Gerry B's Book Reviews

Out of the Blue, by Josh Lanyon

A bang-up short story, enthusiastically recommended –

Story Blurb: Grieving over the death of his lover, British flying ace Bat Bryant accidentally kills the man threatening him with exposure. Unfortunately there’s a witness: the big, rough American they call “Cowboy” – and Cowboy has his own price for silence.

About the author: A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USA Book News awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In preparation for Remembrance Day–for which I have a non-fiction book picked–I came across Out of the Blue [Just Joshin Publisher, 2012] by Josh Lanyon. It’s a name I’d heard of before, but had never stopped to read any of his works. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did.

The tale is set at an allied air base in France during WWI. Captain Bat Bryant is a British flying ace with an Eton College background, and as the story opens he is being confronted by a potential blackmailer. During the course of this confrontation Bryant strikes and accidentally kills the extortionist, and is witnessed by an American flying ace named “Cowboy.” Cowboy then reveals that he also knows of Bryant’s brief affair with Lieutenant “Owl” Roberts, but inexplicably offers to dispose of the body just the same. Bryant accepts his offer, and the stage is then set for the bulk of the story involving the relationship with the exploitative American.

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At 193 KB this ranks as a short story, which I tend to like because of their distillation of events. Author Lanyon appears to understand this appeal as well, for he has staunchly adhered to the three basic rules; i.e. get in, tell the story, and get out. There is no dallying here. The prose is spare but efficient, the characters tend to develop as they go along (mostly relying on dialogue for their personalities), and the era and setting get a just-enough amount of description.

Having said that, there is very little missed. Cowboy is a ‘cowboy,’ and Bryant is his willing ‘mount,’ yet there is a genuine affection as well. The era is effectively evoked by touches like the lyrics to “Roses of Picardy”—an iconic song of WWI—and the “dogfights” are some of the best I’ve read.

My only quibble with Out of the Blue is that some (a few) of the events tend to come out of blue as well, and as such I was ‘quizzical’ regarding the motivations. Nonetheless, this is a bang-up story that gets my enthusiastic recommendation. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 36,104

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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A personal boycott.

Just received notice of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012. I WON’T be taking part. For one thing, it is only open to “Books published for the first time in the United States,” (nothing about Canada), and of the 15 categories, not one of them is for GBLT books–fiction or non-fiction. So best of luck, but no thanks.

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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. I hope that all my friends living on the east coast of United States and eastern Canada will be safe from Sandy’s wrath. My thoughts are with you.

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Grab Bag (Little House on the Bowery), by Derek McCormack and Dennis Cooper (Editor)

A refreshingly unique style that is also universal –

Story blurb: Grab Bag is comprised of two interrelated novels, Dark Rides and Wish Book, from one of Canada’s most important young writers. Both books are set in the same small rural city, in different eras (1950s, 1930s), each characterized by McCormack’s spare and elliptical prose. Front cover illustration by Ian Phillips.

Available in ebook format – 1148 KB

About the Author: Derek McCormack is the author of Grab Bag (Akashic) and The Haunted Hillbilly (Soft Skull), which was named a ‘best book of the year’ by both the Village Voice and The Globe and Mail, and a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He writes fashion and arts articles for the National Post. He lives in Toronto. Dennis Cooper (editor) is the author of ‘The George Miles Cycle,’ an interconnected sequence of five novels that includes Closer (1989), Frisk (1991), Try (1994), Guide (1997), and Period (2000). The cycle has been translated into fourteen languages. His most recent novel is My Loose Thread (Canongate, 2002). He lives in Los Angeles.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As Halloween approaches I looked around for something along this line, and quite by accident I found Derek McCormack’s Grab Bag [Akashic Books, 2004], edited by Dennis Cooper, which expanded my knowledge of Canadian writers (always a happy occurrence!)

Derek McCormack is one of those treasures that Canada and the Canadian literati keep hidden under a bushel. It is probably due to the GBLT content of his works, which, as a genre, has yet to be anointed for consideration by any of the major awards.[1] Indeed, when Dark Rides was first published, Globe and Mail’s book critic, Laura McDonald, had this to say:

Derek McCormack’s first published work, Dark Rides, was released in Canada this summer to little notice. It had three problems: It was slim, it was issued by a small press and its writer was unknown. Fortunately for McCormack and his readers, Dark Rides received more ink in the U.S. where, to be fair, there is more ink. Detour magazine even included him in its ‘Top Thirty Artists Under Thirty’ list. Why? Well, cynics might dismiss the book as trendy – a gay coming-of-age story. But anyone who reads the book closely will attribute the success to his skillful, tight-rope walking prose.
– Laura MacDonald, Globe & Mail

Grab Bag is a combining of two McCormack novellas, Wish Book and Dark Rides. Wish Book is set in the depression era of the 1930s, and is a bizarre romp through as list of situations and circumstances that defy probability, and yet could have happened.

Dark Rides is set in the 1950s (an era I am nostalgically familiar with) and is the story of a teenage, Canadian farm boy trying to come to grips with his homosexuality. Regretfully he has less than a minimum of sophistication and no one to turn to in a small, roughneck community. It is a dark plot in some ways, and yet it is humorous on account of his naiveté.

My views

I once read that successful writing is at once unique and universal, and this applies fairly well to McCormack’s style. It has a refreshing difference that almost defies comparison, and yet I was able to identify with the farm boy’s naive character quite well. Even the small community and its denizens were familiar to me.

Journalistically, McCormack is a minimalist. There is no superfluity or long poetic narratives here, only the bare minimum to tell the story and define the characters. Yet they were as developed as any I have read. They are a young farm boy and a ‘slicker,’ base individuals in a loveable way, and so too much development would clutter the picture.

Grab Bag is one of those stories that will stay with me long after I put it down. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 35,598

Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

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A personal boycott.

Just received notice of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012. I WON’T be taking part. For one thing, it is only open to “Books published for the first time in the United States,” (nothing about Canada), and of the 15 categories, not one of them is for GBLT books–fiction or non-fiction. So best of luck, but no thanks.

[Also, see my comments regarding awards in general in paragraphs 2 and 3 (above).]

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Help put Richer, Manitoba, on the national Map

Cynthia Cramer, Author of “Real Justice: Guilty of Being Weird,” has submitted a short story to the Reader’s Digest “Most Interesting Community” contest. Her submission is about her municipality of Richer. Manitoba, so let’s help recognize Richer by taking a moment to vote. To cast your vote, go to: Canada’s Most Interesting Towns Contest | Readers Digest.ca: http://www.readersdigest.ca/cmit/submission-details?submission_id=187. YEA RICHER, GO, GO. GO!

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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. Your visits are my inspiration to discover new and interesting books for your consideration. 


[1] Among over two dozen Canadian literary awards there is not one GBLT award.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Only Make Believe, by Elliott Mackle

A well-conceived, superbly written murder mystery/romance –

Story blurb: It’s amateur night at the ultra-private, members-only Caloosa Club on the Fort Myers, Florida, riverfront. Trouble begins when the fat lady sings. Her triumph is sweet. But, only hours later, the diva lies near death in a hotel room upstairs, the victim of a vicious beating. Hotel manager Dan Ewing and his sidekick, Lee County Detective Bud Wright, soon discover that this was no lady and that a variety of unsavory characters hoped to dance on the dead diva’s grave. In Southwest Florida in January 1951, almost anyone who wanted to have a little illicit fun put his—or her—life on the line.

Dan, a World War II veteran who survived Japanese torpedoes, five days on a life raft and the death of his Navy lover, feels he’s found more safety and freedom than any gay man might expect. Dealing cards, serving untaxed mixed drinks and selling the services of escorts of both sexes, he acts as if he has nothing to lose. Yet he does. Bud, his secret lover, is a former Marine sergeant twice decorated for valor. Strong and brave but deeply conventional, he lives with the uneasy knowledge that every time he and Dan make love they commit a felony according to the laws he is sworn to uphold.

The Caloosa, exposed to the pitiless glare of a front-page homicide investigation, attracts unwanted attention. The mounting pressure, instead of forging a stronger bond between Dan and Bud, threatens to tear them apart. As the jeopardy to both escalates, Dan realizes he may lose the one man who holds the key to the peace and harmony of his postwar world.

About the author: Elliott Mackle served four years in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam era. As a very green second lieutenant he commanded a squadron of cooks and bakers, later achieving the rank of captain. He was stationed in California, Italy and Libya, the latter the setting for his new novel, CAPTAIN HARDING’S SIX-DAY WAR (Lethe Press). His previous novel, HOT OFF THE PRESSES (Lethe Press), is based in part on his adventures covering the 1996 Olympic Games for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Then an AJC staff writer, he served as the newspaper’s dining critic for a decade, also reporting on military affairs, travel and the national restaurant scene. His first novel, IT TAKES TWO, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. He has written for Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, the Los Angeles Times, Florida Historical Quarterly, Atlanta and Charleston magazines and was a longtime columnist at Creative Loafing, the southeast’s leading alternative newsweekly. Mackle wrote and produced segments for Nathalie Dupree’s popular television series, New Southern Cooking, and authored a drama about gay bashing for Georgia Public Television. Along the way, he managed a horse farm, served as a child nutrition advocate for the State of Georgia, volunteered at an AIDS shelter, was founding co-chair of Emory University’s GLBT alumni association and taught critical and editorial writing at Georgia State University. He lives in Atlanta with his partner of 40 years.

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Review by Gerry Burnie (http://www.gerryburniebooks.ca)

Only Make Believe by Elliot Mackle [Lethe Press, 2012] is the second in a series, but the first I have read. However, it does very well as a stand-alone  novel.

The story is set in post WWII, 1950s Fort Myers, FL, and is a next adventure in the lives of Dan Ewing, owner of the members-only “Caloosa Club,” and his closeted lover, Detective Bud Wright. Bud also works, part time, with the county sheriff’s office.

Both are good strong characters, but it is Dan who is the stronger, mostly on account of being comfortable in his own skin.

This particular adventure centres around a cross-dressing amateur singer who is murdered at the hotel, and the resulting publicity puts a strain on both men, particularly on Bud because of his clandestine sexual preferences—make that, ‘practices.’

One of the areas that I thought Mackle captured very well was the schizoid thinking of the time, regarding homosexuality. Homophobia was very much to the fore, of course, but even those who were somewhat sympathetic (i.e. marginally accepting) shrunk from the scene when forced to make a choice. Moreover, the over-the-top reaction of some homophobics made a nice bit of tension while the plot was unfolding.

Another aspect that I thought was both effective and clever was to show the impact of this tragedy on the victim’s 17 y.o. son. An aspect that is very often overlooked.

My quibbles are minor. For example, I thought the resolution of the murder investigation was a bit incredible (but not inconceivable), and although it is not specifically directed at this novel, I am beginning to weary of the ‘persecution complex’ that seems to be dominating most GLBT stories.

While persecution is an undeniable aspect of GLBT life that has existed since the advent of Christianity, the burden of this one particular theme is becoming repetitious. To borrow a phrase from renowned sociologist, Jane Jacobs, it is becoming the “Great blight of sameness.”

I do recommend Only Make Believe, however, as a well-conceived, superbly written murder mystery/romance. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 35,087

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

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Help put Richer, Manitoba, on the national Map

Cynthia Cramer, Author of “Real Justice: Guilty of Being Weird,” has submitted a short story to the Reader’s Digest “Most Interesting Community” contest. Her submission is about her municipality of Richer. Manitoba, so let’s help recognize Richer by taking a moment to vote. To cast your vote, go to: Canada’s Most Interesting Towns Contest | Readers Digest.ca: http://www.readersdigest.ca/cmit/submission-details?submission_id=187. YEA RICHER, GO, GO. GO!

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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. I hope I have given you some ideas for your reading pleasure. The authors featured here, and I, welcome your views.

 

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | 2 Comments

Skybound, by Aleksandr Voinov

A textbook example of the short story art –

Story blurb: Germany, 1945. The Third Reich is on its knees as Allied forces bomb Berlin to break the last resistance. Yet on an airfield near Berlin, the battle is far from over for a young mechanic, Felix, who’s attached to a squadron of fighter pilots. He’s especially attached to fighter ace Baldur Vogt, a man he admires and secretly loves. But there’s no room for love at the end of the world, never mind in Nazi Germany.

When Baldur narrowly cheats death, Felix pulls him from his plane, and the pilot makes his riskiest move yet. He takes a few days’ leave to recover, and he takes Felix with him. Away from the pressures of the airfield, their bond deepens, and Baldur shows Felix the kind of brotherhood he’d only ever dreamed of before.

But there’s no escaping the war, and when they return, Baldur joins the fray again in the skies over Berlin. As the Allies close in on the airfield where Felix waits for his lover, Baldur must face the truth that he is no longer the only one in mortal danger.

Available in ebook, only – 198 KB

About the author: Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London where he makes his living as a financial journalist, freelance editor and creative writing teacher. After many years working in the horror, science fiction, cyberpunk and fantasy genres, Voinov has set his sights now on contemporary and historical erotic gay novels.

Voinov’s characters are often scarred lonely souls at odds with their environment and pitted against odds that make or break them. He described the perfect ending for his books as “the characters make it out alive, but at a terrible cost, usually by the skin of their teeth. I want to see what’s at the core of them, and stripping them down to that core is rarely pleasant for them. But it does make them wiser, and often stronger people.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie (www.gerryburniebooks.ca)

If you are a regular follower, you might have noticed that I have an affinity for gay/historical/military/genres. It is a natural outcome of my passion for history, and my self-identification with those who have faced the harsh brutalities of war. Courage like this should not be forgotten lest we make the same mistake again.

In Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov [Riptide Publishing, 2012] we find yet another reason to care. Two individuals caught up in the confict, Germans, seeing the evil regime of which they are part crumbling around them, and yet fighting on through a stalwart—but misplaced—sense of duty.

Well … One of them is, anyway. Baldur Vogt, a Luftwaffe ace, bold, handsome and dashing, flies his missions because it is what he does. On the other hand, Felix, a ground-crew mechanic does what he does to keep the man he loves (Baldur) as safe as he can make him, and with that simple revelation the whole perspective of war changes.

But that is only one thread in this complex tapestry, for Felix despairs that Baldur will ever respond in the way he (Felix) has dreamed. For one thing, Baldur comes from money, compared to Felix’s humble background, and even if this could be brushed aside, man-to-man love was an anathema in Hitler’s Arian scheme of things—a veritable death sentence.

Nonetheless, fate will have its way, and when Baldur somewhat miraculously escapes a bullet that otherwise had his name on it, he celebrates by taking Felix away for a few days of relaxation.

Once away from the harrowing events of the day, love blooms—a quiet, tender affection that emerges as naturally as a breeze on a warm summer’s day. Indeed, when it happens one cannot imagine it being any other way.

However, once the point is made, and given that the only world they know is crumbling around them, how does one go about getting a ‘happy ever after ending’ out of that?

That remains for readers to discover, but it is almost a textbook example of the short story art; i.e. get in, make the point, and get out, which Voinov does very well. In addition the various ‘flavours’ are as concentrated as a brandy that lingers, agreeably, on the palate. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 34,566

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Last week I announced a new look and URL address for “Coming of Age on the trail” (www.comingofagenovel.ca), and Gerry Burnie Books. This week I want to ‘show off’ my new banner/logo for that site, as well. Click on the banner to go to the site.

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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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. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve switched the publication day to Monday. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

 

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure, Military history | 3 Comments

The Pleasuring of Men, by Clifford Browder

A delightful story–in the manner of “Tom Jones” – 

Story blurb: In New York City in the late 1860s, Tom Vaughan, a respectably raised young man, chooses to become a male prostitute servicing the city’s affluent elite, then falls in love with Walter Whiting, a renowned scholar and lecturer who proves to be his most difficult client. Having long wrestled with feelings of shame and guilt, Whiting, a married man, at first resents Tom’s easy acceptance of his own sexuality. Their story unfolds in the clandestine and precarious gay underworld of the time, which is creatively but vividly created. Through a series of encounters– some exhilarating, some painful, some mysterious—Tom matures, until an unexpected act of violence provokes a final resolution.

Available in e-book format – 443 KB

About the author: The Pleasuring of Men is Clifford Browder’s fourth book and first novel. His short fiction is set in New York City in the years 1830-1880. Characters often reappear in other novels and, quintessentially, in poetry in the form of monologs. Selections of his fiction have been published in Quarter After Eight, Third Coast, and New York Stories. His poetry has appeared in various reviews and online, including Poetic Voices Without Borders 2 and ArLiJo. He has helped two aspiring authors, a Sister of Mercy and a gay inmate in North Carolina, write their memoirs. He is also the author of two published biographies and a critical study of the French Surrealist poet André Breton.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I know almost northing about New York now or in the 1860s, but after reading The Pleasuring of Men by Clifford Bowder [Gival Press; 1 edition, 2011] I am sure I have a fairly credible idea of what it was like. It’s that sort of a novel.

Indeed, we get our first impression from Tom Vaughan (the protagonist and first-person narrator) in the opening of Chapter 1, i.e.

“When Mr. Neil Smythe became a roomer in our brownstone, my brother Stewart scowled and wondered if the subtle scent he gave off was cologne or “hair slime”; my mother declared his last name “elegant, and so much nicer than Smith”; and I said nothing, knowing that I’d just met the handsomest man in the world.

“That we were taking in a roomer was the result of a desperate need to put our finances in order. Since my father’s death years before, following heavy losses in a panic, my moher, having mourned him interminably, through skimping and saving had done her best to maintain herself and her two sons in our handsome brownstone on Twenty-fifth Street just off Fifth Avenue, a fashionable address that she could not bring herself to leave in a move to humbler quarters.”

And of his impressions of Mr. Neil Smythe:


“A clean-shaven young man of twenty-two, he was tall and thin, with smooth skin and wavy long blond hair. He came to us correctly dressed in a gray frock coat, fawn trousers, and bland pointed shoes, with a scarf pin and cuff links that glittered, and a boyish look that I, myself sixteen found stupendously appealing.”

From Tom’s observation that he had “…just met the handsomest man in the world,” we know that there is definitely more to come, and it is not long before he admits to “playing games” with himself in front of an ornate, “oval-shaped” mirror, secretly admiring a cherubic, blonde-haired choir boy, and having a crush on the elegant Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D.

Then, on a mischievous schoolboy outing prompted by one of his school mates, he accompanies him to some of the seedier bars and clubs of the lower side, and one in particular; the  Lustgarten or “pleasure garden.” Tom is shocked and intrigued by sight of men dancing together, some of them dressed as women, and of the lascivious interplay between younger and older. However, as shocked as he might be, he decides that this is the life for him.
Inevitably, Mr. Neil Smythe shows up at the Lustgarten, and tom learns that he is employed by a call-boy ring owned by corrupt politicians and businessmen (quite conceivably “Boss” Tweed and the Tameney Hall gang).[1] Intrigued by Smythe’s stylish way of life, Tom implores him to teach him the ‘tools’ of the trade, which Smythe does in a hands-on sort of way.

Being a quick learner Tom is soon out on his own, pleasuring the grey set with his charms, and being generously rewarded in return. His clients are numerous and varied, and here the author (through Tom’s words) out does himself with colourful and often amusing descriptions of their proclivities—from a European who masquerades as a nobleman; an ‘athletic’ lawyer; and even the Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D.

Eventually Tom is sent to the townhouse of Walter Whitling, a formidable scholar in just about everything, including the Greek language, and after a rather tempestuous getting-to-know-one-another, the older scholar agrees to teach Tom Greek in the manner of an Erastes with his Eromenos. Thereby Whitling first undresses Tom, and seating himself in front of him he touches Tom’s genitals before proceeding where the scene ends.

Altogether this is a tale encompassing both sophisticated wit and humour, and yet the subject matter is the grotty underbelly of society as enacted by its leading citizens—including the Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D. Indeed, as I followed Tom’s sexual romp through the streets of New York, I couldn’t get the image of that other Tom out of my mind i.e. “Tom Jones.”. It is absolutely delightful. Five Bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 34,069

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Here is an interesting report on Gerry B’s Books Reviews for 2011. I had almost forgot about it until someone requested it, the other day. Something I found interesting was that the visitors count at that time was 13,000! We’ve come a long way, Baby. To see the report, click on the image or go to: https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/2011-in-review/

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Announcement: All of my web pages now have new URL address. Gerry Burnie Books now resides at http://www.gerryburniebooks.ca, and Coming of Age on the Trail now has both a new address and design. It can now be found at: www.comingofagenovel.ca. Or click on the image.  


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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

♥♥♥
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.

      

On behalf of the wonderful authors featured on this blog, I thank you for dropping by. Do drop back next week.

[1] an American politician most notable for being the “boss” of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York City and State. At the height of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, a director of the Erie Railroad, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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