Julian's Private Scrapbook

Barr’s Meadow


June, 1961: in a small town in central North Carolina, Julian Forrest has just turned thirteen.  He has completed the Cub Scout program; his dream now is to become a Boy Scout.

Their neighbor, Mark Schaefer, is scoutmaster of the troop sponsored by the same church that sponsors Julian’s Cub Scout Pack. He invites Julian to join. This is a dream come true for Julian, who has long had a fixation on Mark. Adolescence has taken him by storm; he is in a hurry to grow up.

After Julian’s first year as a scout the perfect situation to make his move is at hand—summer camp: Mark will be his before the bus trip home. He’s been in love with his scoutmaster forever—since he was nine, at least. Mark proves to be more of a challenge than he expects.

On the first day Julian gets to know each member of the Flaming Arrow, the leadership patrol. Tom, the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, is the kingpin. He spots Julian first thing and sets out to add him to his long list of sexual initiates. Nick, the Troop Scribe, has been assigned to mentor Julian. He is savvy about Tom and engineers escape plans without either Julian or Tom’s becoming aware. Danny, the Senior Patrol Leader is assigned to team with Julian in camp operations. He has a crush on Julian and hopes to establish him as his boyfriend. His clumsiness and inexperience make it possible for Julian to turn events into an exploratory game.

The highlight for Julian’s day is helping Nick qualify for the Lifesaving merit badge. His pretend drowning fools everyone. Nick makes a passing comment about Julian’s derrière that preoccupies him for days. He has been oblivious to backsides until now, and sets out to study the phenomenon of Choice Buns.

At the first troop campfire, selecting a Troop Skit begins.  First up is a fable that involves dividing the troop into small choral groups that punctuate a narrated story line, similar to the ancient Greek chorus.

The major event of the day comes after lights out: the relationship between Nick and Tom is explored. Neither guess that a familiar after hour activity could be so consequential. Little does Tom suspect that his days of domination and bullying have come to an end.

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The Poker Club


Summer 1962: the third day of the two-week scout camp begins. Last night, Julian watched Mark shave, fulfilling a wish he’d nursed for more than a year. Julian’s main objective, conquering his scoutmaster’s heart, is unchanged; but he discovers that it will take much longer than he planned. Meanwhile, he learns what he can from the other scouts. He works hard at his new job, Assistant Scribe.

The final event of Part 1 was the fulfillment of Nick’s longstanding wish to do unto Tom as he did to others. It was a milestone in their relationship that neither expected. This romance is the major plot focus of The Poker Club. Tom has to come to grips with the discovery that he has fallen in love. He is used to being free of commitments.

New characters and stories are woven into the three days of Part 2. Other characters wish to romp with Tom, one of the best endowed individuals at camp. First is the exotic Geoff, a sophisticated lad from the west coast and Hawaii. He is an experienced urban fox loose in a country chicken coop. He is witty, adventuresome, and outrageously daring. He and two friends from Atlanta have a special Poker Club—that’s strip poker—and they lure Tom into a game.

On Wednesday Tom decides to make a permanent change in his sleeping arrangements; Julian and Danny find themselves cast as guardians of Tom and Nick’s secret romance.

Julian makes strides in his artistic ability while he continues to explore the marvels of adolescence; Mark and Julian have a major breakthrough conference. Danny takes his second big step in learning about who he is and where he wants to go in life. Geoff emerges as a shaper of events; he undertakes the further education of Danny.
On the fifth day, water polo teams are formed. Mark is selected to be one of the coaches. He asks Tom to serve as his captain.

A new story emerges: Robin from Troop Nine, and Jack from Troop 152 were put together in the second poker game. Robin is one of Tom’s “initiates;” Jack is one of the original Poker Club members. Some special unexpected magic follows from that second game.

Troop Nine has its annual troop barbecue. The beans and onions lead to many late night laughs, ending the second part of Julian’s Private Scrapbook on a merry note.

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The Shooting Gallery


Days six, seven and eight: the comical side of camp life is featured, along with some new story developments. Friday begins in high spirits. The barbecue and songfest last night cause a wakeup surprise for some. Max’s baked beans and Brad’s onions have been fermenting overnight.

Julian and Mark remain the protagonists. Their conferences continue; an aesthetic dimension has evolved. Julian feels empowered and undertakes outfitting Nick and Tom’s clandestine bedroom. He becomes their self-appointed secret guardian.

A few secondary characters gain attention. Circumstances bring Kurt into Julian’s circle of friends, Jeremy, Sid and Justin. He has a grudge against Tom that he can’t talk about directly. Sid’s snorkel comes in handy again. Kurt wants to learn how it works. He gives Sid his first canoe ride.

Andy and Tony are close friends that, unlike most, want to have more to do with Tom—lots more. Geoff and Nick become friends; Nick gets a glimpse of the outside world.

The first week of camp comes to a close. Danny gets a major promotion and revisits his plan to secure Julian’s affection. Geoff selects Leonard as his special project. Ignoring the staff/scout boundary comes naturally. Freddy, an entrepreneur from another troop, recruits Andy to join his unauthorized enterprise.

Sunday is a day of rest and reflection. Troop Nine has a banner day showing off. Danny makes his leadership debut by leading the troop to the special service. Nick has asked Julian to stay in camp. He and Tom have a ceremony planned to thank him for securing their mattresses.

The scouts write letters home. Julian’s drawing skills continue to advance and attract a wider audience—he draws portraits of Leonard and Mark. Mark’s growing personal happiness is infectious; it makes him a magnetic figure in unplanned and unexpected ways.

Geoff becomes obsessed with a new quest—his most daring challenge yet: a scoutmaster. Kurt confronts Tom, who has promised to set things right. Mark is able to help Justin deal with his private demon.

It’s opening day at Freddy’s Shooting Gallery; Andy and Tony, still swaggering from their success in ambushing Tom, add their talents to the operation—they try to offset the annoying security precautions.

After hours: Robin sneaks out of bed for a rendezvous at the lake. The story pauses at this point, to be continued in Part 4, Thunder and Lightning.

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Thunder and Lightning


Relatively few books in the market feature stories of homosexual men. Conventionally, they focus on the darker and more tragic outcomes of a gay character’s life.  In his quest to break this trend, an author using the pen name Eldot has created beautifully crafted fictional tales about the lighter side.  In Thunder and Lightning, the fourth in his pioneering series about this topic, he takes readers up close and personal—to glimpse the impact of this “taboo” subject in the multi-faceted lives of a group of gay teenage boys.

He brings to life the interactions of several scouts at Camp Walker. This segment of Julian’s Private Scrapbook begins on the ninth day at camp and ends on the eleventh day. Although the timespan is relatively short, Eldot manages to capture both the significant and mundane episodes in each character’s experience. These episodes represent varied images of brotherhood, teamwork, friendship, romance and gay sexuality, all set against the backdrop of the outdoors.

Since this book picks up from the last episode of part three, understanding the dynamics of the characters may be difficult for those who have not read the preceding books. This is why the author has included an index description for each character, as well as a synopsis of the three previous books as an appendix. This supplemental information helps ease a reader’s entry into the story.

Thunder and Lightning, like Eldot’s previous works, excels in entertaining readers with its groundbreaking plot and exhilarating characterizations. Sprinkled with comedy and nostalgia of the 1960s throughout, it is a perfect reading experience for adults who would like to understand the coming of age story of gay teenage boys, their trials and triumphs, and enjoy sharing their journey toward self knowledge and acceptance.

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The Champions


Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, The Champions: Julian's Private Scrapbook follows 14-year-old Julian who is convinced that he is in love with his neighbor, the scoutmaster. Scoutmaster Mark Schaefer does not take Julian’s crush seriously and instead seeks ways to redirect the boy’s focus elsewhere. Further complicating matters is Julian’s envy towards Tom Dawson, the oldest scout and Assistant Scoutmaster, and Nick Harrison who share an intense relationship.

Julian’s close observations of the two and his efforts to bring down the scoutmaster’s defenses provide an interesting look into a gay adolescent boy’s perceptions of love and how he deals with his feelings.

By turns humorous, poignant and thoroughly engaging, The Champions is both a story of a young gay boy’s coming-of-age in a world that has not fully understood him and a modern examination of love, identity and relationship.

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