree at all with the assessment of their skills. They are unquestionably talented. My issue is they often take the lads in directions I'd rather not see them go. In many of their stories, they like to examine the notion of power in a relationship, and how what Bodie and Doyle feel for each other messes with the characters' own senses of self. I fear, after reading some of these stories, that the callousness the lads often display towards each other could damage their relationship past the point of redemption, that they've been betrayed by each other often enough and cruelly enough that they won't be able to fully trust again. And I don't wish that for the boys. The Yellow Brick Road goes in that general direction, but gives me enough hope at the end that all will be well. The lads are in a relationship. But they're keeping it light, keeping it cool. The story is told entirely from Doyle's POV, so we understand better what he wants and needs, and how he reacts when Bodie hurts him. Initially it seems like he is more invested in the two of them being together than his partner. But gradually the reader realizes how inaccurate that assessment is. Bodie is crazy about his partner and terrified of showing it. Amazing read. [1]
I spent most of today reading The Yellow Brick Road, and agree it was an amazing read, it didn't disappoint. I definitely felt the ending was a happy one, (thank goodness! I couldn't have coped with it otherwise *g*). There were some incredibly moving bits, and bits that made me laugh too. Oh, and the sex scenes were sizzling! :) [2]
THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD is a novel by Kate MacLean published in September 1999 by Gryphon Press, which keeps all its zines in print. It has 104 pp of text in a clear layout with no illos, a plain but appropriately styled cover, and a minimum of typos.

Kate MacLean is near the top of my personal list of best writers in this fandom, a bias you might want to keep in mind as you read this review.

This novel explores the angsty and complicated relationship between Bodie and Doyle spanning several canonical years. The incremental developments between the characters in their personal lives weave through successive episodes ranging from the first televised episode, Private Madness, Public Danger, through Discovered in a Graveyard. The episodes are referenced with the purpose of exploring the relationship rather than giving a reading of each episode itself; thus, some are merely mentioned in passing while others are used more comprehensively. These references ground the reader in the CI5 world and give a sense of time passing. In the most compelling usage, a familiar quote of Bodie's on page 8 from the early episode Old Dog with New Tricks provides the key to the novel's climactic resolution almost 100 pp later.

The opening paragraphs illustrate the way in which the text uses familiar situations from the episodes to set the scene, but with the purpose of exploring the viewpoint character's thoughts and responses:

He felt the filthy, murky water close over his head and he wondered for just an instant if he was going to be able to keep his bladder under control this time.

: What would it be like, to be caught right at the heart of an explosion? No escape. The full, searing force of it on your flesh. : Quick, he told himself. It'd be quick. He wouldn't feel a thing. He found that wasn't so very comforting but, unworthily, the knowledge that he wasn't alone, was. (p. 1)

The novel offers this interiority throughout. The narrative comprises a tight third-person viewpoint, which is a MacLean trademark. Kate MacLean wields masterful narrative control in all of her stories. She uses a pov tightly confined to one character to challenge the reader to think about what is happening and make deductions about each situation from the information offered through the limited viewpoint of a specific character.

In this novel, the viewpoint is restricted to Doyle's perspective. We get his take on events from episodes and on his own character and desires as well as, crucially, his view of his partner. The obvious limitation to this tight pov is that we never get Bodie's direct thoughts on anything at all. We hear Bodie in direct speech; everything else to do with him is filtered through Doyle's perception. Kate MacLean embeds clues in the narrative that reward the attentive reader with an interpretation of Bodie's behaviour that often differs radically from Doyle's interpretation.

The story charts a series of twists and set-backs to Doyle's stated wish to have his own way. Doyle has always been the sought-after in relationships; he is the beloved, and likes it that way. When he conceives a desire for Bodie, however, nothing goes according to Doyle's expectations. Nothing in this tempestuous relationship, for that matter, matches anything Doyle has experienced before, either in degree of feeling or in the difficulties in landing his man. Bodie, as we slowly divine, has his own carefully cloaked problems in dealing with his feelings for Doyle. Both of them take refuge in tangled relationships with other people, but refuge isn't what either of them ultimately desires.

The title is evoked by an old boyfriend of Doyle's whom he meets unexpectedly and agrees to start seeing again. Ben is still in love with Doyle, even though Doyle dumped him when he entered the Met. This character, with his bitter pragmatism about the possibilities for long-term happiness in gay relationships, provides an attitudinal template by which the reader is able to see the ways in which Doyle's outlook is evolving because of his feelings for Bodie. Upon meeting again, the following exchange occurs:

Doyle bit his lip. "Sounds to me like nothing's changed, mate. Still looking for the right bloke, aren't you? Monogamy?"
Ben gave a short laugh. "Oh yeah. Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy. There's no such thing in this game. With men. No such thing."
Ben looked mildly surprised by such vehemence, and he frowned, puzzled, still smiling slightly. Suddenly, Doyle was afraid he'd see too much. (p. 53)

Doyle has to come to terms with the changes in himself and his view of his partner, as well as with the nature of his various relationships and the kind of relationship he wants with Bodie. Most crucially, he comes to a poignant understanding of Bodie's feelings and hangups and desires, of what motivates his partner and makes him tick. The idea of a yellow brick road for them surfaces again, beautifully and economically, in the denouement.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys angst and a complex text that rewards the discerning reader. Bodie and Doyle are well-rounded characters imbued with a balance of negative and positive qualities. They're both, for instance, selfish with a tendency towards arrogance. They're both vulnerable, but Bodie, especially, is a master at suppressing his real feelings. Both characters change through the course of the text, thus enabling the relationship to develop, but Doyle for one retains a hint of self-centredness to the last, inwardly triumphing at having beaten his rival for Bodie's affections even while he feels a pulse of empathy for Murphy's pain.

There are a few niggles in the text that may bother canonical purists. The episodes are used well, but with some small errors. Doyle, for example, says late in the text that Cowley has only once come to his flat, during the events in Wild Justice, but Cowley, of course, also calls on Doyle during Involvement. A scene from Discovered in a Graveyard isn't quite accurately described. I find it personally surprising that Murphy is posited as having been in CI5 as long as Bodie and Doyle, but this slight jar might be entirely subjective. These quibbles are so minor they don't detract at all from my enjoyment of this novel each time I reread it. THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD is one of my favourite novels. [3]
"And Kate MacLean's YELLOW BRICK ROAD culminates with that final episode [Discovered in a Graveyard], but is not really about that, although she does use the event as the pivotal turning point. YBR is probably the single best thing written in Pros fandom, in my opinion -- for a variety of reasons."[4]
"So much that shouldn‘t actually work in the cold light of day. A Bodie you only have access to through Doyle, a Bodie that’s seemingly cold and almost brutal in his treatment of his besotted and paying-for-it partner, and a Bodie who, quite seriously, you want to box round the ears half the time.. But it *does* work. I feel for Bodie, I ache for him in this. I see how all the repression of everything he feels for his partner is screwing him up, because Kate is a geniuıs at the glimpses. She makes the small getsures *work*, and she keeps them sounding like the lads I love. And besides all that, she writes possibly the most scorching sex-scenes in fandom. *g* One of my favourite scenes is when Bodie helps Doyle pee in the hospital post-diag."[5]
Well, I did it, I splashed out on YBR and absolutely love it. If you don't mind, I thought I'd share with you part of an email I wrote to JaC about it.

".. my God how I love Bodie and ache for him in this. Even when he's breaking Doyle into a zillion pieces, you never turn against him, mainly because Kate is a genius at setting up glimpses that let us see light.

I'm thinking of many things, (and not necessarily in order). After the first time, his strain for normal conversation, the scene in the hospital, where Doyle catches a blank, empty look on his face in the toilet mirror, just for a second as he talks about Gill, and then that lovely, lovely scene at Doyle's after he leaves the hospital ( the one where you just want to push Gill out the way and off the page.*g*) Where Doyle asks him if he's okay, because "it struck him how much more solemn Bodie was these days.." And of course, "He got a wide, all-concealing Bodie grin for his trouble" as Bodie blames it on the cricket match he's watching.

My point is that we *see* the *real* Bodie, as it were, all those feelings that he's battening down and denying, how badly the events of DIAG have affected him, and all the many ways it's screwing him up. Even his vicious denials and taunts speak of pain rather than cruelty - as Doyle says after being pushed away from trying to kiss him. "You sad, deluded bastard."

I remember people on your (justacat's) lj talking about the ending, some finding it unsatisfying? That because we don't get into Bodie's head at all, the resolution doesn't feel complete somehow?

I have to say that I absolutely didn't feel that way. The only unsatisfying thing for me was that I wanted to go up the stairs and home with them again, for another scorching sex session.*g* I just didn't want it to end.

Because she keeps such a tight hold on our observations of Bodie, because he *does* batten everything down, what may be perceived as 'little gestures' have a HUGE impact on the reader. And so it is for me, with that "I said. I meant. Your place" and the tentative hand on the knee? Wow. In any other fic, so what? But here, their significance is monumental and *so* touching. That whole last scene, in the car is vivid, and a scene I've read over and over. Leaves me with a grin as large as Doyle's every time.

My one quibble is not Murphy, strangely enough. Much as I hate it, the psychology of it makes sense as Doyle interprets it, and I really don't need to see inside Bodie's head for it. No, it's the realisation, the bolt from the blue that comes from Doyle getting the Beckett book. It just seemed a little tenuous, and I'm very impressed with Doyle that he 'got' all that out of it!

And may I also say what a nice line in conversation she has - the word 'banter' is overused at times, it wasn't quick and sharp always between them, a lot of the time it was just pieces and moments of conversation and that's what she nails beautifully. It frequently has a canon feel to it, which I love. Something simple, but very compelling is this moment, after Doyle's temple's been grazed.

"Fussed over! Who was bloody fussing?" "You were. No alcohol," Doyle mimicked, "'Ave you taken your pils like a good boy?" Silence, then, "Well, have you?" "Bodie!" But Bodie's smile was enough to defuse Doyle's temper again. he smiled helplessly back. "All right, Florence. You bloody win." Bodie mocked outrage, and they grinned at each other again.

Just perfect.

So, there you have it, some random thoughts on why I love YBR, utterly and totally, with no holds barred.*g* [6]
Right, I want to thank callistosh65 very much for reminding me of The Yellow Brick Road by Kate Maclean, one of my all-time favourite Pros stories and one of the few zines which I’ve actually bought new from [Sara S.] at Gryphon (so it must be good!)...

And I must apologise for breaking one of my own rules which is that I previously stated I wouldn’t quote from stories which aren’t online, but I can't help myself as this is such a wonderful story and hopefully anyone who looks at this post will either have read the story or will be inspired enough to buy it!... callistosh65 wrote:

" ...my God how I love Bodie and ache for him in this. Even when he's breaking Doyle into a zillion pieces, you never turn against him, mainly because Kate is a genius at setting up glimpses that let us see light.

My point is that we *see* the *real* Bodie, as it were, all those feelings that he's battening down and denying, how badly the events of DIAG have affected him, and all the many ways it's screwing him up. Even his vicious denials and taunts speak of pain rather than cruelty - as Doyle says after being pushed away from trying to kiss him. "You sad, deluded bastard."...............................

The only unsatisfying thing for me was that I wanted to go up the stairs and home with them again, for another scorching sex session.*g* I just didn't want it to end.

"Because she keeps such a tight hold on our observations of Bodie, because he *does* batten everything down, what may be perceived as 'little gestures' have a HUGE impact on the reader. And so it is for me, with that "I said. I meant. Your place" and the tentative hand on the knee? Wow. In any other fic, so what? But here, their significance is monumental and *so* touching. That whole last scene, in the car is vivid, and a scene I've read over and over. Leaves me with a grin as large as Doyle's every time............................................."

And may I also say what a nice line in conversation she has - the word 'banter' is overused at times, it wasn't quick and sharp always between them, a lot of the time it was just pieces and moments of conversation and that's what she nails beautifully. It frequently has a canon feel to it, which I love. Something simple, but very compelling is this moment, after Doyle's temple's been grazed.

"Fussed over! Who was bloody fussing?" "You were. No alcohol," Doyle mimicked, "'Ave you taken your pills like a good boy?" Silence, then, "Well, have you?" "Bodie!" But Bodie's smile was enough to defuse Doyle's temper again. he smiled helplessly back. "All right, Florence. You bloody win." Bodie mocked outrage, and they grinned at each other again.

Just perfect."

And I too loved this story for so many reasons she writes the lads with great accuracy, has their constant bickering and mutual winding up drawn perfectly and yet, beneath all the spats and mud-slinging there’s the undeniable sexual attraction and fascination which they both obviously have for each other and which leads them to become unlikely but successful bedmates and Ci5 partners:

"They grinned at each other for a second, in perfect tune, then Bodie turned his attention back to the road ahead and Doyle looked out the side window, happy for the moment. He’d never got on as well with anyone in his life. Got on most of the time, at least. But then, he’d known almost from the first that Bodie would complement him, that Bodie fascinated him, even as Bodie was writing him off as some pretty imbecile. That still bugged him, and thrilled him at the same time. Bodie hadn’t rated him at first basically because because he’d fancied him, that was what he’d got out of what Bodie had said. But now he did. Trust him, that was. He still heard a voice of sanity, *If any of it was true of course*……… But he wanted it to be true, annoying as it was, because he wanted to believe Bodie thought of him as sexy and gorgeous and now a worthy partner as well. But he really had no idea what went on in Bodie’s head. It had been twenty-nine days since Bodie had come to his flat. And they’d had that sensational session of frottage and then they’d laid beside each other and Bodie’d got up eventually, stroked Doyle’s curls once and gone home without a word.""

And, as callistosh65 points out, while we’re never permitted to look inside Bodie’s head, Kate Maclean still manages to present us with a complete and rounded portrait of Bodie – a Bodie whose pain, confusion and anger is almost palpable. I feel very much for this Bodie and I can even understand his relationship with Murphy because *this* relationship is really unimportant compared to what he has with Doyle, but it's necessary because it helps us to appreciate (and experience) the very real depth of Doyle's jealousy over Bodie; and it serves as a buffer against Doyle and cocoons Bodie from the reality that he would rather confront a dozen bullets than face the fact of his passion for Doyle. And it *is* a passion which he feels – nothing more or less and *that’s* why he’s so terrified of it. And who *wouldn’t* feel passion for Doyle?

A very fine story. [7]
I love this story, even though I don't actually see the Bodie and Doyle from the show in it...or maybe more correctly "my" Bodie and Doyle. Because you aren't permitted to look inside Bodie's head, you don't know where this terror over his feelings for Doyle are coming from, but it's a terror I don't see him having. I'm more inclined to see him embracing the passion. And I really don't see Doyle putting up with what he puts up with in the story. Yet, oddly, it is a favorite story of mine. [8]
It is the strength and skill of Kate's writing that pulls you in and convinces you of things that in the cold light of day might have you scratching your head a bit. Personally, I don't need to know where Bodie's demons come from in YBR. I accept them on faith as *there* for them both to deal with, and don't need a conversation or explanation for them. And yes, a sequel would be heaven itself. I like the fact that it's not 100 percent tied up at the end. I *am *sure that Bodie and Doyle will make it through, she convinces of that. But it's also as if we are somehow at the beginning of something, and that yes, Doyle's insecurities will not disappear immediately - there's working with Murphy to work out, Bodie's acceptance of it all is, and will be, hard won. But it all makes it more *real* to me - and, of course, gives so much potential for a sequel! [9]
I think Yellow Brick Road is probably my least favourite Maclean story, though it's still a story I admire and reread because I love her writing. But I've always felt that there's something a little bit nasty about it, gratuitiously nasty even, e.g. the way Bodie flaunts Murphy in Doyle's face. I just can't see Bodie being so cruel and he's so uncommunicative for so much of the time (maybe he would be like that but I wanted more!). [10]
I've focused so far on the stories in which Bodie is in love with Ray, and Ray is resisting; the stories resolve with Ray ultimately acknowledging his love and desire for Bodie. Two of KM's stories follow a different pattern, and the most significant of these is Yellow Brick Road (the other is All or Nothing), which is KM's full-length novel and her most recently published story. In YBR Ray is the pursuer - he's in love with Bodie. It's the same dynamic as the other stories - one character pursuing, one resisting - but with the roles reversed. This enables KM to explore the same emotions through a very different lens, from a very different angle. In some ways it's the same story - but in others it's very different, because Bodie and Doyle are very different characters, and KM is skilled enough, and consistent enough with her characterizations, that the reversal of roles makes a very real difference; it's not merely superficial.

So Ray, even in his role as pursuer, remains Ray the same Ray we met in the earlier stories: far surer than Bodie of the allure of his body, his attraction, more used to being an object of desire. He still feels despair and sadness and pain and hopelessness at Bodie's apparent rejection of him, but it's not quite so stark; he doesn't seem as ... helpless as Bodie does in the other stories. You get the feeling in those that Bodie simply doesn't know how to fight on this turf, has no confidence in his ability to win these games, whereas seduction and attraction are Ray's element - he's surprised in YBR that he's not winning Bodie over, whereas in the others Bodie never seems to truly believe he has a chance with Ray. "Sex had always been territory he could understand, and his sharpest weapon," Ray thinks in Building on Rainbows; seduction comes naturally to him. Even in the stories in which Bodie begins with more experience with men than Ray, Ray takes to it as if he was born to it; he knows how to play bedroom games and to use himself, capitalize on his attractiveness, his allure, in a way that KM's Bodie doesn't seem to.

And Ray is much more ... complicated, more calculating, more of a strategist. Whereas Bodie's pursuit of Ray in the other stories was a relatively simple and straightforward pursuit, Ray thinks a lot more, reasons and analyzes and schemes. He plans strategies in YBR: "He wouldn't panic Bodie. Not at all. But he couldn't give him up either. So, draw him in deeper, bit by bit through his own desire and need for Doyle, and before he knew it, he'd be in too far to worry about labels. Yeah... he thought, with predatory viciousness, pull him in and close the trap. Or later, when Ray is staking his claim on Bodie, getting ready to fuck him, he thinks he'll "push this as far as he possibly could while Bodie was still off balance enough, vulnerable enough, to give Doyle an advantage. It could be too late tomorrow or next week, so he was going to set the precedents now."

Bodie's approach is very different. He's no less twisted, in his own way, and he's very good at hiding what he's feeling - but there are fewer twists and turns in his thinking. A perfect example, I think, is in Choosing; Ray's trying to convince Bodie to come to dinner with him and Ann, and Bodie's refusing. They're playing "I spy" on stakeout, and Ray gives Bodie "U" - after a few guesses Bodie gives up, and Ray says "U for unreasonable." "That's not a thing!" Bodie responds, gaping, outraged; "It bloody is," Doyle replies, "I'm sitting next to it." Ray will play tricky convoluted word-games like that to get his way; Bodie simply doesn't think that way, his mind doesn't work that way.

So Bodie's terrified of his feelings in YBR, just as Ray is in the other stories - doesn't want anything to do with loving Ray - but you get the feeling that unlike Ray, Bodie doesn't lie to himself about it. Ray deceived himself, believed in the other stories that he didn't love Bodie; but constructing elaborate self-deceptions isn't Bodie's style. Instead, when faced with feelings he doesn't like, doesn't want, Bodie either lashes out, resorts to violence - "his oldest and easiest antidote to emotional pain," as he thinks in Telling Marge - or, if that's not an option, he changes the subject, hides, or, eventually, runs away from the feelings - and he uses all those techniques at one time or another in YBR.

It's a very interesting contrast: the same pattern, one of them wanting so much, hoping so much, unable to completely give up on the promise of the relationship despite the other's apparent non-interest, seeing moments of beauty that give him hope that it must be possible, being rejected at every turn; the other refusing to acknowledge any need, any love, any commitment, refusing to give anything, turning away from everything being offered him. The same pattern, but an entirely different dynamic; in YBR, Bodie seems to know that he's falling for Ray but, because he's terrified, simply avoids those feelings, pretends they're not there, refuses to acknowledge them to Ray, does anything and everything to subvert them, puts his hands over his ears and goes "la-la-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you" and then tries to flee when that doesn't work, while in the other stories Ray truly convinces himself that he doesn't feel, and he believes himself; his capacity for self-deception is enormous.

And the resolution is very different, too. In the other stories, Ray is threatened with losing Bodie, which forces him to stop lying to himself and acknowledge his feelings; then he has to try to get Bodie back: the pursued becomes the pursuer. But in YBR, Ray remains the pursuer to the end. Ray coaxes Bodie back, or perhaps coax is too weak a word - there's the definite sense that Ray has to push Bodie. "It was rather the way," Ray thinks, "that he'd try to tame a wild animal if the opportunity arose: try not to spook it too much, try to replicate its natural habitat, but show it when necessary that control over its own destiny was no longer an option." It's not quite manipulation - because of that power balance thing again; Ray simply can't manipulate Bodie because Ray doesn't have all the power in the relationship, and he knows it - as much as Ray thinks he knows what Bodie wants, he can't be sure, and he can't force Bodie to do anything at all; Bodie could tell him to fuck off and leave him with nothing. So it's not quite manipulation - but there's still a sense of Ray "handling" Bodie, and definitely pushing. [11]
So much that shouldn‘t actually work in the cold light of day. A Bodie you only have access to through Doyle, a Bodie that’s seemingly cold and almost brutal in his treatment of his besotted and paying-for-it partner, and a Bodie who, quite seriously, you want to box round the ears half the time.. But it *does* work. I feel for Bodie, I ache for him in this. I see how all the repression of everything he feels for his partner is screwing him up, because Kate is a genius at the glimpses. She makes the small gestures *work*, and she keeps them sounding like the lads I love. And besides all that, she writes possibly the most scorching sex-scenes in fandom. One of my favourite scenes is when Bodie helps Doyle pee in the hospital post-diag. [12]

References

  1. Ancasta's Corner, posted April 2, 2007, accessed March 24, 2012
  2. comment by Angel CI5 at Ancasta's Corner, posted April, 2007, accessed March 24, 2012
  3. by Nell Howell at The Hatstand , also 2010 comments by istia, prosrecs, Archived version
  4. The Devil's Workshop posted Sept 29, 2007; Archive.is link.
  5. Desert Island fics post at ci5hq dated April 14, 2007; reference link.
  6. Callisto, 1.26.2007 at shooting2kill's livejournal
  7. from Nobel Sentiments, posted January 7, 2007
  8. from Gilda Elise, posted January 29, 2007
  9. from Callistosh65, posted January 29, 2007
  10. August 2012 comments at CI5hq
  11. from Pros musing: thoughts on Kate MacLean....
  12. from Callizz