Gerry B's Book Reviews

Good People, by Steven K Meyers

A Snappy story with madcap characters and superb dialogue

Good People tells the story of Rex Black and the circle of his friends and employees who chase his dream of transforming his Upper East Side comedy club into a global brand. Fast and funny, incisive and heartfelt, Good People sums up, in the tradition of Theodore Dreiser, an entire American era of greed and unreal ambition.

Steven K. Meyers, born on a farm in western Colorado, became underbutler of Caramoor, the great Westchester County estate, at 17. Later he graduated from City College of New York (Ward Medal in Greek) and worked in the comedy club business at its 1980s height. He now lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

This has been a Steven K Meyers week. Between eye surgery and lab tests I read three different stories by this author; this one, i.e. Good People [Booklocker, 2010], plus Two Short Stories [to be published at a later date], e.g. “The Man Who Owns New York” and “Springtime in Siena.” Three quite different stories. I get the impression, therefore, that this writer writes as an academic exercise, and is not adverse to literary experimentation. But more about that later.

Good People is the most mainstream of the three, if “mainstream” can describe a story about a handful of eccentric (oddball) characters thrown together in a madcap scenario.

Hoping not to overlook any one of them we find Rex Black, a sleazy promoter trying to finagle an IPO—by hook or by crook—for a chain of comedy clubs á la “Catch a Rising Star,” which, according to Wikipedia – “[The] satiric novel, Good People, by Steven K. Meyers, captures the ethos of the original club in the 1980’s;” Michael, the long-suffering office manager—basically good but a little ‘shady’ himself, who is partnered in a more-or-less sexless relationship with Conor, a very talented general manager and sexual opportunist of the zip-ram-bam variety. On the distaff side we have Rosetta Stone (you just have to love that name!) who is clawing—and sucking—her way into becoming a headliner; Perri, Black’s worldly assistant—barfing every morning because she is pregnant, out of wedlock of course; and Ashley the wealthy heiress with the scatter-brained room mate, about whom she constantly complaining but refuses to boot out. These make up the principal cast.

I’ve left a few minor characters out, like Siggy the financial finagler, but you get the idea. These are all distinct and well developed; however, probably the most outstanding quality is the dialogue, which iscrisp and rapid fire.

The benefit of reading three different stories is that it gives me an overview of the author’s writing—not complete of course, but an overview nonetheless, and as I alluded above there is something academic about them all. The sentence and paragraph structure are textbook examples of the craft, and the plots are all cleaver, but there is also an academic absence of emotion. The characters interact, but for the most part it is an arm’s length relationship. The other quibble I have is regarding the switching of topics without notice, i.e. the topic is Michael, and the next paragraph is about Conor’s background.

Having said this, it’s a snappy story packed with wonderfully madcap characters and superb dialogue. Enthusiastically recommended. Four stars.

News

 

The reworked manuscript of Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is now complete, and it should go to the publisher next week. To read an excerpt, click here.

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That will allow me to get back to my new novel, The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia. Here is the Story blurb, and if you are interested in reading an excerpt, it is posted on my blog: www.gerryburniebooks.wordpress.com

Young Charles Dempster Noseworthy was a charmingly-naïve Englishman who immigrated to Canada in the summer of 1860. Fortunately for posterity, he kept a personal journal of his adventures from the day he arrived, and later consolidated some fifty years of these entries into a manuscript that was never published; quite likely because of the forbidden sexual content.

When he eventually died in 1915 he willed his Alberta ranch, “Meftidy” (a derivative of mephitidae—the Latin classification for skunks) to a distant cousin in England. Unwilling to make the long journey to Canada, however, this cousin simply retained an agent to sell the ranch and all but a few of Charles’ personal possessions. Notice of this auction contained quite an extensive list of items for sale, including one described as “sundry books and papers to be offered as one parcel lot.”

One can only assume that the journals and manuscript were included in this lot, for these eventually ended up here in Ontario where I purchased them at the estate sale of an elderly Canadiana collector in the 1960s. Several journals were missing, but the manuscript was still in tact. It was apparent however that the references to homosexuality, which remained a criminal offense in Canada until 1971, made it almost impossible to publish even then. Because of this I set it aside with a vow that I would see it published one day as a tribute to Charles and his longtime lover, Jesse Arnold Ketchum—a.k.a. “Kid Cupid.”

The third character in The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia is a charming little miss of the mephitidae family, i.e. “Petunia the skunk.” Watch for it.

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 10,925

 

May 29, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

The Soldier of Raetia: Valerian’s Legion, by Heather Domin

This stoy builds gradually like an orgasm, and climaxes nicely too

 

 

Rome, 10BC. New soldier Manilus Dardanus is sent to apprentice under General Cassius Valerian in the hope of securing a military sponsorship. Dardanus is idealistic and naive, Valerian brusque and restrained – but each soon discovers the other is not what he expected. In the legion Dardanus finds purpose and strength; in Dardanus, Valerian finds hope. This bond will be tested on the northern frontier, as Valerian and Dardanus each realize the true nature of their connection just as war and betrayal threaten to end it – and possibly their lives.

Available in soft cover & Kindle formats (542KB)

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although my specialty is Canadian history, I have a great appreciation for all history, and I certainly bow to Heather Domin’s knowledge of Augustinian Rome, as demonstrated in “The Soldier of Raetia: Valerian’s Legion.

I also like her writing style. She provides just the right amount of description to make both characters and settings vivid without slowing the pace. The characters are also well developed and distinctive although I did find Elurius and Pertinax somewhat similar in nature. This applies to their respective relationships with Dardanus and Valerian, as well. The author has also made very good use of dialogue (very credible), without being contrived.  What I liked most, however, was that the story builds to a climax gradually—like an orgasm—and the climax was gratifying.

The synopsis of the story is that young Manilus Dardanus has come to Rome at his father’s insisstance. The father has arranged an introduction to the wealthy and illustrious general Marcus Cassius Valerian, who commands Augustus Caesar’s twenty-fourth legion. Crusty General Valerian is hardened by battle and tragedies of the past, and at first assumes that Dardanus is like the other sons of sycophants who have sought his favour—i.e. with the idea of an adoption in mind. Despite these reservations, valerian gives him a place within his household and arranges for him to be trained as a soldier. Theirs is an awkward relationship, but in spite of this they both undergo significant changes; Valarian re-discovers deeply buried emotions within himself, and Dardanus grows from a callow boy to a self-sufficient man. He also discovers friendships bonded from hard work and the heat of battle, as well as loyalty asa soldier and for his idol, Valerian.

Having said all that, I had some minor reservations. I certainly bow to Ms Domin’s knowledge of Roman history, but did they travel in carriages (I mean the four-wheel variety) is 10BC Rome? I don’t know, but it seemed at little ‘modern’ to me. Their were some other anachronisms aswell, For example, the phrases “working his ass off,” and “Cut them off at the pass,” also seem a bit modern. However, these certainly didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.

Highly recommended. Four and one-half stars.

News: Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews is currently 10,656

The rewrites of Nor All Thy Tears are progressing:137/191. To read an excerpt, click here.

A bittersweet story of love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of Big Sky, Saskatchewan.

(Soon to released as Nor All Thy Tears, July, 2011)

Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician, with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all this the sky seems seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad from small-town Ontario, Canada.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an an ex-con, whose body has been recently found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated, and the stage is set for a political crisis of headling-grabbing proportions. 

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | Leave a comment

My apologies…

I’m late this week, and I do apologize. It has been one of those weeks with a tragic death in the family, and preparing for eye surgery on Tuesday have both kept my thoughts elsewhere. However, I have an exciting new novel, The Soldier of Raetia, to tell you about, tomorrow. So do drop back. 

Gerry B.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Falling Ascent of Adrian Loft, a novella by T.L. Peters

An intriguing story line that will leave you thinking

 

 

 

Story blurb: Adrian Loft sees a strange “vision” ordering him to do something that may subject him to vicious public ridicule and perhaps ruin his career and even his life.  Adrian tries desperately to write off the vision as some psychic quirk, but things keep happening to him, things he can’t ignore. Soon Adrian embarks on a journey that will forever change his life, and perhaps yours too.

Available in Kindle and Nook ebook formats – 148kb, 120 pages.

About the Author: T.L.Peters is an ex-lawyer who enjoys playing Bluegrass Fiddle and giving his dog long walks in the woods. In between he writes novels.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Note: This is not a GLBT story.

I usually don’t review non-GLBT novels, but when I received a request to review The Falling Ascent of Dorian Loft, by T.L. Peters [T.L. Peters; First edition, 2011], I was so fascinated with the title that I had to agree.

There are a lot of good things to be said about this novella-sized story. Journalistically speaking, T. L. Peters has an interesting writing style; very precise, and with a range of vocabulary that one doesn’t generally find in fiction—i.e. “His glandular system was simply responding to powerful internal stimuli.”117, and “There was, of course, another ready explanation, as there almost always was, at least in Adrian’s narrow world of caveats and sine qua nons.” 10.  Moreover the characters are vivid and well-defined—if not particularly likable—and the setting is equally vivid. So there is no question that Peters is a master wordsmith—as most lawyers are.

The basic premise of the story is that Adrian Loft, a lawyer with the firm Grim and Dire [you just have to love that name], receives a very detailed vision instructing him to go to a certain public location where he will find a book lying on a rusty manhole cover. There, he is to read a certain lengthy passage aloud to strangers. After much hesitation, reflection, rationalization and procrastination (about 50-pages worth) he finally does, and finds a copy of the King James’ version of the Bible, and the passage is the book of “Numbers” where God instructs Moses following the exodus from Egypt.

Altogether the process of fulfilling the instructions takes about three months to complete, during which time some incredible things happen in Loft’s life—such as getting arrested and ending up in jail—but in the end his life is dramatically changed from the anaemic, dusty nerd he is portrayed to be, to … Ah, but that would be a spoiler.

As a read, The Falling Ascent of Adrian Loft is ‘interesting,’ and throughout it I couldn’t help thinking it was written with tongue-in-cheek. I have never received a vision myself, but generally speaking they are more mystical than:

Hurry down to the corner of State and Main, between Jake’s Tavern and the whorehouse masquerading as a jazz club, and pick up the black leather bound book lying on the rusted manhole cover, open it to page 126 and read aloud in a strong voice the text beginning at chapter 1. Continue reading until you come to the end of the passage on page 171. If you finish the entire assignment, place the book back onto the manhole cover and your task is complete. If for any reason you are unable to finish, take the book with you and complete the assignment later, either all at once or in installments. Remember that you must read the text aloud in a strong voice in the presence of strangers. When you have read the entire passage in this way, return the book to the manhole cover. Your job is done. Do not be alarmed. You are, after all, a halfway decent lawyer. You can do this. It is really not all that hard.”pg1.

It is almost as if the author is saying, “Look, you’re not going to believe this, but…”

The other thing that makes me think the author is telling this story with a wink is his healthy deprecation of the legal profession, and until I learned he was an ex-lawyer I had my suspicions he might be. So, if read with this understanding in mind the over-the-top plot becomes a amusement.

However … I did have some issues with his story telling. Having variously been a professor of law, politician and magistrate, I well-know the strategy of, “If you can’t outfox them outtalk them,” from both sides of the situation, and I fear that Mr. Peters’ circumlocution-style of writing has ‘talked’ himself out of a top rating. In short, it rambles insufferably.

As I used to tell the lawyers who came before me, “Yes, Yes, that’s all very nice, but what does it have to do with the case? So let’s get on with it,” and I found myself saying this several times while reading this story. I mean, going on for pages about a chili dog or other various and sundry side-issues–as well-written as these might have been–became a frustration after a while.

In short, T. L. Stevens is a very capable writer with a sly sense of humour (which I like), and so I say have a read and judge for yourself. Recommended.  Three and one-half stars.

 

News: This past week I received a preliminary inquiry from a motion picture company regarding the adaptation of Two Irish Lads as a screen play. As I said it’s preliminary, but the lads and I are all excited. May the luck of the Irish prevail.

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The current visitor count to Gerry B’s Book reviews is 10,407

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The reworking of Journey to Big Sky to Nor All Thy Tears is coming along well (105/191 pages) and I’m pleased with it. It really is a good story, with lots of drama and pathos, and I think you’re really going to enjoy it. It should be ready for a July release, but in the meantime you can take a peek at Part 1 by clicking right here.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Fiction | Leave a comment

Song on the Sand, a short story by Ruth Sims

A 24-carat nugget of a story, and highly recommended.

 

 

Story blurb: Tony Dalby finds himself on the wrong end of his 80s, confined to a nursing home, with his days as a dancer a thing of the past. The appearance of Drew into his life brings a welcome distraction, as well as a bit of mystery as to why Drew constantly visits the wheelchair-bound, comatose Jesse. As secrets are revealed, Dalby finds he may have a renewed purpose for living after all.

Kindle edition, 44KB (19 pages).

About the author: Ruth Sims has lived her entire life in small town Mid-America, surrounded by corn, wheat, and soybean fields. Like Emily Dickinson she has never seen a Moor and has never seen the Sea, but she’s seen plenty of silos, Amish buggies, whitetails, and amber waves of grain. She’s the wife of one and mother of two … or vice versa. She gets a little confused by the rush of living.

Though many years past schooldays, her education is continuous and far-ranging, with interests running the gamut from Shakespeare to awful puns and limericks; from criminal psychology to the science of baking towering chocolate cakes and artisan bread. Her special love of theatre (as reader and observer only) is apparent in The Phoenix. Her passion for classical and romantic music comes to life in Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story, published by Dreamspinner Press, July 2010. The Phoenix, originally published in 2004, was revised and republished by Lethe Press in 2009.

Though best known as a novelist, she is proud to have several short stories published.

Review by Gerry Burnie

As someone who knows, I’ve always said that a sure sign of getting old is when nearly every topic begins with, “I used to.” Ruth Sims has captured this regrettable fact remarkably well in her poignant short story, Song on the Sand [Untreed Reads, 2010]. In fact Tony Dalby and I share quite a few “I used tos.” I was a former dancer who now only walks with the aid of a walker.  I was also an actor and singer (who once played Curly in “Oklahoma”—like Jesse), so I could relate to Tony Dalby at a very personal level. However, unlike Dalby I have never developed a resentment for the loss of these abilities. That’s what makes Song on the Sand so poignant, though. Conflict and resolution, which Ms Sims weaves into the narrative with remarkable believability.

Tony Dalby is a somewhat bitter old man, irascible as well, confined to a wheelchair in an impersonal nursing home. He is in fact what we all fear about getting old; finding ourselves helpless, alone and lonely. Redemption is on the way, however, in the person of a handsome young stranger named Drew. He is a frequent visitor to the nursing home because his “cousin” Jesse is a comatose inmate—the victim of a hit-and-run. Drew befriends Tony and it is then revealed that Jesse (a former amateur actor and singer) is really Drew’s lover, but because same-sex relationships are not recognized as kin, Drew has had to fabricate a kinship in order to gain access to him.

The pathos of this situation begins to inspire Tony to help, and in fact gives him a reason to help himself. He therefore suggests a form of musical therapy by playing music from Broadway musicals, and one of these is Song on the Sand from “La Cage aux Folles,” in which Jesse and he have previously played the same role.

Will it work? Will Jesse respond? Those are questions that I will leave with you, but like me I think you will be as surprised with the answers.

This is a superbly written story about a topic we rarely see in GBLT literature, i.e. the elderly. Nevertheless those usually hot young things do get old, and I am so very pleased to see aging dealt with with such insight and understanding. Do read this story for several reasons. First—as I’ve already mentioned—because of the uniqueness of topic, and also for the masterful way inwhich Ms Sims has crafted it.

A 24-carat nugget of a story, and highly recommended. Five stars.

News: Earlier this week Gerry B’s Book Reviews welcomed its 10,000th vistor. Thank you all. I am humbled.

Read an excerpt from Nor All Thy Tears by Gerry Burnie, scheduled for release in hardcopy and e-book formats, July 2011.

A bittersweet story of love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of Big Sky, Saskatchewan.

Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician, with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all this the sky seems seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad from small-town Ontario, Canada.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an an ex-con whose body has been recently found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime, simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated, and the stage is set for a political crisis of destructive proportions.

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza, a short story by Ryan Field

The narrative reads like strawberries and cream.

 

 

 

Story blurb: Sometimes true love is in your own backyard, and you never would have guessed it was there. Handsome, young Kellan works too hard and doesn’t spend enough time meeting new men. Deep down, he’s an old-fashioned guy who believes in romance and true love. He’s tired of sex for the sake of sex and wonders about whether or not he’ll ever meet the man of his dreams and fall in love. Though he’s willing to put his heart on the line to start a new relationship, the men he’s been seeing aren’t interested. Until he finally comes in contact with a nice young guy he never expected to meet. They exchange a few e-mails, set up a date to meet in Central Park, and wind up spending a wonderful Sunday morning together that ends at The Plaza Hotel where they dine on strawberries and cream. After that, they discover a connection neither one of them could have predicted. And though they are extremely attracted to each other, Kellan is adamant about getting to know the man he’s falling in love with first before they jump into bed together.

Kindle edition: 127 KB (25 pages).

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Sometimes fate really does work in your favour … Well, in fiction, anyway. That’s the premise behind Ryan Field’s charming short story, Strawberries and Cream at the Plaza [loveyoudivine Alterotica, 2010], and it comes across quite delightfully.

The main character, Kellan—a free lance writer and first-person narrator—is given a writing assignment to review a blog authored by Jason Patriot. Impressed by what he sees he contacts the writer to set up an interview, choosing a neutral place to meet in Central Park. They meet, and as these things sometimes do, events progress to where Patriot invites Kellan—not to bed—but to the dining room of luxurious Plaza Hotel for strawberries and Cream.

To reveal more of the story line would be a bit of a spoiler, but I can say that the narrative flows like strawberries and cream, and the story is as tasteful as a sprinkle of sugar. If I have a quibble it would be that the ending is a bit truncated without a satisfying resolution.

Enthusiastically recommended for a short read. Four stars.

Proudly presenting the cover design for Two Irish Lads (electronic version) by Alex Beecroft. It will be released in July, along with Nor All Thy Tears: See below.

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Read an excerpt from Nor All Thy Tears by Gerry Burnie, scheduled for release in hardcopy and e-book formats, July 2011.

A bittersweet story of love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of Big Sky, Saskatchewan.

Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician, with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all this the sky seems seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad from small-town Ontario, Canada.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an an ex-con, whose body has been recently found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated, and the stage is set for a political crisis of headling-grabbing proportions.

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

   

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