Last Gasp Anthology (incl. Erastes, Jordan Taylor, Charlie Cochrane, Chris Smith)
Reviews by Gerry Burnie
Overall this is a delightful read. Bite-sized nuggets covering some of most evocative periods in history, and the characters to match. Apart from Erastes, however, I am not immediately familiar with Jordan Taylor, Charlie Cochrane or Chris Smith, but their introductions have been admirable as well as memorable; the writings are of a very high standard throughout, the individual stories are well developed—as are the characters—and the pace is progressive and steady.
Highly recommended as the ideal book to take along on your vacation.
Tributary by Erastes
Publishers Blurb: It’s 1936 and a generation of disaffected youth waits in the space between a war that destroyed many of their friends and family, and a war they know is bound to come. Guy Mason wanders through Italy, bored and restless for reasons he can’t even name, and stops at the Hotel Vista, high in the mountains of Lombardy. There, he meets scientist James Calloway and his secretary, Louis Chambers, and it’s there that the meandering stream of Guy’s life changes course forever.
Gery B’s Review: This story reads like an art-deco illustration—clean lines and decorated with beautiful people. It is 1930s-British to the core–sort of a ‘grand tour’ of distant lands while hauling along English-middleclass standards like a tortoise’s shell.
Guy Mason is this aloof, British middleclass traveler in a foreign land (Italy), but who still insists on dressing for dinner and having his English beer. A sense of honour is very high on the priority list as well, and having seen active service in the “Great War” (WWI) is the standard. After all, this is the era of the “Order of The White Feather”—the organization aimed at coercing men to enlist in the British Army by persuading women to present them with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform. Guy Mason served his time shuffling papers at Whitehall, but he nonetheless earned the title of Captain. Unfortunately Louis Chambers was too young to have served, and this almost destroys a relationship with Mason.
Enough said, except that this story is a faithful reproduction of a nostalgic era, featuring and adherence to style and grace that—regretfully—is gone forever.
The White Empire by Chris Smith
Publisher’s Blurb: Edgar Vaughan sincerely believes that six-thousand miles is enough to give him a fresh start. Escaping in 1838 from the drawing rooms of Belgravia and the constraints of his landed family, he takes up missionary work in the trading post of Hong Kong. On arrival, he finds the region on the cusp of war; the Chinese Emperor has outlawed the importation of opium — the key link in the trade of the East India Company. Between Edgar’s sense of isolation, the sight of the puling opium addicts, and one memorable encounter with a man in a peacock waistcoat, Edgar finds himself embroiled in the very marrow of the British Empire’s machinations. He finds himself torn between espousing the expeditious whilst protecting his new acquaintance, and doing what is right and risking the wrath of the British Empire.
Gerry B’s Review: This is yet another faithfully recreated tale of the Britains in a foreign land; somewhat darker than the previous story, however, for this is a period of imperial history that does not reflect well on The Empire—Good Queen Victoria notwithstanding. Nevertheless, it should be seen—as the author has implied—in a context when capitalism, the monarchy and imperial government were virtually the same forces, and very often the same people.
Albeit, Chris Smith has ably captured the atmosphere to a “T”, as well as the arrogance that accompanied white, British middleclass arrivals in their relationships with native nationals all over the world. Moreover, this period of Chinese history is particularly interesting, for the “Opium Wars,” as they become known, (1839-1842, 1856-1860), were the beginning of the end of Chinese culture and domestic order. Being set in the year before (1838) this story effectively tells us why.
Sand by Charlie Cochrane
Publisher’s blurb: “Safe upon solid rock the ugly houses stand: Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand.”
People come to Syria for many reasons; tourism, archaeology, or because they need to leave Edwardian England to escape potential disgrace. Andrew Parks is one of those, burying past heartache and scandal among the tombs.
Charles Cusiter has travelled here as well, as chaperone to a friend whose fondness for the opposite sex gets him into too much trouble at home. Out in the desert there aren’t any women to turn Bernard’s head – just the ubiquitous sand.
The desert works its magic on Charles, softening his heart and drawing him towards Andrew. Not even a potentially fatal scorpion sting can overcome the power this strange land exerts.
Gerry B’s Review: This is a delightful story of evolving love that flows like the waves marking the sands of the Syrian desert. It has tension, yes, but mostly it is about love—period.
Superbly written, the setting is colourful; the characters are well-developed and interesting, and story leaves you with a nice, warm afterglow.
The Ninth Language by Jordan Taylor
Publisher’s blurb: Thousands of outsiders descend on Canada’s Yukon Territory during the 1898 gold rush, wreaking havoc on the landscape and the indigenous people who live there. Amid the backdrop of this once pristine land, a man struggling against the destruction of his home and culture finds himself indebted to one of the men causing it. These two strangers discover solace and wholeness where they least expect it: each other.
Gerry B’s Review: I read this story with particular interest, for it is set in the same era and setting as my forthcoming novel—i.e. 1898 in the Yukon Territory. My story also includes some Natives of the Dene Tha´ tribe, so it was interesting to see how the author dealt with this topic.
I found her approach to the story quite believable, although I found Mitsrii’s vocabulary just a bit too articulate for his background; however, it is the message that this character is meant to convey that is the more important to the reader. Moreover, some of the ideas and beliefs are too complex for a broken-English dialogue.
I also appreciated it for the Canadian content.
See a list of all the titles and authors reviewed to date.
See a preview of my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail: An M/M adventure and romance.