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
Review: Lucky’s 13 by Steve Hart
Published by STARbooks Press
Reviewed by Christian Wright
“You can’t run from love.” – Jimmy Somerville
Lucky is, or Lucky isn’t (lucky, that is) depending on two variables: 1) Your perspective, and 2) Your definition of love. Lucky, the man, the myth, and the main character of this collection of erotic fiction, describes himself in the introduction as:
“…Comfortably set in my mid-thirties with a thick, welcome-to-the farm type of body. Everything I do for myself physically is to attract men. I keep my black hair cut short and tight. My chest is wide and hairy, my eyes deep and brooding, and I flirt with every man I meet – even the not-so-handsome ones. You never know, they could have hot friends.”(p. i)
Despite Lucky’s obvious physical charm (and healthy ego), Lucky has been burned, and burned bad, by a guy in Manhattan. Gary, the bad, bad guy from New York City, is the reason that Lucky ran away to the country to lick his wounds, among other things, in rural Maine. The thirteen stories that make up Lucky’s 13
chronicle Lucky’s attempts to “fuck the pain away” (to quote one of my favorite electro chanteuse of the moment). And he does his damndest, let me tell you!
First up is a New Year’s Eve romp with a guy named Trevor who is so talented, and so versatile, that he can deliver a full-body shave with a straight razor as he climbs all over the man mountain that is Lucky. As this collection is organized by month, from December to December (so that there are thirteen in total, get it?), each month represents a scorching sexual encounter with a new man (or men, as is often the case). Even in the middle of nowhere, Lucky manages to track and land some the hottest men in Maine. Preferred hunting grounds include the underwear aisle of any given department store, the open road (where he goes out of his way to be apprehended by the men in local law enforcement), the beach, night school, and (most dangerously) in the pages of his own little black book.
At a coffee shop in “Maybe (September),” Lucky meets a salt-and-pepper businessman in town for a series of corporate interviews who is so smitten by the sight of Lucky in sweat pants that he lies to his family and takes Lucky’s ass for a ride around his bedroom, making him see stars and convincing him that “slow and steady win the race.”(p. 131) (The line, “What about your wife?” (p. 127) is SO delicious when it is delivered at the beginning of this particular story!) One of the funniest schemes devised by Hart’s libidinous main character is a sort of mail-order man scenario in which Lucky buys ridiculously large home furnishings off of the Web that have to be brought into the house upon delivery in order to bag the UPS guy. (“What can BROWN do for you?” Well, if you ask Lucky, BROWN can deliver your new flat screen television and fuck the shit out you…)
I have to admit that what first caught my eye about Lucky’s 13
was something slightly less than literary, namely the photo of Kent Larson on the front cover. Something about the arch of his muscular back and the upturn of his fine, fine ass made me want to explore further and I’m glad that I did. After the conceit of this erotic collection is made apparent, it becomes quite an enjoyable romp of fast-paced, linked stories that are definitely stroke-worthy. There are threads and subplots, however, that reveal themselves as you get deeper into the book that create a larger narrative about love, loss, desire, and fantasy that allow the byte-sized scenes to take on a greater depth and, ultimately, to coalesce into a more gratifying whole.Christian Wright is a visual artist and writer who lives in The American Midwest. He holds an MFA from San Francisco State University, reviews filthy bear porn for GAYVN Magazine and SexHerald.com, and is currently at work on his first novel. Reach out and touch him at http://christianwright.blogspot.com/
Review: Beyond Machu by William Maltese
Published by Southern Tier Editions
Reviewed by Paul Thomas
A gay travel writer finds love and adventure in the jungles of SouthAmerica.
Many a gay man has wondered if his hot sex entertainment could have a little more plot going on alongside the grunting and groaning. William Maltese’s Beyond Machu could be just the ticket for those looking for drama as well as man to man action. Travel writer Dan Green is in Peru to take in the sights and serve them up enticingly to his LA readers. Green gets more than he bargained for when he stumbles across the chiseled handsome features of Sloane Hendricks, a man of mystery on a mission to avenge the family reputation. Man eating jaguars and piranhas are but small beer compared to the quest for love, sex and honour, which never runs smooth in the jungle. Rare Incan artifacts, lost cities and travels off the beaten trail are depicted skillfully, giving a sense that Maltese has indeed spent time in Peru.
Drawing on his background as a writer of Harlequin hetero romances, Maltese has carved out a tale of simmering lust and thwarted emotions in an intensely male world. The one jarring note is the detailed language given to abuse a secondary character. This is offered in a titillating way that makes for uncomfortable reading. Those wishing to skip these passages can do so as they are printed in bold and not reading them in no way detracts from the story. Other than that, Beyond Machu is an arousing and diverting novel combining male romance, sex in the jungle and adventure in a way that redefines hot and bothered. Beyond Machu is available now in softback.Paul Thomas is a writer and trainer. Until recently he was also a therapist, though he is devoting more of his time to writing at the moment. He has contributed to various publications, both on and off line and can be contacted via email@example.com
Review: Service Wash by Rupert Smith
Published by Serpent’s Tail
Reviewed by Paul Thomas
A gay writer is hired to flesh out a soap diva’s autobiography and ends up immersed in her murky world.
Like a gay Danielle Steel with a degree in satire, Rupert Smith has penned Service Wash to take the reader on a darkly comic journey in the world of soap and celebrity. Packed with laugh out loud twists and turns, the plot is citrus fresh. Eileen Weathers is a soap star who has strung together a barely literate autobiography and needs help to realise her dream of telling the truth. Paul Mackrell is a sensitive prose writer who needs to pay the bills. Highbrow and plucked eyebrow are thus set on a collision course in the full glare of the spotlight. Deadlines are missed when dead lovers are found, but who is to blame?
Utilising an insider’s relish no doubt gleaned from his television work, Smith swipes the lather away from the gloss to reveal the tears and treachery of everyday small screen actors and hangers-on battling forsupremacy among the bedrooms, headlines and dressing rooms of a fading soap. With an eye for a tartly comic situation and a knack for crisp plotting that incorporates murder mystery and doomed romance, Service Wash has to be the most perfect companion for the launderette. Cliffhangers reign supreme as lovers and rivals are stepped on and brushed aside in the never ending pursuit of ratings and success. A world that’s big on close-ups but short on talent is laid bare with undisguised glee. An acid drop of a novel, Service Wash also serves as a comment on modern popular entertainment. Service Wash is out now in paperback.Paul Thomas is a writer and trainer. Until recently he was also a therapist,though he is devoting more of his time to writing at the moment. He hascontributed to various publications, both on and off line and can becontacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
Review: Brendan Wolf by Brian Malloy
Published by St. Martin's Press
Reviewed by Shaun Frisky
Brendan Wolf is the kind of man that gives me a huge boner. He’s a complex mystery who likes to exercise his mind as much as his body. Amidst the quiet life he seeks with his daily push-ups and flipping through pages of Jack London, he finds himself embroiled in outrageous situations involving a rich lecherous old man, a fanatical group of pro-lifers, a scheming brother & his wife and a boyfriend blinded by his passion. Despite his flaws and delusions, Brendan emerges as a fully-fleshed gay man struggling to find his place in this messy world.
Brendan’s consciousness is split between the physical world and the fictional world. He imagines he can control the way people see him. He wears carefully constructed identity masks so certain people will view him as a grieving Christian widower or the attractive boyfriend who can be witty and charming at dinner parties filled with model gay couples. It seems that for every new person Brendan meets, he invents a new past and a new name for himself. The reader himself isn’t even allowed to know Brendan’s true name till late on in the book. The more Brendan tries to hide the man he essentially is the more chaotic his life becomes and the less connected he is with those he cares about most.
Detailing scathing critiques of both straight groups of religious fanatics and shallow gay groups of friends, this novel is a savage attack on insulated communities within our society while exploring the isolation of a complex and compelling individual. All this with a rip-roaring plot that will get your heart thumping as the illusive and incredibly sexy Brendan goes on the run from the police. This gives the book a fantastic momentum so that it feels like a train running faster and faster, always threatening to careen disastrously off the tracks. Brian Malloy has a powerfully creative mind and I’d love to spend a shirtless great-outdoors weekend with him and a thick book, bundled up together in a cozy lamp-lit tent.
Labels: Shaun Frisky Review