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Ken Borelli of “Italifornians” Raves About “Upon This Rock”

I want to share this book from an author who lives in San Francisco and Palm Springs. It’s called Upon This Rock, by first-time novelist David Eugene Perry.

Upon This Rock won a Silver Medal Ben Franklin Independent Book Publishers Award for 2020 and first prize for Best Gay Novel of the Year (2021) from the San Francisco Book Festival. Now, the book is in development as a screenplay and the author is at work on the sequel with three of the same characters, inspired by Grazalema, a small town in southern Spain.

I am just finishing a  second reading of the book. I think The Italifornian membership would enjoy hearing about the novel. To sum up a key theme, and to paraphrase an old Mexican dicho: “Poor Mexico so far from God, so close to the United States.” One could say the very same thing about Italy: “Poor Italy so far from God so close to the Vatican.” The novel certainly reinforces that observation! Likewise, the new research in recently released archives around the world and especially the Vatican is drawing a lot of attention.

Personally, I was curious about the book because it takes place in a favorite location in Italy, Orvieto in the Province of Umbria. and set among the amazing frescos of Luca Signorelli at the  Duomo. Once into the book I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of tourist stereotypes about Italy as the novel unfolded.

For those who have visited the Cathedral, it really leaves a lasting impression and, of course, enhances the backdrop of the storylines.  The tale also includes a leitmotif of Pope Clement’s refuge in Orvieto during the sack of Rome in 1527 and weaves this theme into the current refugee crisis in Europe today.

It’s also a very well-crafted story that goes beyond a married couple, Lee and his partner Andrea, who intended to spend a sabbatical in Orvieto and then off to Ireland to lay to rest the ashes of a friend and mentor, who was a Gay Episcopal Bishop from San Francisco. Lee and Adriano soon learn of a tragic event a year prior to their visit that still resonated with the community – the death of a well-liked novitiate who was denied entry into the priesthood for mysterious reasons and under direct orders from Rome. He became so distraught he committed suicide.  The tragic event held special significance for Lee who lost his family in the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  

As the story unfolds, the couple finds themselves in a very complex conspiracy that reflects many layers of modern Italy and its relationship to Citta Vaticano, including the role of women in the church, Gay clergy, and the intrigue of both liberal and conservative dissidents. There are some Gay-themed romances afoot and conspiratorial mayhem. culminating in a conversation with Pope Francis. By the time you are at the Duomo in Orvieto you are skillfully hooked into the whole whodunit and the preverbal “why”.

The promo for Upon This Rock was written by Armistead Maupin and Ericka Atkinson, among others. (The novel itself has as many memorable characters as a Maupin novel.)  Mr. Perry, the author, was also the host and producer of 10% TV, an LGBTQ-themed TV show.

Upon This Rock is also now very timely as new elections in Italy are predicting a move to a consolidated nationalist government, formed by the Fratelli D’Italia coalition led by Giorgia Meloni. It is extreme rightist, and concern has been raised about what this means for human rights in Italy among other issues. Upon This Rock helps to appreciate some of the complexities of modern Italy along with telling a timely and well-honed tale.  It is also an engaging way to understand the many levels and complexities of post-World War II Italy.  I could easily envision the book as a mini-film series

Ken Borelli / Executive Editor, The Italifornian

Click here to purchase your copy of “Upon This Rock”