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‘An illuminating memoir of the eighties, nineties and noughties from a gay man who only just survived them.’
Editor’s Choice for June in The Bookseller!
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Signed copies available from The Hastings Bookshop
Russell T Davies - ‘Paul Burston is the best of us. A great activist, a great journalist, a great man. This memoir is brutally honest, powering through the AIDS crisis, gay shame, addiction, all the way through to hope and redemption. If you’re in trouble, read this: Paul shows that you can survive. Wonderful.’
Bernardine Evaristo - ‘A compelling and hugely enjoyable memoir about a fearless life lived to the full. From the groundbreaking gay activism over many decades to the wild years of intoxication and compulsive sex, I so admired Burston’s ruthless honesty and brave emotional vulnerability.’
Jonathan Harvey - ‘We stand on the shoulders of giants. One of those giants is Paul Burston, and his memoir about his life, his activism, the AIDS crisis, Bowie and much more is told in his own bold, smart, inimitable style. I loved We Can Be Heroes.’
Janet Ellis - ‘What a book! Honest, vivid, raw, revealing and written with generosity and charisma... a triumph and an inspiration.’
Joelle Taylor - ‘What a bloody brilliant piece of work. What a bloody brilliant life. I’m inspired, moved, reminded, held, enraged, and consumed with a strange joy. Just remarkable.’
Erin Kelly - ‘Burston’s generation of gay men and lesbians are the giants upon whose shoulders today’s queer youth stand, and this book sets out his achievements and struggles in unflinching, compassionate, angry and often blackly comic detail. An urgent, unmissable read.’
Juno Roche - ‘Paul Burston has been there through years of gay history and struggle, often right on the very front line fighting for space, fighting for others. I read this straight through - couldn’t put it down. It’s a gorgeous memoir.’
John Marrs - ‘I laughed, almost cried and wanted to give the younger Paul the tightest hug... A brutally honest, unflinching memoir and eye witness account of the most important time in our gay British history, from someone who not only lived and survived it, but who helped to shape it. Indispensable.’
Louise Swanson - ‘Paul’s story is one of trauma, danger, excess and pain, but also one of compassion, strength, fight and bravery. This is a hell of a life lived, but one worthwhile. The changes Paul has made, not only in his own life but beyond, are tremendous. I defy anyone not be moved by this powerful memoir.’
Sophia Blackwell - ‘An original memoir from the journalist, novelist and salonniere, We Can Be Heroes is a must-read for lovers of It’s a Sin. Driven by the desire to get out of his small Welsh town and, later, an awareness of mortality brought on by the ravages of HIV/AIDS in the gay community, Burston had achieved a great deal by the age of thirty - while partying very hard. An inspiring book... and a moving, gossipy, spicy read with pacing that recalls Burston’s thrillers and society comedies but with a loving, angry heart all of its own.’
Matt Cain - ‘I raced through this wonderful memoir by senior statesman of queer culture, Paul Burston. It charts his journey from gay shame to pride and his work as a journalist, activist and authors to help others share in that emotion. It’s illuminating, engrossing and electrifying.’
Louisa Young - ‘In We Can Be Heroes, Paul Burston brings London in the ’80s roaring back like a fever dream: the romance, the squats, the friends, the deaths, the activism, the clubs, the burning desires. It’s a strong, loving memoir of a very intense time.’
Claire Allan - ‘Raw, honest, funny in places and incredibly moving... The book is an unmatched look at into the life of a movement going through hell but never stopping, and of people fighting to be seen and to live their most authentic lives. Like Paul himself, it is simply fabulous.’
Maxine Mei-Fung Chung - ‘We Can Be Heroes: A Survivor’s Story is a slamming tour de force that speaks to activism, recovery and everything in-between. Paul’s passion for storytelling is defiant and tender, his refusal to ignore bold topics (AIDS, addiction, shame, grief, trauma) that shroud marginalised voices beyond generous. Read it and step closer to understanding the resilience needed to survive and rise. Read it and be changed.’
Bob Hughes, book blogger - ‘At turns deeply moving, at turns hilarious, this is a poignant memoir... with a razor-sharp focus on details of a period of time that was so pivotal for queer lives.’
Declan C, reviewer - ‘Paul’s wonderful book adds another essential history to the era of LGBTQ activism in the midst of the Aids catastrophe. Frankly, there can’t be enough of these personal histories of that time - and this is sure to resonate with audiences who lived through it and the ones that are just learning about the horrors (and inspiration) of that period from shows like It’s A Sin.’
Gehrett Ellis, writer - ‘I just finished reading the wonderful Paul Burston’s moving and powerful memoir. I didn’t want it to end.’
Gerry L, NetGalley reviewer - ‘Paul Burston’s honest account of life as a gay man, a journalist and activist is equally entertaining and heart-breaking. We Can Be Heroes is a fitting homage to those who are no longer here. For the younger generation who take their freedoms for granted, this book is a must read.’
Netgalley reviewer - ‘This is a page-turning account of an action-packed life. I particularly loved the descriptions of gay London in the ’80s, and the documentation of the ACT UP protests of the ’80s and ’90s. The author makes brave disclosures about his life, and it’s heartwarming to see where things go as the memoir brings us up to the present day.’
Louise V, Media/Journalist - ‘This is an important record of the first hand and devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic. Well written and relatable, Burston has a chatty, confessional voice in this fascinating memoir.’
Patricia C, NetGalley reviewer - ‘I really got engrossed in this book. Paul brought back so many good memories, but oh, so many bad ones. I’m buying a copy for my gay grandson, so he can see how it was.’
NetGalley reviewer - ‘Paul Burston seems to have lived at least six lives in one and each is worthy of its own biography.
From the early story of a young man moving to the city and coming to terms with his sexuality, to life as an activist during the AIDS crisis, to his later reinvention as a novelist and literary host, this book unfolds at a breakneck speed. There are many difficult issues discussed here and Burston doesn’t shy away from the issues affecting his community and indeed his own life but it remains a very human story, even witty at times. A detailed, sometimes funny, often harrowing, always unflinching look at recent British history.’
Paul Burston is the author of six novels and four non-fiction books and editor of two short story collections.
The Black Path (2016) was his first crime novel and became a Number 1 bestseller at WH Smith.
The Gay Divorcee (2009) was optioned for TV.
Lovers & Losers (2007) was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award.
His debut novel Shameless (2001) was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award.
Paul is curator and host of award-winning LGBTQ+ literary salon Polari and founder of The Polari Prize book awards for LGBTQ+ writers.
In 2016, he featured in the British Council’s Global List of ‘33 visionary people promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world.’
A Rainbow List National Treasure and former AIDS activist with ACT-UP London, he is one of the subjects of Alexis Gregory’s verbatim play Riot Act.
Paul’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Time Out and other publications.
He has also written and presented documentaries for Channel 4 and contributes regularly to TV and radio.
Widely anthologised, he recently contributed to First Edition (Dome Press 2020) and Not Quite Right For Us: 40 Writers Speak Volumes (Flipped Eye, 2021).
His memoir We Can Be Heroes will be published by Little A in June 2023 and is available to preorder.
His new podcast We Can Be Heroes is available now.
Author photo by Krystyna FitzGerald-Morris
In addition to being the author of 10 books, including four non-fiction titles, I’m also the editor of two short collections and have over 30 years experience as a journalist and editor.
I’ve devised and delivered writing masterclasses for the Guardian, taught online writing classes for inmates at HMP Thameside and run creative writing workshops across the UK.
Many workshop participants have gone on to perform at Polari salon and had their work published or performed at other venues and festivals.
“The workshops run by Paul were a great success and participants engaged well. Delivering remote courses can often be difficult but Paul’s strong teaching ethic encouraged many to complete the written exercises to a high standard” - Neil Barclay, Librarian, HMP Thameside
“Paul provided me with prompt, insightful and constructive feedback on my novel extract, which was invaluable in helping me to shape the chapter I was stuck on and progress my work. I thoroughly recommend his services” - Michelle Hodgson, Huddersfield Literature Festival
“I can’t thank Paul enough for his feedback. It was so helpful and valuable and has made a huge difference. It was so much more than I dared hope for” - Catherine Tinkler
If you need help with your manuscript, please contact me HERE
I’m available for telephone or online sessions and written reports.
Prices start at £50 for an hour session (fee payable in advance).