Gerry B's Book Reviews

Lone Star Christmas, by William W. Johnstone

A  Western tale in the classic dime-store-novel style.

Story blurb: Smoke Jensen, Matt Jensen, Falcon and Duff MacAllister—Together For The First Time

They just wanted to get home for Christmas . . . but fate had other plans.

It’s December 1890. A Texas rancher named Big Jim Conyers has a deal with Scottish-born, Wyoming cattleman named Duff MacAllister. Along with Smoke and Matt Jensen, the party bears down on Dodge, Kansas, to make a cattle drive back to Forth Worth. But before they can get out of Dodge, guns go off and a rich man’s son is killed.

Soon the drive turns into a deadly pursuit, then a staggering series of clashes with bloodthirsty Indians and trigger-happy rustlers. And the worst is yet to come—the party rides into a devastating blizzard, a storm so fierce that their very survival is at stake.

From America’s greatest Western author, here is an epic tale of the unforgiving American frontier and how, amidst fierce storms of man and nature, miracles can still happen.

Available in e-book format – 689 KB

About the author: William W. Johnstone started his writing career in 1970, but did not have any works published until 1979 (The Devil’s Kiss) and became a full-time writer in 1980. He wrote close to two hundred books in numerous genres, including suspense and horror. His main publication series were Mountain Man, The First Mountain Man, Ashes and Eagles and his own personal favorite novel was The Last of the Dog Team (1980). He also authored two novels under the pseudonym William Mason.

Johnstone had lived for many years in Shreveport, Louisiana, yet died in Knoxville, TN, at the age of 65. His death remained officially unconfirmed for nearly three years and was the subject of continuous debate in the forum on his web site. No statements were issued, however until the 2006 paperback release of Last Gunfighter: Devil’s Legion, which, on its copyright page has, indeed, confirmed that “William W. Johnstone died” and that a “carefully selected author” has been chosen to carry on his legacy. J. A. Johnstone is continuing William W. Johnstone’s series. – Wikipedia.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As you may have noticed I have a fondness for Western novels, especially the classic variety, so when I saw the evocative  cover [no credit provided] of “Lone Star Christmas” by William W. Johnstone [Pinnacle Books; Original edition, 2011] I chose it as my Christmas book blog.

As a classic Western tale it has it all; i.e. winsome maidens, gallant gentlemen, good and bad gunslingers, fallen angels, cattle drives, rustlers and renegade Indians, so in some ways—with a bit more sophistication—it is a revival of the dime store novel.

No problem there.

The story begins on a train where we meet the winsome maiden (Rebecca Conyers) and the gallant gentleman (Tom Whitman) from Boston. Whitman is travelling nowhere in particular, just escaping a painful past, and so when he happens to rescue the winsome maiden from two churlish cads she offers him a job on her father’s spread, “Live Oaks,” which Whitman accepts.

Okay, right here we know that this is a throw-back to the ten-cent novel when a tender foot from Boston takes on the job of a rugged ranch hand—successfully, as it turns out. On the other hand, how else is the gallant Tom Whitman going to get romantically inclined toward the winsome Miss Conyers?

“Big Ben” Conyers is a sort of Ben Cartwright-type: A self-made cattle baron, paternalistic, and imbued with high moral standards in spite of having sired Rebecca by a woman other than his present wife. Therefore, he refuses to tell Rebecca about her real mother, and forbids her from pursuing a romance with the gallant Tom Whitman.

It is at this stage in the story where the plot begins to thicken, and also strain the fetters of credibility to the max. The winsome Rebecca, now the “headstrong Becky” is romantically rebuffed by the gallant Tom Whitman, and so she disguises herself as a cowhand and signs on with a cattle drive to Dodge, Kansas.

Ulp! Now that’s a bit of a stretch. From what I know about a woman’s anatomy (which admittedly doesn’t go beyond the obvious) there are certain physical features that are difficult to disguise—like beardless skin, small hands, and—okay—boobs. Moreover, we are talking about a cattle drive with seasoned cowhands who, like Andy Adams, Charlie Seringo and “Teddy Blue” Abbott, had probably been driving cattle since they could sit a saddle.

There are some other incredulities, too—like shooting a crab-apple-sized apple off someone’s head, and three strangers who appear out of a blizzard to lead a pregnant woman to the safety—but this is fiction, after all. So I’m going to buy them all, for in spite of these it’s an entertaining read.

Having said that, I’ll saw it off at three bees.

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Relive some of my memories of Christmas in the 1940s by visiting my personal blog: Gerrybuurniebooks.wordpress.com.

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The sale figures are in for Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears, and while I can’t retire in luxury they are quite gratifying indeed. Thanks you to all those who bought and read them. If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

   

Thanks for dropping by.

December 25, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Historical period, non-GLBT, Traditional Western | Leave a comment

The Sharpshooter, by Kit Prate

A short story celebration of the classic Western tale.

Story blurb: Clete Benteen was a kid one minute and a man the next. The son of a sharpshooter, he grew up when his pa was brought home across the back of a horse, back-shot. Making a place for himself among hard cowboys, Clete must use all the skill he has to provide for his family and to find his Pa’s killer. But is he tough enough to survive?

Kindle edition – short story – 121 KB – .99¢

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although “The Sharpshooter by Kit Prate [Western Trail Blazer, 2011] is not a GBLT story, or a particularly long read, nonetheless I liked it for its adherence to the classic Western genre; i.e. a deep sense of justice, stoic determination, and a clear distinction between “good guys” and “bad guys.”

As the blurb tells us, young Clete Benteen (14 years old) is forced into manhood to support his widowed mother and fellow siblings, as well as avenge his father’s murder. This brings him into contact with his father’s employer, a powerful rancher by the name and style of Judge Terril, and a group of sinister, hired guns that Terril employs to enforce his power.

What makes Clete equal to the others in some way is his skill as a sharpshooter; a skill he has both learned and inherited from his dead father. Other traits he has either learned of inherited are his fierce independence and self assuredness.

I bought into his sharpshooter’s skill because one of my main characters in an upcoming novel (“The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia”) is a teenage shootist, but I was a little more questioning about Clete’s precociousness. Or, maybe it was the willingness of the adults—Terril especially—to let him get away with it. It is, however, only a minor quibble.

As the story moves along there is a nice build up of tension, especially with his capture by the bad guys, and the contest of wills as his captivity continues under sometimes cruel and abusive conditions. After all, it wouldn’t be a true western if the good guys had a ‘cake walk’ of it.

Altogether this is a great little read for the money, and worth every cent of it. Four and one-half bees.

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Stay up-to-date with Gerry’s Marvellous Adventure by visiting my personal blog from St. Augustine, Florida—North America’s oldest, continuously-occupied city. It is a mixture of personal news, history, and photos. I think you will find it interesting.

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Come count down the days ‘til Christmas on Speak its Name Advent Calendar. Great stories and prizes to be won every day.

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The sale figures are in for Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears, and while I can’t retire in luxury they are quite gratifying indeed. Thanks you to all those who bought and read them. If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

Thanks for dropping by. Check back next week for my Christmas pick.

December 18, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Historical period, non-GLBT | , , , , | 2 Comments

Sandals and Sodomy (An anthology)

 A erotic romp through ancient Greek and Roman history

Blurb: Greeks Bearing Gifts by D. G. Parker Young Antenor of fallen Troy faces violation and death, only to be rescued and enslaved by a gruff, older Greek, a hard-bitten soldier in the king’s good graces. What Antenor does not expect is Calchas’s good heart that sees him through shipwreck, marooning, and rescue. Troy Cycle by Dar Mavison When the gods abandoned men during the battle of Troy, the greatest of those men – Hector, Odysseus, Paris, Achilles – schemed to end the war. Amongst themselves they waged war both vicious and tender in a desperate attempt to achieve peace, a peace that for some would only be found in death, leaving others to discover it in new life. But no one would ever be forgotten by the other three. Undefeated Love by John Simpson The men of the Sacred Band of Thebes are remembered for their valor, their honor, their devotion to duty, and their great love for their partners. Alexandros and Agapitos found a place amongst them, but little did they know their love and sacrifice would face the test of war – and survive to shine eternally. Hadrian by Remmy Duchene Roman Emperor Hadrian is all-powerful . and alone. But when Antinous trespasses into Hadrian’s bath, the ruler’s eyes are opened to a whole new world of love. After the Games by Connie Bailey When the Emperor sends a beautiful concubine, Valerius, to the slave pens to slake the hunger of his fiercest beast, the fighter Alaric, he doesn’t anticipate that Alaric just isn’t interested. But to keep Valerius from being punished, the fighter keeps him close for one night, a night that turns from talkative to passionate. The Vow by Ariel Tachna Adrastos still mourns his dead partner and lover, and he has hardened his heart and spirit to any other. Knowing his duty to bond and train a soldier, he reviews a trio of Army recruits, but he insists he will not choose one. Eager to prove himself worthy to serve the Army and Aphrodite alike, Erasmos presents himself for the final test.and finds that he, the petitioner, is the savior rather than the saved.

Dreamspinner Press (July 15, 2008). 268p. Also available in eBook format.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Greeks Bearing Gifts” by D. G. Parker

This is a look at the aftermath of the fall of Troy from a young Trojan’s point of view. Antenor is saved from a cruel fate by a high-ranking Greek officer, Calchas, and thereby becomes his slave. However, in a twist that I thought was somewhat contrived, Calchas treats Antenor more like a son (or an eromenos) than a slave.

Antenor gets a chance to repay this kindness when the two are shipwrecked on a deserted island, and Antenor saves Chalchas’ life with a suddenly revealed knowledge of healing herbs.

I found the ending equally implausible as well, so I will reserve my recommendation.

Troy Cycle” by Dar Mavison

There have been many versions of the fall of Troy–an event shrouded in myth–as well as the exploits of Achilles, Hector, Paris and the legendary Helen of Troy. However, this version takes it well over the top with its dark interpretation of all these characters, plus Odysseus, King of Ithaca.

An ‘over the top’ interpretation is fair enough when dealing with a myth, but when revisiting the fall of Troy anything less than heroic is just too much of a departure to be credible—even in a ‘let’s pretend’ sort of way.

Undefeated Love” by John Simpson

Alexandros and Agapitos are two noble-born youths who decide to dedicate themselves to each other, and are therefore invited to join the Sacred Band of Thebes–150 couples dedicated to one another to the death.

There are some good things to say about this story, including references to known historical facts. However, the two protagonists didn’t put me in mind of warriors of the period. Rather, they are lovers who fight as aposed to fighters who love. That, I think, is the essence of King Philip’s famous comment.

Hadrian” by Remmy Duchene

For those who are looking for a one-handed read, Hadrian should do the trick for you. To its credit, however, it makes no pretence about being anything else.

After the Games” by Connie Bailey

This is by far my favourite. Here is plot and character development that  has some depth and sophistication even though it is essentially erotic. Alaric, a gladiator, has taken a vow of celibacy following the death of his lover, but is finally seduced by a young “pleasure slave’s” cleverly spun tales; somewhat reminiscent of Scheherazade.

The Vow” by Ariel Tachna

This is a well developed story that pits a grief-burdened older man against a younger man’s determined desire to be his lover. Both characters are credible in their roles, and there is enough tension to make it more than just a romp to the sack. It’s a good read.

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Over all I found most of the stories disappointing. Mind you I judge a book by its plot, and erotica just doesn’t compensate for the lack thereof. However, not everyone feels this way, and so I will leave it up to the readers to decide. Two and one-half bees.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 17,481

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Come count down the days ‘til Christmas on Speak its Name Advent Calendar. Great stories and prizes to be won every day.

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The sale figures are in for Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears, and while I can’t retire in luxury they are quite gratifying indeed. Thanks you to all those who bought and read them. If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

That you for dropping by!

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

Junction X, by Erastes

In some ways this is a brave new frontier, sensitively and superbly written, and begging to be read both for enjoyment and contemplation.

Story blurb: Set in the very English suburbia of 1962 where everyone has tidy front gardens and lace curtains, Junction X is the story of Edward Johnson, who ostensibly has the perfect life: A beautiful house, a great job, an attractive wife and two well-mannered children. The trouble is he’s been lying to himself all of his life. And first love, when it does come, hits him and hits him hard. Who is the object of his passion? The teenaged son of the new neighbours.

Edward’s world is about to go to hell.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have reviewed several of Erastes’ previous books, and in my opinion “Junction X” [Cheyenne Publishing, 2011] has to be her best effort yet. Part of my opinion is based on her gutsy decision to tackle the controversial topic of male adult-to-teen love. It is not that it doesn’t exist in abundance, it is just that no one wants to talk or write about it for fear of being labelled a pedophile. I will also add that a male writer probably couldn’t have written on this topic without the usual finger pointing, so I am glad that Erastes took up the challenge.

Every aspect of this story is outstanding: A powerful narrative, vivid and believable characters, uncompromising drama, and a heart-grabbing ending, but for me the most compelling aspect was the insight Erastes achieved into the troubled soul of Edward Johnston—knowing the dangers, and yet pursuing his feelings for a comely 18-year-old student just the same. I liked the subtle way it began, too, for I have long held that we talk ourselves into loving someone—fantasy, sometimes unrealistic but overpowering nonetheless.

There is also the subtle reference to an unspoken truth, and that is that teenagers are innately sexual and can be provocatively seductive. This is made all the more disarming by the fact that it is mostly subconscious. Therefore, Alex had no more idea he was seducing Edward than Edward had of seducing him. In Grecian times it would have been attributed to the fickle Fates.

In some ways this is a brave new frontier, sensitively and superbly written, and begging to be read both for enjoyment and contemplation. Five bees.

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Come count down the days ‘til Christmas on Speak its Name Advent Calendar. Great stories and prizes to be won every day.

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To learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

     

Season’s greetings and thanks for dropping by!

December 4, 2011 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period | 3 Comments

   

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