Adrenaline (novel)

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Adrenaline (1985)
Author James Robert Baker under the pseudonym James Dillinger
Country United States
Language English
Subject Gay love, drug use, AIDS, homophobia, hypocrisy of organized religion
Genre Gay erotic noir thriller[1]
Publisher Signet Books/New American Library (1985), Plume (1988), Alyson Books (2000)[2][3]
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 302
ISBN 0-451-13563-6 (Signet)
1-555-83565-1 (Alyson Books; reprint)
Followed by Fuel-Injected Dreams

Adrenaline is the first novel written by James Robert Baker (1946–1997), an American author of sharply satirical, predominantly gay-themed transgressional fiction.[4][5][6]


After graduating from UCLA, he began his career as a screenwriter, but became disillusioned and started writing novels instead.[7] After the controversy surrounding publication of his novel, Tim and Pete, he faced increasing difficulty having his work published.[8]

Adrenaline was published in 1985 under the pseudonym James Dillinger.[9] A story of two gay fugitive lovers on the run, it presaged the satire and drug fueled violence so prominent in his later books.[10] Here Baker began developing the themes that dominated his following works: anarchy; angry and somewhat paranoid gay men; the dark underside of Los Angeles, juxtaposed with its sunny outward image;[11] the hypocrisy of organized religion; anonymous sex and its implications in the age of AIDS; and homophobia and the oppression of gays in a Republican-dominated America.[12][13] Its plot device of underdog characters forced into flight due to circumstances beyond their control was one Baker explored in all of his subsequent work.

Plot summary[edit]

A native Californian, his work is set almost entirely in Southern California, and the book is about two "lusty" gay lovers from Los Angeles named Nick and Jeff who at the beginning of the novel were having passionate sex when two "wildly homophobic cops" break in on them.[1][14][15] They fight back and while trying to defend themselves, they take one cop as hostage.[15] A SWAT team shows up and accidentally kills the cop hostage and blames the two lovers.[15] After that incident the two are on the run from the authorities throughout Los Angeles on the way to Mexico.[16]


Planet Out noted the book as an "unapologetic jackhammer of anti-right, anti-homophobe, anti-corporate invective, despised by polite gays, embraced by activist queers, and garnered both hostile reviews and exuberant word-of-mouth."[1] LaBlonte noted it "set the teeth of early AIDS activists on edge."[1] The Los Angeles Times noted it as "over-the-top satire enthusiastically blending humor with rage and violence".[17] James noted "Baker had many issues with the world at large, homophobic cops and preachers along with closeted Hollywood moguls, in particular, and he was able to find satisfaction in his novels that he could not find in real life" stemming from "pent up anger at the homophobic America at elected Ronald Reagan twice and sat by clucking their teeth while so many gay men died of AIDS."[15] Gay Community News noted "he has an eye for the absurd, the quixotic, and the downright existential in pop culture".[3]

Subsequent works[edit]

The modest success of the novel encouraged him to devote himself to what have become his best known works, Fuel-Injected Dreams (a novel revolving around a character loosely based on record producer Phil Spector)[6] and Boy Wonder.[18][19] Though he garnered some fame for his books Fuel-Injected Dreams and Boy Wonder, according to his life partner the move to more mainstream novels instead of writing the fiction he wanted to create were a contributing factor in his suicide.

Posthumously, Baker's work has achieved cult status in the years since his death, and two additional novels have been posthumously published.[1][20]

As of 2006, first editions of Adrenaline, Boy Wonder, Fuel-Injected Dreams and Tim and Pete have become collector's items and command high prices at rare book stores.[21][22] First-edition copies of his earlier works have also become collector's items.


  1. ^ a b c d e Labonté, Richard. "Testosterone and Adrenaline by James Robert Baker". Planet Out Book Reviews, 2000. Archived on February 23, 2001.
  2. ^ Out, Nov 2000, Vol. 9, No. 5, ISSN 1062-7928, Here Publishing, p. 55.
  3. ^ a b Baker, James Robert, JABberwocky Literary Agency,2002.
  4. ^ "Robertson's official Baker website". 2006-10-18. Retrieved 2006-12-08. 
  5. ^ "Beat Writers". 2005-04-30. Archived from the original on 19 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-30. 
  6. ^ a b Rivenburg, Roy. "He's Angry, Raunchy and Unapologetic". Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1993; p. E-1.
  7. ^ Harris M. Lentz, Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 1997: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture, McFarland & Co., 1998, ISBN 0-7864-0460-4, ISBN 978-0-7864-0460-5.
  8. ^ "Obituaries:Robert Baker, Satirical Novelist, 50". New York Times. November 24, 1997. p. Section B; Page 7; Column 2. 
  9. ^ "James Robert Baker, Writer", The Palm Beach Post, p. 3B, Nov 25, 1997.
  10. ^ Joel Perry, "Pumped Fiction: The newest pedal-To-The-Metal Novel by James Robert Baker is, Sadly, His Last", The Advocate p. 73, October 10, 2000.
  11. ^ Martin Dines, "From Subterranean to Suburban: The Landscapes of Gay Outlaw Writing", American Studies Journal, Number 50, Fall 2007, ISSN 1433-5239.
  12. ^ Wharton, Greg. Testosterone. 3AMmagazine. Retrieved on 2006-10-30.
  13. ^ Variety Staff. "James Robert Baker". Daily Variety, December 11, 1997.
    See Also: Levy, Dan. "Up-Front or Undercover?" San Francisco Chronicle, June 20, 1993; Section: Sunday Review; p. 9
  14. ^ Jon L. Breen, The year's 25 finest crime and mystery stories, Volume 4, p. 309, Carroll & Graf, 1998.
  15. ^ a b c d C.B. James, "Adrenaline by James Robert Baker", Ready When You Are, November 13, 2007.
  16. ^ Drewey Wayne Gunn, The gay male sleuth in print and film: a history and annotated bibliography, pages 44-6, 305; Scarecrow Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8108-5681-6, ISBN 978-0-8108-5681-3.
  17. ^ Myrna Oliver, "James Robert Baker; Satiric Novelist, Cult Filmmaker", Los Angeles Times, November 15, 1997.
  18. ^ Luke, Gary. "Proto-Punk Brutalism Meets Semi-Ironic Hyper-Romanticism: James Robert Baker's Out-rage-ous Humor". Lambda Book Report, April 30, 1993, Vol.3; No.9; p. 12.
  19. ^ Bell, Madison. "Paperbacks; Psychopathorama". New York Times, May 4, 1986. Retrieved on 2006-10-30.
  20. ^ Willis, Paul J. Testosterone. Forward Magazine, November 2000. Retrieved on 2006-10-30.
    See Also: Publishers Weekly, September 11, 2000, Section: pwforecasts; p. 65
  21. ^ "Alibris Rare Book Search Engine". Archived from the original on 27 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-30. 
    See Also: "Biblio Rare Book Search Engine". Archived from the original on 18 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-30. 
  22. ^ Young, J. "Bob'S Head Soup". Herald Sun, Australia; August 17, 1995 (page number unavailable).