Gerry B's Book Reviews

Undefeated Love, by John Simpson

Readily recomended for those who enjoy an adventure with their romance.

Story blurb: Two young men fall in love just as the Nazi Party is coming into power in Germany. One man is talked into becoming involved with the S.A., and then the SS while his lover looks on horrified. When their love is discovered, both men become the victims of the institution that one of them helped protect.

Available in eBook format.

About the author: John Simpson, a Vietnam-era Veteran, has been a uniformed Police Officer of the Year, a federal agent, a federal magistrate, and an armed bodyguard to royalty and a senior government executive. He earned awards from the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury. John has written articles for various gay and straight magazines. John lives with his partner of 35 years and three wonderful Scott Terriers, all spoiled and a breed of canine family member that is unique in dogdom. John is also involved with the Old Catholic Church and its liberal pastoral positions on the gay community.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Until I serendipitously came across “Undefeated Love,” by John Simpson [Total-E-Bound, 2011], I hadn’t previously encountered a novel about WWII from a Nazi perspective; and definitely not a gay-Nazi perspective.

To set-up this unusual scenario, the author begins with life in pre-war Berlin(1930s); a sort of avant garde society captured dramatically by the 1966, Broadway production of “Cabaret,” a musical based on a book written by Christopher Isherwood [starring Jill Haworth—Sal Mineo’s romantic opposite—and Joel Grey], which had some barely-concealed, homosexual undertones.

From there the author gradually introduces Naziism by way of some high-ranking, sexually ambivalent SA officers (Sturmabteilung“Stormtroopers” or “Brown shirts”), the precursors to the dreaded SS-(Schutzstaffel – “Protection Squadron”), and the ambitious but well-intentioned ingénue, Kurt. He is endowed with such outstanding, ‘poster-boy’ looks that he not only attracts the attnetion of the SA officers, but also captures the heart of another young man named Stefan.

Stefan is in love with Kurt, and vice versa, but the ambitious side of Kurt sees security in the SA, and so accepts the invitation to join the staff of a SA officer with the much elevated rank of Colonel. It is a step into quicksand, of course, and with each new event Kurt is drawn ever deeper into the morass. The problem being that Stefan is inevitably drawn into the sinkhole as well, and in order to protect him Kurt is eventually forced to reveal his hidden love.

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I am only generally acquainted with Hitler’s rise to power, but I do know that it was gradual and insidious—similar to the way the author has preInted it. In Simpson’s story, each event leads to the next with a sort of sinister intent, and this—along with his well-researched knowledge of the times—gives the story the degree of credibility necessary to pull it off.

I thought the violence was handled well, too. The difficulty of setting a story in the Nazi camp is to go overboard with the brutality, but Simpson has maintained a balance between glossing-it-over and sensationalizing it. Moreover, the real violence came at a later date from this story.

The characters, Kurt and Stefan, are well developed and likable, and the same can be said about their relationship, but I didn’t share the portrayal of the Nazi officers to the same extent. It wasn’t a serious flaw, and I can’t think of how I would have treated them differently, but they all seemed just a little off the mark.

There was room for a bit more drama at the ending, too, but only by a notch. Otherwise, I have no hesitation in recommending this story to those who enjoy a love story set against a despairing background. Four Gerry Bees.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 15,487

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If you haven’t done so already, drop by Charlie Cochrane’s Live Journal and read my interview with her. http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com/143455.html. Charlie is the author of the very popular Cambridge Fellows Mysteries Series.

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Good ole Nor All Thy Tears is still hanging-in at #11 out of 67,000 books on the Barnes and Noble’s “Romantic Fiction” list—with Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts.

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To order it and Two Irish Lands, click on the individual covers below. Both are available in Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

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October 30, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | 1 Comment

Park Dwellers, by Mal Tempo and Nathan Scott

An interesting idea, but otherwise it leaves a lot to be desired

Blurb: Public cruising across America remains the least discussed of all gay activities. Meeting in public parks is for many gay men perfect for twenty minutes of fantasy and fun. Interviewing dozens and dozens of men over three years, the authors compiled a series of profiles of park users and cruisers with a focus on sexual habits, strange sights, and their success in pursuing this unique American fantasy. Men have come to public parks, creating a secret society of gay cruisers thriving for centuries. These stories are true. If the tales seem familiar, you must remember that they have been told many times.”

Available in eBook format – 555 KB.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Park Dwellers by Mal Tempo and Nathan Scott [Long Time Ago Press, 2010] is an interesting idea, but otherwise it leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, the blurb suggests that this is a “series of profiles” based on interviews from “across America”, but it is, in fact, based on one park somewhere in United States, and consists primarily of observations that are neither in-depth, nor particularly unique—except for the idiosyncrasies of the individuals described.

Indeed, as a gay man it comes as no surprise that public parks are used for cruising, and also for furtive, impersonal sexual encounters, but what I would like to have known (from the interviews) is the psychology of park cruisers—i.e. not just the methodology. Is this their only form of socio-sexual activity, or is it merely one segment of it? And why?

Alas, for me Park Dwellersfalls short in just about every category I could have hoped for. It is too superficial to be a study, too shallow to provide any meaningful profiles, and worse, by not making clear that park cruisers are a miniscule part of GLBT society, it perpetuates the myth that gays are a ‘slutty’ lot with only one focus in life.

Journalistically, the syntax and writing are solid enough, but the overuse of clichés, metaphors and campy phrases gives it a gossipy overtone. This is also accentuated by the less-than-complimentary pseudonyms assigned to the various denizens, i.e. “Quasimodo,” “The Frog Prince,” and “Winnie the Poo-Poo.”  Moreover, although it is the responsibility of the publisher, the formatting truncates sentences and runs paragraphs together in a difficult-to-read manner.

As I have said above, Park Dwellersis an interesting idea, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Two Gerry Bees.

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Gerry Burnie-Books
I’m excited–and that doesn’t happen very often at my age. However, my interview with Charlie Cochrane (“Cambridge Fellows Mystery Series”) is published today. Do drop around and share our thoughts. http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com/143455.html

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I have added three, newly discovered vintage photographs to my Coming of Age on the Trail, Related Photos site. These are interesting photos from the 1890s era that illustrate various aspects of the story, along with a description. These photos are of interest in their own right. Check it out.

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To order any of my books, click on the individual cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are both available in Nook and Kindle formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 (exclusive of taxes where applied).

     

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October 23, 2011 Posted by | Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Symbiota Sapiens, by P.T. Dean

A tour de force of imagination

Story blurb: This is the story of Jeremey, a young man who is chosen by an ancient society to join their ranks to guide humanity to its destiny. Ancient technology and enhancements in his body can make him powerful, and immortal…but his new duties will require him to leave his friend Julian to fend for himself.

What happens when Jeremey and Julian run away from thefuture that has been planned for them? And what happens when other, less idealistic immortals take notice of Jeremey and begin making plans of their own?

This fanciful tale explores the nature of love, loyalty, and human nature as the two are caught between two factions in a silent struggle for the future of humankind. As they run, each time they fight for each other’s lives, they discover a deeper truth about their love for each other.

Available in Kindle format – 580 KB

About the author: P.T. Dean has a long established interest in speculative fiction, with a particular weakness for epic tales that wind several intricate plot lines together. Since coming out of the closet his stories have pulled on the paranoia and fear of his past, but also on the emotional richness of his own relationship. His romantic subplots also draw from his personal experience, and have covered a spectrum from overt heterosexuality with homoerotic overtones to explicit same-sex passion. His rule of thumb is that every character, no matter how minor, is the protagonist of some novel somewhere. A little piece of that novel should show through whenever that character makes an appearance. Even the villains are the hero from their own perspective – if you hadn’t already fallen in love with the protagonist, you might want the villain to win instead. Bibrary Book Lust

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Review by Gerry Burnie

“Symbiota Sapiens” [Amazon Digital Services, 2011] is the epic debut novel of author P.T. Dean. It is an ambitious work to cut one’s teeth on, but Dean does a remarkable job of just that with only a few exceptions.

The story line is a complex one, almost as if the author was challenging himself, but I never had a problem following it throughout. He also uses some literary devices I have never come across before, i.e. the use of italics, bold face and regular type, to differentiate between the various voices. It is an unorthodox method—at least it is to me—but it worked.

The premise is that Jeremy has been chosen by a mysterious clan of ‘immortals’, survivors of the lost city of Atlantis, who style themselves “Guardians.” It is never made quite clear why Jeremy is chosen, but this is only a minor issue. Jeremy is then told that he must divest himself from all mortal connections, including his orphaned step-brother, Julian. However, having been Julian’s de facto guardian for several years, Jeremy refuses to do this and they both run away to New York.

The Guardians also have counterparts, known as the “Fallen”, who possess the same powers as the Guardians but use it for cross purposes. Jeremy and Julian find this out when they encounter the leader of this faction, a smooth-talking but sinister character by the name of Damion, and only escape with the help of the Guardians. However, they are then pursued by Damion’s minions, zombie-like characters called “autonoids”, who are trying to get at Jeremy through Julian.

P.T. Dean also unfolds a fantasmagorical array of technological gadgetry, including a super computer known as an “A1” that operates both internally and externally inside Jeremy’s head. It is also assisted by a veritable host of microscopic “caretakers” known as “Esserons”, that can cure any ailment or injury that befalls him.

In that regard, this story challenges the 1970s all-time zany “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. However, while Hitchhiker’s Guide was written as a spoof, “Symbiota Sapiens is a serious adventure and love story with zany overtones.

Journalistically the writing is solid throughout, and Dean’s handling of some very complex scenarios is masterful. However, there are some continuity problems. For example, in one scene Julian is kidnapped by a pair of autonoids using a stun gun. At the time Julian had been using his laptop computer in a cyber-café, and when Jeremy finds him missing he immediately takes off in hot pursuit, rescuing Julian and running (at a record pace) until they are well away from the area. They then take a hotel room where Julian continues to work on his computer. However, as far as the reader knows it is still back at the cyber café.

This oversight didn’t interfere with the over all enjoyment of the story, but I can’t call it perfect, either. I can recommend it as a highly original story, though, and if you are a sci-fi fan I think that you will enjoy this one. Four Gerry Bees.

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Visitor count to Gerry B” Book Reviews – 14,858

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I have added three, newly discovered vintage photographs to my Coming of Age on the Trail, Related Photos site. These are photos from the 1890s era that illustrate various aspects of the story, along with a description. These photos are of interest in their own right. Check it out.

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 To order any of my books, click on the individual cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in Kindle and Nood formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95, exclusive of exchange and tax where applicable.

     

Thanks for dropping by!

October 16, 2011 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

No Apologies, by J.M. Snyder

“No Apologies” requires no apologies.

 

Story blurb: Donnie Novak and Jack Sterling have known each other forever. Growing up together in a small Midwestern town, they were best friends. After high school, they both enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the same time, and somehow were assigned to the same company before being stationed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma together.

One night on leave, Donnie crosses an almost imperceptible line between friendship and something more. A stolen kiss threatens to ruin what Donnie and Jack have built up together all these years, and the next morning, he can’t apologize enough.

But a squadron of Japanese bombers has their sights trained on Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row, and in the early hours of December 7, 1941, Donnie might not get a chance to set things right.

About the author: An author of gay erotic/romantic fiction, J.M. Snyder began in self-publishing and now works with Amber Allure, Aspen Mountain, eXcessica, and Torquere Presses.

Snyder’s highly erotic short gay fiction has been published online at Amazon Shorts, Eros Monthly, Ruthie’s Club, and Tit-Elation, as well as in anthologies by Alyson Books, Aspen Mountain, Cleis Press, eXcessica Publishing, Lethe Press, and Ravenous Romance.

In 2010, Snyder founded JMS Books LLC, a royalty-paying queer small press that publishes in both electronic and print format. For more information on newest releases and submission guidelines, please visit JMS Books LLC online.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ah, young love!

“No Apologies” by J.M. Snyder, [JMS Books LLC, 2011], is a gem of a short story that captures the heart and attention right from the start. I would even go so far as to suggest that almost every gay male will be able to identify with this story from personal experience; i.e. that one buddy you fell in love with early, but didn’t know if he ‘swung that way.’ To make matters worse, he didn’t know either, and so each touch was like a prayer leading to disappointment. And then came that inevitable occasion when you crossed the line, in Donnie and Jack’s case with a furtive, liquor induced kiss, and so began the panic of losing a cherished friend on account of it.

We’ve all been there, and it is made even worse if the next morning your friend and soul mate—your hoped-for ‘lover’, even—isn’t talking or seems distant. Then the heart rending really begins, along with the guilt and the desperate attempts to make it right.

J.M. Snyder has not only captured this bittersweet situation, but he has also maintained it throughout the story until the very last paragraph. Along the way this reader was on tenterhooks wondering if young love would prevail, or if they would even survive the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbour—which was going on at the same time.

No Apologiesrequires no apologies. It is a tender love story set against the obscenity of war in a paradise. Five Bs

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 14,468 (up 421 visits over last week).

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If you are a Canadian author of gay fiction, I’d love to hear from you. Submit your book for a review, or add it to my “Best Gay Canadian Fiction” list on Goodreads.

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If you have read a Canadian content book (any genre), and woud like to add it to my “Proudly Canadian” list, I’d love to welcome your input.

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To order any of my books, click on the individual covers below. Nor All Thy Tears and Two Irish Lads are now available in Nook and Kindle formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 (not including exchange and taxes where applicable).

     

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. by Johathan Katz

October is GLBT History Month, and in commemoration of this occasion I offer what I consider to be the quintessential history of Gays and Lesbians in North America.

This book should be the Bible of not only the past, but also the present and the future—as in “we’ve prevailed in spite of all.”

Publisher’s blurb: Unique among books about Gay people, this pioneer work brings together for the first time a large group of historical chronicles of American Lesbian and Gay life, coupled with the heterosexual attitudes of the era. Intended for an audience of all sexual persuasions, these selections reflect a new, historical view of this once-silent invisible minority and a dramatic reappraisal of American life, from Alexander Hamilton’s love letters to John Laurens, to the forgotten autobiography and insane asylum records of a feminist transvestite of the 19th century, to lesbianism in the life of blues great Bessie Smith, and to the present in a 1976 report of the Gay liberation organization of American Indians.

About the author: Katz taught as an adjunct at Yale University, Eugene Lang College, and New York University, and was the convener of a faculty seminar at Princeton University. He is a founding member of the Gay Academic Union in 1973 and the National Writers Union in 1980. He was the initiator and is the director of OutHistory.org, a site devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, (LGBTQ) and heterosexual history, that went online in September 2008, and is produced by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, an institute at the City University of New York Graduate Center, under a grant from the Arcus Foundation.

Katz received the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Sex Research from the German Society for Social-Scientific Sexuality Research in 1997. In 2003, he was given Yale University’s Brudner Prize, an annual honor recognizing scholarly contributions in the field of lesbian and gay studies. His papers are collected by the manuscript division of The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library.

Review by Gerry Burnie

We have been the silent minority, the silenced minority—invisible women, invisible men. Early on, the alleged enormity of our “sin” justified the denial of our existence, even our physical destruction” p1. So begins noted sexual historian, Professor Johnathan Katz, in his seminal “collection of turbulent chronicles,” Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. [Plume; Rev Sub edition (April 1, 1992)].

He then goes on to add to this lamentable observation:

During the four hundred years documented here, American homosexuals were condemned to death by chocking, burning, drowning; they were executed, jailed, pilloried, fined, court-martialed, prostituted, fired, framed, blackmailed, disinherited, declared insane, driven to insanity, to suicide, murder, and self-hate, witch-hunted, entrapped, stereotyped, mocked, insulted, isolated, pities, castigated and despised.(They were also castrated, lobotomized, shock-treated, and psychoanalyzed…) Homosexuals and their behavior were characterized by the terms “abomination,” “crime against nature,” “sin,” “monsters,” “fairies,” “bull dykes,” and “perverts.”p17.

Professor Katz then goes on to document every word of these in a 720-page, annotated thesis, which—quite astoundingly for such a scholarly work—remains immensely readable.

For example, there is the chronicle of the earliest known case of a homosexual being put to death in America, that of Frenchman Gonzalo Solís de Merás, murdered in St. Augustine, Florida [my winter home], in 1566.  Also, The execution of Richard Cornish for sodomy in Colonial America, 1624; and of William Plaine in 1646. There is also a record a Black man, Jan Ceoli, living on Manhattan Island, who was condemned to be “choked to death, and then burned to ashes.” In the same Dutch New Netherland Colony, Jan Quisthout Van Der Linde was sentenced to be “tied in a sack and cast into the river” for a homosexual rape.

An early report, 1824-26, identifies homosexuality in American prisons, and concerns “prostitution” of “juvenile delinquents” with older male prisoners.  Male prostitution is also prominently mentioned in a report, dating 1892, documenting the homosexual underworld in American cities. These reports also include descriptions of Black male homosexual transvestites, homosexual activity at steam baths, newspaper solicitations, and street life.

There are also early reports of a civil servant being discharged: a New York policeman, for making improper advances on other males while on duty (1846), and of a minister separated from the church for homosexual activity (1866). The clergyman was Horatio Alger.

In 1896, the family of a wealthy businessman, Henry Palmer, petitioned the court to have Palmer declared mentally incompetent on account of his homosexuality, and although a prominent doctor testified to his “absolute certainty of Palmer’s sanity,” the court found him “insane,” anyway.

Lesbians didn’t seem to fare any better, for in 1636 John Cotton made a proposal to the Massachusetts Bay Colony that homosexual relations between women be placed on par with male homosexuality as a capital offence. In 1656 the New Haven Colony passed a law prescribing the death penalty for lesbianism, as well as male homosexuality.

Professor Katz has also dedicated a significant portion of his scholarly work to Native Americans. One of the earliest reports, dated 1528-36, states:

During the time that I was thus among these people I saw a devilish thing, and it is that I saw one man married to another, and these are impotent, effeminate men [amarionados]and they go about dressed as women, and do women’s tasks, and shoot with a bow, and carry great burdens,…and they are huskier than the other men, and taller…”p430

Another report, dated 1673-77, reads:

I know not through what superstition some Illinois, as well as Nadouessi, while still young, assume the garb of women, and retain it throughout their lives. There is some mystery in this, for they never marry and glory in demeaning themselves to do everything that the women do. They go to war, however, but can use only clubs, and not bows and arrows, which are the weapons proper to men. They are present at all the juggleries, and at the solemn dances in honor of the Calumet; at these they sing, but not dance. They are summoned to their Councils and nothing can be decided without their advice. Finally, through their profession of leading an extraordinary life, they pass as Manitous,–That is to say, for Spirits,–or persons of consequence.p.433

Moreover, an 1889 report by Dr. A.B. Holder, describes “A Peculiar Sexual Perversion,” i.e.:

The word bō-teˊ I have chosen as being most familiar to me and not likely to convey a wrong impression, since I shall be the first, perhaps, to translate into English and define it. It is the word use by the Absaroke Indians of Montana, and literally mans “not man, no woman.”…

“The practice of the bote among civilized races is not unknown to specialists, but no name is suited to ears of polite, even though professional, has been given it. The practice is to produce the sexual orgasm by taking the male organ of the active party in the lips of the bote, the bote probably experiencing the orgasm at the same time. Of the latter supposition I have been able to satisfy, but I can in no other way account for the infatuation of the act.”

My comments

Among the monumental, literary works of history, Jonathon Katz can rightfully take his place. Or, as another reviewer has already put it, “Jonathan Katz would be sainted if he never wrote another word or produced another bit of research.”[1]

This documentary history is utterly astonishing for the amount of research it implies, the documented stories it tells, the humanity it describes, and for the easy-to-read journalism in which it is presented. Among the GLBT communities, this book should be the Bible of not only the past, but also the present and the future—as in “we’ve prevailed in spite of all.” Five Stars—plus.


[1] B. J. Wilson, Amazon.com.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Boom Reviews – 14,047

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Rewrites to Coming of Age on the Trail 129/177 pages.

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To order any of my books, click on the individual covers below. Nor All Thy Tears and Two Irish Lads are now available in Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price $4.95 (tax and exchange not included), but prices may vary from retailer to retailer.

     

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October 2, 2011 Posted by | Gay documentary, Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction, Two spirits | Leave a comment

   

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