Wednesday, May 31st, 2023

From Palm Springs to Baja California


by Edward C. Wilson

Published by Xilibris

Published March 30, 2004
119 pgs. • Find on

Reviewed by Stephen O. Murray

July 22, 2011.

Having enjoyed Edward Wilson’s geology-heavy multi-character novel about Americans visiting what used to be the “two Sicilies” (Naples and Sicily), The Sibyl’s Mistake, I got his earlier novel Cicatrix, which has some interesting discussion of the formation of the Bay of California (sometimes called the Sea of Cortez) but is more paleontology-heavy than geology-heavy. This earlier book has a National Geographic tour of straight people rather than the gays of a certain age from Palm Springs group in Italia.

Baja California does not have much history (in marked contrast to Naples), and the travelers have less interesting ideas than those in Sibyl’s Mistake. Both novels have the same revenge-seeking gay S&M master, Bones, hunting down his nephew and former partner (who struck back between the volumes…). Both have a clueless character, female in Cicatrix (Edna), male, a straight choreographer in a book with many gay characters in Sibyl’s Mistake.

NASA topographical map of Baja California, Gulf of California (light blue), and Mexican mainland

In Cicatrix, the lectures are more ad hoc than in The Sibyl’s Mistake and are delivered by a paleontologist who is conducting a group of advanced undergraduate doing summer fieldwork with/for him. Called “the Professor,” he is a museum curator rather than a professor, specialized in fossilized shark teeth (so readers learn some things about sharks, too).

Though the book went down easy as in-flight reading, I thought that there were too many underdeveloped characters, especially the rich couple, Johann and Valerie who are being chauffeured in their Bentley (though being on an alcohol-soaked perpetual world tour tells a lot in a few words). Another is Brad plus the students.

How many characters can be developed in 109 pages along with plots and travelogue? Fewer than this cast of characters. I’d have preferred more pages rather than fewer characters. It’s easy to say Cicatrix is a promising first novel having already seen the promise delivered on in The Sibyl’s Mistake. Those who read and want more will be only partly satisfied with Cicatrix, unless having a particular interest in Baja.

(“Cicatrix” is scar tissue, btw. Some is formed in Baja for one character in particular. Others carry it with them…)

© 22 July 2011, Stephen O. Murray

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.