by Mark Hyatt
Foreword by Huw Lemmey
Note on author and text by Luke Roberts
'It’s mid morning. Cool. Not many coffee bars open. I, the brave one, god of any telephone kiosk, walk down Dean Street, see the man of the day; raincoat, shoulders round, hair black, falling out; heavenly blue eyes cast down into his own hell. Bold as brass I cross the road stopping dead in front of him. He raises his eyes, so sadly that I love him for it.'
Leda is lost. Bouncing from job to job, from coffee bar to house party, he spends his days watching the hours pass and waiting for the night to arrive. Trysts in the rubble of a bombsite follow hours spent in bedsits with near strangers, as Leda is forced to find intimacy in unusual places.
Semi-homeless and estranged from his given family, he relies on the support of his chosen one: a community of older gay men and divorced women who feed and clothe him, gently encouraging him to find a foothold in a society which excludes him at every turn. And then there is Daniel, a buttoned-up man of the Lord, for whom Leda nurses an unrequited obsession – one which sends him spiralling into self-destruction.
This newly discovered, never-before-published novel – which pre-dates the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 – is a portrait of a lost Soho, as well as an important document of queer, working-class life, from a voice long overlooked.
Mark Hyatt was born in South London in 1940, and died by suicide outside Blackburn in 1972. His selected poems, So Much For Life, edited by Sam Ladkin and Luke Roberts, is forthcoming with Nightboat Books (2023). Hyatt received little or no formal education, and learned to read and write as an adult. Love, Leda (c. 1965) is his only known novel.
Praise for Love, Leda
‘Acerbic yet wistful, indecent, caffeinated, raw, suddenly profound – a hip flask of a novel, brimful of phenomenal lines.’ – Jeremy Atherton Lin, author of Gay Bar
'I am honoured to take part in the resurrection of Love, Leda. In this amazing novel, Mark Hyatt records with wonder the excited anguish of the very young. His tale of unrequited love, loneliness of the flesh, and life on the margins owes something to the curdled realism of mid-century England, and something to the existential riffing of the Nouveau Roman. Hyatt writes without prudery--his sex scenes are startling in their immediacy. In the end, Love, Leda is a poet’s novel with its far-flung lyricism and its surprises of precision and revelation.' – Robert Glück, author of Margery Kempe
‘Love Leda is a transgressive, wriggling slice of queer, working class life in 1960s London. Hyatt is an important literary parent to everyone writing queer London, dreaming of lives free of drudgery and asking what the point of living is.’ – Yara Rodrigues Fowler, author of there are more things
‘An unearthed treasure of its time, Mark Hyatt’s compelling and emotive novel Love, Leda recounts a whirlwind of intimacies and embodiment, philosophy and humour, in a daring depiction of queer desire, impulse and need, laced through a context of disconnection. With an intensity of life-in-motion, a lyric of spirit and survival in pursuit of the existential, Hyatt vividly conjures his protagonist’s navigation of an era’s incipient edges. An absorbing, melancholy odyssey of love both transactional and yearned-for, the publication of Love, Leda honours a unique literary voice rediscovered.’ – Peter Scalpello, author of Limbic