A story of ‘fight or flight,’ and how one man chose to deal with it.
Training horses is dangerous–a head-to-head confrontation with a 1,000 pounds of muscle and little sense takes courage, but more importantly patience and smarts. It is these same qualities that allow John and his uncle Gus to live in the beautiful high desert of Wyoming. A black horse trainer is a curiosity, at the very least, but a familiar curiosity in these parts. It is the brutal murder of a young gay man, however, that pushes this small community to the teetering edge of fear and tolerance.
As the first blizzard of the season gains momentum, John is forced to reckon not only with the daily burden of unruly horses, a three-legged coyote pup, an escape-artist mule, and too many people, but also a father-son war over homosexuality, random hate-crimes, and—perhaps most frightening of all–a chance for love.
Review by Gerry Burnie
What is our responsibility toward those around us? That is the thought provoking question asked by Wounded, by Percival Everett [Graywolf Press; 2 edition, September 13, 2011].
Set in the ‘high desert’ region of Wyoming, and narrated by the principal character, John Hunt, this is a book of many colours: Western genre, racial and sexual intolerance, inner reflection, and social injustice.
Hunt is a Black, Berkley graduate, with an appreciation for modern art, and subsequent to the accidental death of his wife, six years previous, he has taken up the training of horses with his acerbic Uncle Gus. As such, the colour of his skin is of little consequence until other issues arise alongside of it.
A young man he has hired becomes accused of a Mathew-Sheppard-like murder of a gay man, and at first Hunt withdraws in fear of a prejudicial backlash. Nevertheless, when the accused man eventually hangs himself inside the jail cell, Hunt has reason to question his conscience.
Matters become more complex when the gay son of an old friend arrives on the scene with his lover – a gay activist intent on protesting the senseless murder.
Caught somewhat in the middle, Hunt can no longer step aside, and is therefore forced to confront some difficult questions regarding himself and the rising question his sexuality.
Returning to the opening question, this is a story of ‘fight or flight,’ and how one man chose to deal with it. The racial element was a refreshing perspective, but I am gratified that Everett did not dwell on it as the main theme. Like the angst in homosexuality, it is an aspect that has been work to the limit.
Altogether, an interesting read with strong characters and some unique plot elements. Four bees.
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A worthy debut novel
Story blurb: Ben Walsh is well on his way to becoming one of Manhattan’s top litigators, with a gorgeous boyfriend and friends on the A-list. His life is perfect until he gets a phone call that brings it all crashing down: a car accident takes his parents, and now he must return to Austin to raise three teenage brothers he barely knows.
During the funeral, Ben meets Travis Atwood, the redneck neighbor with a huge heart. Their relationship initially runs hot and cold, from contentious to flirtatious, but when the weight of responsibility starts wearing on Ben, he turns to Travis, and the pressure shapes their friendship into something that feels a lot like love. Ben thinks he’s found a way to have his old life, his new life, and Travis too, but love isn’t always easy. Will he learn to recognize that sometimes the worst thing imaginable can lead him to the place he was meant to be?
About the author: Brad Boney lives in Austin, Texas, the 7th gayest city in America. He likes to tell stories about the hot boys in his neighborhood near the University of Texas. Brand new to M/M fiction, he plans to set all of his books in Austin and hopes to become an ambassador for his city. He grew up in the Midwest and went to school at NYU. He lived in Washington, DC and Houston before settling in Austin. He blames his background in the theater for his writing of all time is 50 First Dates. His favorite gay film of the last ten years is Strapped. He has never met a boy band he didn’t like. The books he’s rated say a lot about him.
Review by Gerry Burnie
Ordinarily I don’t read contemporary western novels. They tend to be little more than gratuitous romps in the sack, barn, hayloft, bunkhouse, or any other place where they can get horizontal, with a bit of narrative thrown in as a makeshift plot. Happily, The Nothingness of Ben, by Brad Boney [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] is an exception. Oh, it is sexy enough, but it also has a plot and some decent writing going for it.
Gay Lawyer, Ben Walsh, is a young, upwardly mobile person; typically ambitious and self-centred, and in accordance with Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy, he is far removed from his modest Texas beginnings. That is, until tragedy calls him back as guardian of his three younger brothers—the youngest being in the midst of his difficult, teenage years.
Decently (I think) he responds to the challenge, and that is when he meets Travis Atwood, a self-taught tradesman and Ben’s social opposite. Travis is also ‘straight’ (meaning he’s had no previous homosexual experience), but inevitably he and Ben hit it off sexually as well as otherwise.
The plot then winds its way through some minor challenges until is arrives at a happy resolution.
To that extent it is a nice story, and as a debut novel it is better than many: The writing is solid; the characters are interesting and well defined; and the plot and pace are both progressive. In other words, it can take its place on bookshelves or in ebook libraries quite unashamedly.
Nevertheless, I have some quibbles. For one thing the plot is far from unique. City boy (or ‘city-oriented boy’) ends up in a rural setting where he meets a handsome local and falls in love. Off hand, I can think of half-a-dozen novels with approximately the same theme, so it is becoming just a bit trite. I also agree with some other reviewers who found it a little Utopian and short on angst (contrast). On this point, however, I must admit that I hate to knock my characters around as well, but even taffy requires salt.
Nonetheless, I will say categorically that the strengths of Boney’s writing outweigh the shortcomings. Besides, as I always say, your tastes may be different from mine. Three and one-half bees.
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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.
As a writer I spend at least eight hours per day on the computer, and a good portion of that is wasted on wrestling with MS Word. Annoyances like:
chasing the pointer as it jumps around the page;
deleting and retyping the misplaced copy that results;
undoing the blocking of copy that mysteriously appears on its own, and is then deleted with my next key stroke;
struggling to undo the alternate characters (the blue ones on the keypad) that arbitrarily appear.
See my full comments at my blog: Stop the Bull
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