Gerry B's Book Reviews

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.

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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.

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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!


[1]
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

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, by Paul Monette

A fascinating story of one man’s half-a-life, articulately written, and unapologetically candid.

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Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Book description: Paul Monette grew up all-American, Catholic, overachieving . . . and closeted. As a child of the 1950s, a time when a kid suspected of being a “homo” would routinely be beaten up, Monette kept his secret throughout his adolescence. He wrestled with his sexuality for the first thirty years of his life, priding himself on his ability to “pass” for straight. The story of his journey to adulthood and to self-acceptance with grace and honesty, this intimate portrait of a young man’s struggle with his own desires is witty, humorous, and deeply felt.

About the author: In novels, poetry, and a memoir, Paul Monette wrote about gay men striving to fashion personal identities and, later, coping with the loss of a lover to AIDS.

Monette was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1945. He was educated at prestigious schools in New England: Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University, where he received his B.A. in 1967. He began his prolific writing career soon after graduating from Yale. For eight years, he wrote poetry exclusively.

After coming out in his late twenties, he met Roger Horwitz, who was to be his lover for over twenty years. Also during his late twenties, he grew disillusioned with poetry and shifted his interest to the novel, not to return to poetry until the 1980s.

In 1977, Monette and Horwitz moved to Los Angeles. Once in Hollywood, Monette wrote a number of screenplays that, though never produced, provided him the means to be a writer. Monette published four novels between 1978 and 1982. These novels were enormously successful and established his career as a writer of popular fiction. He also wrote several novelizations of films.

Monette’s life changed dramatically when Roger Horwitz was diagnosed with AIDS in the early 1980s. After Horwitz’s death in 1986, Monette wrote extensively about the years of their battles with AIDS (Borrowed Time, 1988) and how he himself coped with losing a lover to AIDS (Love Alone, 1988). These works are two of the most powerful accounts written about AIDS thus far.

Their publication catapulted Monette into the national arena as a spokesperson for AIDS. Along with fellow writer Larry Kramer, he emerged as one of the most familiar and outspoken AIDS activists of our time. Since very few out gay men have had the opportunity to address national issues in mainstream venues at any previous time in U.S. history, Monette’s high-visibility profile was one of his most significant achievements. He went on to write two important novels about AIDS, Afterlife (1990) and Halfway Home (1991). He himself died of AIDS-related complications in 1995.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was in the mood for a gay non-fiction story this week, and so I went looking. One would think that with all that is currently happening, there would be a dearth of non-fiction stories, but no. However, I did come across Paul Monette’s perennial Becoming a Man: Half a Life [Open Road Media, March 25, 2014]. It is a re-release of an earlier 1992 version, but since it is set in the 1950s and 60s—and biographical—it is still a relevant read.

Almost all gay men can relate to Monette’s story, as witness the number of reviews (the majority by men) that start out: “I could identify with so much of Monette’s feelings…” or “Coming of age in the fifties, Paul Monette lived a life that, in a sense, paralleled my own as I too am a child of the fifties.”

To these reminiscences I can add my own, for I too came out in the 1950s. Moreover, I too lucked out by having an older, well-established and highly-regarded man take me under his wing, to teach me that if you aim for the chimney pots you will reach the window sills, but if you aim for the stars you will reach the chimney pots.

I must say, however, that my life was not quite so unapologetically dramatic as Monette’s. Yes, like Monette, I instinctively realized that I had an attraction to men before I knew what sex was about, and yes, I quickly learned it was wrong; but only because the Church and my mother said so.

I also learned to keep it to myself at high school, and I was sometimes teased on account of ‘being different,’ but it never got worse than that. In fact, I was more likely to quietly sought out than bullied.

Nonetheless, I do parallel him again as soon as I got out into the working world, where keeping your mouth shut about your sexuality was part of keeping your job. Likewise, ‘playin la game’ (i.e. dating, and living the straight life) was expected—not so much for yourself as others.

Monette is brutally candid when it comes to this aspect, as well as other aspects of his life. Nothing, including an incident of pedophilia, is held back; however, not once did I get the impression he was looking for forgiveness or sensationalism. It was just as it had happened with nothing held back.

One aspect that I could have been happy with a little less of was his self-analysis; particularly of his younger years. Perhaps this is because I try to never analyze myself at any stage, and in this regard I think he should have stuck more to the facts. After all, many of the things he dwelt on carried their own explanation.

This is a fascinating story of one man’s life (half life), articulately written, and unapologetically candid. Recommended, four 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 people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Pioneer Schools and EducationTaught to the tune of the hickory stick!

 

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July 14, 2014 Posted by | AIDS, biography, Gay non-fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Paul Monette | Leave a comment

Home Fires Burning, by Charlie Cochrane

You can always be assured of a good read with Charlie Cochrane’s name on the cover.

Story blurb: Two stories, two couples, two eras, timeless emotions.

This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense: It is 1914 and The Great War is underway. When the call to arms comes, Nicholas Southwell won’t be found hanging back. It’s a pity he can’t be so decisive when it comes to letting his estate manager Paul Haskell know what he feels before he has to leave for the front line. In the trenches Nicholas meets a fellow officer, Phillip Taylor, who takes him into the unclaimed territory of physical love. Which one will he choose, if he’s allowed the choice?

The Case of the Overprotective Ass: Stars of the silver screen Alasdair Hamilton and Toby Bowe are wowing the post WWII audiences with their depictions of Holmes and Watson. When they are asked by a friend to investigate a mysterious disappearance, they jump at the chance—surely detection can’t be that hard? But a series of threatening letters—and an unwanted suitor—make real life very different from the movies.

Charlie Cochrane, author of the delightful Cambridge Fellows series, brings her familiar romantic, roguish style to the two novellas that together are “Home Fires Burning.”

Review by Gerry Burnie

You can always be assured of a good read when it has Charlie Cochrane’s name on the cover, and her latest work, Home Fires Burning [Cheyenne Press, August 2011] is no exception. Mind you, I must admit a weakness for vintage British style, and also the sentimentality of love during wartime. Even the title evokes this, being taken (I think) from a patriotic ditty composed by Ivor Novello with lyrics by Lena Gilbert Ford in 1914, i.e.

Chrous:

Keep the Home Fires Burning,

While your hearts are yearning.

Though your lads are far away

They dream of home.

There’s a silver lining

Through the dark clouds shining,

Turn the dark cloud inside out

‘Til the boys come home.”

This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense:

The blurb captures the gist of the story fairly well, and so I will limit my remarks to those aspects that I found particularly appealing.

I believe you can recognize a master writer within the first two dozen pages by the way the story develops, i.e. not too fast nor too slow in the same way that life or fate unfolds. Surprisingly it is easier said than done, for it requires an almost innate sense of timing to get the pace just right and maintain it. This is particularly true of a period novella like this one, for life in the early twentieth century—particularly for the upper classes—moved at a much more leisurely pace than we in the “fast food” era know it. Having said that, Ms Cochrane did a very fine job of capturing this civilized pace indeed.

Another aspect that registered with me was her depiction of the naïveté leading up to WWI. As part of one’s manhood it was very much expected that you would go off and fight whether you wanted to or not. There was also a measure of arrogance in the belief that Britain was invincible, and so, like Nicholas, many went “to get it over” by Christmas. Like Nicholas, however, they soon discovered that trench warfare was a very different war from anything they had experienced. The gruesomeness of it almost defies description, but I think the author has captured enough of it to give the reader the idea without emphasizing the macabre.

I also like how Nicholas, Phillip and Paul all maintain their masculine identity throughout, which would have almost certainly been the case in 1914. The unhurried pace at which Nicholas and Phillip entered into a sexual liaison is also credible, as is the uncertainty that existed between Paul and Nicholas. All pluses.

My only quibble comes with the sex scene that seems to be tacked on late in the story, but to discuss it further would risk spoiling the ending. Five stars.

 The Case of the Overprotective Ass

This story is a light hearted tale, once again written with a real sense of style. The protagonists, Alistair and Toby, are two quick-witted cinema personalities of the 1940s. They are also lovers. Having just finished a portrayal of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, they are asked by a theatre friend to find his missing male secretary. This sets them off on a adventure around London, conducting interviews and collecting clues—all the while indulging in witty banter.

In reading this story I couldn’t help but see Jonty and Orlando in disguise, and some parallels with the Cambridge Fellows Series. Or maybe it is because Charlie Cochrane is the author of both. Regardless, it was a delightful read and highly recommended. Five Stars.

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(1) The Proudly Canadian list of boks. (2) The Best Gay Canadian Fiction list of books. I have recently created two lists in Goodreads’ Listopia to help celebrate both Canadian books and Canadian authors. The Proudly Canadian list is open to all, so if you have a book that qualifies as Canadian feel free to add it. Or cast your vote for one that is already there. The URL of the list is: http://www.goodreads.com/list/user_votes/3715526

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Re-writes to Coming of Age on the Trail are coming alon slowly, i.e. 98/177 pages.

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Nor All Thy Tears and Two Irish Lads are now available in Kindle and Nook formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 ea., but this price may vary from vendor to vendor. To order click on the individual covers below.

      

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September 19, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period | 4 Comments

Sailors and Sexual Identity: Crossing the Line Between “Straight” and “Gay” in the U.S. Navy, by Steven Zeeland

Gerry B’s Book Reviews’ Remembrance Day Tribute

 

Remembrance Day Facts

  • Remembrance Day was originally known as “Armistice Day”
  • In Canada it became Remembrance Day by Act of Parliament in 1931.
  • It is known to 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.

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Story Blurb: In Sailors and Sexual Identity, author Steven Zeeland talks with young male sailors–both gay- and straight-identified–about ways in which their social and sexual lives have been shaped by their Navy careers.Despite massive media attention to the issue, there remains a gross disparity between the public perception of “gays in the military” and the sexual realities of military life. The conversations in this book reveal how known “gay” and “straight” men can and do get along in the sexually tense confines of barracks and shipboard life once they discover that the imagined boundary between them is not, in fact, a hard line.The stories recounted here in vivid detail call into question the imagined boundaries between gay and straight, homosexual and homosocial, and suggest a secret Pentagon motivation for the gay ban: to protect homoerotic military rituals, buddy love, and covert military homosexuality from the taint of sexual suspicion.Zeeland ‘s interviews explore many aspects of contemporary life in the Navy including: gay/straight friendship networks the sexual charge to the Navy/Marine Corps rivalry the reality behind sailors’reputations as sexual adventurers in port and at sea men ‘s differing interpretations of homoerotic military rituals and initiations sex and gender stereotypes associated with military job specialities how sailors view being seen as sex objectsEveryone interested in the issue of gays in the military, along with a general gay readership, gay veterans, and gay men for whom sailors represent a sexual ideal, will find Sailors and Sexual Identity an informative and entertaining read.

Available in hardcover and paperback formats, only – 338 pages

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Review by Gerry Burnie
Although Sailors and Sexual Identity: Crossing the Line Between “Straight” and “Gay” in the U.S. Navy by Steven Zeeland [Routledge, 1995] is somewhat outdated, the tales of male interaction and bonding, as well as sexual exploration and activity remain unchanged. Therefore, it is still a relevant read.

At the time of its writing, ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was still the prevailing rule regarding the military, and although it was an improvement over the witch hunts that had preceded it [See: Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, by Allan Bérubé] it was nonetheless a political compromise that left the whole question of sexuality in a sort of limbo. At times it was enforced, at other times it was used as an excuse to exit the service, but just as often it was simply ignored.

However, Sailors and Sexual Identity is not about DADT. Rather, it is, in the words of the author: “[A]…hope that an improved understanding of the sexual realities of military life will contribute to the discrediting of falsehoods and lies used to justify oppression of persons who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and anyone who participates in consensual sexual activity with others of the same sex.”

To do this, Zeeland “met more than 200 sailors and marines and taped conversations with 30, and of that number, the transcripts of 13 make up this anthology.

Lacking all the requisite scientific controls, this is not a clinical study per se, nor has Zeeland represented it as such. Rather, he describes it as a collection of interviews documenting the lives—both sexual and military—of men in the service, and from whom he has learned. In some ways it is well he distanced himself from an academic study, for it would no doubt have been criticized for being unscientific, and otherwise stigmatized as a laborious read (which it is not).

Zeeland has yet another stated objective, however, and that is to show through empirical observation that the line between “straight” and “gay” is often an ambivalent one; that:

“[H]omosexual expression is a natural possibility for men who identify themselves as heterosexual, and that the unavailability of women is often not so much a cause of, but an excuse for, sexual feeling for another male.”

To me this is the most interesting aspect of Zeeland’s study. It has long been a suspicion of mine that the above statement is true (based in part on personal experience), but I wanted to see some evidence that would back this up. What I got from Zeeland’s study was a solid “maybe.” Most interviewees reported at least some experience with men who identified themselves as “straight,” and who staunchly held on to some stereotypical vestige of  their heterosexuality to ‘prove’ it—like refusing to kiss, or “bottom”—but nonetheless freely indulged in homosexual acts. However, because of the anecdotal nature of the study the question remains unresolved in my mind.

This is one of those books that will interest readers with a navy or marine background, or who enjoy reading about the experiences of others—like I do—but at $42 (paperback, new) it will not be for everyone. Three and one-half bees.

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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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We also remember those who gave up their loved ones to the service of others. Thank you!

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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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November 5, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Gay military, Gay non-fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

Into Deep Waters, Kaje Harper

An enduring love story … True love conquers all.

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in deep waters - coverStory blurb: For Jacob and Daniel, two young gay men aboard a Navy ship in WWII, the risks were high. Not just the risks of injury and death from Japanese planes and submarines, but the risk of discovery, of discharge, imprisonment or worse. Only a special kind of love was worth taking that chance. But from the moment Daniel met Jacob’s eyes across a battle-scarred deck, he knew he had to try.

Being together required figuring out what it meant to be gay and in love with another man, in an era when they could be jailed or committed for admitting the desires of their hearts. On a ship at war, their relationship was measured in stolen moments and rare days of precious leave, with no guarantees there would be a tomorrow. And if they survived the war, they would need even more luck to keep their love alive through all the years to come.

Available as a free download from Kindle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

in deep water - sailors kissingI recall seeing Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper [Amazon Digital Services, Inc., June 2013] some time back, and noted that the story dealt with, not only young love, but also mature love of an enduring kind.

I also noted that, although it dealt with a romance that spanned almost sevven decades, a good portion of it was set during the war years of the 1940s—the nostalgic years of the Andrew Sisters singing “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But me)”, and Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again (Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When).”

Those were for straight folks, though. For would-be gay lovers like Jacob Segal and Daniel Arcadi, however, it was a different matter. Theirs was a furtive love, conducted in secret, and at considerable risk. [See my review of “Coming Out Under Fire, The History of Gay Men and Women in Word War Two, by Allan Bérubé”].

The beginning of the story is one of discovery; not only of their love for one another, but of themselves, and is told in a most credible and endearing fashion—two lovers in the throws of newfound love, forced by society’s convention to restrain it, and always under the threat of the foreign enemy. Nevertheless, love will find a way, and by a combination of luck and good management they and their love survive the initial stages.

There is some serious angst in the combat scenes, which the author describes remarkably well, and equally in the sinking of the ship. The aftermath of this is heart wrenching as well, but once again true love finds a way to carry them through.

Covering nearly seventy years in one story is a daunting task, but Ms Harper carries it off well. She uses this span to blend in the events that transpire in Jacob and Daniel’s lives, and some of the milestones that occurred in GBLT history—most notably Stonewall and equal marriage legislation.

So, for two lovers growing older with the faint hope they might see some acceptance in their lifetimes, this makes a most gratifying conclusion. Five bees.

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Viewers count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 53,354

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Russian youth murdered because he was gay and honest…

russia-murder-croppedOn May 9, during a night out drinking beer, Vladislav Tornovoi revealed to a pair of long time friends that he was gay. The 23-year-old’s dead body was found naked the next morning in the courtyard of an apartment complex in the southern Russian city of Volgograd. His skull had been crushed with a piece of broken pavement. His genitals were mutilated, his ribs broken and he had been sodomized with beer bottles with such force that they damaged his internal organs. Before they left, his assailants set fire to his battered body.

Vladmir Putin spawned this murder just as surely as if he was there and took part in it.

Please do what you can to protest Putin’s homophobic war against gays.

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 Interested in Canadian history? Want to see 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 books as well. Latest post: Casa Loma (one of Canada’s more than 20 castles).

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 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.

      

      

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August 5, 2013 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | , | 1 Comment

Adagio, by Chris Owen

A heart warming romance in the classic style …

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adagio - coverStory blurb: Love Is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans…

Five years after arriving in Australia, Jason Stuart is finally embarking on the dream that brought him Down Under: going on “walkabout” in the Australian Outback. But Jason is not that fresh-faced and untried boy from Canada anymore. Jason is a man with half a decade of bad memories and worse nightmares. His friends think he’s crazy, or possibly just plain stupid, but Jason needs to make his dream real in order to face his past.

Everything changes when Jason picks up an unexpected travel companion. Suddenly, it’s not his past that Jason needs to confront, it’s his future.

Part coming-of-age tale, part romance, part travel yarn, Adagio paints a heart warming picture of a fledgling relationship between two very different men against the lush backdrop of Australia’s natural wonders.

About the author: I live and write in eastern Canada, where the winds blow cool and calm on the good days, wicked and fast on the bad. There’s rain and sun, and in the winter there’s snow… a lot of snow. A nice fire to keep warm, a nice pen with good flow, and a decent notebook are all that I really require. Which is not to say that the MacBook Air isn’t the best thing eve.. I went to a bunch of schools, learned a lot of things, and now make stuff up because not to do so is unthinkable.

I’m inspired by the day to day minutia of life, and find beauty in the way words go together. I like texture and richness of experience. I’m not shy. I’m happy, I’m learning, I’m living.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In my choice of Adagio by Chris Owen [Casperian Books LLC, September 21, 2012] as my featured novel this week, three things caught my notice. First, it is about two Canadian boys, written by a Canadian author, and set in Australia.

I don’t know why I like Australia as I do (I love the accents), but for whatever reason it has a certain romance to it. Therefore, it is the perfect setting for a romance of this nature.

There is very little about Canada, or even Canadian content in this story, but that’s alright. The Australian outback makes up for it, and I think that the author has done a credible job of making it part of the story. Certainly I felt it’s vastness, and what better way to cleanse the soul than by a ‘walkabout.’

I liked the two main characters, the scarred but compassionate Jason, and the wide-eyed Ryan. They both compliment and contrast one another to produce a nice balance. I think one is more drawn to Ryan as the ingénue, but Jason is also travelling a road of discovery.

I also like the unhurried pace that allowed the two boys to get to know one another before their first sexual experience. The sex scenes were also well handled—which is ironic for me to say because  I once criticized Ms Owen’s work for being a bit too ‘generous’ with her couplings. Therefore, I am happy to take that criticism back with this novel.

The quibbles I have are few. A few loose threads (meaning plot lines that either disappear or aren’t fully exploited later on). I, for one, like to see unexpected references to previous events, even if they are minor, because they are like grace notes that add a touch of brilliance to a story. It is the little touches like this that can make a good story outstanding.

Altogether, it is a heart warming romance in the classic style, nicely written, and set in a equally romantic locale. Four  bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Books reviews –  53,080

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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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Interested in Canadian history? Want to see 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 books as well. Latest post: Pontiac’s War. Read about the great chief of the Ottawas who very nearly changed the coarse of history.

☻☻☻

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.

      

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July 29, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, M/M love and adventure | 1 Comment

Jimmy Simpson: Legend of the Rockies, by E. J. Hart

This is the way history should be taught … With joie de vivre! Bravo E. J. Hart!!

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jimmy simpson - coverStory blurb: The Stoney Indians called him Nashan-esen meaning “wolverine-go-quick” because of his speed in travelling on snowshoes over the rugged landscape of the Canadian Rockies. This book is the story of Jimmy Simpson’s 80-year epic as one of the most important guides, outfitters, lodge operators, hunters, naturalists and artists in the Canadian Rockies. The story takes him from blazing the trails in the valley bottoms to ascending some of the highest peaks in the range, from leading scientists, mountaineers, big-game hunters and world-famous artists through some of the most unimaginable scenery on earth to entertaining thousands of visitors at his famous lodge at Bow Lake with his tales-both true and tall-of the pioneer days.

jimmy simpson - E. J. HartAbout the author: E.J. “Ted” Hart is the director of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff and the author of numerous popular and bestselling books on the Canadian Rockies.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

A while ago some government official, I can’t remember who, was ruminating over the best way to teach kids about Canadian history. Simple: Make it interesting.

When I was going to school, and from what I’ve seen since, [see: Canadian History Made Boring], it is as if educators have gone out of their way to make history as unpalatable as possible. The fact is that Canada has a history as colourful and entertaining as any in the world, and it only remains for kids and adults alike to discover this.

We have real Sergeant Prestons who patrolled the Yukon, cattle drives undertaken though 1,500 hundred miles of primeval wilderness, pioneers who transported several stallions and breeding cattle 800 miles by canoe, great train robberies and gunfights that would make O.K. Corral look like an afternoon social, and yet very few people know about it. Fortunately, we also have people like E. J. Hart to write marvelous books like Jimmy Simpson: Legend of the Rockies [Rocky Mountain Books, First Edition, October 2009].

jimmy_simpson - portraitNow if this were being taught in school, we would dutifully learn that Jimmy Simpson (1877 – 1972) emigrated from England, arriving in Winnipeg in 1896. There he farmed for a while until he decided to go West [psst, after drinking up all his money]. He therefore pawned his gold watch and chain, and took a train to Calgary. Hearing of work on the railway he stowed away on a westbound train, but when he was discovered and kicked off he walked the 20-or-so-miles to Laggan (just below Lake Louise).

Being adventurous, Simpson signed on as cook with legendary outfitter, Tom Wilson, and began learning the outfitting business from “Wild” Bill Peyto—another legendary Rocky Mountain adventurer.

jimmy simpson - bow lake glaciersIn 1898, while working for Wilson, Simpson happened upon Bow Lake with the ice field and two magnificent glaciers above. He and his companions camped by the northern end of the lake, and it was there the he made his now famous proclamation: “I’ll build a shack here sometime,” he said.

Eventually Simpson left Wilson to strike out on his own, supplementing his guiding and outfitting business with trapping. To get around he took up snow shoeing, becoming so proficient at it that the local Indians gave him the honorary title of “Nashan-esen” (meaning “wolverine-go-quickly”).

jimmy simpson - num ti jahIn 1922 he returned to Bow Lake to build his log shack—as he had vowed to do—and when the Banff-Jasper Highway was built, bringing automobile traffic to the area in 1937, he built a small lodge to accommodate them. He called this lodge “Num-te-jah,” the Indian word for pine marten.

Business grew, and in the 1940s a major expansion to the lodge was undertaken to bring its capacity to sixteen rooms.

The original lodge became Simpson’s personal residence where he died in 1972, at the age of 95.

Interesting enough, I suppose, but as E. J. Hart has so masterfully demonstrated by way of Simpson`s own anecdotes, it says nothing about the man or his remarkable wit. For example:

[Fred Ballard was a partner in the trapping business for a (short) while.]

Ballard had been teasing me about a new suit of underwear that had been in the cabin all winter and as to how nice it was going to feel inside it when he got to it. When we arrived he got to it all right but the cabin had leaked and it was sopping wet inside so we built a bit fire outside and made camp. Fred squeezed the water out of it and spread it out in front of the fire carefully while I cooked up what flour was there and made a small bannock, and it was small. When cooked I halved it and his half past his tonsils as fast as a cable [trans-Atlantic telegraph] going over to the old country for more money while I sat on a log and ate mine slowly. That was too much for Fred. Pretty soon he snapped, “If there is anything I hate it’s to see is a man chawing on a piece of bread that I could swallow in two bites, especially when he has only one good eye to chaw with.” [Simpson had a temporary snow blindness in one eye]. I understood.

We lay down to sleep before the fire but in the middle of the night I was awakened by bad language in time to see Ballard holding up a piece of underwear with five button holes on it. A piece of charcoal had got to it while he was asleep so I thought condolences were due. “That’s not too bad,” I said, “All it needs is new arms and legs and a piece on the back to fold over the chest, those five button holes still look quite good.” The air was blue.

Another example of Simpson’s wit relates to an exploration trip he and “Wild” Bill Peyto took one winter. They had stopped for a smoke beside a huge dead spruce and Jimmy drove his axe into it. From inside came a sound like falling debris, so he hit it again with the back of the axe. He was about to do it again when, to his astonishment, it opened up and the head of a two-year old grizzly poked through. This is how he described what happened next:

Nine foot five is my record standing jump and I made it backwards. turning in mid air, and then I started showing squirrels how to climb a tree. I measured that jump next day with a copy of“Tid-Bits”that sported a foot rule on the cover. When I made the top I looked back. There was Bill cussing a blue streak and kicking that bear’s head back every time it poked its nose through. It had gone into hibernation and was in a semi comatose condition but it was fast in waking up. Bill called to me, I dropped out of the blue like dose of measles and we lit out for the camp. Next day we gathered it in.

This is how history should be taught. With some life in it. Sadly these people have passed on, but their way of life, their wit and humour, should not be buried with them.

For people, like me, who enjoy a history lesson that reads like a novel; that allows the reader to appreciate the times through the eyes of colourful characters like Simpson; and that is valid history at the same time, then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Thank you E. J. Hart. Five bees.

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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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May 21, 2013 Posted by | Alberta history, biography, Canadian author, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, non GBLT, Non-fiction, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Blazing the Old Cattle Trail, by Grant MacEwan

 

 This being Canada Day, I have chosen one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors (regrettably deceased). MacEwan’s work emphasises once again the remarkablly colourful history that is Canada’s. Although it has been discontinued by the publisher, it is still available at both Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Story blurb: Western Canada has a long history of cattle drives. In Blazing the Old Cattle Trail, historian Grant MacEwan has brought together an entertaining collection of history and tales from these trips. Originally  published in 1962, this classic book recounts many stories starting with the first cow and steer to arrive in Manitoba to the later, more challenging trips through the Rocky Mountains into British Columbia.

Available is paperback & hardcover – 223

About the Author: John Walter Grant MacEwan, OC AOE best known as Grant MacEwan (August 12, 1902 – June 15, 2000) was a farmer, Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Dean of Agriculture at the University of Manitoba, the 28th Mayor of Calgary and both a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and the ninth Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Canada. Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta and the MacEwan Student Centre at the University of Calgary as well as the neighbourhoods of MacEwan in Calgary and MacEwan in Edmonton are named after him.

MacEwan produced the large majority of his historical books after his ‘retirement’. His books, mostly biographical, were based on history, but often left out references, a bibliography or even analysis of historical events. For this, critics continually attacked his unprofessional approach to history. He only gave one response to these comments, saying in 1984, “I don’t know what the scholars will think of it. Nor do I care. I’m not writing for them, I’m writing for Canadians.” He also taught numerous courses at the University of Calgary and Olds College. He became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1974.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Because there are so very few of them available, I get genuinely excited  when I come across a history of Canada that tells the stories of the “average Joe or Sally” pioneer. That is how I felt when I discovered Blazing the Old Cattle Trail, by Grant MacEwan (himself a pioneer) [Fifth House; Revised edition, 2000]. MacEwan certainly hit the nail on the head when he declared, “I’m not writing for them [academics], I’m writing for Canadians,” and thank goodness he did. Otherwise, these delightful anecdotes might have been lost forever.

There are forty anecdotal-vignettes in all, which are told in an easy-to-read, journalistic style. In fact, it is their lack of ‘academic rigidity’ that makes them accessible to a wide range of readers, both young and old.

Adam and Eve of the Cattle Kingdom

Anyone who knows western Canada will immediate think of multi-acre ranches and thousands, if not millions of cattle. The fact is, however, that the first of their numbers started with just two critters, a bull and a cow named “Adam” and “Eve.” In 1811 these two were brought from Oxford House, a remote Hudson Bay Company trading post (about 400 miles north of what is now Winnipeg, Manitoba) in–of all things–a canoe. Proving the pioneer’s motto: Where there is a will, there is a way.

English Stallion for Red River

An even more astounding feat was conducted in 1831, when a Hackney stallion by the name of “Fireaway,” and later an English thoroughbred by the name of “Melbourne,” were both transported from York Factory, on the western shore of Hudson Bay, to Winnipeg; a distance of roughly 700 land and water miles–including 36 portages–by freight canoe. As MacEwan observes:

“Even the most ardent horse lovers will think of adventures more inviting than sharing a canoe or York boat with a frisky stallion, no matter how he might be dignified by a fine pedigree.”

The Hackney Fireaway was to become legendary as a producer of speed and endurance. Indeed, as late as 1877, settlers in Portage la Prairie revived their affection for the memory of that horse which was the first purebred of his race in all Western Canada.

A stranger driving a fast horse blew into town a day or two before the 24th of May and promptly challenged all comers to a matched race. With the honor of the community and the reputation of local horses at stake, townsmen came together for serious discussion. Settlers with swift horses were remembered, and thoughts turned to Farmer Macdonald at High Bluff who had a nimble great-great -granddaughter of Fireaway. A message was dispatched: “Bring your mare to town at once. We need her for a race.” 

“Macdonald was plowing with a two-horse team when the exhausted courier reached him. Reluctantly, he unhitched the good mare and her mate from the walking plow, rehitched them to his democrat and drove to Portage. Farmers and town people couldn’t honestly expect a homesteader’s plowhorse to win a race against a barnstorming flier from St. Paul but they recalled her breeding and nursed a silent hope. It was a great race; every pioneer who saw it agreed, and sure enough, the blood of Fireaway was still virile if not invincible and Macdonald’s mare, drawing a democrat and an exultant Scottish settler, came down the Portage la Prairie street to leave the professional racer from Minnesota a convincing distance behind.”

The Trail from Stowaway to Cattle King

Life for Joseph Blackburn Greaves began in Yorkshire, England, in 1831, and at the tender age of eleven he ran away from home, stepmother and England by stowing away on the sailing ship Patrick Henry, bound for New York.

When he was discovered the angry Captain assigned him to feeding the ship’s pigs (used to eat up food refuse and furnish pork when needed), so when the Patrick Henry docked, young Greaves promoted himself as an “expert” in the art of feeding swine, and was immediately hired by a farmer with a barn full of them.

Three years later he joined a wagon train heading to California, and there he worked as a labourer before embarking on a career as a butcher.

Word of gold on the Fraser river then reached Greaves who decided to pursue it, but with a butcher’s reasoning he took some meat animals with him–sheep! It was 1859 and poor trails and rough water still offered the only means of transportation, but after trailing them for 400 miles, Greaves managed to sell the flock at Fifty Mile House, British Columbia, for prices unheard of in the south.

He then went back to Oregon for more, but this time he brought cattle for sale and profit. However, on his third trip (1863) he found the market failing. Undaunted, he turned the cattle loose and went back to butchering for a while. When at last he rounded up his cattle he found them fat and multiplied, and so he undertook a few drives to Westminster (about 250 miles south east).

By 1880, however, cattle  population in the interior of British Columbia had outgrown demand, and so Greaves rounded up about 4,000 head (some of them seven years old) and started south, crossing the border at Osoyoos through Oregon, and then west to Cheyenne, Wyoming. There, a year later, he loaded them onto Union Pacific boxcars bound for Chicago.

In 1882 Greaves and five others formed a syndicate known as the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, and in the years to follow twenty thousand head were sometimes on the ranch, and the person who had come to the continent as a stowaway, friendless and penniless, continued to direct the huge operations until his 80th birthday.

[Interestingly, although this is the first time I learned the Greave’s story, it parallels almost exactly the story of my cattle baron in Coming of Age on the Trail.]

These are but three (of forty) fascinating anecdotes contained in this rare collection of Canadian folk lore, so if you’re a Canadiana buff like me I highly recommend it. Five hearty bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 28,581

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July 1, 2012 Posted by | Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Historical period, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | 1 Comment

Real Justice: Guilty of Being Weird: The story of Guy Paul Morin, by Cynthia J. Faryon

A must read for the lessons contained – 

Story blurb: At twenty-four, Guy Paul Morin was a bit of a nerd. He still lived at home, drove his parent’s car, kept bees, and grew flowers to encourage the hives behind his house. He played the saxophone and clarinet in three bands and he loved the swing music of the 1940s.

In the small Ontario town where he lived, his nerdiness stood out. So when the nine-year-old girl next door went missing, the police convinced themselves that Morin was responsible for the little girl’s murder. Over the course of eight years, police manipulated witnesses and tampered with evidence to target and convict an innocent man. It took ten years and the just-developed science of DNA testing to finally clear his name. Without that scientific proof, he would still be in prison today.

This book tells his story, showing how the justice system not only failed to help an innocent young man, but conspired to convict him. It also shows how a determined group of people dug up the evidence and forced the judicial system to give him the justice he deserved.

Available in hardback, paperback (128 pages) and e-pub.

About the author: CYNTHIA J. FARYON has worked as a legal assistant and teen counsellor. She began her writing career in 1999 and is now the author of nine books. She lives in Richer, Manitoba.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Real Justice: Guilty of Being Weird: The story of Guy Paul Morin by Cynthia J. Faryon [Lorimer: Real Justice series – August 2012 (pre-orders are being accepted)]  is one of four such works under the Real Justice label, all of them dealing with tragic, Canadian cases that went terribly awry. The others include: Robert Baltovich; Steven Truscott; and David Milgard.

From a GLBT perspective we could also add John Damien, summarily fired for being homosexual and a “security risk,” and Everett George Klippert, the last person imprisoned in Canada for private, consensual sex with men. After being assessed “incurably homosexual”, he was sentenced to an indefinite “preventive detention” as a dangerous sexual offender.

The story of Guy Paul Morin reads like a ‘how not to’ textbook on bungling, sloppiness, incompetence, prejudice, police and prosecutorial misconduct, and misrepresentation of forensic evidence by so-called “experts.” And yet, Ms Faryon has managed to remain objective throughout, and to put a human face on both the accusers and accused.

When eight-year-old Christine Jessop was first reported missing (October 3, 1984) the police told her mother, Janet Jessop, to call her friends and neighbours to see if anyone had seen or spoken to her. As a result of these calls, people began to gather at the Jessop residence, and,

Soon the place was filled with people. They made coffee, tea, and helped themselves to drinks from the refrigerator. They touched glasses, mugs, counter tops, door handles and used the bathroom. Someone picked up the bike from off the shed floor and leaned it against the wall. Perhaps the same person also took Christine’s pink sweater off the nail and brought it into the house, most likely thinking they were helping. The police didn’t

Police made no attempt to monitor who was coming into the house or what they were doing. They hadn’t taped off Christine’s bedroom or the shed, or treated the house like a crime scene. They treated the situation as if Christine was staying too long at a friend’s house, or maybe she was lost in the woods. The police didn’t even speak to most of them. Why go to all that trouble when it wasn’t necessary?” p.32

Moreover when Christine’s body was finally discovered in a farmer’s field in Sunderland, Ontario, (about 60 miles north-east of Toronto),

“None of the officers were issued gloves, scarves, or protective clothing to prevent hair and fibres from falling on the remains and contaminating the evidence. Michalowsky [Chief Identification Technician with the Durham Regional Police] was in a hurry, racing against the weather. It was going to be tough to get the search done before the storm.” P.50

 “Some of the officers took smoke breaks and no one watched to make sure the cigarette butts were put in the trash bag hanging on the van mirror. A cigarette package, a sales receipt, and a milk carton were found close to the body. Those in charge decided these items didn’t have anything to do with the murder, and they were thrown away. Other items were photographed, tagged, bagged, and sent to the lab for analysis and accepted as evidence, even though they were dropped by the searchers.” P.52

 Guy Paul did not attend the funeral, believing it was not open to the public, and this became a topic of discussion:

“His absence was noted by the police. It seemed Guy Paul couldn’t do anything right. The police and reporters believed the murderer would go to the funeral. If Guy Paul had gone, they would have noticed him, and perhaps thought he was guilty. But he didn’t go, and they thought it was suspicious he stayed away.” p.61

 “Detectives Fitzpatrick and Shephard met with Janet and Kenny Jessop on February 14, 1985. When asked about Guy Paul, they both said he was a musician and a “weird-type guy.” They complained that he had never helped with the search for Christine and didn’t attend the funeral or even give them his sympathies. Inspector John Shephard made an entry in his notebook identifying Guy Paul as “Suspect Morin.””p.61

 Guy Paul’s name kept coming up, along with the epithet “weird,” and so the police decided it was time to talk to this “weird-type guy.” But first they did some digging, starting with Christine’s best friend Leslie, whom they interviewed just beforehand:

“So Leslie,” the detective asked, “tell me about Christine’s neighbour, Guy Paul Morin. You said you were friends with Christine.”

“Yeah, she was my best friend.”

“So, when you were playing over there at Christine’s and you saw Guy Paul, what was he doing?”

“I don’t know,” said Leslie.

“Well,” said the detective, “was he cutting his lawn?”

“No.”

“Was he standing next to his fence?”

“Yes.”

“Could he have been cutting his hedges?”

“Yeah, I think so. He must have been cutting his hedges.”

“Well,” asked the detective, “was he holding the clippers tight?”

“Well,” Leslie said. “I don’t know.”

“Well,” pushed the detective, “were his knuckles white, did they look like this?” and he held out his fist so his knuckles looked white.

“Yeah, sure. Okay. Yes, it did look like that.” p.63

Morin was subsequently arrested, and at his first trial in 1986 he was acquitted. However, the Crown appealed this decision on the grounds that the trial judge made a fundamental error prejudicing the Crown’s right to a fair trial, and in 1987 the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial.

Morin was convicted at his second trial (1992), substantially on the testimony of convicted felons who wanted shortened jail time, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1995, improvements in DNA testing led to a test which excluded Morin as the murderer. Morin’s appeal of his conviction was allowed (i.e., the conviction was reversed), and a directed verdict of acquittal entered in the appeal.

Subsequently, a commission of inquiry was convened under Mr. Justice Fred Kaufman (The Commission on Proceedings Involving Guy Paul Morin), who uncovered evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct, and of misrepresentation of forensic evidence by forensic experts.

However, I think the main lesson to be learned here is to not to jump to conclusions, as was done in this case. Morin was considered “weird,” and this assumption blossomed to the point where it implicated an entire chain of “experts.” The chain was then held fast through the fact that one link blindly followed another through professional courtesy, or whatever.

In fact the police, forensic experts and Crown prosecutors were so confident — so smug — that they built their case backwards, manipulating and creating evidence to prove the guilt of a suspect who could not possibly be innocent. But he was.… Highly recommended. Five bees.

See also: Mysteries, Legends and Myths of the First World War: Canadian Soldiers in the Trenches and in the Air – by Cynthia J. Faryon

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 28,227

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Customized dedications now available, FREE.

If you are considering giving Two Irish Lads or Nor All Thy Tears as a gift, and would like a customized dedication from me, all you need do is ask. Send me an email [gerry@gerryburniebooks.com] with the particulars (name of recipient, occasion, your name as gifter, etc.) and I will design a dedication especially for them. Of course, you are welcome to one for your own copy, too. See the sample.

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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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June 24, 2012 Posted by | Canadian autobiography, Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Wild Canadian West, by E.C. (Ted) Meyers

A collection of meticulously researched and entertainingly-written historical vignettes that prove once and for all that Canada has a rich and colourful history equal to any in the word. Superb! –

Story Blurb: The history of the Wild West for too many years, has been considered the exclusive domain of the men and women who inhabited the South-western states of Kansas, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming. Canada had her share of men and women, good and bad, who opened the west for exploration and exploitation. Many famous gunfighters, outlaws, gamblers and lawmen of the Wild West were Canadian. This book exhibits the differences between Canadian settlers and their American counterparts. It shows how the law was enforced in the west even though lawmen were few in number. It touches on the naivete of some settlers and the lack of judgement shown by some leaders. It also seeks to show the injustice that was done to the native people who neither knew nor understood the white man’s law.

About the author: E.C. “Ted” Meyers, has seven non-fiction books published. Two concern the history of the Royal Canadian Navy. Two others are of the Old West. One, “Wild Canadian West”, concerns lawmen and outlaws who were part of Canada’s Old West. The other takes place in the American Old West. It tells the story of Wyatt Earp’s darkest secret. “Mattie: Wyatt Earp’s Secret Second Wife”, narrates the tragic life of Mattie Blaylock (1850-1888) who, from 1871 was Earp’s second wife and then, from 1882 until Earp’s death in 1928, was his darkest, most closely guarded secret.

E.C. Meyers was born at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1931. He served several years in the Canadian Armed Forces during which time he visited many parts of the world. He saw action in the Korean War from 1950 to 1952 and served in Canada’s peacekeeping effort in the mid-east following the 1956 Israeli-Egytian War. Following his CAF service he worked for the Ontario Government until retiring in 1991. Since then he has spent his retirement years actively researching his greatest interest – the Old West on both sides of the border and writing on a variety of other subjects.

At present he is busy writing an account of the 1877 Nez Perce War in which less than 200 warriors from five Nez Perce bands humiliated the US Army of the Northwest. Led by Chief Joseph, Chief White Bird and Chief Looking Glass the Nez Perce warriors defeated General Oliver Howard’s forces in a series of battles and skirmishes over a period of five months. Then, within 45 miles of the Canadian border and safety, fate turned against them and they were forced to surrender although some did manage to escape into Canada. For a future work Mr. Meyers is considering a book about little known adventures of the Northwest Mounted Police in the late 1800s.

Available from Hancock House Publishing in paperback – 208 pages.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As many of you may know, my byline is “Canada has a rich and colourful history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered.” It is meant as both a mission statement and a lament. E.C. “Ted” Meyers also alludes to this in the above blurb for Wild Canadian West [Hancock House Publishing Ltd, 20007], i.e. The history of the Wild West for too many years, has been considered the exclusive domain of the men and women who inhabited the South-western states of Kansas, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming.”

Ironically, many of the famed gunfighters, outlaws, gamblers and law men of the American west were not American at all. They were Canadian, as Ted Meyers reveals. For example:

  • Bat, Jim and Ed Masterson all hailed from Quebec.
  • George Currie, better known as “Flat Nose George” from Prince Edward Island. He amalgamated his band of rustlers with Butch Cassidy’s “Wild Bunch.”
  • “Canada” Bill Jones, generally acknowledged as the greatest card sharp of the old west, was from Ontario.
  • Pearl Heart, from Ontario, was a stagecoach robber who later joined Buffalo Bill Wild West Show as a—you guessed it–lady stage robber.

There were also several notable American who came to Canada to make their mark, such as Bill Miner, the “Gentleman Bandit” who is said to have originated the term “hands up,” and who made a living robbing trains.

  • Nellie Cashman, known as “The Angel of the Caribou” for her humanitarian work among the miners who fell upon hard times.
  • Armor de Cosmos from California (otherwise known as Jim Smith) who founded the British Colonist Newspaper [which I refer to several times in my forthcoming novel Coming of Age on the Trail].
  • Charlie “One Ear” Brown who was killed by vigilantes; James Barry (gambler) and Frank Spencer (rustler and gunfighter) who both ended up at the end of a rope. Etc.

However, the Canadian West had plenty of its own home-grown heroes and villains, many of which I had never heard of until Ted Meyers presented them here. For example there was the “Two-Fisted Town Tamer,” John Ingram, a no-nonsense lawman who tamed two frontier cities, Winnipeg and Calgary, before turning his attention to Rossland, British Columbia. To leave it there, however, would be to treat Canadian history the way it has generally been taught—i.e. colourless. Fortunately Meyers goes on to tell how Ingram (while still chief of police) was fined $10 for being a “found-in” at a whore house in Winnipeg, and that he later ran the Calgary police department from the backroom of a pool hall. Moreover, he seldom resorted to a gun, but relied instead on a pair of ‘ham-hock-sized’ fists, knocking his suspects senseless with a well placed punch.

Then there was “British Columbia’s Hanging Judge,” Sir Mathew Bailie Begbie. Begbie was an Englishman who, after being released or rejected by every law firm he had ever had contact, was appointed a judge in “The Colonies,” i.e. Vancouver Island. It should also be mentioned that prior to this his love life had been no more successful, for his fiancé eloped with his brother.

Begbie  arrived in Victoria, BC, in 1858, and was immediately assigned the entire area of what is now the Province of British Columbia (364,800 sq.mi. of sparsely-inhabited wilderness). Ironically, he was given the epithet of “The Hanging Judge,” but he actually disapproved of capital punishment. He therefore recommended to the lieutenant governor that most death sentences be commuted in favour of life in prison. He also had his own opinions on the issue of guilt or innocence, and did not hesitate to instruct the jury as to which verdict he deemed appropriate. Moreover, he would become more than a little irate when the jury went against his wishes, and would lecture them unmercifully as a result.

And for those who like a good ole fashioned shoot-em-up, there’s the tale of “The Shootout at Fortier’s Café,” which Meyers describes this way: “Its (Fisherville, B.C.) second claim to notoriety was the 1864 gun fight on the main street that made the gunfight at Tombstone’s OK Corral appear tame.

Ironically, the dispute began between two factions who each wanted to be the law in Fisherville, and after much threatening talk the two agree to meet to talk things over. The players were a group of Americans under the leadership of William “Yeast Powder Bill” Denniston (a.k.a. Bill Burmeister), Robert “Overland Bob” Evans and Neil Dougherty. The opposing side, mostly Canadians and British, was lead by a hot-tempered, vocal Irishman named Thomas Walker. His lieutenants were William “Dancing Bill” Latham, John “Black Jack” Smyth and “Paddy” Skie.

“The talk started peacefully enough but within a few minutes the two [walker and Dinniston] began shouting. Tom Walker, his temper boiling over, pulled his revolver from its holster, levelled it at Yeast Powder Bill and squeezed the trigger.

“The range was point blank when the heavy pistol roared but, unfortunately for Walker, his hand was unsteady. The .45 slug missed Bill’s expansive chest by ripped away the thumb from his right hand. Walker tried to fire a second shot but his gun jammed. Yeast Powder Bill, howling in shock and pain, drew the pistol from his left holster and shot Walker through the heart. Walker died where he stood. It was his great bad luck that Bill was ambidextrous.

“When Walker’s gun fired, Overland Bob Evans commenced shooting. This brought immediate return fire from Walker’s friends. Within seconds the shooting had become general and Evans lay prone in the dust with at least two bullets in his body. Although Evans was down his companions, thinking him dead, continued shooting.

“Walker was dead, there was no doubt about that, and his friends, intent on avenging him, kept up a steady barrage of fire into the ranks of the Americans. For several minutes the scene was one of sheer chaos. The men who were armed with clubs closed and began to beat on each other. When the shooting finally stopped the air was heavy with the acrid smell of gun smoke. Both sides retreated to count casualties.”

My Review

The above abstracts are only a few of the twenty-one stories that make up this remarkable, and in some respects unique anthology, for many of these tales have never before been published. Nevertheless, I believe these examples are sufficient to show that Canada does have a rich and colourful history that has been hidden from view by the apathy of governments and educators. Therefore we owe a great vote of thanks to writers and historians like E.C. “Ted” Meyers for bringing  it to the fore in a readable and entertaining way. Five bees.

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About Hancock House Publishing Ltd: Hancock House has been a wonderful find for me. Located in Surrey, British Columbia, and Blaine, Washington, its focus is on non-fiction regional titles, emphasizing western and far north history and biographies, Native culture, nature and wildlife, cryptozoology and folklore. In 2008 Hancock House launched its first e-books. Check out their many fascinating titles, i.e. “Stagecoaches,” “Dreaming Wolves,” “Outposts and Bushplanes” and “Crooked River Rats.”

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I have entered Gerry B’s Book Reviews in the Independent Book Blogger Awards contestIt is my first contest ever, so I would really appreciate your support. Please take a few minutes to vote. Just click the “vote” link below.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 24,211

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Meet the characters, settings etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

The Stampede

“Few occupations are more cheerful, lively and pleasant than that of the cow-boy on a fine day or night; but when the storm comes, then is his manhood and often his skill and bravery put to test. When the night is inky dark and the lurid lightning flashes its zig-zag course athwart the heavens, and the coarse thunder jars the earth, the winds moan fresh and lively over the prairie, the electric balls dance from tip to tip of the cattle’s horns then the position of the cow-boy on duty is trying far more than romantic.

“When the storm breaks over his head, the least occurrence unusual, such as the breaking of a dry weed or stick, or a sudden and near flash of lightning, will start the herd, as if by magic, all at an instant, upon a wild rush. and woe to the horse, or man, or camp that may be in their path.” Joseph G. McCoy

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Introducing SCD Goff from Dublin, Ireland, and her new novel Lady Languish.

 After her uncle attacks Evangeline Languish at her sixteenth birthday party, she is sent away to boarding school where she is ostracised and bullied. She has been abandoned.

When she eventually makes it home, her uncle visits again, terrifying her with crazy stories about her father … Evangeline resolves not to believe them, but when she discovers a strange young man, injured and alone, she is forced to change her mind about everything she thought she knew.

Evangeline, gifted but innocent and almost alone, must face Malachy once more before she can be free. But can she kill him before he kills her and those she loves?

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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 look forward to your visit every week!



April 15, 2012 Posted by | Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Canadian outlaws, Historical period, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | 2 Comments

The King Must Die, by Mary Renault

A classic novel by a legendary writer in the gay genre.

Story blurb: The story of the mythical hero Theseus, slayer of monsters, abductor of princesses and king of Athens. He emerges from these pages as a clearly defined personality; brave, aggressive and quick. The core of the story is Theseus’ Cretan adventure.

Available in e-book format

About the author: Mary Renault was born at Dacre Lodge, 49 Plashet Road, Forest Gate, Essex, (now in London), Renault was educated at St Hugh’s College of Oxford University, then an all-women’s college, receiving an undergraduate degree in English in 1928. In 1933, she began training as a nurse at Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary. During her training, she met Julie Mullard, a fellow nurse with whom she established a life-long romantic relationship.

She worked as a nurse while beginning a writing career, treating Dunkirk evacuees at the Winford Emergency Hospital in Bristol, and working in Radcliffe Infirmary’s brain surgery ward until 1945. She published her first novel, Purposes of Love, in 1939; it had a contemporary setting, like her other early novels, which novelist Linda Proud described as “a strange combination of Platonism and hospital romance”. Her 1943 novel The Friendly Young Ladies, about a lesbian relationship between a writer and a nurse, seems inspired by her own relationship with Miss Mullard.

In 1948, after her novel Return to Night won a MGM prize worth $150,000, she and Mullard emigrated to South Africa, where they remained for the rest of their lives. There, according to Proud, they found a community of gay expatriates who had “escaped the repressive attitudes towards homosexuality in Britain for the comparatively liberal atmosphere of Durban…. Mary and Julie found themselves able to set up home together in this new land without causing the outrage they had sometimes provoked at home. (Renault and Mullard were critical of the less liberal aspects of their new home, participating in the Black Sash movement against apartheid in the 1950s.)

Mary Renault died at Cape Town, South Africa, on 13 December 1983. – Wikipedia.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The name Mary Renault is almost iconic in my past, for her Nature of Alexander (1975) was the first book that dealt with homosexuality I had ever found, and as such it was like finding the Holy Grail. This was quickly followed by Fire From Heaven (1969) and The Persian Boy (1972), and just about anything I could get my hands on that had Mary Renault’s name on it.

The King Must Die [Vintage, 1988 (originally published by Pantheon Books, 1958)] was somewhere in there, so re-reading this classic was like a pilgrimage back in time.

It is probably the most main-stream of Renault’s books, at least the ones I have read. Like most classical Greek characters Theseus is capable of deep love for his comrades, but unlike most it doesn’t extend to sex. Given the tenor of the times, however, this is quite understandable if it was to be published at all.

The story more-or-less follows Theseus’ heroic rescue of the enslaved Greek youths from Crete and the mythical Minotaur, but Renault has avoided a mere repetition by adhering to what could be archaeologically supported. Nonetheless, it still retains the marvellously exotic and colourful nuances of the myth by its inclusion of gods, goddesses and witches.

Moreover, by humanizing the mythical elements—his acquiring the bona fide kingship of Eleusis, becoming identified as the son and heir of the king of Athens, and especially the humanizing of the Minotaur as Asterion, the sinister and power-hungry son of Minos (king of Crete)—she has made it all seem plausible.

As a writer of historical fiction myself, I believe the two things I admire most about Renault’s writing is her character development, and the way she weaves the various elements together into a seamless whole. For example, this story takes Perseus from his childhood through five stages of his life, each a complex story in itself, and yet it never loses the central thread from beginning to end. That is the signature of a masterful writer, and which made Renault a legend in her own time.

This novel is not for those who are looking for explicitly gay content, and certainly not erotica of any kind, but if you admire a well-told story in the classical-style, this tale is for you. Five bees.

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GLBT Writers Group: You are invited to join our intimate little group of supportive writers on Linkedin. Let us know what you have written, or are currently writing, and get feedback on a variety of questions—including excerpts. Drop by for a look-see: GLBT Writers Group.

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I have put together a gallery of interesting, vintage photographs relating to my up-coming novel Coming of Age on the Trail. Many of these images date from the late 1800s, and are of interest in their own right. To view this gallery go to:  http://www.gerryburniebooks.net/COAPhotos.htm

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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.

     

Thank’s for dropping by!

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Gerry Burnie

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

He then goes on to add to this lamentable observation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another report, dated 1673-77, reads:

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

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

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

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

My comments

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

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


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

News

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

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

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

     

Thanks for dropping by!!

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

Good People, by Steven K Meyers

A Snappy story with madcap characters and superb dialogue

Good People tells the story of Rex Black and the circle of his friends and employees who chase his dream of transforming his Upper East Side comedy club into a global brand. Fast and funny, incisive and heartfelt, Good People sums up, in the tradition of Theodore Dreiser, an entire American era of greed and unreal ambition.

Steven K. Meyers, born on a farm in western Colorado, became underbutler of Caramoor, the great Westchester County estate, at 17. Later he graduated from City College of New York (Ward Medal in Greek) and worked in the comedy club business at its 1980s height. He now lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

This has been a Steven K Meyers week. Between eye surgery and lab tests I read three different stories by this author; this one, i.e. Good People [Booklocker, 2010], plus Two Short Stories [to be published at a later date], e.g. “The Man Who Owns New York” and “Springtime in Siena.” Three quite different stories. I get the impression, therefore, that this writer writes as an academic exercise, and is not adverse to literary experimentation. But more about that later.

Good People is the most mainstream of the three, if “mainstream” can describe a story about a handful of eccentric (oddball) characters thrown together in a madcap scenario.

Hoping not to overlook any one of them we find Rex Black, a sleazy promoter trying to finagle an IPO—by hook or by crook—for a chain of comedy clubs á la “Catch a Rising Star,” which, according to Wikipedia – “[The] satiric novel, Good People, by Steven K. Meyers, captures the ethos of the original club in the 1980’s;” Michael, the long-suffering office manager—basically good but a little ‘shady’ himself, who is partnered in a more-or-less sexless relationship with Conor, a very talented general manager and sexual opportunist of the zip-ram-bam variety. On the distaff side we have Rosetta Stone (you just have to love that name!) who is clawing—and sucking—her way into becoming a headliner; Perri, Black’s worldly assistant—barfing every morning because she is pregnant, out of wedlock of course; and Ashley the wealthy heiress with the scatter-brained room mate, about whom she constantly complaining but refuses to boot out. These make up the principal cast.

I’ve left a few minor characters out, like Siggy the financial finagler, but you get the idea. These are all distinct and well developed; however, probably the most outstanding quality is the dialogue, which iscrisp and rapid fire.

The benefit of reading three different stories is that it gives me an overview of the author’s writing—not complete of course, but an overview nonetheless, and as I alluded above there is something academic about them all. The sentence and paragraph structure are textbook examples of the craft, and the plots are all cleaver, but there is also an academic absence of emotion. The characters interact, but for the most part it is an arm’s length relationship. The other quibble I have is regarding the switching of topics without notice, i.e. the topic is Michael, and the next paragraph is about Conor’s background.

Having said this, it’s a snappy story packed with wonderfully madcap characters and superb dialogue. Enthusiastically recommended. Four stars.

News

 

The reworked manuscript of Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is now complete, and it should go to the publisher next week. To read an excerpt, click here.

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That will allow me to get back to my new novel, The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia. Here is the Story blurb, and if you are interested in reading an excerpt, it is posted on my blog: www.gerryburniebooks.wordpress.com

Young Charles Dempster Noseworthy was a charmingly-naïve Englishman who immigrated to Canada in the summer of 1860. Fortunately for posterity, he kept a personal journal of his adventures from the day he arrived, and later consolidated some fifty years of these entries into a manuscript that was never published; quite likely because of the forbidden sexual content.

When he eventually died in 1915 he willed his Alberta ranch, “Meftidy” (a derivative of mephitidae—the Latin classification for skunks) to a distant cousin in England. Unwilling to make the long journey to Canada, however, this cousin simply retained an agent to sell the ranch and all but a few of Charles’ personal possessions. Notice of this auction contained quite an extensive list of items for sale, including one described as “sundry books and papers to be offered as one parcel lot.”

One can only assume that the journals and manuscript were included in this lot, for these eventually ended up here in Ontario where I purchased them at the estate sale of an elderly Canadiana collector in the 1960s. Several journals were missing, but the manuscript was still in tact. It was apparent however that the references to homosexuality, which remained a criminal offense in Canada until 1971, made it almost impossible to publish even then. Because of this I set it aside with a vow that I would see it published one day as a tribute to Charles and his longtime lover, Jesse Arnold Ketchum—a.k.a. “Kid Cupid.”

The third character in The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia is a charming little miss of the mephitidae family, i.e. “Petunia the skunk.” Watch for it.

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 10,925

 

May 29, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

Sam’s Hill, by Jack Ricardo

Mr. Ricardo has a flair for historical fiction, but…

 

 

 

Story Blurb: A young man coming to grips with his homosexuality during the latter half of the 19th century, through four years of The Civil War, the Indian Wars with General Custer’s 7th Cavalry, into the rough and tumble town of Cheyenne and up into the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory.

*Available in Kindle format, 382KB

 

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

A revisiting of the American Civil War is not a new theme, nor is gay, Union and Confederate soldiers, but “Sam’s Hill” by Jack Ricardo [Amazon Digital Services, 2010] contains some of the best, graphic descriptions of battlefield action I have ever read; the carnage, the confusion, the fear and the impersonal killing are all there in almost tangible detail.

The plot—at least for the first half of the story—is equally well conceived with some quite unexpected twists.

Sam Cordis is a young Union volunteer from New Jersey; green, innocent, seeking to become his “own man” and heading west when the war is over, “…a mere two or three months, he was sure.”

After a taste of war, and the reality of it, i.e.

“The order came. “Tear Cartridges.”

“Sam did exactly that. He poured powder into the barrel of his musket, dropped a metal ball inside, stuffed the ramrod down to push the ball into position, and carefully placed a cap under the hammer.

“When he heard the first shot, the taut skin of his neck strangled his throat, his heart stopped. The woods began bleeding with an indistinct jumble of men in gray yelling ferociously, shooting indiscriminately. Sam wanted to run for cover. There was none. And there was no interference when he lifted his musket.

“He stayed his mind, focussed his eyes, spied his target. He couldn’t see the Rebel clearly. He didn’t know if he was young or old, an officer or a volunteer. He was merely a target. Sam aimed the weapon with ease, as if marking a jackrabbit on the banks of New Jersey’s Rampo River. He pressed the trigger and squeezed as his older brother taught, gently, caressing the tender skin of a newborn calf. The report of the musket was lost in the din.

“Sam didn’t wait to see if the ball hit its mark. He followed the example of the others, crossing the former path, running wide, stumbling, turning, reloading, firing again, this time with haste. As hastily as the enemy fired at him.”

Under such perilous circumstances men frequently bond out of necessity, and the mores of a conventional society are either relaxed or shirked in favour of a new reality. So it was with Sam and his young companion, Davie, when a tender friendship gradually blossomed into love, like a flower amidst the ruin. Just as quickly, however, it was snuffed by a sniper’s bullet, but not before Sam had discovered a love that would not be denied.

As the war dragged on Sam found himself in Savannah, Georgia, with Sherman’s army, and during a lull in the hostilities he is drawn to the docks in search of male companionship. It is a mixture of intrigue and inert desire until he encounters an older man who almost succeeds in fanning his smouldering desire into a flame. However, in an unexpected twist, he is mugged and then rescued aboard a gunboat where the stranger is first mate. Romance nearly blossoms there as well, but when the gunboat is attacked Sam is thrown overboard during the mêlée. Miraculously he is washed ashore on the coast of Florida, and making his way inland he encounters a regiment of Black, Union soldiers, who are themselves captured by Confederate forces.

A forced march then proceeds to a POW camp somewhere in South Georgia—a non-regulation compound where corruption and cruelty prevail. A “King Rat” type-of-character also rules, and he sets his sights on seducing Sam. On the other hand, Sam befriends a badly wounded youth who would otherwise die. These are the characters that will play a significant role later in the story, but for now they are certainly interesting enough.

When peace if declared Sam and the now rehabilitated youth start for their respective homes in the north, where Sam’s several family members await, but first there is another character to be met; an Indian brave named Kehoe.

To this point I would have no hesitation in giving this story a five-star rating. The journalism is first rate, the characters are interesting and credible, the action is breathtaking, and the pace compelling.

Regretfully, the second half of the story begins to bog down under the burden of characters that, in their numbers and complexities, nearly overwhelm the reader. Likewise, to accommodate each of their parts, the story looses its linearity to twist and coil around the various subplots.

There is no question that Mr. Ricardo has a flare for historical fiction, but sometimes less is more. Four stars.

Happy New Year! Thanks to you, Gerry B’s Book Reviews has reached nearly 6,000 visitors, up almost 1,000 from last month. I am humbled by your interest.

Gerry B.

January 2, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | 2 Comments

All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy

It’s about manliness, friendship, loyalty, honour and integrity, and it just doesn’t  get much better than that!

 

 

All the Pretty Horses is the story of John Grady Cole, the last of a long line of west Texas ranchers. Upon his grandfather’s death and his parents’ divorce, the sixteen-year-old Cole finds himself landless, penniless, and possessed of skills that mean nothing in a country transformed by highways and a world war, where cowboys are as doomed and marginal as the Indians they once displaced. With his friend Lacey Rawlins, John Grady sets off for Mexico. They have no idea what they will find there: on their map, the area south of the Rio Grande is blank. They have between them two horses, a rifle, and their bedrolls. The year is 1949.
In the months that follow the two boys–who are soon joined by a third, the unlucky Jimmy Blevins–will journey backward in time while simultaneously going forward into a precocious and saddened manhood. They will find their way to a place where a horse is still a thing of value and breaking one is considered a worthy feat, a place where love can still burn like a cold fire. But in Mexico love also has the power to destroy a reputation, and one can encounter obstacles of medieval severity. Stealing a horse–even one that is by all rights his own–can get a man killed. Or subject him to ordeals that amount to nothing less than the death of his former self.

Winner of: National Book Award for Fiction (1992), National Book Critics’ Circle Award (1992),

Motion Picture (2000): Miramax Films; Director: Billy Bob Thornton; Starring : Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Lucas Black, Penelope Cruz.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

 When discussing Cormac McCarthy’s writings, such as his All the Pretty Horses [Vintage, 1992], the discussion invariably turns to his unorthodox use of English grammar, i.e.

He dismounted and unrolled his plunder and opened the box of shells and put half of them in his pocket and checked the pistol that it was loaded all six cylinders and closed the cylinder gate and put the pistol into his belt and rolled his gear back up and retied the roll behind the saddle and mounted the horse again and rode into the town.( 257)

Nonetheless, when reading it in context one cannot imagine it written any other way. In fact, it struck me as being almost blank verse, and quintessentially suited for the vastness of the great Texas and Mexican landscapes. Indeed the setting of a story dealing with the very spirit of The West calls for it. There is a naturalness about it, unhindered by stops and starts or artificial boundariesIt is therefore free to grow as if it were evolving in the here and now. Yet there is purposefulness to its growth, for each new idea or thought builds on the last with the same organic freedom—like a living vine.

McCarthy also uses a number of Spanish words and phrases (untranslated), and many reviewers have criticized this choice for leaving the reader(s) in the dark. However I think that it was a very intentional choice, and very much part of the relationship of the reader to the story. In other words we are tagging along with John Grady, and unless we speak Spanish we would otherwise be in the dark to know what they were talking about. It is another touch of realism that in its subtlty never interferes with the gist of the story.

For me, however, the most impressive aspect of this read isthe credibility of the characters. In the story John Grady Cole is 16 years old in 1949, which means he was born in 1933; however, according to the code he lives by he could just as easily have been born in the 1800s; when a man’s word was his bond. For example, John Grady (and Rawlins) are joined by 13-year-old Jimmy Blevins who tags along uninvited, he’s a pain and he screws them in big and little ways. JGC and Rawlins are provided plenty of opportunities to move on without him, to leave him to the fate he deserves. But John Grady sticks his neck out for Blevins especially when he deserves the opposite. That, to me, is the true spirit of the West.

Lacey Rawlins is quite distinct from JGC, but just as credible, and—in my opinion—absolutely delightful! In many ways the two of them remind me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn ‘gone West’. The interaction between them is primarily presented in dialogue form, but with such authenticity that one never doubts for a moment they are who they are supposed to be. i.e.

John Grady and Rawlins are talking about being born:

Rawlins lay watching the stars. After a while he said: I could still be born. I might look different or something. If God wanted me to be born Id be born.

And if he didn’t you wouldn’t.

You’re makin my goddamn head hurt.

II know it. I’m makin my own.

They lay watching the stars.

So what do you think [about running away to Mexico]? He said.

I don’t know, said Rawlins. 

Well.

I could understand if you was from Alabama you’d have ever reason in the world to run off to Texas. But if you’re already in Texas. I don’t know. You got a lot more reason for leavin’ than me.

What the hell reason you got for stayin’? You think somebody’s goin to die and leave you something?

Shit no.

That’s good. Cause they aint.

If, from this, you can picture two teenage boys lying under the stars and talking seriously about life, then you get my meaning about credibility. An evocation of another, simpler time, and lush with memories for some of us.

Finally, some criticism has been raised about the Alejandra /JGC relationship for not being romantic enough. Not from my point of view. In my opinion this story is not about boy-meets-girl; rather it is about manliness, friendship, loyalty, honour and integrity, and it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Visit My Blog

See a preview of Coming of Age on the Trail: An M/M adventure and Romance

See an interesting collection of cowboy photographs from c. 1900.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Historical Fiction, Traditional Western | Leave a comment

Amazing Stories – WWI, WWII and the Canadian Navy

This year marks some very significant, historical anniversaries that should be remembered by all of us with gratitude. For example, it was 65 years ago on May 8, 1945, that V-E Day (Victory in Europe) was declared. Thus ending the second of two horrendously bloody conflicts in Europe to occur during the 20th century—the first being WWI, which ended on November 11th, 1918.

Similarly, on August 14th, 1945, V-J Day (Victory in Japan) was declared in United States. This conflict saw the first—and mercifully the only use of atomic weapons in warfare.

This year is also the centenary of the Canadian Navy (1910 – 2010).

I have therefore selected three books; one each on the First and Second world wars, and one commemorating the Canadian navy. All three are part of the “Amazing Stories” series published by Altitude Publishing Company.

About Amazing Stories: Amazing Stories™ features a variety of titles to entertain, delight, and fascinate. Dedicated to great storytelling, these true Canadian stories range from funny to daring to purely inspirational. The books are identified by genre – History, Biography, Women, Animal, Human Interest, Mystery, Romance, Business, etc.,– to help you identify the books that you are interested in, either for yourself or as a gift for others.
Each book tells the story of a fascinating Canadian or an event that has happened somewhere in Canada, from the earliest days up to the present. Taken as a whole, the series presents a portrait of the entire country, raising issues – such as regional differences, historical precedent, and cultural uniqueness – that contribute to the wider definition of Canadian identity.
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Mysteries, Legends and Myths of the First World War: Canadian Soldiers in the Trenches and in the Air – by Cynthia J. Faryon

Publisher’s blurb: This book offers a fresh, close-up look at the First World War as it was experienced by ordinary Canadian soldiers. This is the war as it was experienced by the tens of thousands of young Canadians. Reading their accounts offers a no-holds-barred picture of fighting, life in the trenches, the human cost in lives lost, and the physical and emotional aftermath for survivors.
About the Author: Cynthia J. Faryon is an internationally published author and freelance writer. Originally from Victoria, B.C., she now resides in Richer, Manitoba with her husband and their two dogs. Faryon focuses her writing on Canadian content, covering topics such as travel, family issues, biography and history.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I don’t think I could possibly do greater justice to this collection of vignettes than Cynthia Faryon’s superb prologue (quoted below in part). In it she puts herself in the mind of Edgar Simpson fighting in the trenches of WWI just before he is killed by enemy fire:

“I’ve got a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’m not going to survive the day. I hope it’s only the usual fear and the strain of the inhuman conditions getting to me: the mud, exploding shells, human body parts flying through the air—and always, always being wet.”

“Oh my God, the shelling has started and look—smoke is covering no-man’s land, and I can see the enemy cutting through the rolls of barbed wire between us and them!

There are more German’s coming at us than I can count. They look like apparitions with bayonets. I’m shooting, and all down the line machine guns are chattering and men are falling. The water in the bottom of the trench is turning red with blood. There are bodies everywhere and wounded men are falling.

I sense the bullet before feeling it.

In stunned disbelief I look at my chest, at the hole and the blood. I look around for help, but my buddies are busy fighting for their own survival.

Darkness. I feel my body hitting the ground.

What next? Death is coming quickly and I’m engulfed in painless warmth. Then with a flickering consciousness, I’m leaving my body. The fear is gone and I’m strangely emotionless.”

In this imagined episode she has captured the fear, the sense of duty, the poignancy and the sacrifice of one ordinary soldier, in this case Edgar Simpson of Winnipeg, for all the others in the so-called “war to end all wars.”

Other stories included are similarly poignant, or heart-touching, such as “A Bear Named Winnipeg” (the true story of “Winnie the Pooh”), “In Flanders Fields,” and “The Hero of the Halifax Battle.”

Highly recommend, and a “Must Read.”

Unbelievable Canadian War Stories: Well Beyond the Call of Duty – Pat MacAdam 

Publisher’s blurb: Often little-known but extraordinary, the quiet heroes of one of the most destructive wars in his-tory left indelible impressions among those whose lives were touched by their actions. Up against firing squads, torpedoes, rogue waves, P.O.W. camps, and all the living hells of warfare, they persevered, they saved lives, and they valiantly served their country. Distinguished and decorated, these men used unconventional methods and quick-thinking tactics to excel on the front lines.

About the Author: Patrick (Pat) MacAdam is a native Cape Bretoner who has made Ottawa his home since 1959. He holds bachelor’s degrees in arts and education from St. Francis Xavier University. He paid his way through university by writing for the Sydney Post-Record, Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Fredericton Daily Gleaner. He spent three summers in the Canadian Officers Training Corps in Camp Borden, Ontario, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was commissioned a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. His entire professional life has been in public relations and politics. He was a researcher, speechwriter, and aide to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker from 1959 to 1963. In 1983, he joined his university friend, Brian Mulroney, as his first employee and most senior aide.

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The design of the new Canadian War Museum used the theme “ordinary Canadians doing extraordinary things. This book contains vignettes of some of them from the heroic to the outrageous, but always getting the job done in the service of their country and the rest of us. Therefore, it is important that these—representative—deeds of courage and valour be remembered on behalf of those who have gone before.

Indeed, many of them have already been forgotten. For example, “Canada’s Most Decorated Hero of WWII,” Johnnie Fauquier, who was buried in Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery with full military honours and then forgotten.

“Had Johnnie Fauquier been an American,” observes Pat MacAdam, “Hollywood might have passed over Audie Murphy, Congressional Medal of Honour winner and United States’ most decorated soldier, for star treatment. The movie “To Hell and Back,” which starred Audie Murphy himself, told the story of his heroism.

“Johnnie Fauquier went to hell and back 100 times on bombing raids over Berlin, other key German targets, and the Peenamunde V2 rocket bases on the Baltic Sea. The normal tour for a bomber piolet was 30 raids. He did three tours and then some. He was the first Canadian to comman a bomber squadron in battle, commanding both the crack RCAF 495 Pathfinder Squadron and later the RAF’s legendary Dambusters, Johnnie Fauquier was awarded the Dstinguished Service Order Medal (second only to the Victoria Cross) three times—more than any other Canadian warrior. He also wore the distinctive ribbon of the Distinguished Flying Cross on his tunic.”

Yet, his plain grey granite grave marker simply records that Air Commodore John Emilius Fauquier is at rest there.

Highly recommended for those of us who want to remember.

 

Unsung Heroes of the Royal Canadian Navy: Incredible Tales of Courage and Daring During World War II – Cynthia J. Faryon

Publisher’s blurb: At the outbreak of World War II, the Royal Canadian Navy consisted of just 13 warships and about 3000 permanent and reserve members. By the war’s end, however, it had grown into the third largest navy in the world, with 365 warships and more than 100,000 personnel. The men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy came from all corners of Canada to fight in the sea war against the enemy. Together, they exceeded even the highest expectations of their allies.

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These are the stories of the men who go down to the sea in ships, and those ships they sail in. Like all war stories these are filled with acts of courage—both individually and collectively—pathos, skill and daring. Even the mascots are remembered as a dog named “Bunker B”—a listed casualty when the Athabaskan  sank under fire—and a cat named “Ginger” on her sister ship, the HMCS Haida.  

In a chapter named “Abandoned Ship, Abandoned Survivors” it tells the heart-breaking and hear-warming story of what happened when duty clashes with the natural instincts of loyalty and compassion. In war, duty wins.

“The Haida trembled and vibrates as the turbines throb. Petty Officer HP Murray and Telegraphist SA Turner are still on one of the scramble nets trying to rescue survivors as the ship starts to move. They look at the hands reaching out to them and grab for one more. The ocean current around their legs gets stronger and, handing off the last of the survivors, they both struggle to unhook themselves from the nets. The waves are now waist high, and the force is making it impossible to climb up. Hands from above reacdch down, gripping … pulling … tugging, but it is no use. The Haida picks up speed and suddenly the rope breaks. The wake surges over the two men and washed them straight into the turning screws.”

On the other hand.

“Far out in the Channel, the Haida’s cutter is slowly making its way home. The men are wet and cold. But with hard tack, water, and malted milk tablets, they are better off than those left at the site of the sinking. Suddenly, on the horizon looms a German mine sweeper thqt changes course and heads directly for the small boat. Darting into a mine field, the men pray the Germans will give up. For a moment it looks as though the vessel is planning to fire on them. It hesitates, then swings around, leaving the survivors to their fate. Every man on that little boat knows their situation is desperate and that the odds are against them.

“The Haida’s cutter is finally spotted by a squadron of RAF planes and the exhausted survivors are picked up by an Air/Sea Rescue launch and taken to Penzance. By midnight they are resting, warm, and comfortable. But a disquieting thought stays with them all. “What about the rest of the gang?””

Like the others, this comes highly recommended for truly inspirational reading that will leave you with goose-bumps and a warm feeling in your heart!

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In memory of my sister Beverley Hill, 1934 – 2010.

See a preview of my up-coming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail, read an excerpt.

See an alphabetic list of titles and authors reviewed.

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May 7, 2010 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Non-fiction | 2 Comments

Transgressions by “Erastes”

Masterfully written as usual, and a very inspirational topic – Recommended

Publisher: Rnning Press Book Publishing

 

 

Story outline: 1642, England: David Caverly’s strict father has brought home the quiet, puritanical Jonathan Graie to help his dreamer of a son work the family forge. With war brewing in Parliament, the demand for metal work increases as armies are raised.

The fair David is drawn to his father’s new apprentice. And though his father treats them both as if they were brothers, David’s feelings toward the shy Jonathan develop as they hide their growing physical relationship. Until the fateful moment when local gossips force David’s father to banish him, to protect the family name.

Freed, directionless, and whimsical, David is eager to experience the drama and excitement of war, and follows two soldiers headed for battle, but the reality is a harsh awakening for his free-spirited nature. Seizing the opportunity to desert, David heads to London to lead a secret life, unaware that Jonathan too has left the forge in search of him. Lost and lonely, the vulnerable Jonathan quickly falls in with the Witchfinders, a group of extremists who travel the country conducting public trials of women suspected of witchcraft. Jonathan is drawn to the charismatic Michael, finally embracing a cause for truth so wholeheartedly, he doesn’t recognize the danger—physical and emotional—that Michael represents. For the fanatic puritan is desperate to purge Jonathan of his memories of David in any manner possible….

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The storyline of Eraste’s recent work, “Transgressions: A M/M romance,” (Running Press Book Publishers, 2009), has been well served by the product description, so I will cut directly to the elements of the story. 

To begin, all the protagonists—David Caverly, Johnathan Graie, and Tobias—are good, strong characters; well-defined and distinct. Likewise their personalities are distinct, and except where circumstances require it they remain consistent throughout. David, the indolent and ‘typical-teenager-type’ who matures under fire (literally), and who comes to seek and honour love over hedonism; Johnathan, the serious-minded-Puritan and wide-eyed innocent of sorts, who is mesmerized first by the more head-strong and charismatic David, and later by the possessive and sinister Michael; and the worldly Tobias who is content to screw his way through partners until he meets his “virgin farm boy.” All are quite believable, as well; although I did find Johnathan a bit hard to fathom at times.  

As usual Erastes has chosen a powerful atmosphere and setting in the English Civil War(s) (1641-1651), between the forces of Parliament and the Royalists; more specifically, between Oliver Cromwell and Charles I. It was a truly brutal conflict on both sides, with an estimated death toll—from all causes including war-related disease—of 190,000 individuals; or nearly 4% of the population. 

Socially, it was a brutal time as well, that divided families against one another, and afterward the so-called “Loyalists” were hunted down as outlaws. 

Erastes has also included the equally powerful and brutal practice of hunting witches. This was an ongoing religiously-sponsored atrocity that lasted until it was finally outlawed (in England) in 1735. Nevertheless, in spite of the dark era that all this represented, love prevailed. A celebration of the indomitable human will to find beauty in the midst of darkness. 

Masterfully written as usual, and a very inspirational topic.an absolute-must addition to your bookshelf. It would make a great gift for the kids as well!

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See a preview of Gerry Burnie’s forthcoming novel, “Coming of Age on the Trail” See some interesting “Related Images”; Read an excerpt

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April 15, 2010 Posted by | Gay historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Cabin: A search for personal sanctuary by “Hap” Wilson

This growing-up account is one of the most inspirational stories I have read, perhaps in all time 

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Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Story outline: One hundred years ago, a young doctor from Cleveland by the name of Robert Newcomb, travelled north to a place called Temagami. It was as far north as one could travel by any modern means. Beautiful beyond any simple expletive, the Temagami wilderness was a land rich in timber, clear-water lakes, fast flowing rivers, mystery and adventure. Newcomb befriended the local Aboriginals – the Deep Water People – and quickly discovered the best way to explore was by canoe.Bewitched by the spirit of an interior river named after the elusive brook trout, Majamagosibi, Newcomb had a remote cabin built overlooking one of her precipitous cataracts. The cabin remained unused for decades, save for a few passing canoeists; it changed ownership twice and slowly began to show its age. The author discovered the cabin while on a canoe trip in 1970. Like Newcomb, Hap Wilson was lured to Temagami in pursuit of adventure and personal sanctuary. That search for sanctuary took the author incredible distances by canoe and snowshoe, through near death experiences and Herculean challenges. Secretly building cabins, homesteading and working as a park ranger, Wilson finally became owner of The Cabin in 2000.

About the author: Hap Wilson has been a wilderness adventurer and guide for over 30 years. A self-taught writer, artist and photographer, he is also one of Canada’s best-known canoeists and the author of several books, including “Canoeing, Kayaking and Hiking Tamagami, Rivers of the Upper Ottawa Valley,” etc. His hand-drawn maps and illustrations were featured in “Voyageur: Canada’s Heritage Rivers,” which won the Natural Resources of America Award for Best Environmental Book. Wilson has also worked as actor Pierce Brosnan’s personal skills trainer in the Attenborough movie, “Grey Owl.” He lives with his wife and two children in the Muskoka and Tamagami lakes district of Ontario.

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 Review by Gerry Burnie

In 1931 two buildings of significance were constructed, so David “Hap” Wilson tells us [The Cabin: A search for personal sanctuary,Natural Heritage Press, 2005]: One was the Empire State Building in New York City; the other, located one thousand miles away in Northern Ontario, was a small log cabin deep in the Temagami wilderness; two disparately different buildings.

“The Empire State Building, pretentious in its almost obscene dimension, the Mammon built on the back of a nation in economic and social ruin, was a crude attempt by politicians to rekindle the faith in a capitalist democracy. The Cabin, on the other hand, was constructed primarily for its owner to escape the nations and tedium represented by such overt and politically motivated initiatives.” 

Thus, from the very beginning of its existence The Cabin was a ‘sanctuary’ of sorts.

In many respects this is a love story. I don’t believe the author intended it as a love story, per se, nor is it written in that style, but nonetheless it is. The ‘lover’ in this case is not a woman, although Lady Evelyn Lake is beautiful, and can be precocious and unpredictable; nor is it a man, although the towering white and red pines and granite-faced cliffs are certainly rugged enough. Rather, it is a whole district called ‘Temagami;’ a primal wilderness-sanctuary approximately 1,906 km2 (733 sq.mi.). In fact, Hap Wilson readily admits that he was “… lured to and seduced by the landscape.”

Inextricably linked with the landscape is the poignant and whimsical Aboriginal account of the creation of ‘The Temagami.’ An account that goes back to a time before time when Nenebuc, the trickster, shot and killed the great snake that turned into ish-pud-in-ong—or Ishpatina Ridge, the highest point in Ontario. Or when he shot and killed the queen of Mishipeshu, the giant underwater lynx, causing a flood similar to that experienced by Noah in the Book of Genesis.

“Metaphorically, I suppose,” says Wilson in his introduction, “this provocative tale of rebirth attempts to substantiate and reconceptualize my own wanderings as a purely abstract approach to life experiences and expectations.” Chaos leads to order—sometimes, if desired.

A more intimate ‘love’ in his life is ‘The Cabin,’ and although its history is more recent, it nonetheless has a heritage that is poignant in its own right.

He first encountered both The Temagami and The Cabin on a canoe trip in 1971, for which he by-passed a permanent illustrating job in Toronto to do so. To those who considered such impulsive behaviour irrational, his parents in particular, he simply chalked it up to the Zen of free-living, and a state of consciousness that allowed whatever to happen, happen. Somewhat turned-off by his father’s workaholic drive to succeed at all cost, which included the family’s spiritual needs, young Hap Wilson rebelled by developing a passion for the wilderness trail and a lack of respect for the material things in life. However, noteworthy is the fact that once he embarked on this unconventional path he stood true to his course against all entreaties to return to the ‘beaten path.’

At the same time he was pursuing his passion to explore the natural world, even if it was out his backdoor, sneaking out his bedroom window to sleep in a woodlot tepee. Mischievous child’s play, you may think, but in retrospect there was a pattern to young Hap’s precociousness. Moreover, there was an unseen purpose that had everything to do with eventually wooing his wilderness ‘love.’

At age twelve he and a childhood friend undertook to build a fort, but not just any fort. His had to be “impregnable,” which meant keeping everyone out, and “… certainly adults.” Therefore, it required a vertical-log palisade with a perimeter of about 200 feet (sixty metres), which, in turn, required dragging upwards of a thousand logs (about 10-feet, 3-metres long) over a distance of a kilometre away. Altogether, it took them over a year to complete it and the accompanying wigwam—complete with fire-pit, bunks and adjustable smoke vent—but complete it they did!

The other challenge that confronted him was ‘the pine tree’—a towering megalithic specimen over one hundred feet tall, and with the remnants of a ladder leading up to the bottom branches, fifty-feet above the ground.

“[T]he behemoth stood there in stark relief, taunting, demanding to be climbed—the view from the top would be nothing short of spectacular. I would put my hand on the first rung of the decrepit ladder trying to build up enough courage to go up, but there was always something holding me back. Always. 

The year they completed the fort he climbed twenty feet up that pine tree.

In the meantime world events were unfolding on TV when the United States government invaded North Korea, and to keep pace with Soviet Russia it had stepped up its A-bomb testing in the Nevada desert. Nuclear snow was falling along the shores of Lake Ontario, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Haight-Ashbury exploded in racial conflict and the Beatles conquered the world with music. It was a world gone mad, and for a now teenage Hap the faith that things would change anytime soon was tenuous at best. His reality therefore was in his drawing and in long walks with his boyhood friend, and in looking wistfully up at the yet-unconquered pine tree.

Now, clearly, a pattern of life was emerging. It included a quest for freedom—away from a dysfunctional family and a political agenda gone awry—as well as a determination strong enough to achieve it. It also included the building of a hide-a-way retreat that was both inclusive and exclusive. However, there remained one last, preliminary hurdle before he could move on. This he achieved when he was fifteen.

“I was strong and determined, but most of all afraid that if I didn’t climb the tree soon I would not have the courage to stand true to my beliefs and aspirations. As to what these were, was not clearly defined for me except that I knew what I didn’t want out of life. And so, one day after much deliberation, while my parents fought, I marched out of the house and climbed the steep hillside to the back of the property, to a place I knew well by this time. Without thinking at all about anything but the tope of the tree and how beautiful life must look from there, I climbed. And I climbed without looking down, without hesitation, tears streaming from my cheeks and with a will of purpose so strong that I must have frightened the demons that sat on every rung of that aged ladder until finally, with uninhibited joy, I reached the first branch of that mother pine and pulled myself into her embrace. 

Thereby, he had an epiphany that saw him rising above his self-doubts and inhibitions to see the path that lay ahead.

Meanwhile, The Cabin was going through a life cycle as well. The original builder, R. B. Newcomb, a doctor from Cleveland, Ohio, had one day quietly murdered his wife and committed suicide, himself. The ownership then passed to his brother, Adrian Newcomb, but by the time Hap Wilson was born in 1951, this Newcomb was then too old to endure the trip to The Temagami, and The Cabin had passed hands several times with each succeeding owner aging like the cabin itself. Therefore, two very different entities were on a collision course; one animate and the other inanimate; one growing in strength while the other aged in need of restoration. Ergo, Hap Wilson’s search for personal sanctuary was coming home.

Very simply stated this growing-up account is one of the most inspirational stories I have read, perhaps in all time. What makes it so is the apparent dedication to principle described therein, even at a very tender age, and the commitment to a set of values in spite of an almost coercive pressure to change. Nevertheless, this might readily be dismissed as shear stubbornness had the author not undertaken to live by these principles as well; tenaciously, sometimes at risk of life and limb, but always moving forward without recrimination or regret.

It made me wonder, as well, how many present-day youngsters would have the same a) ingenuity; b) stamina; c) commitment, or d) tenacity to reach the same level of achievement. Regretfully, I doubt there would be too many, if any at all. Moreover, without hydro or a television set The Cabin would probably be just a pile of decaying rubble overlooking the Trout Pool.

Another aspect of this story that inspires is the fact that it is a first-hand account of a life and times that will never come this way again. As such it is a slice of Canadian history that would otherwise pass into oblivion like virtually countless others have done already. Therefore, there is widely held misimpression that Canada doesn’t have a history beyond John A. Macdonald and Confederation.

For all these reasons, therefore, I urge that “The Cabin: A search for personal sanctuary,” be made part of your reading list, and that of your children.

February 12, 2010 Posted by | Canadian autobiography, Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

   

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