Gerry B's Book Reviews

Klondike Cattle Drive – Norman Lee

An absolute-must addition to your bookshelf. It would make a great gift for the kids as well!

 

 

Story outline: The latest addition to TouchWood Editions’ “Classics West Collection”, this is the colourful tale of a formidable trek undertaken by legendary Cariboo rancher Norman Lee. In 1898, Lee set out to drive 200 head of cattle from his home in the Chilcotin area of BC to the Klondike goldfields – a distance of 1,500 miles. He was gambling both his cattle and his life. This is his story, derived from the journal he kept, his letters and the loyal men who accompanied him. Throughout the daunting weeks of coping with mud, cold and sheer bad luck, Lee kept his sense of humour. When he returned from his Yukon trek, he rewrote the notes from his journal, illustrating his story with his own cartoons and sketches. He completed his manuscript around the turn of the century, but it sat untouched until 1960, when it was published by Howard Mitchell of Mitchell Press, Vancouver.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In terms of “Canadiana,” it just doesn’t get any more so than “Klondike Cattle Drive,” Norman Lee (Touchwood Editions. 2005). In fact, this sixty-four- page, absolute nugget of a story virtually epitomizes the Canadian pioneering spirit as it once was. That is why it should be made required reading for every history course taught in this country.

In 1898 Norman Lee, a dapper five-foot-eight rancher from the Cariboo District, British Columbia, undertook a 1500-mile cattle drive ‘north’ to Dawson City, Yukon Territory. This in itself was unusual, for most cattle drives at the time were headed south. Moreover, the route north passed through some of the most formidable wilderness imaginable; from pastureless forests to muskeg and belly-scraping swamps.

Just about every type of weather condition was encountered, as well; riding night watches in discomforting drizzle, getting lost in disorienting fog, and braving minus-forty-degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures on the way home.

Remembering that there was no how-to book on how this should be done, and that Norman Lee’s background was as an architect in England, he had to constantly improvise as the trail presented challenge after challenge. Mud, charlatans, lack of supplies, spent animals, all had to be overcome to achieve his goal. Nevertheless, he took it all in stride with humour and stoicism. That is another quintessential characteristic of the pioneer spirit that built this country and nation, and is now in real danger of being forgotten.

As a writer of Canadian, historical fiction I can say with authority that there are precious few published journals to be found. Therefore, it was with considerable rejoicing that I came across Norman Lee’s journal in connection with a Canadian western I was considering. I can also add that when I did find it, it became the inspiration for my forthcoming novel, “Coming of Age on the Trail,” scheduled for release in March 2010. A M/M romance built around a closely similar cattle drive.

In closing I will add that “Klondike Cattle Drive” is an intrinsically enjoyable read for any reason. However, for those who appreciate the rarity of a find like this, and the unquestionable authenticity it adds to the 19th-century pioneer experience, it is an absolute-must addition to your bookshelf. It would make a great gift for the kids as well!

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian autobiography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Homesteading in Canada, Non-fiction | 1 Comment

Thunderhead, Book One: Tales of Love, Honor, and Vengeance in the Historic American West by B A Braxton

A captivating read in the classic western style.

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click on cover to order.

click on cover to order.

Story blurb: The American West, especially between 1865 and the turn of the century, was an unforgiving and brutal place to be. Tempers flared as men continued to fight the Civil War on their own terms long after it had been decided. Meanwhile, natives, such as the Lakota Sioux, continued to resist being dispelled from their homelands. The Thunderhead trilogy is a historically accurate approach to the western genre. It is mixed with real and imaginary characters and takes place in the Dakota and Wyoming Territories between 1876 and 1877. Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jack McCall, Colorado Charlie Utter, California Joe Milner, Tim Brady, Wyatt Earp, and other figures are alive and well amid three fictional protagonists. Al Franklin, a photograph artist, befriends Hickok during his last days. “Spittoon” Nicky, a sporting girl, falls for an outlaw and follows him and his cohorts from mining town to mining town. Harvey McCafferty, a bounty hunter, relentlessly endeavors to collect the reward on those traveling with Nicky. Nicky’s companions are a gang of road agents lead by the bloodthirsty Quick Maggie DeMarco, a formerly-abused young woman hellbent on finding and killing the man who murdered her family fourteen years ago. When Maggie DeMarco finally meets up with Maguire in Book Three, will she seek the revenge that has eluded her, or will she be content to walk away?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I received a call to review this book sometime ago, but regretfully it is only now that I have had a chance to read it. I say ‘regretfully’ because Thunderhead, Book One: Tales of Love, Honor, and Vengeance in the Historic American West by B A Braxton is such rich and luscious reading that I am surprised it hasn’t attracted more attention.

The story is an amalgam of fiction and history, with a slight bias toward history – especially the three primary characters: Al Franklin, a photograph artist, “Spittoon” Nicky, a sporting girl, and Harvey M. McCafferty, a bounty hunter.

What jumps out at you right from the beginning is the due research Ms Braxtion has compiled behind the scenes. It is evident in every character, and frequently in the background scenes as well. This may have intimidated others, but it is very much my cup of tea.

Al Franklin is a hard-working 20-year-old who has made his way from Boston to Deadwood, South Dakota, during the summer of 1876. Al is a talented ambrotype photographer, and is met with all types people, outlaws as well, eager to have their likenesses taken. When Wild Bill Hickok comes to town at the same time as Calamity Jane and Colorado Charlie Utter, Al devises a money-making scheme with Bill to put his picture on cabinet cards to sell to the eager citizens in town. Because of Wild Bill’s reputation as a shootist, a law officer, and one of the stars of Buffalo Bill Cody’s show, the cabinet cards sell very well. And thus a friendship is established between them during Wild Bill’s final days.

“Spittoon” Nicky is a sporting girl who plies her trade out of a saloon called Hootie’s Lager House. Nicky meets up with an outlaw named Chad DeMarco and they fall in love. However, when things get too dangerous for him in Deadwood, Chad asks Nicky to travel with him and his cohorts so they can stay together. The most brutal and bloodthirsty of Chad’s companions is his sister Maggie who seems to live just to find the man who murdered her mother and father when she was very young.

Harvey McCafferty is a former Confederate soldier, now a bounty hunter, whose driving force in life is to get rich as quick. He therefor sets his sights on tracking down the DeMarco gang for the considerable bounty on their heads: Chad, Luke, Ray, and Otto, and in Harvey’s mind, dead or alive usually means dead.

Written in a colourful vernacular that matches the rustic time and setting, it is an enthralling story in the classic western style. Four and a half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 78,678

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn 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 ba ibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Keish (“Kaysh”): “Skookum Jim” Mason: co-discoverer of the Klondike gold. 

 

 

June 23, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maurice, by E.M. Forster

A timeless classic.

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Click on cover to order.

Click on cover to order.

Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father’s firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, “stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him”: except that his is homosexual.

Written during 1913 and 1914, after an interlude of writer’s block following the publication of Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy. “Happiness,” Forster wrote, “is its keynote….In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob. Into this mixture I dropped an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I chose this timeless classic to emphasize that a story does not lose its enjoyment factor with old age. Moreover, it does not lose its genuine respect or literary value because it deals with adolescent youth; at least to start.

Maurice, by E.M. Forster [W. W. Norton & Company, 2005 (first published 1971)] has been reviewed from every angle imaginable, and yet one can still find interesting things to say about it: The adherence to time and place (Edwardian England), the depth of the characters, the subtle genius of the plot, and the smoothness of line and phrase. It is all there like a textbook for the young –or old- author to follow.

Regarding the time and place, it is very Edwardian: Stolid, staid, regimented, and a bit pompous – A place for everyone, and everyone in their place.

This describes Maurice as well. He’s conservative, a bit of a snob, not very interested in the muses and rather dull. Indeed, he’s ‘every man’ except that he’s living with a secret that affects his entire life. And the story is how he deals with it in his secretive relationship with his Cambridge friend Clive Durham.

That relationship stalls at intimacy – a wall that says “no further.” Instead, Clive chooses a ‘respectable’ marriage – albeit, somewhat loveless – leaving Maurice even more confused regarding the secret he harbours inside him.

It is perhaps for this reason that he finds himself in the arms of Scudder, the gamekeeper. A crossing of social class lines, for certain, but Scudder’s simple acceptance of his homosexuality is a revelation to Maurice – one he needs to experience – but before he can reach that point he goes through a personal hell, looking at his sexual orientation as an abomination, a disease that has no cure. This would be all quite normal for the day and age, including the angst of class difference, but Forester ingeniously works the plot around to achieve a happy ending.

This was a book written well before its time. The style of English is so refreshing: A style and mastery that has been long since forgotten. It flows and melts coming from an era where every word was carefully picked and every sentence construction built with precision.

There are, of course, no explicit sex scenes, but the artistry of words more than makes up for it. Highly recommended: Five bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn 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: Keish (“Kaysh”): “Skookum Jim” Mason: co-discoverer of the Klondike gold. 

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

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

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

 

 

June 8, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

Finding Our Way (Finding Our Way #1) by Jayson James

 

A heart warming story of friends to lovers.

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Click on the cover to order.

Click on the cover to order.

Justin Parker and Derrick Wilson have been best friends since meeting back in middle school. Currently they are in their junior year at Chandler High School, and living the good life as teenagers. They have great girlfriends, plenty of close friends, their own cars, and parents who are well off. As nice as things might look to an outsider, something is missing from each of their lives.
Justin has become the invisible son in the midst of his parents failing marriage. In an effort to get his parent’s attention, Justin keeps getting into trouble. So far he has been able to get away with anything without facing any repercussions, while Derrick is feeling distant and tired of what he feels is a too “perfect family”. He just wants to have a normal social life and spend time with his friends without the pressures from his family to spend time with them. With blurring the lines of friendship in the process to realizing what was missing and discovering who they really are.

Justin and Derrick take turns narrating the story of their junior year in high school and all of the events that take place in their lives. Being a teenager can be tough. Being gay can be tougher. For Derrick and Justin they are both, and life cannot get any more complicated.

What happens when two best friends cross the boundaries of friendship? Will they be able to be happy together? Will they keep their secret?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ah, the sweet adventures of youth.

That about sums up –in a positive way – Jayson James’ debut novel, Finding Our Way (Finding Our Way #1) [Published February 25th 2013 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform].

There is little in the way of uniqueness about the plot – the theme of burgeoning love has been worked and reworked from every imaginable angle; however, it is James’ ability to capture the wonderment of it, as seen from the perspective of two boys, that makes it appealing.

The devices he uses are quite effective: A tentative, step-by-step-pace; shifting narrative voices; and the ultimate realization of what they have created, all work to keep the plot credible. I also liked the way he muted the angst to a believable level.

From a personal perspective, I liked the scene where they made out in the back seat of a car: Many happy memories there.

There are a few editing problems, but nothing major. Four stars.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 78,417

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn 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: Keish (“Kaysh”): “Skookum Jim” Mason: co-discoverer of the Klondike gold. 

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

Click on the logo to learn about my books to datre

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

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

 

June 1, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Young adult | Leave a comment

Trails Plowed Under by Charles M. Russell

I am adding a new, all-time favourite to my list…

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trails plowed under - cover twoPublisher’s blurb: Excerpts from Introduction: I have many friends among cowmen and cowpunchers. I have always been what is called a good mixer I had friends when I had nothing else. My friends were not always within the law, but I haven’t said how law-abiding I was myself. I haven’t been too bad nor too good to get along with. Life has never been too serious with me I lived to play and I’m playing yet. Laughs and good judgment have saved me many a black eye, but I don’t laugh at other’s tears. I was a wild young man, but age has made me gentle. I drank, but never alone, and when I drank it was no secret. I am still friendly with drinking men…

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have personally reviewed over two hundred fiction and non-fiction books, I admit I have my favourites. Blazing the Old Cattle Trail by Canadian Grant MacEwan; We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a cowpuncher  by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith; and Klondike Cattle Drive by Norman Lee are three that I can think of off-hand, but now I can add another: Trails Plowed Under by Charles Marion Russell [Bison Books, July 28, 1996.] with forward by Will Rogers.

'The West that's passed' "When the land belonged to God"

‘The West that’s passed’
“When the land belonged to God”

Most people know Charles Russell as an internationally acclaimed artist, illustrator and painter of “The West that’s passed,” (his own words), but fewer know that he was a gifted writer of tall tales as well. “Betwine the pen and the brush there is little diffornce but I belive the man that makes word pictures is the greater.” ~ Charles M. Russell letter to Ralph S. Kendall, November 26, 1919.

Like most great writers, Russell knew his material first-hand. He was born March 19, 1864, in St. Louis, Missouri, on the edge of the burgeoning western frontier. As a boy, he crafted his own expectations of the American West by filling his schoolbooks with drawings of cowboys and Indians. Shortly before turning 16, he arrived in Montana, where he spent eleven years working various ranching jobs. He sketched in his free time and soon gained a local reputation as an artist. His firsthand experience as a ranch hand.

trails plowed under - cm russell portraitCharlie Russell became the personification of the West itself. He wanted little to do with the present and nothing to do with the future, and chose to celebrate and romanticize only the traditions and virtues of the West as he envisioned it. He wanted it known that he had taken part in the Old West, and was a better man for it. Even as an internationally-known western artist, Russell cherished—far more than his skills—his friendships and his place as a peer among common people.

Although he produced over 4,000 works of art and 27 books to internation acclaim, with fame went modesty. Charles Russell often said that God had given him his talent, that nature provided the schooling, and that therefore he had no cause to boast about the results. The talent was undeniable. He could model figures out of beeswax or clay without looking at his hands. From memory, he could paint men and horses he had known decades before, in action and with features which old-timers could identify, And he could accurately record in writing the speech patterns of wranglers, nighthawks, and rawhides long since vanished.

Russell was not so good a writer as he was a painter, illustrator, or sculptor. But that undeniable fact should blind no one to the rich excellences of his short stories, semiautobiographical anecdotes, and essays. At their best, they have the twang and tang of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Will Rogers. The main virtues of Russell’s writings are the same as those which distinguish his best art work: authenticity, detail, suspense, and humor.

But rather than try to explain the rustic charm of his stories, here is an example from Trails Plowed Under:

Gift Horse

trails plowed under - 'gift horse'Charley Furiman tells me about a hoss he owns and if you’re able to stay on him he’ll take you to the end of the trail. The gent Charley got him from says he’s, “Gentle. He’s a pet.” (This man hates to part with him.) “He’s a lady’s hoss. You can catch him anywhere with a biscuit.

“Next day Charley finds out he’s a lady’s hoss, all right, but he don’t like men. Furiman ain’t a mile from his corral when he slips the pack. Charley crawls him again kinder careful and rides him sixty miles an’ he don’t turn a hair. Next day he saddles him he acts like he’s harmless but he’s looking for something. He’s out about ten mile. Charley notices he travels with one ear down. This ain’t a good sign, but Charley gets careless and about noon he comes to a dry creek bed where there’s lots of boulders. That’s what this cayuse is looking for ’cause right in the middle of the boulder-strewn flat is where he breaks in two and unloads. Charley tells me, “I don’t miss none of them boulders an’ where I light there’s nothing gives but different parts of me. For a while I wonder where I’m at and when things do clear up it comes to me right quick. I forgot to bring the biscuits. How am I going to catch him? If I had a Winchester, I’d catch him just over the eye.

“To make a long story short, I followed him back to the ranch afoot. Walking ain’t my strong holt an’ these boulder bumps don’t help me none. Next morning after a good night’s sleep, I feel better. Going out to the corral, I offer this cayuse a biscuit, thinkin’ I’ll start off friendly. He strikes at me and knocks my hat off. My pardner tries to square it by telling me I ain’t got the right kind. ‘That’s a lady’s hoss,’ says he, ‘and being a pet, he wants them little lady’s biscuits; it’s enough to make him sore, handing him them sour doughs.’

“While I’m getting my hat, I happen to think of a friend of mine that’s got married and I ain’t give him no wedding present. This friend of mine is a bronk rider named Con Price. So while my heart’s good, I saddle a gentle hoss and lead this man-hater over and presents him to Price with my best wishes. “I don’t meet Con till next fall on the beef roundup. He ain’t too friendly. Next morning when we’re roping hosses, he steps up to me and says, kinder low, holdin’ out his hand to shake, ‘Charley, I’m letting bygones be bygones, but if I get married again anywhere in your neighborhood, don’t give me no wedding presents. If you do you’ll get lots of flowers.”

For anyone who enjoys Western yarns, told be someone who experienced the West first hand, and can spin a yarn the way it was told, this collection is for you. Five bees.

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Some examples of Charlie Russell’s Paintings that appeal to me:

"When Law Dulls The Edge of Chance"

“When Law Dulls The Edge of Chance”

"Meats Not Meat Til It's In The Pan"

“Meats Not Meat Til It’s In The Pan”

"Bronc to Breakfast"

“Bronc to Breakfast”

"Wild Horse Hunters"

“Wild Horse Hunters”

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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:  Molly Lamb-Bobak, CM, ONB: Canada’s first Official Woman War Artist.

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 Introducing a new logo for Gerry Burnie Books:

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If you would like to learn more about 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.

       

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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Charles Marion Russell, Real Western Tales, Semi-biographical, Western Vernacular | Leave a comment

The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, by Christina Hoff Sommers

An absolute must read for every man, woman and parent who wishes to see their children grow into healthy, well adjusted beings.

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the war against boys - coverBlurb: Despite popular belief, American boys tag behind girls in reading and writing ability, and they are less likely to go to college. Our young men are greatly at risk, yet the best-known studies and experts insist that it’s girls who are in need of our attention. The highly publicized “girl crisis” has led to many changes in American schools, politics, and parenting…but at what cost?

In this provocative book, Christina Hoff Sommers argues that our society has continued to overemphasize the troubles of girls while our boys suffer from the same self-esteem and academic problems. Boys need help, but not the sort of help they’ve been getting.

About the author: Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise institute in Washington, D.C. She has a PhD in philosophy from Brandeis University and was formerly a professor of philosophy at Clark University. Sommers has written for numerous publications and is the author of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women. She is married with two sons and lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have been lamenting, of late, that men are being regularly emasculated in most radio and television ads to an extent that would not be tolerated if the same thing were happening to women. In fact, “Advertisers degrade men about 19 times more often than women, and usually to a higher degree,” says the National Coalition for Men. Given the insidious nature of advertising, and the fact that such ads are not only ubiquitous, but are also repeated hundreds of times a day, it amounts to a subtle form of social brainwashing.

To some extent, and perhaps at a more insidious level, this ‘brainwashing’ is what Christina Hoff Sommers is getting at in her book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men [Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition, August 20, 2013]. In it, she addresses the very real problem of boys failing or dropping out of a school system that is, intentionally or unintentionally, biased toward girls. The rationale is often couched in terms of ‘equal opportunity,’ but as Sommers points out there is a marked difference between ‘feminist equality’ and ‘feminist gender’.

male bashing feministsIn one of the more blatant examples, she describes in some detail how seventh-grade boys are told they will grow up to be abusers, even rapists. It is the sort of thing that men’s rights advocate, Warren Farrell, planned to talk about at the University of Toronto in December 2010, i.e. “the crisis among boys and how they were not doing well educationally,” when he was shouted down by about 100 feminists—as reported by Toronto Sun Newspaper columnist, Michael Coren:

There were around 100 of these fanatics, at the university before he spoke, ripping down posters, threatening and insulting anybody who tried to attend the lecture, and explaining as only heavily funded students can do, “You should be f—ing ashamed of yourself, you f—ing scum” to those with whom they disagreed. There is ample video evidence. ~ “Shrill backlash to men’s rights advocate,” December 8th, 2012.

Specifically, Sommers points out (with statistical verification) that girls tend to receive more academic attention, and go on to higher education in greater numbers than boys—even if feminists claim the opposite. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, after all, and complacency doesn’t grab headlines.

She also posits that boys are being feminized by discouraging traditionally masculine play, like physical competition and rough-housing, etc., for more feminine or unisex games. Moreover, this is being carried into the classroom by the choice of books like Jane Eyre, as apposed to more male oriented stories. Ergo, in terms of literacy, boys are being turned-off reading for lack of interest.

As a possible solution, Sommers suggests that boys would do better in a segregated system with other boys. It is not a new idea, England has had exclusive boys’ school for centuries. Moreover, private schools—such as St. Andrews College in Aurora, Ontario (Est. 1899), and Upper Canada College in Toronto (Est. 1829)—have both operated along this line for over a century with outstanding results.

Some people may feel intimidated by the title, i.e. the ‘war’* against boys, but to me it is quite appropriate. War has been declared, and is being waged against both boys and men, but it is only now that men are beginning to wake up to the fact. It is ironic, therefore, that it took a feminist—albeit an objective one—to sound the alarm.

An absolute must read for every man, woman and parent who wishes to see their children grow into healthy, well adjusted beings. Five bees.

*For those who still feel ‘war’ is too strong a term, see:Men’s rights under fire,” ~ Toronto Sun  Newspaper, February 7, 2014.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 63,414

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

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Norman Lee (1862 – 1939): The Klondike Cattle Drive.

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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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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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

Thanks again!

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

February 10, 2014 Posted by | Academic study, bias in education, Christina Hoff Sommers, Feminism, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

A Book of Tongues: Volume One of the Hexslinger Series, by Gemma Files

A raw, unapologetically sensuous novel – 

Story blurb: Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West’s most dangerous outlaw gangs-the troop led by “Reverend” Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned “hexslinger,” and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow’s task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook’s power, then bring that knowledge back to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic itself.

Magicians, cursed by their gift to a solitary and painful existence, have never been more than a footnote in history. But Rook, driven by desperation, has a plan to shatter the natural law that prevents hexes from cooperation, and change the face of the world-a plan sealed by an unholy marriage-oath with the goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men. To accomplish this, he must raise her bloodthirsty pantheon from its collective grave through sacrifice, destruction, and Apotheosis.

Caught between a passel of dead gods and monsters, hexes galore, Rook’s witchery, and the ruthless calculations of his own masters, Morrow’s only real hope of survival lies with the man without whom Rook cannot succeed: Chess Pargeter himself. But Morrow and Chess will have to literally ride through Hell before the truth of Chess’s fate comes clear-the doom written for him, and the entire world.

Available in e-book format – 459 KB.

About the author: Previously best-known as a film critic for Toronto’s eye Weekly, teacher and screenwriter, Gemma Files first broke onto the international horror scene when her story “The Emperor’s Old Bones” won the 1999 International Horror Guild award for Best Short Fiction. She is the author of two collections of short work (Kissing Carrionand The Worm in Every Heart) and two chapbooks of poetry (Bent Under Night andDust Radio).

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I generally bypass sci-fi and supernatural-type genres, but since my forthcoming novel includes both a western and an underlying supernatural theme, I thought I would see how Gemma File approached these in A Book of Tongues: Volume One of the Hexslinger Series [ChiZine Publications; First edition, 2010].

Suffice to say the two novels are very different, inasmuch as Ms File has pulled out all the stops on the supernatural end of the things, and just about everything else in the process. She has, in fact, written a tour de force in imagination, violence, bloodshed, gore, and raunchiness, that is both shocking and mesmerizing at the same time. I hasten to add that all these elements are in keeping with the shadowy nature of the story, but by the same token they are not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

The story is set at the end of the Civil War when two men are sentenced to death for killing a deranged Confederate Captain from leading a suicide charge against the other side. One is Asher Rook, a preacher, who is hanged, but in so doing it releases a magical power within him known as a “hex.”

His partner (and lover), Chess Pargeter, a cold-blooded gunslinger who kills with the same impunity that one would dispatch a fly.

The third principal player, from whose perspective the story is told, is an undercover Pinkerton Agent, Ed Morrow, charged with the task of infiltrating Rook’s gang to learn the extent of Rook’s powers so that it can be analyzed.
The emergence of Rook as a “Hexslinger” catches the attention of Ixchel an ancient Aztec goddess (described in the blurb as “mother of all hanged men”) who wishes to return to the world along with some of her pantheon. I have some problem with this characterization of Ixchel, because in the several sources I checked she is described as “the goddess of midwifery and medicine.” Though sometimes depicted as a goddess of catastrophe (the woman who stands by as the world floods), she is more often depicted as nurturing. Therefore, unless I am missing something, this is a significant contradiction of personalities.

As I have already mentioned, this is an ‘all out’ novel. There are no half measures regarding profane language, sex, guts and gore, but the saving grace—from being just a gratuitous shocker—is the strong characterization. Thus, the bloodshed seems entirely in keeping with the personalities involved. This is enhanced, as well, by the skilful use of a vernacular that gives the characters extra depth.

The noticeable shortcomings are the backhistory of Mayan gods and cosmology, which for me was too onerous to grasp even superficially; the switching between the present and past contexts; and the resulting, erratic pace.

Otherwise it is a bold, unapologetically adventurous story that you will have to judge for yourself. Three bees.

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Thanks to everyone who voted for Gerry B’s Book Reviews in the Independent Book Blogger Awards … Luv each and everyone of you!

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 24,638

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

Norman Lee’s legendary cattle drive is the true-life inspiration for this story. In 1898, Lee set out to drive 200 head of cattle from his home in Hanceville, British Columbia (the so-called “settlement” in the story), to the Klondike goldfields – a distance of 1,500 miles. He was gambling both his cattle and his life. Throughout the daunting weeks of coping with mud, cold and sheer bad luck, Lee kept his sense of humour. When he returned from his Yukon trek, he rewrote the notes from his journal, illustrating his story with his own cartoons and sketches. He completed his manuscript around the turn of the century, but it sat untouched until 1960.

Click on image to enlarge.

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Introducing a brand new author and her new Novel.

Altered-Revelations, by Shawnda Falls-Currie is new on the Kindle market.

Story Blurb: Abandoned by her family, Lacey is sent to a juvenile detention center known as Clear Waters. Her teen years don’t look promising until she is befriended by a mysterious stranger named Taylor, a gorgeous guy whose captivating eyes seem to stare into her soul. Convinced she is in danger at Clear Waters, Lacey joins Taylor in a daring escape. As she meets Taylor’s group of friends, she discovers that they’re more than they seem – they’ve been sent from the future to head off an evil corporate plot that will lead to a world war unless averted. With Lacey as their only hope to prevent a grim future, Taylor shows Lacey how to tap into her psychic abilities known in his time as evolved humans. Travelling with her new friends, she discovers the magic of love while she grows into the powerful warrior chosen to make the difference to the world!

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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. See you next week!

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

River Thieves, by Michael Crummey

A superb weaving of fact and fiction set in the Canadian wilderness –

Story blurb: River Thieves is a beautifully written and compelling novel that breathes life into the pivotal events which shaped relations between the Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland and European settlers. Following a series of expeditions made under the order of the British Crown, the reader witnesses the tragic fallout from these missions as the Beothuk vanish and the web of secrets guarded by the settlers slowly begin to unravel …Told in elegant sensual prose this is an enthralling historical novel of great passion and suspense, driven by the extraordinary cast of characters. And with it Michael Crummey establishes himself as one of Canada’s most exciting new talents.

Available in e-book format – 2058 KB

About the athor: Born in Buchans, Newfoundland, Crummey grew up there and in Wabush, Labrador, where he moved with his family in the late 1970s. He went to university with no idea what to do with his life and, to make matters worse, started writing poems in his first year. Just before graduating with a BA in English he won the Gregory Power Poetry Award. First prize was three hundred dollars (big bucks back in 1987) and it gave him the mistaken impression there was money to be made in poetry.

He published a slender collection of poems called Arguments with Gravity in 1996, followed two years later by Hard Light. 1998 also saw the publication of a collection of short stories, Flesh and Blood, and Crummey’s nomination for the Journey Prize.

Crummey’s debut novel, River Thieves (2001) was a Canadian bestseller, winning the Thomas Head Raddall Award and the Winterset Award for Excellence in Newfoundland Writing. It was also shortlisted for the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the IMPAC Award. His second novel, The Wreckage (2005), was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and longlisted for the 2007 IMPAC Award.

Galore was published in Canada in 2009. A national bestseller, it was the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Canada & Caribbean), the Canadian Authors’ Association Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for fiction.

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Review by Gerry Burnie
My bio reads in part: Canada has a rich and colourful history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered, and River Thieves by Michael Crummey [Anchor Canada, 2009] is a case on point.

The Beothuk (pronounced “beo-thuk”) people of Newfoundland, a.k.a. “The Red Indians” because of the red ochre they smeared on their bodies, are truly one of the most fascinating and mysterious aspects of it. They are referred to as a “population isolate” because they developed their unique culture in total isolation, starting around 1 A.D. until—with the death of Shanawdithit (“Nancy April”) in1829—they were declared officially extinct.

Part of the extinction process was as a result of being retreated into areas that could not sustain them; European diseases (particularly tuberculoses) for which they had no immunity; and anecdotes of genocide in which they were hunted like wolves. Indeed, the extinction of such a shy, peaceful and unique people is a black mark in Canadian history.

All of this Michael Crummey has captured with remarkable insight, and a superb sense of time and place. His approach of fictionalizing historical events and persons (while not unique) is certainly affective in making them come to life in the context in which they existed, i.e. the rugged and austere wilderness of Newfoundland in the early nineteenth century.

British naval officer, James Buchan, [a real historical figure] is sent to the British Colony of Newfoundland to establish productive relations with the mysterious aboriginals. In order to accomplish this mission he recruits the help of the Peyton family—a sort of backwoods aristocracy led by the tough-minded John Peyton Sr., a ruthless Beothuk persecutor [yet another real individual and fact]. However, his son, John Jr., although dominated by his father, is also vested with a conscience and becomes Buchan’s ally.

Rounding off this complex household is Cassie Jure, the enigmatic housekeeper, who is surprisingly independent for a female servant of the 19th-century, but she nonetheless adds a feminine perspective to a dominant cast of men.

Crummey’s poetic style is a real boon here, for the setting is very much part of the story—both the harshness and austere beauty of its topography and climate. He has therefore woven it into the tapestry as though it were one of the characters, emphasizing the hardy resilience of its occupants—like Joseph Reilly, a transported (“exiled”) Irish thief turned trapper. Likewise, his research and portrayal of 19th-century mores and terms gives it a solid credibility that invests the reader from beginning to end. For all these reasons, it is highly recommended. Five bees.

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One of the historical events portrayed in this story is “The stealing of Demasduit (“Mary March”).

Demasduit was a Beothuk woman who is thought to have been about 23 years old when she was captured near Red Indian Lake in March 1819.

The governor of Newfoundland, although seeking to encourage trade and end hostilities between the Beothuk and the English, had approved an expedition led by captain David Buchan to recover a boat and other fishing gear which had been stolen by the Beothuk. A group from this expedition was led by John Peyton Jr. whose father John Peyton Sr. was a salmon fisherman known for his hostility towards the small tribe. On a raid, they killed Demasduit’s husband Nonosbawsut, then ran her down in the snow. She pleaded for her life, baring her breasts to show she was a nursing mother. They took Demasduit to Twillingate and Peyton earned a bounty on her. The baby died. Peyton was later appointed Justice of the Peace at Twillingate, Newfoundland.

The British called Demasduit Mary March after the month when she was taken. Later bringing her to St. John’s, Newfoundland, the colonial government wanted to give Desmaduit comfort and friendly treatment while she was with the English, hoping she might one day be a bridge between them and the Beothuk. Demasduit learned some English and taught the settlers about 200 words of Beothuk language. However, in January 1820 while making the trip back to Notre Dame Bay Demasduit died of tuberculosis before reaching her kin. Source: Wikipedia.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 21,811

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Introducing the characters, etc. from my forthcoming novel: Coming of Age on the Trail

Norman Lee’s Route (click on image to elarge)

The inspiration for this fictional tale comes from Norman Lee’s epic, 1,500-mile cattle dive from Hanceville, British Columbia, to the gold fields around Dawson City, Yukon Territory, in 1898. Fortunately, Lee had the presence of mind to keep a journal along the way, and so we have a first-hand account of his remarkable feat just as it unfolded over a century ago. It is fortunate as well that Eileen Laurie of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation took an interest in this unique piece of Canadian history, and that the Lee family generously allowed it to be published. [See: Klondike Cattle Drive: The journal of Norman Lee, Touch Wood Editions, Surrey, British Columbia, 2005]. Consequently, many of the scenes depicted in this fictional version are taken from Lee’s actual experiences.

Once again this remarkable adventure proves that: Canada has a rich and colourful history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered.

Read an excerpt.

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If you haven’t done so before, do drop by the InnerBouquet website.

The InnerBouquet mission is to spread the word about & celebrate LGBT ARTS, CULTURE & ATHLETICISM from past to the present. The site features bios, reviews, critiques, interviews, photos, news, videos, songs, poems, etc. – all related to the contributions of LGBT icons world-wide. On a personal level, the InnerBouquet founder and creative director, David-Paul, in his “FlashBack Diary” reveals poignant moments from his gay journal.

This week David-Paul has added new and poignant information about Steve Walker, renowned Canadian artist who passed away on January 4 2012.

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I’ve added new pages: If you haven’t noticed already I’ve added an “About” and “Gerry Burnie Books” page.” You’ll find the links at the top of the page. Hope you find them interesting.

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Protest Paypal. Recently, Paypal started to refuse transactions for books which do not meet a set of narrowly-defined criteria, i.e., teenage sex (16 is the “age of consent”), rape, incest, etc. This is de facto censorship, and not the business of money broker. If you would care to send a letter to Paypal execs, etc., here is a list of email addresses you can use.

mbarrett@paypal.com,
executiveoffice@paypal.com,
harbor1@paypal.com,
ppelce@paypal.com,
complaint-response@paypal.com,
abuse@paypal.com,
Europeanservices@paypal.com,
resolutions@paypal.com,
appeals@paypal.com,
compliance@paypal.com,
webform@paypal.com,
Unmonitored <service@paypal.com>,
spoof@paypal.com,
aup@paypal.com,
Let public relations know you are filing complaints <press@paypal.com>,
apires@paypal.com,
pending_reversal@paypal.com,
global2@paypal.com,
intl@paypal.com,
ppe_courtesycredit@paypal.com
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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. The numbers are growing, thanks you!

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

Wings of Love, by Scotty Cade

A true M/M romance in Harlequin style

Story Blurb: Devastated after losing his partner of fifteen years to cancer, Dr. Bradford Mitchell tries to escape the emptiness and loss by leaving his life in Seattle behind. Traveling to the Alaskan mountains where he and Jeff often vacationed, Brad reconnects with Mac Cleary, the ruggedly handsome and very straight loatplane pilot who had flown them to Hyline Lake many times in the past. Brad and Mac form an unlikely friendship and buy an old log cabin together, and as he and Mac begin to bring the old cabin back to life, Mac watches Brad come back to life as well, stirring emotions in him he’s never felt for a man before. When fear, confusion, and a near tragedy threaten to force the two men apart, they’ll face some tough questions. Can Brad let go of Jeff and the guilt he feels about beginning to care for another man? And can Mac deal with his fears of being gay and accept the fact that he is in love with Brad? It will be a struggle for both men to keep their heads and hearts intact while exploring what life has to offer.

Available in eBook format, 655 KB.

SCOTTY CADE left Corporate America and twenty-five years of marketing and public relations behind to buy an inn & restaurant on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with his partner of fourteen years. He started writing stories as soon as he could read, but only recently for publication. When not at the inn, you can find him on the bow of his boat writing male/male romance novels with his Shetland sheepdog Mavis at his side. Being from the South and a lover of commitment and fidelity, most of his characters find their way to long, healthy relationships, however long it takes them to get there. He believes that in the end, the boy should always get the boy.

Scotty and his partner are avid boaters and live aboard their boat, spending the summers on Martha’s Vineyard and winters in Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The above blurb fairly well covers the outline of Wings of Love by Scotty Cade [Dreamspinner Press, 2011], and so I can get right to my views.

I particularly enjoy wilderness settings, especially in and around Alaska and the Yukon Territory. There is something inherently masculine about them, as well as primitive, and so these make an ideal setting for an M/M story. In this regard the author did not disappoint with his choice of Brad and Mac, two fairly hunky guys equal to the wilderness—even if it is with hot water and a microwave. My point is, however, that these guys are definitely not out of place nailing nails and sawing wood, etc.

I also like how the author dealt with the topic of losing a loved one to cancer, which was both sensitive and realistic without being maudlin. Cancer is a tragic subject, and the effect of it has no doubt touched us all in one form or another, but SC wisely chose to have his characters move on with life. After all, we the living have very little choice, and there is life after death (not to be construed as a religious statement).

As well, I liked how he let the relationship between a gay man and straight man evolve at what seemed like a realistic pace. My most cherished love in life was with a straight guy, very much like Mac, and so I know it does happen, and how.

These are all good points, and recommend the story highly. However, what took the edge off it for me was the pace. Scotty Cade is a very thorough writer, and so he has attempted to answer any (and every) question the reader might have regarding this or that, and in so doing has burdened the flow in sometimes superfluous information. i.e.

He stepped up to the radio,  picked up the handset, and pressed the button. “November 4649 Delta, this is  Wing Mansion. Over.”

He waited for a few seconds and heard nothing.

“November 4649 Delta, this is Wing Mansion, do you copy?”

He waited again.

Just when he was about to repeat the call again, he heard, “Wing Mansion, this is November 4649 Delta, I hear you loud and clear. Wing Mansion, switch to channel one eight. Over,” he heard Mac’s voice say.

“Wing mansion switching to channel one eight,” Brad repeated.

Brad turned the dial up two notches to channel one eight and said, “Wing Mansion standing by on channel one eight.”

“Good morning sleepyhead. Over,” Mac said.

“Mac, are you okay? Over.” Brad asked.

“I’m fine. Did you get my note? Over.”

“Mac, thank you for taking the time to write it; it was very thoughtful. Over.”

“That’s me, thoughtful Mac. Over.”

Mac was sounding a little strange. Then Brad remembered Zander and Jake were with him, and he was sure they could hear everything Mac was saying.

“Mac, I know Zander and Jake can hear what you’re saying, but can they hear me? Over.”

“That’s a negative. Over,” Mac responded. WINGS OF LOVE 91

“Oh good, I’m not ready to start explaining all of this to them. Over.”

“That’s affirmative. Over,” Mac said.

“What’s your ETA? Over,” Brad asked.

“About zero eight hundred hours. Over,” Mac said.

Brad remembered military time, and he thought that meant eight am. “Okay, safe flight and give my best to Zander and Jake, and tell them to enjoy their vacation and not to worry about the lodge. I’ll check on it every couple of days. Over.”

“I’ll pass that along. Over,” Mac responded.

“Mac, will you make it back up before the storm? Over.”

“I’ll do my best, but if I don’t, you’ll be fine. I’ll be in touch. Over.”

“I’ll look forward to it. Oh, and Mac, please be careful. I don’t want to lose you. Over.”

“Will do. Over.”

Brad ended the conversation by saying, “You do that.” He added, “Wing Mansion over and out, switching back to channel one six.”

The last thing Brad heard Mac say was, “November 4649 Delta standing by on channel one six.”

Okay, I’ve operated a VHF radio, and I know how the lingo goes (channel changes and all), but this much attention to detail—however admirable—doesn’t advance the story. And that’s the point. If it doesn’t advance the story whittle it down, generalize it, or leave it out.

Otherwise, Wings of Love is a pleasant, feel good story with a romantic, happy ending.  Four stars.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 12, 323

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The eBook version of Two Irish Lads [Maple Creek Media] will be available at Kindle and Nook outlets this week.

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The final galley proofs have been approved, and so Nor All Thy Tears should be released in both hardcopy and eBook formats in a week or so.

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Progress on Coming of Age on the Trail: 163/180.

This is the story of a teenager’s unique coming of age on an epic, 1,500-mile cattle drive through the rugged wilderness of 19th-century British Columbia

Loosely based on an actual cattle drive to the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush of 1896-1898, this fictional tale pits 17-year-old Cory Twilingate
against an almost insurmountable wilderness in an effort to save his father’s cash-strapped ranch. Supporting him all the way is his father’s recently hired foreman, “Reb” Coltrane, a ruggedly handsome and trail-savvy cowboy from Texas, and as a result a bond is formed between them like two Spartan cohorts fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against the rigors of the trail.

This is a tale that explores the phenomenon of male bonding under extraordinary and sometimes perilous conditions. It is also a romance that includes those most American of institutions, i.e., cowboys and cattle, but as told from a gay perspective. Whether it is a rugged tale of adventure, or a coming of age romance you are seeking, “Coming of Age on the Trail” delivers on all counts.

July 31, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance | Leave a comment

Lorcan’s Desire (Whispering Pines Ranch #1) by SJD Peterson

A credible first novel

Despite the loving support of his family, Lorcan James wants to try life on his own, so at twenty-one, he finds himself walking half way across the country in search of adventure. What he finds is desperation, desperation that leads him straight to the Whispering Pines Ranch and right into the path of its strong, arrogant, gorgeous owner, who awakens something in Lorcan he didn’t even know, existed.

Quinn Taylor is up to his neck in grief and frustration dealing with a neighboring rancher who wants nothing more than to see him go belly-up. He doesn’t need more complications, but from the moment he lays eyes on Lorcan, his world turns upside down. Despite finding in Quinn what his heart craves, Lorcan refuses to be Quinn’s dirty little secret—and Quinn isn’t the only one vying for Lorcan’s attention. Ranch hand Jess will happily declare his love for Lorcan to the world, something Quinn won’t offer—something Lorcan needs above all else.

Cover Art by Anne Cain

SJD PETERSON, better known as Jo, hails from Michigan. Not the best place to live for someone who hates the cold and snow. When not reading or writing, Jo can be found close to the heater checking out NHL stats and watching the Red Wings kick a little butt. Can’t cook, misses the clothes hamper nine out of ten tries, but is handy with power tools.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

I understand that Lorcan’s Desire (Whispering Pines Ranch #1) [dreamspinner Press, May 30, 2011] is the first effort by a now “published Author”, SJD Peterson, so congratulations are in order. However, now that the ‘first born’ is out there, let’s see how it rates.

There is much to be said for this story as a first effort. The writing is strong, and technically it reads almost effortlessly—a good start. The style is straightforward with just enough description to make it interesting—particularly the sex scenes, which are as creative a sex scenes get. The plot is also interesting, if taken in a linear
fashion without the twists and turns thrown in.

I was particularly taken by the opening in which Lorcon is introduced as a rebel with a cause, and therein the reader is sympathetically drawn to him. On the other hand, Quinn’s character is not as well developed, and to some extent he remains underdeveloped throughout—apart from carrying a lot of baggage from a previous relationship, and a debilitating fear of being outed by a vindictive and covetous neighbour.

After the introductions, however, the story departs from its nice clean narrative style to get bogged down in a complex of “does he, or doesn’t he’s?” on both sides. I do understand that these are intended to convey the mental turmoil being experienced by both characters, but given that each has a hard-on for the other in every scene they appear together, it unfortunately comes across as more indecision than heart-felt anguish.

The introduction of Jess also took me by surprise. Once in, however, the relationship between Lorcan and Jess–a returning to a clean narrative style–was made much more agreeable because of it.

Having said that, there are some very nice highlights–the tense scene when Lorcan is being hit-on by Jess and Quinn sees them, and when Lorcan and Jess arrive back at the ranch after spending the night together. Also, if you like well-written homoerotica, Lorcan’s Desire is sure to pleae. Three and one-half stars.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 12,020

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 The block proofs for Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky, are done and approved, and I think I am on schedule for an end-of-July release–whether it will be listed in Amazon’s catalogue by then, I don’t know. There will also be an eBook version released shortly after that.

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I’ve completed 105/182 pages of rewrites to Coming of Age on the Trail, and it should be ready for publication by the end of September.

This is the story of a teenager’s unique coming of age on an epic, 1,500-mile cattle drive through the rugged wilderness of 19th-century British Columbia

Loosely based on an actual cattle drive to the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush of 1896-1898, this fictional tale pits 17-year-old Cory Twilingate
against an almost insurmountable wilderness in an effort to save his father’s cash-strapped ranch. Supporting him all the way is his father’s recently hired foreman, “Reb” Coltrane, a ruggedly handsome and trail-savvy cowboy from Texas, and as a result a bond is formed between them like two Spartan cohorts fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against the rigors of the trail.

This is a tale that explores the phenomenon of male bonding under extraordinary and sometimes perilous conditions. It is also a romance that includes those most American of institutions, i.e., cowboys and cattle, but as told from a gay perspective. Whether it is a rugged tale of adventure, or a coming of age romance you are seeking, “Coming of Age on the Trail” delivers on all counts.

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Homoerotic | 1 Comment

We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a cowpuncher by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith

A rollicking tale of true adventure, and perhaps the first admission (ever) of male love in a cowboy’s own story

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we pointed them north - coverE.C. Abbott was a cowboy in the great days of the 1870s and 1880s. He came up the trail to Montana from Texas with the long-horned herds that were to stock the northern ranges; he punched cows in Montana when there wasn’t a fence in the territory; and he married a daughter of Granville Stuart, the famous early-day stockman and Montana pioneer. For more than fifty years he was known to cowmen from Texas to Alberta as “Teddy Blue.”

This is history, as told by Helena Huntington Smith, who says, “My part was to keep out of the way and not mess it up by being literary.

_____________________________________

Review by Gerry Burnie

When I come across personal reminiscences of this nature (“We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a cowpuncher” by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith, drawings by Nick Eggenhofer, University of Oklahoma Press, 1955) I am immediately envious of my cousins south of the border because they have yet another window into their past.

Unfortunately, apart from Norman Lee’s journal [see: Norman Lee Klondike Cattle Drive,” Touchwood Editions, 2005] I am unaware of any other first-hand account(s) of Canadian history that is/are currently: a) published, and b) still in print. I would be happy if someone were to correct me on that statement, but alas I doubt it will happen. Therefore, with each generation that passes our Canadian pioneer experience becomes more and more obscure. Therefore, I have the greatest admiration for Abbott and his patriotic notion to leave a legacy behind for our appreciation.

The early years 

We Pointed Them North is without a doubt the most candid, and thereby the most ‘credible’ of any similar accounts I have read thus far. However, this is a personal observation to be taken for what it is worth. Nevertheless, by his own admission young Eddie Abbott was a bit of a free spirit—even a ‘renegade’ in his formative and teenage years. He attributes this, in part, to having an overbearing father:

“I never got on with my father and never pretended to. He was overbearing and tyrannical—and worse with me than with the others … And I resented it. But I got back at him. I remember one time the butcher wanted to buy some beef, and my father was going to cut them out of the herd for him, and he asked me to give him a horse. So I caught up little Pete, my cutting horse, for him … Father had rode all his life on one of these flat English saddles, and he thought he was a rider … And when he rode into the herd and started to cut out a steer, and the steer dodged … of course Pete turned right out from under him and left him on the ground.” 

The other part was from growing up around the rugged Texans who came north with the very first cattle drives. As Abbott points out in clarifying the record, the cattle drives as we know them only lasted from about 1870-1886, and were almost completely gone by the 1890s. He also points out that the cowboy packin’ a gun on each hip was mostly a Hollywood embellishment.

“I punched cows from ’71 on, and I never yet saw a cowboy with two guns. I mean two six-shooters. Wild Bill carried two guns and so did some of the other city marshals, like Bat Masterson, but they were professional gunmen themselves, not cowpunchers.” 

Nevertheless, Abbott carried a gun from the time he was fourteen, and even shot a man in a mêlée of drunken cowboys shooting out gas lamps. However, it was his contention that a gun was a necessary tool in frontier country. It enabled a man to protect himself against all manner of threats; to shoot food and signal if lost; and to avoid a robbery, etc.

The adventurous years 

If Teddy Blue’s ‘hellion’ years had any benefit at all, apart from sewing his wild oats and gaining a reputation as a ‘wild one’—which he was immenselyproud of—it enabled him (at age nineteen) to take his place among some of the toughest crews on the trail. Among these were the Olive Brothers:

“The Olives were noted as a tough outfit—a gun outfit—which was one reason I wanted in with them. It would show I was tough as they were … They were violent and overbearing men, and it taken a hard man to work for them, and believe me they had several of those all the time. 

Men had to be tough considering the life they led. Abbott describes one situation where they were camped near a large prairie dog ‘town’ when a big storm came up that resulted in a stampede. In the morning it was discovered that one of the men was missing, and a search was made.

“We found him among the prairie dog holes, beside his horse. The horse’s ribs was scraped bare of hide, and all the rest of horse and man was smashed into the ground as flat as a pancake … [T]he awful part of it was that we had milled [the cattle] over him all night … And after that, orders were given to sing when you were running with a stampede … After a while this grew to be a custom on the range, but you know this was still a new business in the seventies [1870s] and they was learning all the time.” 

That was not an untypical circumstance for a teenager in the 1870s. Imagine, if you will, asking today’s counterpart to give up the BMW for a horse, or his TV remote for an evening of chasing a stampede! Yet, for the most part—and almost entirely in Canada—the rugged contributions of these pioneers are all but forgotten.

Life was not all hardship, however, for the average cowpoke played almost as hard as he worked. One episode that Teddy Blue relates took place at a ‘parlor house’ owned by a Mag Burns:

“Three of us was in the parlor of Maggie Burns’ house giving a song number called “The Texas Ranger.” John Bowen was playing the piano and he couldn’t play the piano, and Johnny Stringfellow was there sawing on a fiddle, and I was singing, and between the three of us we was raising the roof. And Maggie—the redheaded, fighting son of a gun—got hopping mad says: ‘If you leather-legged sons of bitches want to give a concert, why don’t you hire a hall? You’re ruinin’ my piano.’ 

“So I got mad, too, and I says: ‘If I had little Billy [his horse] here’—well, I told her what I’d do to her piano. And John Bowen said: ‘Go and get him, Teddy, go get him.’ … I went across the street and got Billy … and rode him through the hall and into the parlor … And as soon as I got in the parlor, Maggie slammed the door … and called the police. 

“But there was a big window in the room, that was low enough to the ground , and Billy and me got through it and got away. We headed for the ferry on the dead run, and that is the origin of the story that Charlie Russell [noted artist and writer] tells in ‘Rawhide Rawlins,’ about me telling that jack rabbit to ‘get out of the way, brother, and let a fellow run that can run.’ I got to the ferry just as it was pulling out, and jumped Billy a little piece onto the apron. The sheriff got there right after me and he was hollering at the ferryman to stop. And the ferryman hollered back at him: ‘This fellow has got a gun the size of a stovepipe stuck to my ribs, and I ain’t agoing to stop.’” 

In his time Teddy Blue also socialized with some legendary characters synonymous with the Old West. These included Charles Russell—already mentioned—who ranks with Frederick Remington as one of the West’s most outstanding artists; “Wild Bill” Hickock, for whom Teddy Blue worked for a while; also Teddy Roosevelt, later President of the United States; and Martha “Calamity Jane” Canary-Burke. Perhaps not as well known was Granville Stuart whose DHS spread was one of the largest such operations in Montana. He was also known for leading a pack of vigilantes that brought swift justice to a number of cattle rustlers and horse thieves in that frontier country.

Teddy Blue was a great admirer of Granville Stuart’s, and even more so of his pretty, young daughter Mary, whom Abbott married in 1889.

Another side of Teddy Blue … A male lover, perhaps?

One of the characteristics I particularly admire about Teddy Abbott is his candour. Not once does he back off, or back down from ‘telling it like it was.’ For example, he describes himself in his younger days as “A damn fool kid.” And with regard to his first girl, “I was a fool on a list of fools.” Therefore, I believe he truly meant to convey the fact that he had a male lover at one point in his career, i.e.:

“And there I claimed this young Indian, Pine … He was one of the best looking Indians I ever saw, six feet, one or two inches tall and as straight as a string. And he was brave—he fought for his knife—and I was sure stuck on him. 

“We all ate there [Rose station on the Northern Pacific], while we was waiting for the train I handed Pine the grub and water first, but he always handed them to the chief. And after they had eaten they all wrapped up in blankets and laid down on their stomachs and went to sleep. And so did I—right beside Pine. [166] 

“While they [the Indians] were all in jail, I went to see Pine ever day, and took him presents of tailor-made cigarettes and candy and stuff. And I told him I’d get him out of it, and luckily he did get out of it, and he was my friend for life. The last day he took a silver ring from his finger and gave it to me.” [167] 

Moreover, he casually relates that he and some of his girlfriends exchanged clothes and paraded around Miles City for a lark. Such an example can be seen in the above photo of him–wearing a woman’s bonnet–with Calamity Jane in the background.

In conclusion

Considering that Teddy Blue was relating all this to Helena Huntington Smith in 1938-39, including the ‘Pine episode,’ it speaks volumes about this truly delightful character; one of the last of a kind, and for that reason I highly recommend it as a rollicking read and a slice of endangered history.

Visit: Gerry B’s Books – News on current & future publications.

 

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Contemporary biography, Non-fiction | 5 Comments

   

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