Gerry B's Book Reviews

Longhorns, by Victor J. Banis

An enjoyable read in the style of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour

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longhorn - coverForty-year-old Les, the trail boss of the Double H Ranch, works for its beloved chatelaine, the elderly widow Miz Cameron, “a little dumpling of a woman, dressed in black.” Les rides herd over a crew of rowdy cowboys, roping steer and sleeping around prairie campfires. Young drifter Buck, part Nasoni Indian, catches up to them on a roundup. After proving himself an expert sharpshooter, rider and roper, Buck celebrates his initiation to the group by luring one of their number, Red, into his bedroll. But Buck is really after Les, sandy-haired and significantly endowed.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I had previously passed on  Longhorns by Victor J. Banis [Running Press, July 13, 2007] several times, fearing that the title was a euphemism for long (male) ‘horns,’ but seeing the reaction it has received from so many readers, my curiosity finally got the better of me.

What I found was a pulp-style western, written (for the most part) in the classic vernacular. These are both good features from this reader’s point of view. Moreover, Victor Banis has also done quite a good job of capturing the atmosphere and camaraderie of a 19th-century cattle roundup; ruggedly independent men, interacting man-to-man, and free from the disruptive influence of women.

And, yes, there was sex between some of them [see: Queer Cowboys by Chris Pickard]. It was common for men in early Western America to relate to one another in pairs or in larger homo-social group settings. At times, they may have competed for the attention of women but more often two cowboys organized themselves into a partnership resembling a heterosexual marriage. This is reflected in a poem by the renowned cowboy poet, Charles Badger Clark, i.e.

longhorn - lost pardnerWe loved each other in the way men do
And never spoke about it, Al and me,
But we both knowed, and knowin’ it so true
Was more than any woman’s kiss could be.
We knowed–and if the way was smooth or rough,
The weather shine or pour,
While I had him the rest seemed good enough–
But he ain’t here no more!
The range is empty and the trails are blind,
And I don’t seem but half myself today.
I wait to hear him ridin’ up behind
And feel his knee rub mine the good old way
He’s dead–and what that means no man kin tell.
Some call it “gone before.”
Where? I don’t know, but God! I know so well
That he ain’t here no more!

Nevertheless, as can be seen from the above, it was seldom if ever overt, and this is where the story lost credibility with me. Buck was just a bit too out to be believable—or to have even survived, for that matter. Moreover, as several other reviewers have already noted, his fellow cowhands were also incredibly accepting of a way of life that was still considered “unspeakable.”

These are not fatal flaws, just niggling drawbacks, so I want to stress that this is an enjoyable story with some really strong writing, and a bang-on style. In fact, the style is every bit as authentic as Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,099

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Glory Hallelujah! – I am pleased to announce that I have finished the pre-edited draft of my WIP novel, Coming of Age on the Trail. It has taken three years, 227 pages, 133,500 words, and a good deal of sweat and tears. I also feel behoved to mention that I had to fight Microsoft Word (“Microcrap”) every single line, paragraph, and page along the way. In fact, I have given it an un-dedication at the front of the book. To learn more, click on the above link or image.

stag dance copy2

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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. Hope you found your visit interesting and enjoyable. Looking forward to seeing you again next week!

January 28, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure, Traditional Western | 2 Comments

The Celestial, by Barry Brennessel

It’s unanimous: The Celestial by Barry Bennessel is a great read!

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celestial - coverStory blurb: Love was the last thing Todd Webster Morgan expected to find while searching for gold in 1870s California. But that was before he met Lâo Jian.

Hardened beyond his nineteen years, Todd Webster Morgan is determined to find gold high in the Sierra Nevadas. But his dream is violently upended. Complicating matters even more, he meets a young Chinese immigrant named Lâo Jian, whose own dreams of finding gold have been quashed by violence.

But life back in Sacramento isn’t any easier. Todd’s mother struggles to make ends meet. His invalid uncle becomes increasing angry. Todd seeks employment with little success. Meanwhile his friendship with Lâo Jian turns to love. But their relationship is strained as anti-Chinese sentiment grows.

Todd vows not to lose Lâo Jian. The couple must risk everything to make a life for themselves. A life that requires facing fear and prejudice head on.

About this author: When Barry’s first collection of stories was read aloud by his second grade teacher, the author hid in the bathroom. As the years flew by, he wrote more, hid less (not really), and branched out to Super 8 films and cassette tape recorders. Barry’s audience—consisting solely of friends and family—were both amused and bemused.

Since those childhood days, Barry has earned degrees in English and French from the State University of New York College at Brockport, and a Master of Arts in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

It’s unanimous: Barry Brennessel’s novel The Celestial [MLR Press,LLC, September 6, 2012] is a great story! Most reviews I have read have dipped into the superlative bag for apt descriptors, and I must agree.

My approach comes from my passion and accompanying research into American frontier history, including the California mining communities of  the mid-1800s, and I must say that the author has captured the tone of these rough-and-tumble, gritty and grotty settlements remarkably well.

Set against this rugged backdrop is the wide-eyed naïveté of farmboy, Todd Morgan, and his companion Lâo Jian; both innocent romantics who just want to live and love in the midst of this harsh environment.

Part of Brennessel’s strength as a writer is his ability to create vivid characters who are both interesting and unique. Each character has a distinctive voice that sets him (or her) apart while contributing to the over all story. So, whether it’s Ned Calvert, Todd’s irascible uncle, or the young Irish miner, Breandon (on whom Todd has an early crush), they all contribute in their own way.

celestial - chinese minersOne of the regrettable aspects of frontier society was the degree of prejudice against certain ethnic societies, i.e. Native Americans and certain foreigners, especially–to the miners–the Chinese, who were called “Chinamen,” “Johnny Pig Tails,” or “Celestials” (because they came from the so-called “Celestial Empire.”)

The miners resented them because they saw them as competition, and distrusted them because they tended to stick to their own communities, which is not surprising since they were generally shunned elsewhere. As a result the Chinese were subjected to all manner of abuse, even murder, and Brennessel has done quite a credible job of portraying this.

Nonetheless, Todd and Lâo Jian persevere primarily because of the strength and love they derive from one another, and this is the inspirational theme that underlies the whole story. Highly recommended. Five bees!

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 43,538

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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.

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Coming of Age on the Trail: A number of people have inquired about my forthcoming novel, and where they can find more information on it. Others have expressed concerns that the URL link “COA related photos” listed earlier, is not operating. That’s because I have changed servers in the meantime. So, to Answer both queries click on the banner below to be taken to the new URL, and follow the links you will find there. Thanks for your interest.

COA - banner - 500px

A progress report: I will finish the pre-edit draft in about 2 – 3 days, and after one more re-write it will be on its way. Watch for it early summer 2013.

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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.

      

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January 21, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Northern Lights, by James Matthew Green

This is  history as it should be told (and taught): A history lesson that can be absorbed while enjoying a truly enjoyable story.

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northern lights - coverJames Matthew Green’s historical novel, Northern Lights, takes the reader into the vivid excitement of the French and Indian War. Daniel Allouez, whose father is French and mother is Ojibwe Indian, enters into the war not only to fight the enemy, but to discover who he is at the crossroads of race, religion, and sexual orientation.

The spiritual nature of Daniel’s search draws beautifully upon his Ojibwe tradition, with its emphasis on experiencing the Divine in nature. Daniel’s discovery of love in a same-sex relationship presents difficulties as well as transformation in this resounding story of triumph and emotional healing.

About the Author

  • James Matthew (Jim) Green is a psychotherapist in private practice in Charlotte, NC. Born in 1952, Jim grew up in Minnesota, and has lived in California, Oregon, Montana, and North Carolina. His ethnic roots include Norwegian, French, and Ojibwe/Odawa. Jim is enrolled at White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
  • Jim’s work as a psychotherapist and as a writer explores the Sacred Mystery and Power encountered in nature and in the experiences of life.
  • Jim is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He studied theology at Saint John’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Camarillo, CA, and earned a Masters of Divinity at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC.
  • In his psychotherapy practice, Jim specializes in spirituality for emotional healing.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ever on the lookout for Canadian authors and/or Canadian content and history, especially from a gay perspective, I came across Northern Lights, by James Matthew Green [CreateSpace Independent Publishing , June 23, 2012], and although the author is American this novel fills the latter two categories quite admirably. Moreover, it fits my concept of gay historical fiction to a “T” by giving history a face—albeit a fictional one—to represent those GBLT men and women who lived and loved in another time.

Northern lights - French-Indian-WarThe story is set in the 1750s against the somewhat neglected backdrop of the so-called “French and Indian War ” (1754-1763) [more about this point below]. It is also the backdrop for James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. However, in this novel the main character wasn’t merely raised by Indians, he is in fact half-Indian (Métis), and the other half being French. The Métis theme is also one that has been surprising neglected in the past, for few things can evoke the northern frontiers like a band of the bon vivant Métis and Coureurs de bois.

While these elements form the backdrop, and at times provide some exciting drama, the main theme here is spirituality—both Christian and Native. Being part Ojibwe himself, the author has provided some fascinating insights into Ojibwe spiritual beliefs, including Two Spirit culture, as the main characters, Daniel and Rorie, come to terms with divergent beliefs and their sexuality.

I was particularly intrigued, as well, by the scenes involving ‘near death experience,’ for it was a widely held belief among many tribes that the spirit left the body to converse with inhabitants of the “Other Land,” and then returned with messages to “This Land.” In fact, I have used this theme in my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail.

I was also struck by the way the author emphasized the reverence and respect Natives held for the environment around them without flogging the point. For indeed, that is how it was. It was a natural as etiquette is today—or was.

My quibbles are minor and technical, and probably wouldn’t even be noticed by anyone who wasn’t a former professor of history, but they stood out for me. The first, as I mentioned above, has to do with the use of the lable “French and Indian War” to describe the conflict. The author does acknowledge that this is an American term, but goes on to describe the Canadian equivalent as “The War of conquest.” Nope—not exactly. English-Canadians refer to it as “The Anglo-French Conflict,” while French-Canadians refer to it as “La guerre de la Conquête” (i.e. “The War of Conquest”.)  In a country with two distinct cultures, and an underlying current of nationalism, that is a big deal.

My second quibble has to do with the term “Winnipeg;” as in “Winnipeg River.” Actually, the much later name Winnipeg is an English bastardization of  the Cree word “Wīnipēk (ᐐᓂᐯᐠ)”, meaning “murky waters,” and contemporary maps of the period also show it as such.

That said, this is history as it should be told (and taught): A history lesson that can be absorbed while enjoying a truly enjoyable story. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 43,006

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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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Notice: Due to Amazon’s recent decision to arbitrarily purge customer reviews from  its pages, I will no longer be posting  on Amazon.com and/or Amazon.ca. Instead, I will be posting on this site, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. If and when Amazon changes its policy, I will be happy to resume.

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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. We’ve recorded 3,000 visits in just over three weeks. Congratulations! I’ll keep looking for more interesting stories, so please come back soon.

January 14, 2013 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Dos Equis (A Russel Quant Mystery, #8) by Anthony Bidulka

A Canadian gem, set in Saskatoon –

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dos equis - coverStory blurb: After a year-long, self-imposed exile, ten whispered words in a cryptic telephone message change everything for Russell Quant: “Quant, you are the only one who can help me.” Returning to his life as a prairie private eye, he comes face to face with the greatest horror of his career. When an old rival is found dead, Quant is thrust into his most personal and dangerous case yet. Up against a cold, calculating villain, Russell risks everything, including the lives of those he loves. Fighting to right a wrong, Russell recruits his entire entourage of family and friends in an unforgettable caper that races from the frigid winterscapes of Saskatchewan to the pristine beaches of Mexico’s Costa Grande, in a tale of love, loss, lies, and coming home.

Available in ebook format – 431 KB

About this author: Anthony Bidulka has enjoyed time well-spent and misspent in the worlds of academia, accounting, footwear, food services and farming. In 1999 Anthony Bidulka, BA, BEd, BComm, CA, left a decade long career as a Chartered Accountant to pursue writing.

Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant mystery series tells the story of a half-Ukrainian, half-Irish, gay, ex-farm boy, ex-cop, Canadian private detective living a big life in a small city. The series has made Bidulka a multi award nominee — including a nomination for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award — and the second book in the series, Flight of Aquavit, was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Men’s Mystery.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although Dos Equis  (A Russell Quant Mystery, #8) by Anthony Bidulka [Insomniac Press, 2012] is the eighth in the series, it is the first I have read. Nevertheless, I was able to get into the story and engage with the characters without any difficulty whatsoever.

To begin, I was fascinated by fellow-Canadian Anthony Bidulka’s background (which is slightly similar to mine in diversity), and conclude that this is what contributes to his broad range of knowledge on several topics. Travel being one of them.

The story opens in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, but after he receives a mysterious message from a fellow private investigator he returns to his native town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.[I love the setting—the first for Saskatoon, I believe.] There, he is shocked to find her murdered, but using her files he discovers she was working on a case involving the deliberate food poisoning of a wealthy old lady. However, it was done in such a way (using botulism) that it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove.

To go about this the author very cleverly brings in a gang of characters from his previous seven books, Anthony Gatt, Jared Lowe, Sereena Orion Smith, and Errall Strane, and police contact Darren Kirsch, and well as his Ukrainian mother, Kate (a delightful personality.)

Along the way he finds romance, although this aspect is far from being homoerotic by any means.

Although the culprit is known fairly early, the ending is still clever and suspenseful.

Mr. Bidulka is a multi-award winning novelist and this is certainly evident in his style, character development and plot construction. The whole novel 388 pages (431 KB) reads as smoothly as satin, with flashes of wit that delighted the senses too. Five bees.

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 Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 42,278

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Thanks again!

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Mission statement for Gerry Burnie Books

I have reworked several parts of my main website, http://gerryburniebooks.ca, including my mission statement pertaining to all my book, published and to come.

canada collage draft copy

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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.

      

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January 7, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Fiction, Gay fiction | 2 Comments

   

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