Thursday, June 12, 2008

Me and Mickie James by Drew Gummerson

Drew Gummerson
Me and Mickie James

Published by Jonathan Cape

Reviewed by Liam Tullberg

Me and Mickie James is Drew Gummerson's second novel following 2002's The Lodger.

With the premise that a dream should never be surrendered, it's a warm and charming story of the un-named narrator and his hunchback boyfriend, Mickie James. Together they comprise the pop duo, Down By Law, who, with song titles like 'Mermaids Are For Life' and 'Hunchback Christmas', are still awaiting their big break whilst they flit between dead end jobs including a stage appearance as a typecast Quasimodo and a reluctant cameo in porn.

But it's during a stint working in a cheese shop for eternal pessimist, Con, that a chance encounter introduces them to one-time-pop-star turned musical enigma, Ivan Norris-Ayres.

Their adventure soon begins and our two central characters find themselves swinging not only from one bizarre scenario to the next, but also from continent to continent until, in America, it finally looks as if they may have made it.

What makes Me and Mickie James such a pleasure to read is the immediacy of the writing. It's an entertaining story that moves along at a great pace and introduces a cast of kooky, original characters such as the magician Harlan Harlan and his glamorous assistant, Penelope: a couple with a past that they thought they were rid of, but soon catches up with them in the form of crazy-in-love giant, Gus.

While there are a range of intriguing supporting characters, it is the lead protagonists who make the story and the two central characters are a fantastically bizarre couple between whom dialogue is snappy and believable and for whom readers will surely empathise and rally behind.
Though Gummerson has written Mickie James as a character with a hunchback, this affliction comes up very rarely throughout the novel. When it does, it is not in order to raise issues of physical abnormality, but rather to represent the baggage we all see as holding us back from achieving our full potential and realising our dreams.

Me and Mickie James is a classic British underdog story with a difference; the difference being that the underdog is a gay couple, one of whom is a hunchback and the other, by his own admission, actually isn't very talented at all.

In this respect, Gummerson has written a novel that's a fresh and welcome take on gay fiction and one that, like Down By Law's song titles and lyrics, won't be forgotten in a hurry.

Liam Tullberg is currently working on his novel, Keeping You A Secret, and can be contacted through


Friday, June 06, 2008

Best Lesbian Erotica 08

Edited by Tristan Taormino
Selected by Ali Liebegott
Best Lesbian Erotica 08

Published by Cleis Press

Reviewed by Helena Lukowska

If only I had been able to get a hand on this book when I was sixteen. I didn’t know any queers at that age and had to rely on what I could imagine to satiate my hormones. Back then a girl-on-girl snog in Brookside was exciting, so this book would have blown my mind. In ‘Best Lesbian Erotica 08’ we meet geeky gender queers, femme tops, old skool butches, daddies, dommes, tranny boys, scruffy subs, fetishists of all kinds, vampires, lots of hot (consensual!) violence, a lot of silicone dick and all kinds of fun in-between.

The fact that I’m not sixteen anymore doesn’t detract from this being a really good compilation of stories. It’s just that these days I’m not as interested in written erotica and I have this sneering petulant streak that finds the phrase ‘Lesbian Erotica’ quite cringey and wants to find fault. Negative associations with the words ‘Lesbian Erotica’ are something editor Ali Liebegott herself addresses in the introduction. She describes her first time buying dyke erotica: a book of lesbian ‘erotic poems’ saturated with images of dolphins and mangoes. In a move that was surely dangerous, she recalls, ‘I remember trying to jerk off as I was driving home with my new book, but I was unable to find anything stimulating as I turned page after page’. But ‘Lesbian Erotica 08’ is queer as they come (cheesy ‘sensual’ cover notwithstanding) without sacrificing hot old skool dyke action and there are still many opportunities for single-handed pant-spunking even if you don’t usually read a lot of written erotica.

The fucking that goes on in this collection is not just fucking in the sex sense, but also fucking with notions of identity, expectation, gender, etc. In Tamai Kobayashi’s ‘Different Girls’ we get an exploration into what it means to be tough, shy or weak, and how these are really arbitrary categories. It’s a really sweet coming of age tale and raises one of many involuntary smiles when the shy protagonist checks out ‘what she’s done’ to her tough girl first-lover the morning after. In Radclyffe’s ‘Sweet No More’ a novice walks into an almost exclusively gay man sex club where you can’t move for piles of spunk, and watches a scene involving a skillful homo fister viewed from behind who turns out to be –gasp!- a dyke and pleasure pain pleasure fun ensues in the filthy surroundings. ‘Storm Chasers’ is one of the most compelling stories, set in the world of runaway, or ‘running around’, teenage Amish queers and climaxes in a hot four way ‘kidnap’ scene. Another personal favourite is ‘And the Stars Never Rise’ by Missy Leach which features a dorky gender queer photographer snooping around a femme top’s apartment only to be trapped, humiliated and punished in a highly erotic way. It’s also campy and warm and funny. Cheesy can be good sometimes.

OK, so there are the inevitable cringey moments but as a set of stories this is good. The range of stories means invariably the reader will like some things more than others and there will be a few not-so-hot/interesting/compelling moments. I guess Erotica is as subjective as any other literature. Also, this is obviously one to read ‘at your leisure’, dipping in and out as you see fit. Reading lots of different erotic stories in one go can get a bit wearing as you always have at least a vague idea of what is going to transpire!
Overall a really good collection of stories. Enjoy!

Helena Lukowska is a sometime writer, sometime dj, sometime performer and most of the time layabout, currently living in Brighton. She can be contacted at