Modern, queer, politically savvy Where The Vile Things Are: Marcus James’ new take on classic French novel Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Marcus James’ novel Where The Vile Things Are

Set against the backdrop of San Francisco during the presidential elections, we follow Nathan Valmont and Oliver Merteuil as they set out on their respective paths of conquest and revenge in this daring and imaginatively faithful but no-less transgressive adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’ iconic epistle; Les Liaisons Dangereuses. For Valmont, it is a constant pursuit of pleasure and indulgence, and for Merteuil; to be the avenger — the right hand of God — bringing justice for those like him.

Bound by a wager that will be impossible for either one to get out of, Nathan and Oliver embark on a game of seduction and psychological warfare that turns their chosen targets into helpless flies caught in their web. Like the original work, Where the Vile Things Are confronts, challenges, and holds a mirror up to class, marginalization, privilege, and the tribalism of today.

What drew you to the idea of remaking Les Liaisons Dangereuses? What attracted you to that story and made you want to give a LGBTQ take on it?

Opening up with the big ones. Hahaha!

The first time I was ever made aware of it, was the 1988 film adaptation Dangerous Liaisons by the brilliant Christopher Hampton and starring some of the most amazing icons and legends of film; Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman. Oh, and the national treasure that is Swoosie Kurtz (who reemerges in the wickedly clever 1999 adaptation, Cruel Intentions. I used to watch her in a show with my mother called Sisters. God, she’s wonderful!).

It aired on HBO on one of those ‘free preview’ weekends where they would interrupt with a telethon-type host in a “call center” trying to convince you to subscribe. I don’t know, it just sucked me in. It was a deep and intrinsic response. The characters were ingenious and the Marquise de Merteuil struck a chord with me; as all powerful women do strike gay men in that way that I think, is more akin to survival than iconography. Especially if you’re effeminate. You are made aware, by the world around you, and in what you feel inside of yourself, that you don’t fit, that you are different. You are seen as weak, as a joke. Not a boy and not a girl. You hold the space between and it stirs and deep-seeded and primal disgust. You even get treated with disgust/disdain by your loved ones; even when you are at an age where you’ve just mastered tying your shoes.

We hide in these strong women. We find our shadow selves in them because there are no images of ourselves to see. Hell, most of us, including me, grow up thinking we are the only ones. Cis-straight people really have no concept or clue what it means to come into a world and come into yourself in a world where YOU DO NOT EXIST. There is nothing around you that reflects you, and if you are SURROUNDED by straight people, you will likely never hear an utterance of queer existence (except maybe in dismissive/passive/heterosexist/queerphobic ways).

Being the “sissy” puts you into the world with a target on your back that never goes away. Hell, to this day, I still get called a faggot from vehicles. And let’s be clear, it is not straight white men, or white men, or white people. It is straight people. Men, women, white, black, Asian, Latino, etc. it’s STRAIGHT people. Sorry, there is this narrative out there as of late where straight white men get blamed for everything bigoted and oppressive and awful, but it’s ALL straight people, and yeah, sadly, other racial/ethnic/religious minority communities are guilty of some of THE WORST examples of systemic heterosexism, queerphobia, and Transphobia. Queer oppression and violence and discrimination CONTINUES to be largely ignored by the mainstream world, and it’s disgusting and sad and proves in a lot of little daily ways how a lot of things haven’t changed.

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, a lot of little boys like me found their armor in Madonna, Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Erica Kane, Alexis Carrington, Dominique Deveraux, etc. I found mine in She-Ra, Amanda Woodward, Brenda Walsh, and yes; the dangerously lethal Marquise de Merteuil. Children were vicious and cruel to me… I mean, school was a DAILY hell for me that was often filled with physical violence. These badass women weren’t just strong; they were smarter and sharper and looked at the whole picture and remained ten steps ahead, and were able to take down their enemies in other ways — ways that had nothing to do with physical violence.

My mother was/is like that. She, above all, I idolized and still do. I was raised by a strong, beautiful, sharp, cunning, single mother who constantly had to take on the world. She made it a point to ensure that her sons were exempt from toxic masculinity. As a fem gay boy, the older I got, the more that sensitivity and awareness grew. I knew of toxic masculinity, I mean, we gay boys are its literal and intended target. Toxic masculinity is all about ensuring men don’t turn out to be sissy little fairies. It’s not about anything else. It’s actually quite ridiculous how much awful shit done in this world is done so out of the hatred, disgust, fear, and anger of male homosexuality. Because that’s what it is. And the more “swishy” and “Sissy” it is, the worse it is.

And not because it’s “being a girl” it’s because we are that way and we still identify as boys and it is a slap in the face — a straight-up assault on and a betrayal of all that it means to be a “man.” It’s the root of violence against trans women; because being trans gets associated with homosexuality. It’s why trans people get called homophobic slurs specifically. Straight people as a whole hate homosexuality and will kill over it. Hell, there are countries in the Middle East that strongly “encourage” gay men to transition, because they can accept/understand being trans, but being a willing homosexual is still punishable by death. The hate for homosexuality is REAL. It is real and it is DEEP and I honestly don’t know if it is ever going to change. I really don’t think so. It’s a sad reality — a rough fact of life — but it makes it no less what it is.

I remember playing Dangerous Liaisons in my bedroom… terrible really. Hahaha! I was like, seven or eight, pretending to be the Marquise in my best Glenn Close impression and on top of that, I was super into vampires and witches and Batman. That was about it. Dramas, non-horror period films, etc. never rocked my boat at the time, but I fell in love. By middle school and all through high school, I would beg my English teachers every year to let us read it in class. No such luck.

It was 1999’s Cruel Intentions starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe that took it to a whole other level for me. I was in eighth grade and I remember I was at the local library with my class (it was near to our school so we were able to walk over there) and in Seventeen was a little blip with a still of Sarah on the sofa in the now iconic first meeting of Kathryn and her coke-filled rosary, mentioning that it was in post-production and would be released the following spring.

I became OBSESSED. And I mean OBSESSED. I monitored that film like a hawk, I recorded everything and anything about the film. Television spots, interviews, music videos, etc. six hours worth on my VHS. Opening night, my best friend Shelly and I snuck in — buying tickets to Blast from the Past — and we waited for it to start.

It affected me. It was next level. I can’t explain it, and you know, I don’t need to. We all just have those things that pierce us and changes us in some way, and for me it was that first idea to write my own adaptation. Since the age of 14 I have attempted several times and in many different ways to tackle it, but it just never came together.

Then things started happening. The Left and the Right became more and more extreme, and everywhere I turned, suddenly people weren’t liberal enough and there was so much infighting and suddenly, I’m seeing “progressives” call for the removal/banning of To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn from school libraries because they are supposedly racist; even though they were two of the most anti-racist books of their times. Written for the white majority of their times to get them to wake up and see the humanity of others, because sadly, black folk were deemed property and even after the “end” of slavery (prison system *cough, cough*) they were still seen that way. Fiction has always been the strongest vehicle to put people into the shoes of others and to stir empathy and understanding within them.

The right-wing has always been the hand of banning and canceling and all that shit, and now, here was the “progressives” and “woke” twitter, the constant and continued ostracizing and devaluing of fem queer boys by not only straight society, but by other gay men, and then Donald Trump happened, and the rise of the new alt-right and alt-lite; young, attractive neo-cons making names for themselves with their conspiracy theories and various bigotries; the book started calling to me again.

My marriage had ended due to my ex’s chronic infidelity and it was abusive, and bad, and how I ever allowed that to happen to myself, I still won’t understand, other than I loved him and I just kept hoping it would sort itself and I have always been such a strong and resilient person and so I continued to ignored it. The things I have gone through and survived in my life… I just drew on that strength and I just took it and continued to believe I could take it; that belief nearly killed me.

I had a lot to work through and a journey of rediscovery I needed to do for myself. Covid happened and I was trapped in the home I had shared with my ex and it was a dark time; I binged Schitt’s Creek over three days then I sat down, pulled up my most recent document, the notes and stuff I had developed over time, and I re-read the novel, making all of my points and notes, then when finished, I sat down with the book, opened it again, this time with all of my notes and I did every letter. It was the only way I could make it the most faithful, and yet one of the most unique and different adaptations ever made.

What propelled the conflict between all the characters, but especially between Merteuil and Valmont was a battle of the sexes. It is actually known as the most iconic and legendary tales in the battle of the sexes, and in that I saw the opportunity to not only finally address and tackle in a really direct way, the trials and tribulations of being a fem queer boy and the smaller masc. v. fem. Battle that goes on in the queer world — a world that exists within and apart from the heterosexual world — but also all of this tribalism and in the case of Rafael Danceny and his pursuit of Cécile, those “woke” dudes who are really just whiny little INCELS who though liberal, use their “wokeness” as just another means to be like “I’m so much more aware and realized than you, let me educate you, blah, blah, blah” to dominate conversations and to get people into bed with them. I’ve known so many guys like that. So fucking gross. You can find them at almost any craft brewery, protest, or demonstration.

As everything evolves and grows and takes on its own mythos, Les Liaisons has done the same. It has had several film adaptations, but another novel? Another epistolary? It was time. I know this novel and these characters inside and out, and being a fixed Leo, I will not take something on unless I’m pretty certain I can knock it out of the park. It was a terrifying endeavor and still is, but I feel the fear and do it anyways. That’s my motto; that and Be brave. Slay dragons.

What makes Liaisons/Vile Things more than soap operas? I’ve heard that Liaisons critiques the selfish amoral behavior of wealthy French people before the Revolution, what would you say was the deeper context of your book?

I mean it is all of that. HAHA! It is the ultimate comedy of manners and political and societal satire. Dynasty, all the soaps, 90210, Melrose Place, Gossip Girl, Damages, How to Get Away with Murder, What/If, Mean Girls, etc. all owe a debt to this novel. So many television shows throughout the decades that have taken cues from it or totally just did an episode version of it in their storyline; there isn’t a chic, calculating, boss bitch in pop culture who doesn’t owe a debt to the Marquise de Merteuil whether they know it or not.

It was tired though. The same old battle of the sexes, no matter the time period or country set in, it was always about straight people, which is ridiculous, because both Merteuil and Valmont have same-sex encounters in the original novel, and the closest we get to that was Sarah and Selma making out in Cruel Intentions, and we don’t get to see Ryan do Boys’ Town at all. Not complaining about Joshua Jackson as Blaine Tuttle though… *sigh*. That was the gift that keeps on giving to this day.

We’re in an age where people are brands, the Left is filled with in-fighting, the Right has finally and totally been completely taken over by the nut jobs they’ve been cultivating since Barry Goldwater and the father of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley, Jr. along with Falwell, the John Birch Society, the Christian Coalition, the Evangelical, Baptist, and Catholic churches which really drove and continue to drive the culture wars.

It was McCarthy, Goldwater, Buckley, and the likes that married fire-and-brimstone Christianity, racist Southern whites, and fiscally Conservative affluent (and mostly WASP) capitalists together into one place, and then continued to fuel it and set its sights on everything and especially, everyone, that they deem as undesirable or against their God. Which, I mean, is everything that I am. These people have always been what we call the “Base” of the party, and they are never going to go away, and we’re about to explode. Like the French did at the end of the 18th century.

It is coming… the change… and there will be a great upheaval in our society. The ostracized and the marginalized and the working poor, which is now basically the 99% as there really is no middle class anymore and it’s at a point where it seems that that will never be achieved on a generational level ever again. I watch the news — both local and national — three times a day. I have always watched the news. I came from a news-watching family. Local then ABC or NBC nightly news, followed by Wheel and Jeopardy; reading, news, learning; exercising your brain anyway you could; I am very lucky to have had that instilled in me.

The things going on in our society; I just laugh. Laugh in the most ironic and saddest way. People have become caricatures and Les Liaisons has characters that each hold a space — they are archetypes — they each embody a personality in our society and they are extremes, but it is a book that has always held up a mirror and it is a mirror we need now. The explosion of social media, “aspirational” reality TV like the Kardashians, contributed to a culture of Affluenza; and seeing all of this, Merteuil and Valmont finally walked into the room in full realized color and they were Oliver and Nathan.

Archetypes always retain their root form, but they shift and change and adapt to the story as they are needed, and it was queer skin they finally needed to step into. It was the gay eye and the gay aesthetic that was needed to draw out and shed light — to pull out of the closet so to speak — all of the substance and pathos that has been routinely missed in the work. To quote the character of Emory in the play and film The Boys in the Band, “Mary it takes a fairy to make something pretty.”

Mary it takes a fairy to make the world turn ‘round and Mary it takes a fairy to say what needs to be said and what everyone else is afraid to say.

Why and how did you change the ending for Cécile? (tread lightly on the spoilers here :) What sorts of messages about women and gender did you see in the original book and how did you subvert that?

I can’t really say the why and the how of Cécile’s revolution without spoiling, but I really didn’t like how it ends for her historically. She goes through all that she goes through, she discovers herself and her sexual agency and she still finds herself marrying a man she doesn’t want to marry, and the dude who was supposedly in love with her, spends most of the time manipulating and guilting her with her feelings for him, and though he screws around on her, he turns around and shames her and abandons her for doing the same. It was fucking gross. Same with Merteuil. Yes, she’s using Cécile as her weapon of choice but it’s with the goal of pulling her from the ashes as an equal partner in crime, then suddenly, for no reason, and in a move so not like Merteuil up till that point, she decides “fuck Cécile. Just fucking ruin her.” That felt like a product of its time. Though brilliant and very pro-woman in a lot of ways, Laclos was still a product of his time, and unfortunately, in France in the 18th century, women were still seen at their heart to be thick to fickle.

Gay men are seen the same way. Especially fem gay men. We are seen as underhanded and sneaky, corrupting, vicious, superficial, vindictive, malicious, gross. Our spending time in the closet frequently gets used against us as an example of why we can’t be trusted, because we’re used to “lying” every day of our lives.

I needed to bring justice to both Cécile Volanges and the Marquise de Merteuil and I could only achieve that through the unique and sacred and complicated relationship that exists between gay men and women; most often straight women.

The most pivotal and iconic moment of Liaisons is Merteuil’s backstory of how she came to be; in every adaptation, the depth of all of that is ignored. The closest we get is Glenn Close in Hampton’s adaptation, but even in that, so much of her story was missing, and I knew that everything I could do, everything I could hope to achieve and the moment that I would either sink or swim by, would be the backstory, and in Merteuil’s story was the story of every little gay boy who had to survive and thrive in a world that only wants to subjugate them and put them into some cave or sail them away to some island. Every little gay boy who was told he wasn’t a boy, demeaned and degraded and talked over and down to by straight men and straight women who so often treat us like accessories.

The Marquise happily and organically stepped into her incarnation as Oliver Merteuil and as for Cécile… she deserves to come out on top. Plain and simple. At the end of the original story, she’s the only one left standing and yet she gets screwed. No gay boy with integrity is going to leave his girlfriend in a wreck of a life. I honestly don’t think the Marquise would have either, but the book was written centuries ago, and it was the times, but I had a chance to finally give Cécile her dues. She’s always treated as the comedic relief of the tale, with how silly and coquettish she seems, but she was and is so much more.

So many women out there with gay besties have stories about how the gay boy took them under their wing and helped to bring them out of their shells, and instilled the “You are a fierce bad ass bitch” message in their heads harder at times than anyone else does. It’s a special magical bond and I thought, even in all of this… this wickedly dark and scheming satire, I can still use that in a way that works totally natural and organically within the story to tell Cécile Volanges’ ascension.

I love the evolution of Cécile, and her final form at the end… I think Cécile as an archetype liked it too, I hope it is a form she is allowed to hold in other adaptations in the future. The closest we get is the very end of Cruel Intentions, but she still doesn’t get anything out of it in the end but humiliation. Realistically she was probably pulled from Manchester Prep for the scandal and sent to a reform school by her racist mother (played by the brilliantly snooty Christine Baranski) if the story had continued on for another twenty mintues.

What do you think the original book, and your story, gains from being an epistolary narrative? Why do you think the authors wrote it that way?

The brilliant thing about it, is that you are in their heads. All the characters. You are just with them in their thoughts. Their words to each other, and it is the only way that the novel can succeed in showing you the devilish machinations of Valmont and Merteuil. It’s how you hear their true voices — when they are writing to each other — and then all of the switching their voices do when speaking to everyone else. I mean, you hear it and it is so unsettling, especially since it never stops being either Merteuil or Valmont. Now, supposedly, according to Laclos, he did not write the novel. He met the Marquise de Merteuil as a young man and got his hands on all of these correspondences, and that there were hundreds more letters left out. Do I really think that? No. I do think he wrote the novel. And I think it is so amazing and brilliant in what it pulls off as an epistolary and what it tackled and confronted in 18th century France.

It was a novel beloved by Marie Antoinette and scandalized the country and influenced women and became like, a guidebook of sorts for women of the time to take more control of their lives and their fates while keeping their security and reputations intact. Which meant life or death in those days.

That’s the power of literature. It can inspire amazing things and gives us a new way and new ways of defense never thought of.

I think Where the Vile Things Are gains the same from it. You get to inhabit these characters in a way you just don’t get to in the classic third person. There is also little to no description of the characters physical appearances, and being mixed myself, that was really important to me. Valmont’s and Merteuil’s are kept purposefully vague, just as in the original novel, and the reason is so that YOU become the villains. You become these sociopaths. You become their prey. You find yourself laughing at what they say and being impressed and inspired by their clever machinations and you nod with points that they make, and then you stop and look away from the page for a moment when you realized what has just happened and what you have realized inside of yourself; which is that there are parts of yourself deep inside that are more like Valmont and Merteuil than you’d care to admit.

It was through this that I was given the opportunity to put people into the queer experience and the fem queer boy experience especially, in a way that I hadn’t been able to do before. It was also an opportunity to give my warning, which is given more than once in subtle ways and said bluntly; and that is that you need to be careful what you do and how you treat people, because that little gay boy you picked on and tormented — that fat girl you teased — the poor kid who couldn’t afford new clothes or maybe lived in a car with his parents because dad lost his job thanks to Republicans (since every recession after 1950 was the fault of Republicans), may just come back years later to dismantle your life in every single way.

Vile Things, I hope, will be like Les Liaisons was then and has endured as — a guide book — this time for little queer boys on how to survive a hetero world, along with anyone else who feels trapped, disempowered, who has been destroyed by love. Ruined by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Vile Things leaves you with all of the clues, the tricks, and the defenses to recognize and guard against dangerous types of people. If you can stay steps ahead of the wolves you can turn around and rip them apart like a lion.

It’s why there is the line, ‘take from Valmont and Merteuil all that you can and disregard the rest.’ It means, don’t do the fucking with innocent lives part, but the educating yourself, the learning how to spot traps and snares and to use your eyes and ears to your benefit to stay ten steps ahead of your tormentors and oppressors — whether in life or in love — which is even more dangerous and the deadliest of them all — and to take back your control and power over your life; fuck yeah, I hope it achieves the same thing.

A lot of the drama of the original book was about the risk of people’s reputations being ruined rather than just having a partner dump them because of their cheating. Do you think the same sorts of social pressure exist today (even not necessarily related to sex?) Were you commenting on modern social disgrace/cancel culture and how that affects our reputations?

Oh definitely, and sex is still used as an effective tool to ruin people’s lives and destroy their reputations. We live in a world of brands now and social media influencers. The Right and the Left just call for heads left and right. What’s funny, is that for so long — decades and decades — it was the Right that was all about canceling everything and banning everything; and then the Left jumped in, and they started doing it to each other. It’s so fucking ridiculous how many times I see progressives calling other progressives racists or sexists or Nazi’s etc. only because they may have a slightly less “progressive” view on a subject than whatever “woke” twitter is screaming about. It’s exhausting to be like “okay, who’s canceled now?” and especially depleting and frustrating when you see it’s the Left eating their own over something ridiculously relative.

Canceling someone and holding people accountable are two separate things, and sadly, a lot of people have been canceled or “held accountable” for stupid shit (like tweets made 15 years ago when someone was like, sixteen or something…) because they have forgotten that. Another example: authors getting canceled left and right by “liberals.” About a year or so ago, a young Asian female author’s debut YA novel was set in an alternate reality as many of those dystopian-type novels are, and it deals with slavery. Now, many countries, including the author’s home country had a history steeped in slavery and racism and slavery rooted in that racism. Well, before the book had even come out YA twitter and “woke” twitter came for her and accused her of appropriation, and called her a racist and bitched and moaned and screamed and stood on their SJW high horses until it was pulled and she was forced to apologize.

She had originally defended herself and the celebration of getting her first book deal, explaining that in her country slavery was also a huge part of their history and that is what she was pulling/writing from. Well, that wasn’t good enough. No. because then it became, well you’re published by an American publisher so therefore it’s still appropriation of Black slavery in America. Sorry, that’s bullshit. There is a great big fucking world out there and a lot of races, ethnicities, communities being enslaved, murdered, oppressed, discriminated against, etc. and this is just one example.

It would be a long dig, but I could go through all of my FB feed and find all of these articles from Publisher’s Weekly, The NY Times, The Atlantic, etc. about cases JUST LIKE THIS that I would share every time. Writers can no longer write this or that character, etc. I sit there when I read this stuff, super progressive professors being canceled because what they are teaching is no longer progressive enough and therefore suddenly an oppressive micro-aggression, which sadly is a word that means jack because it has been thrown around so frivolously these days. As a marginalized minority, I experience micro-aggressions from heterosexuals and the heterosexual world every single day, and yet I hate to use that word — ever — because it just sounds so whiny and gross and that like, everything is offensive.

There are very real, very important, and very immediate issues we need to deal with, and the rights of everyone who is not a cis-white-heterosexual Republican male are very really under attack. There is a bigger picture and a lasting fate and a real battle for the soul of this country is happening right now. Is it going to be a place of freedom, equality, equity, progress, innovation, and continued and repaired and improved democracy? or is it going to become oppressive, bigoted, destructive, destitute, remove-the-undesirables-put-prayer-back-in-schools-Christianity-driven theocracy? Because that’s what the GOP wants and the Left calling for heads over this small shit, going after and eating their own… it just makes us look like whiney little asshats.

Banning art and artists is disgusting and the fact the “liberals” and “progressives” are responsible for so much of it; it’s gross. Now, that is not to say I have an issue with the non-issue that is those handful of Dr. Seuss books or whatever. Those books illustrations are offensive, no way around it and it is a glowing example of capitalism and private industry at its best. The losers whining about the Dr. Seuss books don’t seem to understand exactly how capitalist and conservative the estate’s decision to pull those less-popular titles from print and shelves actually is.

I’m talking about petty, stupid, high-horse shit like the examples above.

It makes us all look like nut jobs to the fucking nut jobs who believe in Q-Anon for fucks sakes. STOP IT! Call to cancel or “hold accountable” when it is real and actually warranted. The global connected digital sphere we all now exist in allows for the destruction of people’s lives and reputations like never before. It is literally what the story is about and has been for nearly three hundred years.

Intriguing that both characters who are the objects of seduction are conservative but not anti-LGBT. I think that’s realistic for those characters…I see plenty of people nowadays who hold a mixture of beliefs that don’t always traditionally fit together. (However I think Cécile’s professors and classmates at Wheaton would have pushed back on her LGBT tolerance so I suspect she’d have kept that on the down-low at school). Why did you choose to write the book that way? And did you do research into the evangelical Christian subculture to write this?

It was really two-fold. One, I needed to keep the integrity of the story. Both Cécile and Présidente Tourvel have religious/pious backgrounds, and two; it was a way to do something with the respective men who are not in the story: Cécile’s fiancé and Tourvel’s (in this case, Stefan Tourvel) husband. We also have these gay (and “former” *cough* publicity stunt/snake oil con *cough*) alt-right and alt-lite “journalists” and personalities and it’s a fucking circus. Everything now is like, “United States: by P.T. Barnum!” now. And it is dark and it is terrifying and it is surreal. It’s a reality that scares me and it’s vile and backwards and it’s tragic and sad in the most pathetic way, but it is there and that fit the two missing men perfectly and answered the question of who they were.

I didn’t need to research. I grew up immersed in the evangelical church thanks to my grandfather, and there is tent revivalist shit in there. I have trauma and scars from that part of my life that will never go away, and so even when confronting or calling things out, I do so as only those of us who came from it can do. Even in our critiquing or straight-up condemnation of it, there is still an authenticity that keeps it from mocking faith altogether. Because people have faith in a lot of deities and beliefs, so you never want to mock belief.

I have beliefs. I’m super witchy. I have altars everywhere. I am deeply connected with deity. I don’t disrespect or tear down faith or religion or belief in general, but when it comes to the cult of non-denominational conservative Christianity, evangelical Christianity, conservative anything… anything that seeks to dominate and restrict and rule and disenfranchise and disempower and instill their religion above all others and it’s laws as the only laws that should matter and literally demonizes my fucking people and blame us for everything; including hurricanes and terrorist attacks like 9/11; fuck yeah, I’m coming for you and I’m coming for you hard and if you enable it, if you are one of us and you betray us, I’m taking shots at you.

I take very specific aim at a certain recent alt-right “ex” gay personality who is currently grifting those gullible Christian conservatives and doing so while rocking terrible hair. He’s a joke and he is harmful and promoting Conversion Therapy. It’s disgusting and reckless and therefore, he deserves to get the William F. Buckley, Jr. treatment in Burr à la Gore Vidal. Where the Vile Things Are was the perfect vehicle for that kind of social and political satire and observation. It allows for all of us to take a step back and reflect and laugh at ourselves. Because it is funny. You spend much of your time laughing. It’s deliciously wicked and devilishly witty and sexy and it’s a wild ride into ourselves.

That’s the power of this story and why it will continue to endure as it has for so long already. Because as long as there is an imbalance of wealth and power and there are people disempowered and disenfranchised, there will always be a place for Valmont and Merteuil — there will always be a need for their cunning and calculating ways — they have provided ways of escape and ideas of reinvention for two centuries, and they will continue to do so. It’s inevitable.

Lastly, I have my reasons why I think people should read this book, but what are your reasons? Why should readers go to your website or go to amazon and pre-order Where the Vile Things Are right now?

I think the subtitle pretty much says it all. There is Sex. Revenge. Deceit. Love. Seduction. Political subterfuge. Manipulation. Dark humor. Affluenza. All rolled into a novel that is completely aware of how ridiculous and to the living end the whole thing is, and because of that self-awareness it’s allowed to be as wicked and devious and searing and cruel and as emotionally vulnerable, heart-broken, earnest, and light-hearted and hopeful as it wants to be!
If you go into it understanding that your protagonists — the two characters you are going to be with — who guide the entire novel — the two you are going to care about the most — Nathan Valmont and Oliver Merteuil — are the villains and they do it with heartfelt and passionate integrity, then you’ll have a great time. Haha!

Where the Vile Things Are is a clever and witty, scheming joy ride! It really is.
It’s also not like any other adaptation. And that’s beyond the queer aspect. It’s raw, emotional, it explores heartbreak and exposes how love is often used as a weapon. It takes us back to 2016 and through the surrounding characters and their DM’s, Texts, emails, and even some letters, we get reflections of where certain things were at our own tipping point. Which the election of Donald Trump really was a right-wing, conservative, Christian, Republican, corporate, conceived ascension. Something long in the works, and now everything has gone completely off the rails. Look at January 6th! I’m still just… I’m still shook by it. By what I saw. It was as surreal as Oklahoma City or 9/11. Yeah, 2016 altered everything and changed the game forever. But that’s just it, in the end it’s always been a game.

You should purchase from my website because it is the only place where you can pre-order signed 1st edition paperbacks as well as any of my other novels. The price includes the taxes and shipping. There is also links to Amazon as well, but if you can just buy signed copies from the author’s page, why wouldn’t you? That would be my dream! That’s why I decided to do it. Plus, with Covid, tours and signings… that’s all weird and uncertain, so this can still provide that getting-your-book-signed experience. That’s worldwide by the way. Just the same price all across the board. ($30.00 USD)

There’s some fun things to come, like the official Playlist which will be up on Spotify (check my Facebook or Instagram for updates!) which is intended to be listened to while you read. I did that with my last novel, Ghosts of Blood and Bone. It’s on YouTube currently but will be up on Spotify soon. I hope you all read it and love it and I hope to hear from you and your thoughts!

Marcus James’ Where the Vile Things Are is available here.

Blogger, writer, publicist, and literary aficionado with insatiable curiosity.