The Alphabetical List of Would Be Princes

Author Fredric Joss Shelley

We all know someone who arranges CDs in meticulous order, or hangs shirts according to color and style. In The Alphabetical List of Would-Be Princes, author Fredric Joss Shelley goes them one better, and presents main character Jack Bradley’s lovers, ex-lovers, and wannabe lovers in twenty-six chapters with an A to Z format. The results are alternately hilarious and sweetly touching, making this debut novel a must-read.

From Aaron, the “A” of the list, is the one lettered lover whose presence pervades the book; All the way to Zack, all of Jack’s encounters are filtered through Shelley’s wit and laugh-out-loud humor. Yet, the novel, (subtitled: An Extremely Organized Series of Relationships) stays just on the right side of cleverness. While Shelley obviously has a facility with language, it’s his vibrant characters that take center stage. The deft turn of a phrase never exists for its own sake, but always to deepen the characters, most importantly Jack and his three “constants”: often-dramatic Kip, quietly supportive Kennedy, and straight-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold Shawn.

It’s to Shelley’s credit that these characters never become simply “types.” Even the briefest of encounters (such as the grocery store flirtation with Whole Foods clerk Mitchell, the “M” of the book) present fully-fleshed characters. Readers will respond to Jack’s adventures with a “been there” sense of familiarity, but the situations and personalities are always just a step off from the expected, creating an anticipation of the next curve ball that Shelley throws us.

This major new novel by an up-and-coming gay writer is the perfect vacation read. With one exception: you won’t leave this one behind in the hotel room when you’re finished.
Rich Rubin

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