Gerry B's Book Reviews

Real Men Ride Horses, by Ken Shakin

Raw, uncompromising, unique, and thoroughly enjoyable.


real men ride horses - coverStory blurb taken from Ken Shakin’s preface: These stories were published before a certain Hollywood movie made the wild west famous for gay romance and frustration. But cowboys in love are nothing new, to say nothing of the Indians. The history and poetry of the region give evidence of the ways of real men, braves and pardners, with their origins in the tribal practices explored by some thirsty settlers and loving Mormons. You only have to look at an oil painting from the period to see naked boys quenching their thirst at the local swimming hole. You won’t find boys swimming naked together anymore, unless you go looking for it. Much has been written about the impossibility of gay life in the American desert. I wanted to write about all the sex you could have anyway.

I also wanted to show the desert in the mind of anyone with a sexual habit, searching for love in a man, woman, or beast. The west with its wide open spaces seemed the perfect setting for digging into the entrails of human behavior, far away from the holes in the walls in Sleaze City, but maybe just as foul.

When I left New York for good I didn’t know where to go. I toured around the States for a while, before going south of the equator and later settling in the old world across the ocean. These stories are based on my experiences going west, to a place as foreign to me as anything I would find in the rest of the world.

About the author: Ken Shakin has been called the most flippant man in fiction. His irreverent books stain the shelves of the public library, including the highly acclaimed Love Sucks (1997), Grandma Gets Laid (2008), and most recently Thrillerotica (2010). is home to his unique genre, “calculated to send a shiver down even the most desensitized spine” (Omnilit). The New York native is a graduate of the Juilliard School, with a degree in piano. He lives in Berlin.

“Shakin’s darkly humorous and perverse works have earned him an underground following, largely due to the fact that he flaunts every standard of decency.” —Contemporary Authors


Review by Gerry Burnie

This is a book of vignettes I read some time back, but didn’t attempt to review because I wasn’t certain how I could do it justice. Nonetheless, I think Ken Shakin’s zany style, his off-the-wall imagination, his tell-it-like-it-is starkness—as demonstrated in his Real Men Ride Horses [, September 12, 2012]—has affected my thinking about gay westerns ever since.

Regarding his style: Shakin writes in stark, black and white, with no shades of grey, and yet he is not judgemental. Rather, he simply shines his light on the various characters and situations, one after another, for the readers to judge for themselves. For example from Real Men Ride Horses:

I look around the bar and I know I’m in Sodom. A small town somewhere in America. This could be a Hollywood set. The bar pretends to be western. In the middle of the wild west. The sign above the swinging doors says saloon. The jukebox is twanging. The whole place is made of wood and smells like beer, but there’s a picture of Cher over the mirror that says it all. There are more cowboy hats than cowboys in here. Welcome to the pink desert.

I look at the boy in the cowboy hat next to me. It’s only been a few minutes and already we’re acting like we’ve known each other since we were kids. Playing a game. Cowboys and Indians. As a native New Yorker, I must be the Indian. My arrow aimed straight at the cowboy’s heart.

“Don’t be fooled by the hat,” he says. “Ain’t no cowboys no more. Not real ones.”

He takes a long swig on his piña colada, careful to push the umbrella out of the way with his pinky. Johnny’s old enough to drink. Young enough to fuck. He’s awfully jaded for such a fresh face. The new generation. Wise at an early age, but just as stupid. When I was his age, thrills came in books. Now they have a virtual world to wander. Lost cowboys, shooting it with a joystick.

“Let’s go to your motel,” he says.

That is just one example of many, for it is difficult to know which ones to choose, and yet it is impossible to summarize them all. So, here’s another from Bingo Cowboy:

The anonymous man heads for the toilet. For more stimulating conversation. A man follows him in. Standing next to each other at the urinal there’s nothing to say. They stare at each other’s dicks. The man slips a hand down the back of his jeans and grabs his ass. They leave together. The toilet. The bar. He follows the man into his van and in no time the man is fucking his ass. But half way through the ass changes his mind. Maybe it’s that hit of E he swallowed on his way in the bar. Suddenly the man looks like a human toilet. He doesn’t like the smell of him. Medicinal. Shitty. Maybe it’s just the lube in his ass but he decides he’s had enough of this shit. To get it over with he pretends he’s gonna shoot and the guy responds. By shooting. Bingo!

The thirteen essays Shakin has included read like stories of characters he has either met, heard about or stories he’s been told, and some of them have the ring of historic authenticity. For example, from the essay Little Hero:

The record will show that the boy was arrested in the year 1900. For vagrancy. I find the citation in a dusty book in a library in the middle of a wasteland. The fruity librarian explains that vagrancy meant something else back then. Like loitering. Standing on the corner. Selling your body.ether. The fruity librarian brings out a handful of dusty books, relics from an out-dated criminal justice system, reformed schools that have long since burned down. He seems to have made this boy his hobby. The rest of the boy’s life went from bad to worse. Until one day he disappeared from the records. Maybe he joined the oil rush or struck gold. Or maybe he ended up in the gutter. All I can do now is read the citations. And with a bit of imagination, fill in the details. The story of his young life. And of the boy who shared his cell.

When they pick up the vagrant, he’s got nothing but the clothes on his back and a piece of charcoal in his pocket. Nothing to his name except unspoken emotions and a price list, evidence of his crime. He likes to draw. The wild west graffiti artist. Always carries a piece of charcoal in his pocket so he can draw on a wall or a floor. The price list itemizes his prize possession. His youth. His body. His boyhood for sale.

Ken Shakin packs a lot of meaning and imagery into every phrase, every sentence, and even every word, so if you are looking for an anthology with a refreshing difference I can guarantee you won’t find one like it. Five bees.


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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest postKate Aitkin, Pioneer Woman Broadcaster


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November 25, 2013 Posted by | Gay western, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

Make Do and Mend, by Adam Fitzroy

A charming time capsule set in rural Wales




make do and mend - coverStory blurb: The Second World War. It’s not all fighting and glory; there are battles on the Home Front, too, and some are not exactly heroic. That’s what injured naval officer Harry discovers when he befriends conscientious objector Jim – a friendship frowned upon in their small Welsh valley even before they begin to fall in love. But they both have secrets to conceal, and it takes a bizarre sequence of events before the full truth can be uncovered.

A novel about healing, compromise, making the best of it and just plain managing to survive.

About the author: Imaginist and purveyor of tall tales Adam Fitzroy is a UK resident who has been successfully spinning male-male romances either part-time or full-time since the 1980s, and has a particular interest in examining the conflicting demands of love and duty.


Review by Gerry Burnie

Coming so close after Remembrance Day, I’ll admit that another wartime story may not be ideal timing, but Make Do and Mend by Adam Fitzroy [Manifold Press, May 4, 2013] is more of a gentle love story than a war tale per se. In fact, given that it deals (in part) with the topic of a conscientious objection, one could say it is ‘anti-war’ in nature.

As the story opens, the Second World War is already underway, and Navy Commander Harry Lyons has been sent home on medical leave. Home is a family farm in rural Wales, where enigmatic farmhand, Jim Byrnawell, a conscientious objector, is making himself handy. This is the simple beginning to a story that, happily, stays simple, even though there is much happening at the same time.

Through Harry and Jim, we are invited behind the war scene to a quiet corner of Wales where the inhabitants are ‘making do’. Rationing and sacrifice are the accepted norms, and yet it is this communal sacrifice that brings people together; our two protagonists included.

To add a bit of angst to the mix, the author has introduced a hypothetical debate around the topic of conscientious objection; as discussed from the point of view of various characters. It is a somewhat unique perspective—certainly one I have not encountered before—and Fitzroy has done a fine job of keeping the discussion balanced.

The other elements of the story have a balance to them, as well. Harry and Jim’s relationship comes together with a naturalness that sits well with the reader, and the physical aspects are in keeping with the novel’s understated style.

Mention should also be made of the charming setting, and of the quaintness of the Welsh villagers. It reads with all the credibility of opening a time capsule. Five bees.


Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 58,571


Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Johnny Fauquier – DSO (Double bar): Probably Canada’s greatest bomber pilot.


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November 18, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, by Allan Bérubé


Edition of Gerry B’s Book Reviews



Some interesting facts

  • Remembrance Day was originally known as “Armistice Day”
  • In Canada it became Remembrance Day by Act of Parliament in 1931.
  • It is known by our neighbours and allies to the south as “Veteran’s Day”.
  • The poppy is the symbol that individuals use to show that they remember those who fought and died in the service of their country.
  • The idea of the poppy originated with the 1915 poem “In Flanders Field” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer in the First World War. His poem reflects his first hand account of what he witnessed while working from a dressing station on the bank of the Yser Canal.
  • An American woman, Moina Michael, was the first person known to have worn a poppy in remembrance.

If you never read another historical account of this era, read this one! Outstanding!


coming out under fire - coverStory blurb: This major study chronicles the struggle of homosexuals in the U.S. military during WW II who found themselves fighting on two fronts: against the Axis and against their own authorities who took extreme measures to stigmatize them as unfit to serve their country. From 1941 to 1945, more than 9000 gay servicemen and women purportedly were diagnosed as sexual psychopaths and given “undesirable” discharges. Based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, augmented by 75 interviews with gay male and female veterans, social historian Berube recounts the purges in the military into the Cold War era when homosexuality was officially equated with sin, crime and sickness. The book reveals that the first public challenge to the military’s policy came not from the gay-rights movement but from military psychiatrists who studied gay servicemen and women during World War II. This evenhanded study brings into sharp focus an important chapter in American social history.

About the author: Allan Ronald Bérubé (December 3, 1946 – December 11, 2007) was an American historian, activist,independent scholar, self-described “community-based” researcher and college drop-out, and award-winning author, best known for his research and writing about homosexual members of the American Armed Forces during World War II He also wrote essays about the intersection of class and race in gay culture, and about growing up in a poor, working class family, his French-Canadian roots, and about his experience of anti-AIDS activism.

Coming Out Under Fire earned Bérubé the Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men’s Nonfiction book of 1990 and was later adapted as a film in 1994, narrated by Salome Jens and Max Cole, with a screenplay by Bérubé and the film’s director, Arthur Dong. The film received a Peabody Award for excellence in documentary media in 1995. Bérubé received a MacArthur Fellowship (often called the “genius grant”) from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. He received a Rockefeller grant from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in 1994 to research a book on the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, and he was working on this book at the time of his death. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Review by Gerry Burnie

If I were asked to design a definitive course on the history of Gays and Lesbians in North America, I would include three books  as required reading: Gay  American History, by  Jonathon Katz; From  the Closet to the Courtroom, by  Carlos Ball; and Coming out Under Fire, by  Allan Bérubé [Free Press, 1990]. Moreover, I think the students would thank me afterward  for choosing books that are authoritative, informative and relatively easy to  read.

For me personally, Allan Bérubé’s seminal work represents an eye-opener like few others I have read. Indeed, I was moved from profound sadness to outright rage when I learned the systematic
persecution that these innocent men and women had to endure in the service of their country. That, perhaps, is the greatest benefit that this retrospective can provide, for those who cannot
remember the past are condemned to repeat it

The following is a précis of Bérubé’s thesis, but it is by no means complete or in depth. To really appreciate the full story of coming out under fire I urge you to read the original.


When the  war clouds started to descend over Europe in the 1930s the United States  military did not exceed two hundred thousand soldiers, and so to overcome this Congress  passed the nation’s first peacetime conscription act. Consequently, conscripts began to fill the Army’s ranks in astonishing numbers (16 million in 1940-41).

With so many men available, the armed forces decided to exclude certain groups, including women, blacks, and—following  the advice of psychiatrists—homosexuals (although this term was not yet widely used).  Traditionally the military had  never officially excluded homosexuals, but in World War II a dramatic change occurred.  Seeing a chance to advance their prestige, influence, and legitimacy of their  profession, psychiatrists promoted screening as a means of reducing psychiatric casualties before they became military responsibilities.

In 1941, therefore, the Army issued a  directive which disqualified “homosexual proclivities” as a “psychopathic personality  disorder.”  This was in keeping with the  prevailing belief that homosexuality was a neurological disorder—i.e. the first  signs of a brain-disease caused by heredity, trauma, or bad habits such as  masturbation, drunkenness and drug addiction.

Moreover, the military encased this  idea in “characteristics that were considered inferior or “degenerative” by  virtue of their deviation from the generally white, middle-class, and
native-born norm.” (Location 536).

“The  framers of the Army’s interwar physical standards listed feminine  characteristics among the “stigmata of degeneration” that made a man unfit for  military service. Males with a “degenerative physique,” the regulation explained,  “may present the general body conformation of the opposite sex, with sloping  narrow shoulders, broad hips, excessive pectoral and public adipose [fat]  deposits, with lack of masculine hirsute [hair] and muscular markings.”” (Location 536).

Bérubé then goes on to explain, “The  reason for excluding these as psychopaths was that, like other men in this “wastebasket”  category, they were considered to be irresponsible troublemakers who were  unable to control their desires or learn from their mistakes and thus  threatened the other men.” (Location 568).

To make matters worse, this sort of quackery  was widely promulgated in training seminars for recruiters and physicians  throughout the United States, and even published in medical journals for wider  distribution.

On the other hand, because of women’s marginal status in the military prior to WWII, neither the Army nor the Navy had developed policies and procedures concerning lesbians. Therefore, women
recruits were never asked the homosexual question, and were therefore able to enter the military undetected.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed, however, the rules were relaxed to accommodate the demands of war, and the military was forced to accept and integrate most gay selectees. In fact, it was privately  acknowledged that gay men had become vital members of the armed forces. Moreover, the gay recruits found ways to fit in and even to form close and lasting relationships with “buddies.”

Sexual activity was at a minimum until the recruits learned the rules, and then discrete opportunities could be found where there was a will.

“Not all trainees who approached other men for sex were gay. Heterosexual recruits who had had the most sexual experience with women or who felt strong sex drives could initiate sex without being afraid that they were queer, especially if their partner was gay and played the “passive” role. Teenage recruits who were just fooling around with each other, especially if they had been drinking, found themselves unexpectedly becoming sexual. Some older soldiers with more sexual experience in the military taught younger men how to have sex without getting caught. On the other hand, recruits who knew they were gay before entering the service were sometimes the most reluctant to have sex.” (Location 1103).

Meanwhile, Army and Navy officials struggled with how to manage the homosexual behaviour, and several approaches were developed. When challenged from the outside, particularly by concerned
parents or clergy, their public stance was to condemn behaviour considered to be immoral in the wider culture, including  profanity, drunkenness, erotic pictures, extramarital sex, lesbianism, homosexuality, and prostitution. Within the organization, however, military officials took a more understanding approach—forced into it by the need to hang onto trained personnel.

Trainees usually learned on their own how to put up with one another’s differences in order to get through basic training. They also received pleas for tolerance from the war propaganda which
portrayed American soldiers as defending the ideals of democracy, equality, and freedom against the totalitarian Axis. But inspired more by necessity than idealism, male trainees responded to the demands of basic training by developing their own pragmatic ethic of tolerance: “I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me.”

One of the areas where blatant effeminacy was tolerated—even applauded—was in the “all-soldier variety show.” These began as a diversion, but soon became a popular form of frontline entertainment even under fire. These were all-male shows to entertain each other that almost always  featured female impersonation, and coincidentally provided a temporary refuge for gay males to let their hair down and entertain their fellows.

“The impulse to put on shows and perform in dresses generally came from the men themselves—soldiers without women, as well as gay men, had long traditions of spontaneously dressing up in women’s clothes. But during World War II, the military officials, pressured by GIs, their own morale personnel, and leaders in the civilian theatre world …found themselves not only tolerating makeshift drag but officially promoting female impersonation.” (Location 1677).

In 1941, strained by the demands of a massive war mobilization that included a large influx of gay soldiers, the military could no longer handle its homosexual discipline problems by sending all offenders to prison as required by the Articles of War.[1] Therefore, based on the belief that homosexuality was a mental illness, there was a concerted effort to discharge homosexuals without trial while retaining those whose services were deemed essential. However, this policy ran contrary to the common law that held homosexuality as “an infamous and unspeakable crime against nature,” and that the military had a responsibility “to prevent such crimes with severe punishment
and to protect the morals of the nation’s young people under their jurisdiction.”

Underlying all this was a sort of political upmanship among various factions of the military bureaucracy. For example, having sodomites released into the care of psychiatrists would greatly enhance the standing of psychiatry as a legitimate science, and for their part the generals resented the  interference of the legals in the Judge Advocate’s office. Therefore, the unfortunate men and women awaiting jusice were helplessly caught somewhere in the middle.

There was also the question of what sort of discharge would apply–i.e. honourable medical discharge or dishonourable? An honourable discharge, it was argued, might lead to homosexual activity or declaration in order to escape compulsory service. Dishonourable discharge (so-called “section eights” or “blue cards”), on the other hand, were generally used only for men who had been convicted of a crime and who had served their sentences. These had been used successfully to eliminate social misfits–alcoholics, chronic liars, drug addicts, men who antagonised everyone—but technically did not include homosexuals. In the end (1943), however, the military issued a directive that steered a compromise inasmuch as sodomy was still deemed a criminal offence, but it allowed for an exception where force or violence had not been used. These individuals would be examined by a board of officers “with the purpose of discharge under the provisions of Section Eight.

It was intended as a more humane way of dealing with “offenders” but, as gay men and women would soon find out, it was fraught with difficulties of its own.

As officers began to discharge homosexuals as undesirables, the gay GIs who were their targets had to learn how to defend themselves in psychiatrists’ offices, discharge hearing rooms, hospital wards, and in “queer stockades.” There they were interrogated about their sex lives, locked up, physically abused, and subjected to systematic humiliations in front of other soldiers.

“The discharge system could drag any GI whose homosexuality became known or even suspected into seemingly endless maze of unexpected humiliations and punishments. Some gay male and lesbian GIs first entered the maze when they voluntarily declared their homosexuality, fully expecting to be hospitalized
and discharged. But others, following the advice in basic training lectures to talk over their problems with a doctor, psychiatrist, or chaplain, were shocked when medical officers betrayed their confidences by reporting them for punitive action ad “self-confessed” homosexuals, or were disappointed and frustrated when more sympathetic psychiatrists could not help them at all. Caught during their processing for discharge in battles between friendly and hostile officers, they found themselves thrown around like footballs in a game over which they had no control.”
(Location 4442).

Nor were things to improve when they were returned home to civilian life. Gay veterans with “blue” or undesirable discharges where stripped of his service medals, rank, and uniform, then given a one-way ticket home where they had to report to their draft board to present their discharge papers. The stigma attached to these discharges was not an accident. Rather, it was intended to punish homosexuals and prevent malingering, and the requirement that the GI report to his draft board ensured that his community would find out the nature of his discharge. Therefore, they were forced to come out to their families and communities. Wherever blue-discharge veterans lived, employers, schools, insurance companies, veterans’ organizations, and other institutions could  use their bad discharge papers to discriminate against them.

One of the most vindictive punishments meted out to these veterans was the denial of GI benefits that included federally subsidized home loans; college loans with allowances for subsistence, tuition, and books; unemployment allowances; job training and placement programs; disability pensions and hospital care. Top officials at the Veterans Administration were responsible for this denial, contrary to Army policy and Congress, but nonetheless the VA refused to drop its anti-homosexual prohibition. Consequently, many blue-discharge veterans found it difficult (impossible) to find employment, and when they applied for unemployment insurance, or small
business loans, or college assistance, they were denied in a Catch-22 situation.

One of the side effects of this discrimination was that having survived fear and death on the battlefield, some gay combat veterans began to cast off the veil of secrecy that so seriously
constrained their lives. For them, “coming out” to family and friends was not nearly as terrifying as facing the enemy in battle. Moreover, the popular press began to take notice of the blue-ticket discharges, and their plight, and started to publish columns on the “Homosexual Minorities,” characterizing them as “anther minority which suffers from its position in society in somewhat the same way as the Jews and Negroes.”

Unfortunately, this period of ‘liberal’ attitude was short-lived, for in the late 1940s a preoccupation with conformity brought a fearful scapegoating of those who deviated from a narrow idea of the
nuclear family and the American way of life. However, you will have to read this most remarkable book to learn the outcome of this.


What I have included above only covers a small portion of this fascinating, sometimes heart rending, story. If you never read another history of this period, I urge you to read this one. Five Bees, and if I could give ten I would!

Under the Articles of War, the maximum penalties for Army enlisted men and
officers convicted of sodomy were five years confinement at hard labour,
forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and dishonourable discharge or dismissal.
Under the Articles for the Navy, the maximum penalties for enlisted men were
same but with ten years of confinement at hard labour.


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November 11, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Gay documentary, Gay Literature, Gay non-fiction, Historical period, Military history, Non-fiction | 3 Comments

The Second Ring, by Anthony Kobal

A great adaptation of an historical event, skilfully told.


the second line - coverStory blurb: Set in war-torn Norway during the German Occupation, Klaus, a young national, finds that he has caught the attention of Axel, a rising Nazi officer in the élite Fallschirmjäger paratroopers. While the battle for territory is rife with bloodshed, the battle for heavy water – crucial for making an atomic bomb – is just as intense. An almost impregnable factory is the target, nestled in the side of a mountain, beneath a plateau. The Enigma machine has been decoding signals that the Norwegians plan on sabotaging it in the deepest winter. As Axel and Klaus’ mutual attraction turns to near obsession, old rivalries threaten to expose the impossible seduction between the two, and the inevitable clash in the fierce ice and snow of battle rises to a harrowing confrontation.

Cover design by Fiona Jayde

Editing by Mary Harris

About the Author: Poet and novelist, Anthony Kobal is the author of many articles in LGBT publications internationally. This is his first novel.


Review by Gerry Burnie

The Vemork electrolysis building appears here in a photo taken during the plant's inauguration. After descending from the plateau, the attackers crossed the gorge behind where this photographer stood and approached the plant from alongside the turbine hall (upper left).

The Vemork electrolysis building appears here in a photo taken during the plant’s inauguration. After descending from the plateau, the attackers crossed the gorge behind where this photographer stood and approached the plant from alongside the turbine hall (upper left).

Given that next Monday is “Armistice Day,” or “Remembrance Day” as we now call it, The Second Ring, a first novel by Anthony Kobal, [Solferino Press; 1 edition, October 28, 2013] is topical indeed. The story is based in part on the Nazi regime’s failed attempt to build a nuclear bomb during WWII, and the sabotaging of the Vemork heavy water plant near Rjuken, Norway, February 28, 1943.

As a good historical novel should, I think, the author has stuck quite closely to historical facts. For example, he brings to the fore the bitterness felt by the German people with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), which imposed heavy penalties on them in retribution for WWI. This, and the burden of rebuilding the country, were two of the factors that led to Hitler’s successful takeover with a promise of an Aryan Nation.

The protagonist in this story is a young German, Axel, who shortly after his introduction becomes the sex slave of a kinky baron. It seems the baron is into BDSM and likes to have a naked lapdog on a leash. Enter a second slave (Bruno, for the purposes of later on), who happens to be Axel’s nemesis from their school days.

Axel seems content being a slave, for, although he is not held hostage, he tolerates the baron’s depraved proclivities until he is literally thrown out. Nonetheless, he picks himself up to become one of the young lions in the Nazi’s crack paratrooper outfit.

The story really begins when Axel’s company is assigned to assist and protect the Vemork Electrolysis Plant, located among the formidable peaks and cliffs of the Hardanger Plateau, from the fierce Norwegian Resistance Movement. Needless to say, given the Nazi’s persecution of homosexuals, Axel is very guarded regarding his true sexual orientation, but fate is fickle, and before long he finds himself in love with Klaus, a Norwegian freedom fighter.

Then, in another fatalistic twist, Bruno show up in a senior command position, and promptly abducts Klaus for himself.

Being a historical fact, the fate of the Vemork heavy water is known—a fascinating story in its own right:

Surrounding their boss Leif Tronstad (front row, center) are most of the Vemork saboteurs, including (front row left to right) Jens Anton Poulsson and Joachim Ronneberg, and (back row left to right) Hans Storhaug, Fredrik Kayser, Kasper Idland, Claus Helberg, and Birger Stromsheim.

Surrounding their boss Leif Tronstad (front row, center) are most of the Vemork saboteurs, including (front row left to right) Jens Anton Poulsson and Joachim Ronneberg, and (back row left to right) Hans Storhaug, Fredrik Kayser, Kasper Idland, Claus Helberg, and Birger Stromsheim.

Conscious that every minute was now crucial, Ronneberg and Kayser climbed a short ladder and crawled as silently as possible down the shaft on their hands and knees over a mass of wires and pipes, pushing their sacks of explosives ahead of them as they went. Through an opening in the ceiling they could see the target beneath them. At the end of the tunnel the pair quickly slid down a ladder into an outer room before rushing the night watchman inside the high-concentration area.

“They immediately locked the doors and Kayser held his gun to the night watchman, who was quivering uncontrollably. Ronneberg had laid about half of the 18 charges when he heard a shattering of glass, and he spun around to see Sergeant Birger Stromsheim climbing in through a window from the back of the plant. Kayser also swung around and prepared to load his gun before he realized they were in good company.

Just before they lit the fuses, the guard said, “Please, I need my glasses. They are impossible to get in Norway these days.” It was a surreal moment and the request stopped the three raiders in their tracks, bewildered by this change to the script, this brief snapshot of civilian anxiety at the critical point of a crucial military operation. There followed a few curious moments as the saboteurs politely rummaged around his desk for his glasses. “Takk” (thank you) said the smiling guard as he put the spectacles on his nose. As he spoke, the four of them heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Was this one of the German guards making his rounds? To their relief, a Norwegian civilian walked into the room and almost fell backwards as he saw what appeared to be three British commandos and his colleague with his hands above his head.

The Vemork heavy water plant after the allies' sabotage.

The Vemork heavy water plant after the allies’ sabotage.

The four members of the demolition party immediately took cover, waiting for a reaction from the German barracks hut. They lay or stood stock-still as the door of the hut swung open and a soldier appeared, only half dressed, flashing a torch around the factory yard. He walked slowly in the direction of Haukelid, who was hiding behind some empty drum caskets.

When he was five yards away he stopped and swept the beam of the torch no more than a few inches above the Norwegian’s head. Had it been a windless night, he might have been able to hear his heavy breathing, if not the rapid hammering of his heart. At that exact moment, three tommy guns and four pistols were pointing straight at the back of the unsuspecting German. A couple of inches lower with his torch and he would have been riddled with several dozen bursts of Allied firepower. But he turned on his heel and walked slowly back to the hut, and as the door shut the order for withdrawal was given. ~ Nova –

Regarding the fictional characters, I will leave the ending for the readers to discover for themselves. I will say this, however; it is somewhat unexpected (although not entirely), but fortunately not self-indulgent.

A good read. Congratulations, Anthony Kobal, on your first novel. Four bees.


Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 57-737


Authors in Depth

Coming soon – I will be launching a new blog shortly, Authors in Depth, dedicated to introducing new and established authors. This will be a free forum to talk about themselves, their books, and any personal interests and anecdotes they may wish to share. It is open to anyone (and all) with one or more published books to their credit. Authors who are interested can contact me at: 


Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Barbara Ann Scott: “Canada’s Sweetheart”.


If you would like to learn more about my other 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.


Now you can get a free, signed inscription, to go along with my e-books,

Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears 
Simply by clicking on the logo below

signed copy logo_edited-1


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!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Gay romance, Historical period | 1 Comment


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