Friday, August 31, 2007

Review: Best Gay Romance Edited by Tom Graham

Edited by Tom Graham
Best Gay Romance

Published by Cleis Press

Reviewed by Leon Fleming

Gay romance, and romance fiction generally, is a strange kind of halfway-from-something-good and halfway-to-something-good kind of writing; placed shakily somewhere between ‘proper’ short fiction and the more brazen genres of erotica and literary pornography. Usually it tends to come off as a poor second to both ends of the spectrum, and for the most part ‘Best Gay Romance’, a compendium of short man-on-man romance fiction, is no different. No better and no worse than the many other anthologies that sit weak and limp on the shelves.

The problem is not just a genre that is unsure of itself and it’s purpose, but it seems that here is another editor who is guilty of putting together pieces where the authors, of which there are seventeen, are not entirely sure what it is they are trying to create; a story which is interesting and well crafted for it’s own sake, or a story that is meant to get the reader hot under the collar. The result being that in the majority of cases in this particular volume, neither is achieved.

I feel it should be pointed out though that there are some rare gems, which for one reason or another have stirred in me some kind of emotion or left me wondering about the futures of their characters.

‘Tom, or an Improbable tale’ by Ruth Sims, ‘Cur’ by R. Nikolous Merrell, ‘Morbidly Obese’ by Rick R. Reed, and ‘Good-by, Johnny Fitz’ by Charles Leduc should all be commended because they have managed to convey, through skilfully created passages or a real sense of the audience, either very well crafted stylistic fiction that could happily sit in any anthology of ‘proper’ short fiction, or stories that have the kind of intense sexualised emotion that cuts through the fatty deposits of romance writing and finds its way to the heart of top quality erotic fiction.

That said, a score of four out of seventeen isn’t a good one, no matter which way you manipulate the numbers. Tom Graham has found for us a few hidden treasures, but I’m not sure that even they are worth trawling through the rest of this book for.

Leon Fleming lives on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, where he writes short stories, stage plays and the odd article, and he is currently working on his first novel. More information regarding Leon’s work, along with samples of it, can be found at his website: http://www.leonfleming.co.uk

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