Gerry B's Book Reviews

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!

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

A Handful of Blossoms, by Lara Biyuts

A unique story in time and place, and superbly written –

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handful of blossoms - coverBook blurb: Written in the form of a diary, which genre was so popular in the 18th century and which sounds so comprehensible in our time of blogging/webdiaries/webjournals, the novella may be called a love story. A story of a sixteen-year-old damsel and her weird marriage. Time: 1764, a year after the Seven Years War. Europe.

[A novella – 134 pages, 818 KB]

About the author (in her own words): A middle-aged translator and an agent seeking writer, author of 7 books of fiction, essays, notes, and poems. Un poete maudit. Gay-admirer. Straight fetishist. Author of her own photies. Her given name has several derivatives and diminutives that she uses as a part of her pen-names. A big fan of history, English language and linguistic in general, who is always in online search, placing reliance on Facebook, the busy place like no other. “I believe in yesterday, loving the steep turns & junctions of times, besides, your own past is the only thing that nobody can take away.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Larisa Biyuts is a Facebook ‘friend,’ and as I was reading her novella A Handful of Blossoms, [Lara Biyuts; 2 edition, January 2, 2014] I could vision many of the interests that Larisa holds dear—history, fine art, classic times, etc—and which are reflected in her writing.

A Handful of Blossoms is set at the height of the Empire Period (1764), just a couple of decades before the French Revolution. Constance Otilia Alexandrine is a minor princess (which is to say, she is a ‘pawn’ in the imperial scheme of things), arranged in marriage to Constantine Leopold, Prince of Askanier-Hortz. Prince Constantine is himself a pawn of sorts, for tradition decrees that he marry and produce an heir, when, in fact, he prefers men—and makes no bones about it to his newly acquired wife.

This perplexes her, but it also gives her time to explore the lush countryside, and the rich folklore of Transylvania, while fulfilling (…at the prince’s suggestion) her ‘womanly needs’ with the prince’s steward.

This is where the story really takes off in a tapestry of colourful folktales and fantasies, masterfully presented in a vivid, and at times, poetic prose reminiscent of the times. It will be a delight to those who enjoy a period novel written in a period style.

My one small quibble is that, here and there, there are minor idiomatic differences in the translation, i.e. “Milord might talk to me.” might have been better stated as “Might m’lord speak to me?” However, when you remember that English is not the author’s first language, these are easily passed over.

Overall it is unique, both in time and location; different, inasmuch as it is a woman-character’s point of view of a gay situation; and, with the exception of the above, it is masterfully written. Four and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 61,221

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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:  Bedaux Canadian Sub-arctic Epedition: A truly fantastic adventure by an equally larger-than-life character

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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.

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January 6, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | 2 Comments

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

 

Edition of Gerry B’s Book Reviews

 

  

Some interesting facts

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

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

  

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

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

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

Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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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.

***

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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To order any of my books, click on the cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are now available in Kindle and Nook formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 exclusive of tax where applicable.

       

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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

Sandel, by Angus Stewart

A Masterpiece of the writer’s art – tender, evocative and sensitive

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sandel - coverStory blurb: The story of two young lovers whose passion for one another is exclusive, lyrical, tender and subject to the tensions that any intense romantic relationship is liable to.

A love affair between a thirteen-year-old schoolboy (Tony Sandel) and a nineteen-year-old undergraduate (David), written and published at time before moral panic set in and the false dogma was established that all such relationships damaged the younger partner for life. Sandel is an evocative portrait of boarding-school and Oxbridge life and the intense, often romantic friendships that flourish there. It is also a novel of sexual awakening, whose light touch disguises the profound emotions that such friendships generate; the relationship portrayed is partly of equals and partly, as often happens, one where it is the younger partner who decides whether and how it should persist.

About the author: Angus Stewart’s [1936 – 1998] first published work was ‘The Stile’, which appeared in the 1964 Faber anthology Stories by New Writers. He won the Richard Hillary Memorial Prize in 1965. His breakthrough to public and critical attention came in 1968 with his first novel, Sandel. Set in the pseudonymous St Cecilia’s College, Oxford, the book revolves around the unorthodox love between a 19-year-old undergraduate, David Rogers, and a 13-year-old chorister, Antony Sandel. The novel appears to have been based on real events, recounted by Stewart in an article under the pseudonym ‘John Davis’ in the 1961 anthology Underdogs, edited for Weidenfeld and Nicolson by Philip Toynbee. The story is treated with delicacy and sensitivity, and has a place in English literature comparable in importance to Roger Peyrefitte’s treatment of the same subject in his 1943 novel Les amitiés particulières. Over the past forty years Sandel has become a cult gay novel.

After Sandel Stewart moved to Tangier in Morocco, partly as a project in self-discovery and partly to experiment with drugs in a sympathetic environment. His Moroccan experiences resulted in two further books, a novel entitled Snow in Harvest (1969) and a travel diary entitled Tangier: A Writer’s Notebook (1977). He also wrote poetry, some of which was published as Sense and Inconsequence (1972), with an introduction by his father’s longstanding friend W. H. Auden.

After his mother’s death in 1979 Stewart returned to England, living for the final twenty years of his life in an annex to his father’s home at Fawler outside Oxford. He was an accomplished portrait photographer. For much of his life he suffered from clinical depression.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Scen from Les amitiés particulières.There is currently a controversy raging over Amazon.com’s decision to arbitrarily exclude certain types of erotic novels from its catalogue. However, to the best of my knowledge it has yet to define in specific terms which novels are unacceptable, beyond some broad-stroke classifications—i.e., underage sex, depictions of rape and incest, or bestiality, etc.

To say the least, this is an ambitious undertaking given the millions of indie books alone (for these seem to be the ones targeted the most), so I expect there are many ‘babies’ thrown out with the bath water—certainly some of my friends have complained of this already.

My reaction is that it is a backdoor approach to censorship by a monopoly that has little regard for its authors anyway. This has been my personal experience, and if asked I will gladly provide chapter and verse regarding the details.

Part of this purge can also be attributed to a hypocritically-prudish North America that prohibits an author from writing about sexual activity  with a minor under the age of eighteen, but sets the bar for consensual sex at sixteen, and adolescent-to adolescent sex at thirteen, i.e.

163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means

(b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;

(c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; or

Age of consent:

From 1890 until recently, the age at which a youth could consent to nonexploitative sexual activity was 14 years. With the recent change to the criminal code of Canada, the age of consent for nonexploitative sexual activity is now 16 years.

Nonexploitative activity is defined as sexual activity that does not involve prostitution or pornography, and where there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency between the persons involved (1). A coach, spiritual leader, teacher, school principal, guidance counsellor or family member are all examples of persons in a position of trust or authority with youth.

For exploitative sexual activity (prostitution or pornography, or where there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency), the age of consent is 18 years.

The spirit of the new legislation is not to regulate consensual teenage sexual activity. To this effect, there are a few notable exceptions to the law:

  1. Youth 12 or 13 years of age can consent to nonexploitative sexual activity with peers when the age difference is no more than two years. For example, a 12-year-old child is deemed capable of consenting to sexual activity with a 14-year-old, but not a 15-year-old.
  2. Youth 14 or 15 years of age can consent to nonexploitative sexual activity when the age difference is no more than five years. For example, a 15-year-old can consent to having sexual intercourse with a 20-year-old, but not with a 21-year-old.

Children younger than 12 years of age can never consent to sexual activity with anyone, of any age, regardless of whether they say they do. (Canadian Paediatric Society – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2532909/)

With all this in mind I immediately ordered a copy (from Amazon) of the late Angus Stewart’s much acclaimed novel, Sandel, [Pilot Productions, August 10, 2013]. Like it’s equally acclaimed predecessor, Les amitiés particulières, by Roger Peyrefitte (1943), it deals with younger/older love in a tender, evocative and sensitive way. In fact, they are both masterpieces of the writer’s art.

Scene from Les amitiés particulièresSandel tells the story of Anthony Sandel, a choir boy at St Cecilia’s College, Oxford, and an undergraduate organist (David Rogers). At first their relationship focuses on their mutual love of religious music, but over time it progresses logically and with great credibility into an erastes and eronomous type of love. However, remembering that it was first written and published in the 1960s, this aspect is more implied than explicit; to the extent that the Daily Telegraph wrote of it: “A love not despicable.”

However, as one reviewer has pointed out, the 60s may have been quite ‘liberal’ compared to today, and I quote:

“It is merely difficult to imagine today an aunt who would think or dare to rescue from their outraged school her 13-year-old nephew caught in his master’s bed, and dispatch the lovers on a ten-week honeymoon in Italy. It is impossible though to imagine anything but imminent catastrophe if today a choirboy being interviewed by newsmen were to tell them about his love for his teacher and the latter punched one of them to the floor for making snide remarks about it. The threat “You shouldn’t have done that,” couldn’t possibly sound “unconvincing.” The newsmen would know only too well that a visit to the police would ensure an investigation almost bound to wreck the lives of both man and boy.”

Or,

“One wonders how long it will be before the child abuse lobby succeeds in imposing on productions of Romeo and Juliet the interruption of the most romantic scenes with sour warnings that despite the strongest contrary indications love involving a pubescent is always really no more than false cover for a satanic plot to satisfy selfish lust. ~ – Edmund Marlowe, author of Alexander’s Choice, an Eton boy’s love story.

I agree wholeheartedly. To Sandel – Five Bees for a true masterpiece.

♥♥♥

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 57,278

♥♥♥

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:  Springhill Nova Scotia Mine Disaster – Oct. 23, 1958“The Springhill Bump”

♥♥♥

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.

      

            

      ♥♥♥

Get an autographed copy of my e-books, Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears through Authorgraph. Click on the link below to learn how.

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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.

 

October 28, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Angus Stewart, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Older/younger relationships | 9 Comments

Greenwode by J Tullos Hennig

A gutsy twist on a major classic that works –

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Greenwode - coverWhen an old druid foresees this harbinger of chaos, he also sees whom it will claim: young Rob of Loxley. Rob’s mother and father, a yeoman forester and a wisewoman, have raised Rob and his sister, Marion, under a solemn duty: to take their parents’ places in the Old Religion as the manifestations of the Horned Lord and the Lady Huntress.

But when Gamelyn Boundys, son of a powerful nobleman, is injured in the forest, he and Rob begin a friendship that challenges both duty and ideology: Gamelyn is a devout follower of the Catholic Church. Rob understands the divide between peasant and noble all too well. And the old druid has foreseen that Gamelyn is destined to be Rob’s sworn enemy—to fight in a blood sacrifice for the greenwode’s Maiden.

In a risky bid for happiness, Rob dares the Horned Lord to reinterpret the ancient rites—to allow Rob to take Gamelyn as a lover instead of a rival. But in the eyes of Gamelyn’s church, lust is a sin—and sodomy is unthinkable.

Cover art by Shobana Appavu

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Review by Gerry Burnie

greenwode - druidsTo me 12th-century England was a fascinating time, filled with knights, squires, wizards, and wonderfully mystical religions, all functioning in and around vast, primeval forests where Druids practiced their ancient rites. Of these, the Greenwode, by J Tullos Hennig [Dreamspinner Press, January 18, 2013] is probably best known, i.e. all one has to do is add Rob of Loxley (or “Robin Hood”) to comprehend why.

As such, it is somewhat difficult to categorize this genre. It is mostly fantasy/fiction I suppose, since Robin Hood has never been proven, but otherwise it might be alternative history. Certainly Greenwood Forest and Druids existed, as did priories, convents, and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

The problem I have with previous versions of Robin Hood, mostly created by Hollywood, is their ‘prettification’ of 12th-century England, with turreted castles (15th-century or later), impeccable clothes, and as one Hollywood Robin Hood put it, “Unlike other Robin Hoods, I speak with an English accent,”[1]—albeit, a modern one.

Fortunately, this author has captured a good part of the dark and primitive atmosphere, which was circa-Crusade England, as well as the mix of old and new religions that existed at the time, and this scores well with me. After all, a period novel should be first and foremost true to the period.

I also like the plot, once again because it is consistent with the period. Rob is the son of a respected (yeoman) forester, but at the same time he is more than that. He is, in fact, a ‘crown prince” in the Druid religion—a future manifestation of the ‘Horned God.’

Gamelyn, his unlikely love interest, is the minor son of an earl, and a hidebound Catholic, but it is Rob’s simple nobility that eventually evens the playing field between them. Moreover, it is Rob who has the courage to question the horned god’s interpretation of the future.

This is a gutsy twist on a major classic that works. Not only that, but because of the realism, I believe it a step forward. A special mention as well for the absolutely stunning cover art. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,925

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[1] “Robin Hood, Men in Tights.”

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Shirts and Skins, by Jeffrey Luscombe

 raw, funny, pathetic and inspiring

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shirts and skins - coverA remarkable debut novel from Jeffrey Luscombe-a compelling series of linked stories of a young man’s coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming-to-terms with his family and fate. Josh Moore lives with his family on the ‘wrong side’ of Hamilton, a gritty industrial city in southwestern Ontario. As a young boy, Josh plots an escape for a better life far from the steel mills that lined the bay. But fate has other plans and Josh discovers his adult life in Toronto is just as fraught with as many insecurities and missteps as his youth and he soon learns that no matter how far away he might run, he will never be able to leave his hometown behind.

Front cover design: Seth Ruggles Hiler

shirts and skins - authorAbout the author: Jeffrey Luscombe was born in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. He holds a BA and MA in English from the University of Toronto. He attended The Humber College School for Writers where he was mentored by writers Nino Ricci and Lauren B. Davis. He has had fiction published in Tupperware Sandpiper, Zeugma Literary Journal, and filling Station Magazine. In 2010 he was shortlisted for the Prism International Fiction Prize and was a contributor to the anthology Truth or Dare (Slash Books Inc. 2011). He lives in Toronto with his husband Sean.

Available in Kindle and paperback – 349 KB, 230 pgs.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

shirts and skins - hamiltonI spent three years in Hamilton, Ontario, in the early 1960s, having been transferred there as assistant manager of the Odeon Palace Theatre—a former vaudeville house with an original Wurlitzer theatre organ. It was grand (the theatre), but life in the rest of the city was like living on the far side of the moon; drab, utilitarian, and closeted. So when I came across Jeffrey Luscombe’s novel, Shirts and Skins [Chelsea Station Editions, 2012], set in Hamilton in the 1980s and 90s, I just had to read it.

The book is organized (quite cleverly, I think) into a chronology of short stories, starting with the main character’s formative years in Hamilton. Josh Moore is the son of a dysfunctional, working class family. His long-suffering mother is a factory worker, and his alcoholic father—also addicted to gambling—works sporadically at menial jobs.

Josh’s schooling is no more inspiring, being plagued by boredom, bullying, and poor grades. However, as he grows older he becomes a bit of a bully himself, emulating what he basically despises.

Likewise, he dreams of escaping “Steel Town” for far away places, but each time the reality of earning a living (in a steel mill) and the comfortable routine of living anchor him deeper in the town and society he abhors.

In every life there comes a turning point, however, and provided we have the courage to grasp it, it can make the difference between happiness and continued despair. In Josh’s case he was jarred into it by an industrial accident, but during his recuperative period he also found an opportunity to re-evaluate his life. Finding it wanting, he then begins the process of finding himself—his inner core—and to pull himself up by the bootstraps

This is fiction emulating non-fiction (which I suspect it might be, in part), for every part of this story reads like a biography: The setting; the working class culture and mores; Josh as a troubled youngster and adolescent; and Josh as an adult in Toronto. It is raw, funny, pathetic and inspiring. Five bees.

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40,000!

As of December 14, 2012, the visitor count to Gerry B’s Book reviews is 40,025.

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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.

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broken afflictions - coverShawnda Currie: Broken  – Afflictions of the Evolved Free Download
In celebration of the release of book two of The Evolved Trilogy, there will be a free download on amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Afflictions-Evolved-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00AJB5FQE on Saturday, 15 December 2012.
If you don’t have a kindle, you can download a free application to your computer or phone!
It would be greatly appreciated if you could follow up with a review as this is very helpful to authors…….:)

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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. By this time next week we should have reached 40,000 visitors. Drop by and see.

December 10, 2012 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | 3 Comments

Skybound, by Aleksandr Voinov

A textbook example of the short story art –

Story blurb: Germany, 1945. The Third Reich is on its knees as Allied forces bomb Berlin to break the last resistance. Yet on an airfield near Berlin, the battle is far from over for a young mechanic, Felix, who’s attached to a squadron of fighter pilots. He’s especially attached to fighter ace Baldur Vogt, a man he admires and secretly loves. But there’s no room for love at the end of the world, never mind in Nazi Germany.

When Baldur narrowly cheats death, Felix pulls him from his plane, and the pilot makes his riskiest move yet. He takes a few days’ leave to recover, and he takes Felix with him. Away from the pressures of the airfield, their bond deepens, and Baldur shows Felix the kind of brotherhood he’d only ever dreamed of before.

But there’s no escaping the war, and when they return, Baldur joins the fray again in the skies over Berlin. As the Allies close in on the airfield where Felix waits for his lover, Baldur must face the truth that he is no longer the only one in mortal danger.

Available in ebook, only – 198 KB

About the author: Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London where he makes his living as a financial journalist, freelance editor and creative writing teacher. After many years working in the horror, science fiction, cyberpunk and fantasy genres, Voinov has set his sights now on contemporary and historical erotic gay novels.

Voinov’s characters are often scarred lonely souls at odds with their environment and pitted against odds that make or break them. He described the perfect ending for his books as “the characters make it out alive, but at a terrible cost, usually by the skin of their teeth. I want to see what’s at the core of them, and stripping them down to that core is rarely pleasant for them. But it does make them wiser, and often stronger people.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie (www.gerryburniebooks.ca)

If you are a regular follower, you might have noticed that I have an affinity for gay/historical/military/genres. It is a natural outcome of my passion for history, and my self-identification with those who have faced the harsh brutalities of war. Courage like this should not be forgotten lest we make the same mistake again.

In Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov [Riptide Publishing, 2012] we find yet another reason to care. Two individuals caught up in the confict, Germans, seeing the evil regime of which they are part crumbling around them, and yet fighting on through a stalwart—but misplaced—sense of duty.

Well … One of them is, anyway. Baldur Vogt, a Luftwaffe ace, bold, handsome and dashing, flies his missions because it is what he does. On the other hand, Felix, a ground-crew mechanic does what he does to keep the man he loves (Baldur) as safe as he can make him, and with that simple revelation the whole perspective of war changes.

But that is only one thread in this complex tapestry, for Felix despairs that Baldur will ever respond in the way he (Felix) has dreamed. For one thing, Baldur comes from money, compared to Felix’s humble background, and even if this could be brushed aside, man-to-man love was an anathema in Hitler’s Arian scheme of things—a veritable death sentence.

Nonetheless, fate will have its way, and when Baldur somewhat miraculously escapes a bullet that otherwise had his name on it, he celebrates by taking Felix away for a few days of relaxation.

Once away from the harrowing events of the day, love blooms—a quiet, tender affection that emerges as naturally as a breeze on a warm summer’s day. Indeed, when it happens one cannot imagine it being any other way.

However, once the point is made, and given that the only world they know is crumbling around them, how does one go about getting a ‘happy ever after ending’ out of that?

That remains for readers to discover, but it is almost a textbook example of the short story art; i.e. get in, make the point, and get out, which Voinov does very well. In addition the various ‘flavours’ are as concentrated as a brandy that lingers, agreeably, on the palate. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 34,566

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Last week I announced a new look and URL address for “Coming of Age on the trail” (www.comingofagenovel.ca), and Gerry Burnie Books. This week I want to ‘show off’ my new banner/logo for that site, as well. Click on the banner to go to the site.

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!

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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. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve switched the publication day to Monday. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

 

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure, Military history | 3 Comments

Song of the Loon, by Richard Amory

The ultimate feel-good story – 

Story blurb: “More completely than any author before him, Richard Amory explores the tormented world of love for man by man . . . a happy amalgam of James Fenimore Cooper, Jean Genet and Hudson’s Green Mansions.”—from the cover copy of the 1969 edition

Published well ahead of its time, in 1966 by Greenleaf Classics, Song of the Loon is a romantic novel that tells the story of Ephraim MacIver and his travels through the wilderness. Along his journey, he meets a number of characters who share with him stories, wisdom and homosexual encounters. The most popular erotic gay book of the 1960s and 1970s, Song of the Loon was the inspiration for two sequels, a 1970 film of the same name, at least one porn movie and a parody novel called Fruit of the Loon. Unique among pulp novels of the time, the gay characters in Song of the Loon are strong and romantically drawn, which has earned the book a place in the canon of gay American literature.

With an introduction by Michael Bronski, editor of Pulp Friction and author of The Pleasure Principle.

Little Sister’s Classics is a new series of books from Arsenal Pulp Press, reviving lost and out-of-print gay and lesbian classic books, both fiction and nonfiction. The books in the series are produced in conjunction with Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium, the heroic Vancouver bookstore well-known for its anti-censorship efforts.

Available in e-book format – 483 KB

About the author: Richard Amory was the pen-name for the author Richard Love, who worked out of San Diego. He published five other novels between 1968 and 1971 with Greenleaf Classics and Olympia Press Traveler’s Companion Series.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The so-called “Stonewall Inn Riots” of 1969 are considered the ‘enough-is-enough’ turning point in GLBT relations with the broader public, and the predominantly homophobic officials who policed it. Likewise, in Canada it was the 1982 “Bathhouse Raids[1] that gave rise to the Gay Pride demonstrations. Imagine, therefore, that the Song of the Loon, by Richard Amory [re-released by Arsenal Pulp Press, May 1, 2005] was first published three years before Stonewall, and 16 years before the Bathhouse Raids. That make it a true artefact, and as an unapologetic homoerotic novel, it is also somewhat of a legend.

It is not to say that homoerotic books weren’t available before 1965. They were. However, they were generally badly written, and could only be purchased through P.O. boxes, or from a clandestine bookstores, like the “Glad Day Books” in Toronto, hidden away on the second floor of a non-descript building.

Although I was aware of Song of the Loon, and remember the making of the 1970, motion picture version, starring John Iverson, Morgan Royce and Lancer Ward, I never got around to reading the novel until now. I was struck, therefore, by the amount of sexual content (albeit not as explicitly written as today) and the gutsyness of the both the author and publisher in  publishing it.

The plot and style are noteworthy, as well. Someone has described the style as “pastoral,” and I think this describes it very well. It is evocative of the ‘return to nature’ movement—complete with a cast of noble savages—where man is able to find his inner self in an idyllic setting; and, as one might expect, the characters are all idyllic too, including, to a lesser extent, the villains.

This is not to belittle the story in any way, for I think we have all wished for a Garden of Eden existence where the inhabitants are all hunky and horny, the risks are minimal, and homophobia does not exist.

If you are looking for the ultimate feel good story, you should give this one a try. Enthusiastically recommended. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 31,258

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!

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Have you had any dealings with Fontcraft (a.k.a, Scriptorium)? (http://www.fontcraft.com/fontcraft/#axzz22jaeXIBi)

This is my experience: Three weeks ago I ordered a font online from Fontcraft, for which I paid $18.00, but when it came to downloading it I was sent to a non-functioning URL. [see:http://www.fontcraft.com/download/9e5U4a4Iz3viqEsU/ ]. I wrote to the email address provided, but I have yet to receive an acknowledgement or response. So judge for yourself.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

 Thanks for dropping by. We have passed the 31,000 mark, now lets see if we can double it by this time next year. Yay!


[1] Operation Soap was a raid by the Metropolitan Toronto Police against four gay bathhouses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which took place on February 5, 1981. More than three hundred men were arrested, the largest mass arrest in Canada since the 1970 October crisis,[1] before the record was broken during the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Edmonton, Alberta.[2]

August 12, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period, Homoerotic, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

A Private Gentleman, by Heidi Cullinan

A thinking-person’s read, and one that comes enthusiastically recommended from this reader –

To seal their bond, they must break the ties that bind.

Painfully introverted and rendered nearly mute by a heavy stammer, Lord George Albert Westin rarely ventures any farther than the club or his beloved gardens. When he hears rumors of an exotic new orchid sighted at a local hobbyist’s house, though, he girds himself with opiates and determination to attend a house party, hoping to sneak a peek.

He finds the orchid, yes…but he finds something else even more rare and exquisite: Michael Vallant. Professional sodomite.

Michael climbed out of an adolescent hell as a courtesan’s bastard to become successful and independent-minded, seeing men on his own terms, protected by a powerful friend. He is master of his own world—until Wes. Not only because, for once, the sex is for pleasure and not for profit. They are joined by tendrils of a shameful, unspoken history. The closer his shy, poppy-addicted lover lures him to the light of love, the harder his past works to drag him back into the dark.

There’s only one way out of this tangle. Help Wes face the fears that cripple him—right after Michael finds the courage to reveal the devastating truth that binds them.

Available in ebook format, only – 494 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I think it was the lush cover that first attracted me to A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan [Samhain Publishing Ltd, 2012], but once I got into it I found an equally pithy story inside.

Lord George Albert Westin is an opiated (my invention) recluse, whiling away his days with his beloved plants and gardens. Naturally, for a hobby like this, there is a certain quest for achievement involved, and when he hears of a rare orchid in the possession of a Michael Vallant it is enough to lure him out of his self-imposed exile.

However, Michael Valliant isn’t your average, nerdy garden enthusiast. Far from it. He is, in fact, a “professional sodomite,”[1] i.e. a high-class male prostitute (with a procurer, no less). The explanation is that he suffered an abusive childhood–as the son of a courtesan–and this has left him psychologically scarred into adulthood.

This is the ‘launching point,’ so to speak, and the rest of the story is how these two scarred individuals find mutual ground in a complex and conflicted way.

I personally liked “Wes” and Michael. They are superbly developed with layer upon layer of complexity, and yet they are not over the top in any way. One can readily understand that a severe stutter in the 1800s was a far greater affliction than it is now, and for this Wes would want to shun society’s misguided stares and taunts.

Likewise, even with my limited grasp of psychology, I have read that self-degradation (i.e. prostitution, etc.) is one symptom of childhood abuse, and so Michael’s torment is understandable as well.

I also liked the gradual way in which the author worked them through their afflictions, although I did find some quibble with the overall pace. It was inconsistent, going from doldrums to near hectic and back again.

While I’m on the topic of ‘likes’, I give full kudos to the author for holding back on the homoerotica  in favour of the superbly turned plot. It is not to say that it lacks sex, not at all, but it is nicely balanced with the story line.

Altogether it is a thinking-person’s read, and one that comes enthusiastically recommended from this reader. Four and one-half bees.

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WE DID IT! Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews (10:30 AM, 26/07/12) – 30,010. The 30,000 goal has been reached!

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Notice to all those who have requested book reviews

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!

♣♣♣

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. As mentioned above, there are only 272 more visitors to go before we reach the 30,000 mark. I’ll be posting an update every day until we reach that goal, so drop back and follow the progress. Thanks again.


[1] I’m not certain this was a common term used in the 19th-century. I’m familiar with “libertine” and “catamite,” but not a “professional sodomite.” However, I only mention this in passing.

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

Bonds of Earth, by G.N. Chevalier

A great debut novel. Enthusiastically recommended.

Story blurb: In 1918, Michael McCready returned from the war with one goal: to lose himself in the pursuit of pleasure. Once a promising young medical student, Michael buried his dreams alongside the broken bodies of the men he could not save. After fleeing New York to preserve the one relationship he still values, he takes a position as a gardener on a country estate, but he soon discovers that the house hides secrets and sorrows of its own. While Michael nurses the estate’s neglected gardens, his reclusive employer dredges up reminders of the past Michael is desperate to forget.

John Seward’s body was broken by the war, along with his will to recover until a family crisis convinces him to pursue treatment. As John’s health and outlook improve under Michael’s care, animosity yields to understanding. He and John find their battle of wills turning into something stronger, but fear may keep them from finding hope and healing in each other.

Available in ebook format – 240 pages

About the author: G N Chevalier has lived in Ottawa, Toronto, Québec City, and Montréal, but currently resides in Nova Scotia with her partner of many years. A long-time student of history, she is particularly interested in helping to tell the hidden stories that are only now being rediscovered. Some of her hobbies include playing music, video remixing, and photography.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have conducted an active search to find Canadian writers of GLBT fiction, it was only this week that Bonds of Earth, by GN Chevalier [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] came to my attention. Perhaps, this is because it is her debut novel, or perhaps it is because the Canadian connection just never made it to the surface.

Bonds of Earth is a historical fiction set in the period directly following WWI. The “Great War”, or the “War to end all wars,” was by all accounts a horrendous experience for those who participated. “Trench warfare” meant months of standing in muddy ditches, with “trench foot” attacking your feet, and the sounds of enemy artillery shells passing overhead for hours on end. It also meant all-out charges through and over ‘razor wire’ while being shot at by machine guns and sniper rifles.

Out of this hell came two men, Michael McCready, the son of poor Irish immigrant and a brilliant medical student, and John Seward, a wealthy recluse, both indelibly scarred by the experience.

Their coming together is fateful, which is the way fate often works, when Michael is coerced into taking a rural job as a gardener, and ends up on John’s estate (actually belonging to an aunt). The fact that Michael is the equivalent of a massage therapist, and that John is handicapped is serendipitous as well.

If that was it (the plot) it would be a “so-so” book at best, but Chevalier (a name tailor-made for a writer) shows great insight by pitting them together as antagonists to start. This bit of angst greatly contributes to the characterization of the two protagonists, and leads inevitably to the resolution.

I also liked the way she gave character to the supporting cast; each one serving a secondary role but interesting in their own way.

The tenor of the times is captured nicely, as well, and the pace is good … right up until (as it has been mentioned at least a dozen times) the epilogue. It’s not a fatal flaw. In fact I wouldn’t even call it a serious flaw, but being anticlimactical it detracts from the overall enjoyment like one-too-many desserts.

Enthusiastically recommended. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 28,937

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What’s your opinion of cross-genre themes?

Lately there has been a surge of so-called “crossover” themes, i.e. cowboys and aliens, vampire-romance themes, etc.

  1. Have you written a crossover theme story?
  2. Have you considered writing one?
  3. Would a cowboy/Theban warrior theme interest you?

Share your comments below.

Notice to all those who have requested book reviews

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!

 

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 you for dropping by. We are now approaching 30,000 visitors, and your continued visits will get us there. Drop back often.

July 8, 2012 Posted by | Canadian author, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction | Leave a comment

Eromenos, by Melanie McDonald

A textbook example of how historical fact and fiction should balance – Fairly well flawless –

Story blurb: Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian’s sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.

This version of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates the youth scorned by early Christian church fathers as a “shameless and scandalous boy” and “sordid and loathsome instrument of his master’s lust.” EROMENOS envisions the personal history of the young man who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of antiquity, whose cult of worship lasted for hundreds of years—far longer than the cult of the emperor Hadrian.

Available in e-book format – 551 KB


About the Author:
Melanie McDonald was awarded a 2008 Hawthornden Fellowship for Eromenos, her debut novel. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas, and her work has appeared in New York Stories, Fugue, Indigenous Fiction and other journals. She has worked as a reporter and freelance writer, and spent several months in Italy while at work on Eromenos. A native of Arkansas whose Campbell ancestors were Highland Scots, she now lives in Virginia with her husband, Kevin McDonald, author of Above the Clouds: Managing Risk in the World of Cloud Computing.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Until I came across Eromenos by Melanie McDonald [Seriously Good Books, 2011] I had never before heard of Antinous of Bithynia, or his legendary affair with the Emperor Hadrian. Just how I could have missed such a charming page in history (referred to as the “real life version of Zeus and Ganymede”) I don’t know, but I am certainly grateful to Ms McDonald for introducing me to it in such an entertaining way.

The story

Antinous was born in the town of Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in the Greek province of Bithynia, and the story is told in his voice as a recollection. At about 12 years Antinous is sent to Nikomedia for his education, and it is there that he catches the eye of Hadrian on one of his many tours. With a ready eye for beautiful young boys, Hadrian invites him to join his imperial retinue as a page.

This is fairly heady stuff for a farm lad from one of the Greek provinces, but even more honours were to follow when Hadrian asked him to be his personal attendant on a hunting trip, and eventually into his bed.

As one might expect, however, being the catamite of a living god had its ups and downs, as Antinous would soon discover, for Hadrian was by profession a general as well as emperor, and thereby firmly in command of everyone around him. Nonetheless, Antinous somehow learned to cope with the vagaries of both the emperor and the imperial court for some seven years.

Nevertheless, as he approached manhood (around 19) he began to realize the he could no longer be Hadrian’s lover because of public opinion and because Hadrian preferred younger boys; therefore, Antinous decided to sacrifice himself to the gods and the man he loved. At least that is how the story goes, for no one really knows for certain.

One researcher has put it this way:

“One may well wonder why a young and vibrant man would sacrifice himself for his Emperor and for Rome. There is the obvious answer that people often do strange and illogical things for love. Antinous may well have believed that he would win immortality in the waters of the Nile and hence may not have seen his death as an end to his life. And, although there is no direct evidence that Antinous was suffering from a depression, he had to have realized that he was passing the age of eromenos. Within a year or two at most Antinous would either have to give up his position as royal favorite or accustom himself to the condemnation, “pathetic.” Whatever would become of Antinous after his decline from favorite could only be a lessening of position and if he truly loved Hadrian he would undoubtedly be alarmed at the prospect of ending their relationship not only for reasons of status, but for reasons of the heart. Or, perhaps, Antinous had simply grown to feel shame at his position and was driven into the waters with a sense of helplessness and lack of self worth that could scarcely be considered rare in teenagers of any time period.” http://ladyhedgehog.hedgie.com/antinous.html#antinous.

The aftermath

The days following Antinous’s death brought great emotional upheaval and strain to the emperor. Trudging through a despair and sense of guilt, Hadrian’s first impulse was to follow his beloved into the otherworld. However, Hadrian was emperor and his life was not really his to give, and so in compensation he declared Antinous a god.

For whatever reason Antinous entered the waters of the Nile, therefore, he did obtain a form of immortality. Had he passed quietly from his role as favourite he may well have disappeared from history, but with his death and Hadrian’s response to it, he was assured a place in future remembrance—such as this book.

My Review

This novel is a textbook example of how historical fact and fiction should meet in a seamless, agreeable balance, so that one does not outweigh the other. Moreover the characters are well developed, and as far as I could determine, historically accurate. I rate is fairly-well faultless. Five bees.

Note: I note the Seriously Good Books is a new publisher with a worthy mission. i.e. “SERIOUSLY GOOD BOOKS hopes to survive and thrive as a small, independent press publishing historical fiction of lasting quality. Here you will find solid historical fiction that enlightens as well as entertains. From time to time, SG Books may select a work of literary fiction, a notable thriller, or some other surprise, so be sure to bookmark and visit these pages frequently.”  See: http://www.seriouslygoodbooks.net/#!__bookstore

 

News, etc.

I have entered Gerry B’s Book Reviews in the Independent Book Blogger Awards contest. It 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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Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews- 23,736

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

Probably the most anticipated time on any cattle drive or roundup was relaxing around the campfire. After a long hard day of riding–usually ten or twelve hours in duration–it was a time of socializing with tall tales, gambling and music.

Such a venerable institution didn’t vary wherever cattle and men were brought together, and so Cory and Reb enjoyed the campfire as much as any on their trek North to Dawson City, Yukon.

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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. Your participation is an honour I hope I’ve earned.

April 8, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

Wingmen, by Ensan Case

A superbly written epic of manly love set in WWII –

Story blurb: Jack Hardigan’s Hellcat fighter squadron blew the Japanese Zekes out of the blazing Pacific skies. But a more subtle kind of hell was brewing in his feelings for rookie pilot Fred Trusteau. As another wingman watches – and waits for the beautiful woman who loves Jack – Hardigan and Trusteau cut a fiery swath through the skies from Wake Island to Tarawa to Truk, there to keep a fateful rendezvous with love and death in the blood-clouded waters of the Pacific.

In the author’s own words: I wrote Wingmen in 1978 at the age of 28. Avon Books in New York published it in 1979. After one printing, sales stopped. I turned to other pursuits.

In 2011, during a move, I discovered my original file box of notes for the work. On a whim, I googled “Wingmen Ensan Case”, and was stunned by the result. The book is apparently more popular now than it was in 1979. I have begun the process of regaining the publication rights from Avon Books, and republishing the work in paper and ebook formats. Progress has been good, and it should be available by the first quarter of 2012.

Review by Gerry Burnie

You may have noticed I have a passion for WWII-vintage stories, and have reviewed several in the past. I like the era in general. It was a time when the free-world was drawn together by a war in two theatres, and men bonded together as warrior brothers—and sometimes more. Wingmen by Ensan Case (a pseudonym) [Cheyenne Publishing, 2012] captures the latter phenomenon with remarkable clarity and credibility. It is, in fact, one of the best war stories I have read.

Ensign Frederick “Trusty” Trusteau, one of two wingmen assigned to “skipper,” Lieutenant Commander J.J. “Jack” Hardigan. Trusteau is a handsome, capable aviator, who has honed his reputation as a “whoremaster” because that was (and is) the gold standard among predominantly male societies. It was very often a sham, or cover-up, but it was better than being considered the “odd-man-out.”

Jack Hardigan is a hard-drinking, hard driving skipper, who is dating a wealthy widow in Honolulu, but apart from a certain level of affection, there is no evidence of sexual activity between them. Therefore, there is no grand regrets when she breaks off their relationship for someone else.

The relationship between the two men starts, as it usually does, with earned respect on both sides; in this case as pilots of the famed Grumman Hellcats flown off the deck of a carrier. The bond grows stronger with each mission—warrior brothers—until it inevitably ends in a hotel room in Honolulu, where the line between brothers-in-arms and lovers is finally crossed. However , if you are looking for a torrid, sexually erotic scene between two horny flyboys, you  (gratefully) will not find it here. This scene is definitely sexy because of the circumstances—and the fact that we’ve been waiting for it for nearly two-thirds of the story—but in 1979 you didn’t write that sort of thing if you wanted to find a publisher—even an avant-garde one. Nevertheless, I think it is made a more realistic story because of it. This a story about men in love in war, and not about sex per se.

Of course the story wouldn’t be complete without an appropriate setting, and Case has provided it on board a fictional aircraft carrier, the Constitution. You can almost smell the sweat and testosterone in these scenes as they jostle aboard her. His apparent knowledge of naval aircraft is an asset as well, with just enough detail to help the reader understand without bogging the pace down in the process.

For those into WWII nostalgia there are also well-known battles, i.e. Wake Island, Tarawa and Truk Lagoon, where most of the Japanese Imperial fleet was wiped out—60 ships and 275 airplanes. Case has also provided an insight into the gruesomeness of war in some tense scenes where men are shot down, blown apart, and drowned mercilessly in the fray, and in the end Jack risks his life to save his lover.

Nevertheless, I agree with several other reviewers that the story should have ended on a high in 1945. The last part is interesting, mind you, and wraps up some loose ends, but it is anticlimactical. Given the excellence of the preceding, however, I’m not letting it dampen my overall impression. Five bees.

News, etc.

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 22,526

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

Occasionally the cattle drive had to pass through small communities along the way, as this drive did in the 1890s.

Barkerville is mentioned quite prominently in Coming of Age on the Trail. It was the notorious goldmine town founded by Billy Barker–The first man to discover gold in the William’s Lake area of British Columbia. Billy Barker is rumoured to have spent most of his $500,000 fortune at the saloon, and another successful miner spent some $40,000 in one marathon session of boozing, treating, and trashing, before he left the saloon flat broke.

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Introducing Lucas Porter, pianist

An exciting new, 21-year-old artist from Nova Scotia, Canada, presently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Lucas was recently featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Next” series, part of a high-profile project created by the CBC Radio 2 program In Concert in which promising young classical musicians reveal their artistry.

Click here to listen, and please pass it on.

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Meet Kerry Sullivan, an Irish-American poet about to break onto the scene with his first collection of poems. The following is an example of a shorter poem. To learn more you can contact him at: kilverel@gmail.com.

I quarrel with the sunshine,

And in the rain there’s pain.

Every mood I have today,

So surely would I trade,

For simplicity.

***

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! Please come back often. 

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Brother and His Brother, by Håkan Lindquist (author’s translation)

A multidimensional story of brotherly love –

Story blurb: My brother and his brother is the story about an 18-year-old boy Jonas, who tries to create an image of the brother he never met, a brother who died the year before Jonas himself was born. Jonas soon learns that his brother, Paul, had an intense love affair with another boy during the last year of his life. The story – which is told like a crime story, with loose ends, clues and cliff hangers – has been translated into Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Hungarian, Icelandic, Greek, German, Italian and French. It has also been awarded the French Prix Littéraire de la Bordelaise de Lunetterie.

Available in paperback – 169 pages.

Review by Gerry Burnie

I was first drawn to My Brother and His Brother [Bruno Gmunder Verlag Gmbh, 2011]by the intriguing title, as well as the strikingly handsome, Nordic lad portrayed on the front cover by photographer Howard Roffman. Now, I’ll admit that this is not the best way to choose a novel—“you can’t judge a book by its cover,” etc.—but fortunately Håkan Lindquist came through with an intriguing story as well.

Written in Swedish in 1993, but not translated until 2002, My Brother and His Brother, tells the intriguing story of Paul Lundberg, deceased older brother of Jonas Lundberg, who undertakes to piece it together from clues hidden away in his parent’s attic, newspaper archives, and the mind of a family friend.

Compelling Jonas onward is the desire to know something of his brother who died under curious circumstances in front of a train. The cause of his death is particularly curious because, in the course of his discovery, Jonas learns that Paul had a rather intense love affair with another boy.

So was it a suicide prompted by Paul’s inability to come to grips with his newly-discovered sexuality? Or perhaps a lover’s tiff? Or was it something more sinister? The answer to any one of these questions would make an intriguing story, but to all this Lindquist has added the quest for closure when the loss of a family member might have been caused by suicide on account of his homosexuality.

There is also a coming of age dimension, for in unravelling the truths about his brother Jonas is also learning about himself. Therefore it is an epiphany of sorts, and also a bridge that brings the family closer—particularly between Jonas and his father.

This is a ‘sweet’ story of brotherly love[1], a topic not often explored, but thoroughly poignant and enjoyable. Five bees.

News

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 22,195

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Introducing the characters, etc, featured in my upcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

The cattle drive that Cory and Reb undertake—based on Norman Lee’s 1,500- mile drive in 1898—follows the Collin’s Overland Telegraph Company’s trail for much of the way. The Russian–American Telegraph, also known as the Western Union Telegraph Expedition and the Collins Overland Telegraph, was a $3,000,000 undertaking by the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1865-1867, to lay an electric telegraph line from California to Moscow via British Columbia and under the Bering Sea.

Abandoned in 1867, following the successful laying of the Transatlantic cable, the trail remained. It was about 12’ to 15’ wide through deep woods and swamps, and the cattle drive pictured in this photograph may well be Norman Lee’s herd.

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Meet Kerry Sullivan, an Irish-American poet about to break onto the scene with his first collection of poems. The following is an example of a shorter poem. To learn more you can contact him at: kilverel@gmail.com.

I quarrel with the sunshine,

And in the rain there’s pain.

Every mood I have today,

So surely would I trade,

For simplicity.

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Just in time for St. Paddy’s Day!

Sean and Patrick McConaghy are two young cousins who set sail from Ireland one St. Patrick’s Day in 1820, and after a long and eventful crossing of the tlantic, they tackle the mighty St. Lawrence River with a band of rugged voyageurs to eventually settle in the wilderness of Upper Canada.

Here they are not only confronted by the daunting task of carving a homestead out of the vast primeval forest, but also the ever-present danger of living as a devoted couple in a world where the possibilities of humiliation and death stalked them at every turn if their secret should ever be discovered.

It is a tale that also encompasses mystery, tragedy, brawling, humour and pathos, and altogether it will have you turning pages to discover what is about to happen next.

Kindle and Nook versions: $4.95 U.S.D.

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Thanks for dropping by. Your participation has topped 22,000 visitors. Bravo!


[1] Gerry B’s editorial comment: I hasten to add for Paypal’s edification that this is not an incestuous love in any way—although it would be none of their damned business if it was.

March 11, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

The German, by Lee Thomas

A masterful study of human nature. Highly recommended –

Story Blurb: At the height of World War II, a killer preys on the young men of a quiet Texas town. The murders are calculated, vicious, and they are just beginning. Sheriff Tom Rabbit and his men are baffled and the community he serves is terrified of the monster lurking their streets. The only clues the killer leaves behind are painted snuffboxes containing notes written in German. As the panic builds all eyes turn toward a quiet man with secrets of his own.

Ernst Lang fled Germany in 1934. Once a brute, a soldier, a leader of the Nazi party, he has renounced aggression and embraces a peaceful obscurity. But Lang is haunted by an impossible past. He remembers his own execution and the extremes of sex and violence that led to it. He remembers the men he led into battle, the men he seduced, and the men who betrayed him. But are these the memories of a man given a second life, or the delusions of a lunatic?

About the author: LEE THOMAS is the Bram Stoker Award and the Lambda Literary Award-winning author of StainedParish DamnedThe Dust of Wonderland, and In the Closet, Under the Bed. Recent and forthcoming titles include The GermanThe Black Sun Set, and Focus (co-written with Nate Southard).

Available in e-book format.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I first spotted The German by Lee Thomas [Lethe Press, 2011] in the fall of 2011, but it is only recently that I got around the reading it. At first blush it appeared to be too dark to prompt my immediate attention—and it is quite dark in places—but overriding this is its insightful and uncompromising look at human nature, of which the gory violence is only a symptom.

In his own words, Thomas describes it this way:

Cruelty is not taught. It is as certain as a compass point. One can be instructed in the specifics of cruelty, like one can be taught to use a spoon, a knife, a fork, but even without these skills a man will still eat. 

The setting, which has been described as “richly atmospheric,” is a small town in Texas during the latter part of WWII. As small towns go, it is typically insular with tinges of redneck sentiment among the baser-class residents, and Thomas has done a masterful job of capturing this and the oppressive nature of it.

The main characters are Tim Randall, a likeable teenage boy struggling to come of age without the guidance of his father, who is overseas, and a working mother fretting about her husband; Sheriff Tom Rabbit, the town’s sheriff who reminds me of the sheriff in “Deliverance”—level-headed and not easily deceived; and Ernst Lang, a former Nazi officer who has been to the brink of death and back, and longs for nothing more than peaceful anonymity.

The gay element, though not a dominant one, is that Ernst Lang sleeps with men—not overtly but unapologetically. It is therefore a ‘gay content’ novel, and not an “m/m romance” as it has been described.

Otherwise, it is a who-done-it mystery that begins when a boy is discovered savagely murdered with a snuffbox stuffed into his mouth. Moreover, this snuffbox(certainly not indigenous to middle-class North America) contains a note written in German. And if this isn’t sufficiently bizarre and gruesome to get the whole town talking, another lad is discovered under similar circumstances. Not surprisingly, therefore, the focus turns to the small German community within the town, and specifically on Ernst Lang.

What a masterfully conceived and prolific mix this is: Two vicious murders with an obvious German connection; a small, redneck town in the midst of supporting the war against the Nazis; and a reclusive, ex-Nazi officer who is also homosexual. No wonder the author chose to take his time slow-cooking these ingredients so that the reader could savour each and every one to the surprising ending.

In addition it is a portrait of the cruelty that lurks in the hearts of men, even the “good” ones if it is allowed to come to the surface, and the tyranny of the majority to make a wrong a right.

The German is one of a handful of great books I have read. Highly recommended. Five bees.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 20,650

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A new feature:

As a means of developing the characters in my stories I first look for an image that most closely resembles the character I’m working on. This also helps me to stay focussed on the character’s personality throughout. Since I write historical fiction, many of these images are vintage photographs with a story of their own, and so you might be interested in seeing these, too.

This first image represents Spencer Twilingate, Coming of Age on the Trail, who is the father of the main character, Cory Twilingate. In the story, Spencer is the wayward son of the Fifth Earl of Ardmore, and after several indiscretions he is shuffled off to Canada where, befitting his nature, he sets off across North America to do some prospecting in British Columbia. Along the way he joins up with a precocious young cowboy by the name of J. C. “Jaycee” Collins, and the two of them eventually form a relationship. However, given the Victorian atmosphere of the 1860s, and fearing persecution Jaycee fades from the picture to allow Spencer to marry and produce Cory. He also puts together the 40,000-acre Prodigal Son Ranch, the biggest in British Columbia.

In actuality this photograph is of a cousin of the legendary Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minter of Great Britain during WWII, and a cousin of the equally famous Duke of Marlborough. However, this rather foppish-looking cousin was a total failure as a rancher—loosing some £30,000 pounds in about five years before he returned to England.

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The sales are in for Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears for 2011, and these are very gratifying—especially for e-book sales. Most gratifying of all, however, are the sales for my beloved Two Lads. Although I released this book four years age (March) it is still attracting readers in remarkable numbers. Way to go, guys.

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 hope you will come back often!

 

February 12, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

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.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 19,102

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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

Junction X, by Erastes

In some ways this is a brave new frontier, sensitively and superbly written, and begging to be read both for enjoyment and contemplation.

Story blurb: Set in the very English suburbia of 1962 where everyone has tidy front gardens and lace curtains, Junction X is the story of Edward Johnson, who ostensibly has the perfect life: A beautiful house, a great job, an attractive wife and two well-mannered children. The trouble is he’s been lying to himself all of his life. And first love, when it does come, hits him and hits him hard. Who is the object of his passion? The teenaged son of the new neighbours.

Edward’s world is about to go to hell.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have reviewed several of Erastes’ previous books, and in my opinion “Junction X” [Cheyenne Publishing, 2011] has to be her best effort yet. Part of my opinion is based on her gutsy decision to tackle the controversial topic of male adult-to-teen love. It is not that it doesn’t exist in abundance, it is just that no one wants to talk or write about it for fear of being labelled a pedophile. I will also add that a male writer probably couldn’t have written on this topic without the usual finger pointing, so I am glad that Erastes took up the challenge.

Every aspect of this story is outstanding: A powerful narrative, vivid and believable characters, uncompromising drama, and a heart-grabbing ending, but for me the most compelling aspect was the insight Erastes achieved into the troubled soul of Edward Johnston—knowing the dangers, and yet pursuing his feelings for a comely 18-year-old student just the same. I liked the subtle way it began, too, for I have long held that we talk ourselves into loving someone—fantasy, sometimes unrealistic but overpowering nonetheless.

There is also the subtle reference to an unspoken truth, and that is that teenagers are innately sexual and can be provocatively seductive. This is made all the more disarming by the fact that it is mostly subconscious. Therefore, Alex had no more idea he was seducing Edward than Edward had of seducing him. In Grecian times it would have been attributed to the fickle Fates.

In some ways this is a brave new frontier, sensitively and superbly written, and begging to be read both for enjoyment and contemplation. Five bees.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 17,077

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Come count down the days ‘til Christmas on Speak its Name Advent Calendar. Great stories and prizes to be won every day.

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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.

     

Season’s greetings and thanks for dropping by!

December 4, 2011 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period | 3 Comments

No Apologies, by J.M. Snyder

“No Apologies” requires no apologies.

 

Story blurb: Donnie Novak and Jack Sterling have known each other forever. Growing up together in a small Midwestern town, they were best friends. After high school, they both enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the same time, and somehow were assigned to the same company before being stationed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma together.

One night on leave, Donnie crosses an almost imperceptible line between friendship and something more. A stolen kiss threatens to ruin what Donnie and Jack have built up together all these years, and the next morning, he can’t apologize enough.

But a squadron of Japanese bombers has their sights trained on Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row, and in the early hours of December 7, 1941, Donnie might not get a chance to set things right.

About the author: An author of gay erotic/romantic fiction, J.M. Snyder began in self-publishing and now works with Amber Allure, Aspen Mountain, eXcessica, and Torquere Presses.

Snyder’s highly erotic short gay fiction has been published online at Amazon Shorts, Eros Monthly, Ruthie’s Club, and Tit-Elation, as well as in anthologies by Alyson Books, Aspen Mountain, Cleis Press, eXcessica Publishing, Lethe Press, and Ravenous Romance.

In 2010, Snyder founded JMS Books LLC, a royalty-paying queer small press that publishes in both electronic and print format. For more information on newest releases and submission guidelines, please visit JMS Books LLC online.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ah, young love!

“No Apologies” by J.M. Snyder, [JMS Books LLC, 2011], is a gem of a short story that captures the heart and attention right from the start. I would even go so far as to suggest that almost every gay male will be able to identify with this story from personal experience; i.e. that one buddy you fell in love with early, but didn’t know if he ‘swung that way.’ To make matters worse, he didn’t know either, and so each touch was like a prayer leading to disappointment. And then came that inevitable occasion when you crossed the line, in Donnie and Jack’s case with a furtive, liquor induced kiss, and so began the panic of losing a cherished friend on account of it.

We’ve all been there, and it is made even worse if the next morning your friend and soul mate—your hoped-for ‘lover’, even—isn’t talking or seems distant. Then the heart rending really begins, along with the guilt and the desperate attempts to make it right.

J.M. Snyder has not only captured this bittersweet situation, but he has also maintained it throughout the story until the very last paragraph. Along the way this reader was on tenterhooks wondering if young love would prevail, or if they would even survive the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbour—which was going on at the same time.

No Apologiesrequires no apologies. It is a tender love story set against the obscenity of war in a paradise. Five Bs

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 14,468 (up 421 visits over last week).

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If you are a Canadian author of gay fiction, I’d love to hear from you. Submit your book for a review, or add it to my “Best Gay Canadian Fiction” list on Goodreads.

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If you have read a Canadian content book (any genre), and woud like to add it to my “Proudly Canadian” list, I’d love to welcome your input.

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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 Nook and Kindle formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 (not including exchange and taxes where applicable).

     

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mordred, Bastard Son, by Douglas Clegg

An audaciously innovative take on an old chestnut!

Publisher’s blurb: A young monk becomes enthralled by the story that a wounded, mysterious prisoner in his care begins to tell. That prisoner is Mordred, the traditional villain of Arthurian legend, and his story is one of ambition, power, and betrayal. Here, Mordred recounts his own conflicted feelings toward the father who betrayed him, and his passionate love affair with a knight in King Arthur’s court. From his birth into his youth, Mordred’s soul is forged by the great forces of Camelot, and of the shadow-legend of a father who has sought the death of his only son.

About the author: Douglas Clegg’s first novel was published in 1989 by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books — launching Clegg’s career as a novelist. He  began writing a book a year, as well as dozens of short stories. His novels and stories explore the nature of evil, whether in his horror fiction, psychological thrillers or fantasy fiction. His fiction-writing career currently spans more than 20 years of constant writing and publication.

He has won the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the Shocker Award

Review by Gerry Burnie

Like millions of others around the world, I have always been—well, for seventy-five years, anyway—a fan of the Arthurian legend and the outrageously fictional  Camelot. Moreover, I suppose I could say that during that time I have been brainwashed into believing that the ‘bastard son,’ Mordred, was the worm in the  apple. Imagine the audacity of Douglas Clegg, therefore, to challenge that idea with his revisionist novel Mordred, Bastard Son [Aylson Books, 2007].

However, that’s the fun of writing a story about a story; there’s always the other side, and after 600 years I suppose Mordred was due for some favourable press.

Judging from the reviews, it seems that a lot of other people had the same difficulty adjusting to this radical idea as well. It is a story that you either like or  not, but having said that: I liked it. In my opinion it is a tour-de-force of fantasy, and although I had difficulty grasping the story at first, once I got into it I was hooked.

The difficulty, I think, is with the myriad of gods and goddesses, plus Celtic festivals, i.e. Beltane and Samhain (pronounced “sah-vwin,” by the way) that must be  introduced in the first chapter, and this is quite a mouthful to digest all at once. Also the transition between the third-person opening, and the first person  flashback was a bit awkward. However, as I have already said, once I got passed this the rest of the story ultimately made up for it.

There are some quite interesting innovations, too. For example, the idea that Arthur raped his half sister, Morgan-of-the-Fay, runs amok with the Arthurian legend built upon his infallible character. Likewise, the idea that Arthur ‘stole’ the sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake doesn’t exactly show his good side. Nevertheless, Mordred is divided in his feelings (at least in this first book of the series) toward his father—hate, on one hand, and an odd sort of affinity on the other.

Morgan le Fay remains Morgana, darkly beautiful with sinister edges, although she is unusually cast as a victim in this story. The ‘heavy’ on the distaff side is her sister  Morgause, who turns into something of a ‘Malificent’ [Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”] in the latter part of the story. In fact these two, plus Viviane (the “crone”)  makes the society within which Mordred is raised a sort of matriarchracy.

On the other hand there is Merlin who, as in all of his other reincarnations, is timeless. He is also omniscient, and having apparently given up on Arthur, has  taken Mordred under his wing as a student of the “magick.” This sort of thing opens the doors wide to a flight of fancy, and Clegg takes full advantage of it;  a real virtuoso rendering of imagination if ever there was one. Principally however, Merlin teaches Mordred the art of “ravelling” and “unravelling” (the mentally
sharing of memories, feelings, etc., with another, and, of course, retrieving memories in the same manner). Also, “vesseling,” i.e. mental telepathy–sort of the cell phone of Arthurian times.

Another departure from traditional Arthurian legend is found in Clegg’s depiction of Lancelot as a hermit, and also gay—or at least bisexual. In one version of  Arthur, however, Lancelot is deceived by the Fisher King’s daughter into thinking that she is Guinevere, and the resulting liaison results in another bastard, i.e. Galahad. Hearing of this, Guinevere banishes Lancelot, and he is said to have lost his wits and wandered in the wilderness. So, perhaps the hermit characterization is not so removed from the original.

Apart from these innovations, one of the most refreshing departures from the usual GLBT story for me is that, while it is a sexy enough, there is not one really explicit  sex scene throughout. It is therefore a love story between men that relies on sentiment and plot to make it happen. Bravo! Five stars.

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 13,751

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Progress on the rewrites to Coming of Age on the Trail – 107/178 pages.

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Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is now #3 out of 66,000 books on the Barnes & Noble “Romantic Fiction” list. In addition, it and Two Irish Lads are in the top 5 of several lists on Goodreads.

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September 25, 2011 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 2 Comments

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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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 13,538

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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

Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky, by Gerry Burnie

Note: A busy week of promoting my new novel, Nor All Thy Tears, has put me behind in my reading for this week’s review, and since I want to do the featured novel justice I have decided to display some of the reviews that have been received so far. Thanks for your indulgence.

Story blurb: Love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of Big Prairie Sky Country, Saskatchewan.

Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all that the sky seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an ex-con whose body has been found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment–the suspected victim of a blackmail attempt gone wrong.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime, simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated. With his career in a crisis, and his personal life as well, Cartwright is unexpectedly joined by an ally in Colin Scrubbs, a ruggedly handsome rancher from Saskatchewan. But can they salvage Cartwright’s career from the brink?

*Now available on Amazon.co.uk.

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Review by Avery Lighthouse [This review first appeared on Amazon.com].

Having read Gerry Burnie’s first novel “Two Irish Lads,” a charming story of love set in the 19th-century wilderness of Upper Canada, his latest, Nor all Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky, was quite a surprise to me, but it certainly attests to the remarkable versatility of this author.

The story involves the rise and near fall of Sheldon Cartwright, a `Monday’s + Tuesday’s child’ for certain–i.e. fair of face and grace. It begins at the zenith of his political career, fresh from besting the prime minister on national television, and being considered for the leadership of his political party at the relatively young age of twenty-eight. However, the discovery of a mutilated body and a provocative photograph are about to cast a shadow over him. This photograph, a nude image of him at age sixteen, then comes into the possession of a homophobic cop with a loathing for “faggots,” as well as younger, successful men with higher educations—both of which apply to Cartwright.

The story then reverts to Cartwright’s early childhood in the remote farming community of Pefferlaw (a real place by the way–as are most places mentioned in the story), and his loving relationship with his mentoring mother. This is a really charming segment of the story, reminiscent of Burnie’s first novel, and for anyone growing up in the 1950s and 60s it is a wonderfully nostalgic time as well. In this part we also learn of his sacred vow to his mother, and of his first encounter with the psychotic and violent Trace Colborn–a real “nasty” if ever I’ve read of one.

The next segment takes him to 1960s Toronto as a university student, struggling to balance academic demands with a late night job at the White Chef Restaurant—a notorious hangout for young male hustlers. It is here that Trace Colborn re-enters Sheldon’s life, and like J. Worthington Foulfellow [“Pinocchio”], Colborn tempts Sheldon with visions of an easy life that Colborn can arrange. Desperately driven to achieve a university education Sheldon naively agrees, and he is then introduced to a “Papa Duck” (the equivalent of a madam in male prostitution circles) who operates a secretive “call boy” service for high-end clients. This leads to Sheldon’s meeting with Edward Deere, a multi-millionaire, who is moved to take him under his wing as a protégé and lover–albeit a paid one.

In the meantime Sheldon meets Susan Koehler, the daughter of a wealth Rosedale matron, and before long Sheldon has fallen in love. However, although they have secretly decided to get married after graduation, he must maintain his other life in order to fulfill his sacred vow to his mother—i.e. to complete his education. He is therefore forced to walk a thin line between his two disparate worlds–e.g. juggling separate relationships with a wealthy patron, a handsome younger lover (Kevin Smyth), the psychotically possessive Colborn, and a full-time girlfriend.

The third stage finds him married to Susan with two charming children, and living the typically suburban life of a young family man in the early 1970s. He has become fairly well-connected too, and this leads to an invitation to stand for election as the Member of “St-Bartholomew-on-the-Hill” (I love that name!), which he wins “on the strength of his boyish good looks and wholesome family-man image as much as anything else.”[2]The story then seamlessly carries on from where it left off in part one, and in this third part we get to meet Colin Scrubbs, the ruggedly handsome Member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, who at first bonds Platonically with Sheldon, but inevitably their bonds deepen into an affair of heart. Nevertheless, Sheldon staunchly chooses to honour his vow to Susan.

It is then that all the elements begin to converge when the damning photograph is released to a tabloid newspaper, and the whirlwind of political and personal scandal touches down to engulf Cartwright with almost devastating effect.

It should be noted that I have purposefully left out several events that would otherwise be spoilers if included; however, this story has it all elements of a good thriller: Humour, pathos, homoerotic sex (both gentle and violent), vengeance, betrayal and murder. Having said that, the author never goes over the top with any of these, and although there is plenty happening at any given time, the storyline never falters at any point from beginning to end. It is, in fact, a masterful balance of control and flow that makes it both exciting and easy to read at the same time.

This is a most worthy piece of literature, equal in some ways to “Catcher in the Rye,” and it is one that riveted my attention from the first line to the last.

****

Review by Scotty Henderson [This review originally appeared on Amazon.com

Quite simply this is a great story that captured my interest from the first line and held it there to the last word. It has everything: great characters, a page-tuner plot, superbly written narrative, and a really romantic ending. I especially liked Lisa and Wally (Sheldon’s children). They added both humor and warmth to a pretty dramatic story, overall. There were also some tear-jerker moments, but it would be a spoiler I mentioned what they were. You’ll have to read it for yourself. Do that, because you won’t be sorry.

****

Review by J. Fraley “Trailboss “Trailboss” [This review originally appeared on Amazon.com].

After having already read Mr. Burnie’s “Two Irish Lads” and finding it an excellent read, I was hoping for at least its equal or better. I was not disappointed. Even better. This story was great.
Nor All Thy tears delivers!! A believeable story from the beginning, it’s filled with drama, intrigue, and suspense, all the while delivering a glimpse into Canadian life and government.
This story moved at a good pace and each scene set way for the next. I was compelled to read without putting it down. And the story continued strong until the end. An excellent novel of love, passion and relationships in a dramatic setting. Two thumbs up!!

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Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 13,233

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Vist my new Gerry Burnie Author’s Page, on Amazon.com.

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Calling all Canadian authors of gay content novels. I would really love to review your stories, and also add your title to my Goodreads “Best Gay Canadian Novels” list. Contact me, or submit your novel in PDF format to: gerry@gerryburniebooks.com.

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 Both “Nor All Thy Tears” and “Two Irish Lads” are now available in Nook and Kindle formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95; however this price may vary from retailer to retailer.

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 To order any of my books click on the individual covers below.

Thanks for dropping by!!

September 10, 2011 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, gay politician, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic, M/F/M bisexua;, Male bisexual, Toronto history | Leave a comment

Moral Authority, by Jacob Z. Flores

My nomination for the most outstanding debut novel of the year!

This is a re—release (May 22, 2013). It is not yet available on Amazon, but copies can be obtained through Wilde City Press.

moral authority - coverStory blurb: In the year 2050, America has changed. Profoundly. Homosexuality is a crime, cursing in public is a punishable offense, and lifestyle legislation keeps American citizens on a prescribed moral path. The country lives in a Moral Age, all thanks to The Moral Authority, the nation’s fourth branch of government, which has held dominion for the past thirty-five years. Yet the Moral Age comes at a price. Americans either live like mindless cattle or in fear. Told from three points of view, Mark, the brash young hero, who finds true love in the most desolate of places; Isaac, the renegade, who searches for redemption, and Samuel the dictatorial megalomaniac intent on maintaining his power, Moral Authority exposes what happens to a nation that continues to restrict, instead of broadening, civil rights.

About the author: Jacob Z. Flores lives with Bruce, his partner of eight years, and their three children, Pilar, Ainsley, and Carson in Victoria, Texas. Jacob is also a Professor of English at Victoria College.

*Available in paperback from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

“Moral Authority” [Wilde City Press, May 22, 2013] is author Jacob Z. Flores’ debut novel, and what a debut it is! Flores has conceived a dystopian plot every bit as prophetic and sinister as George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” except that in this case the unforgiving focus is on homosexuality as the ‘thought crime’ and homosexuals as the prescribed enemies of ‘the common good’. Therefore, my hat goes off to him for having tackled (successfully in my opinion) a demanding literary challenge of this complexity so early in his career.

The story centres on Mark Bryon, a quite average graduate student who in ordinary circumstances wouldn’t attract any undue attention apart from being young and attractive. However these are not “ordinary” times when every move, both public and private, is subject to scrutiny by those who have voluntarily subjected themselves to a morally-incorrupt, corrupt state: i.e. “The Moral Authority.” Therefore, there is a very Orwellian tone throughout, including a ‘Big Brother’ in the person of Samuel Pleasant, ‘Newspeak,” and the subjugation of free thought.

There are also the usual twin pillars that form the basis of most fascist regimes, e.g. a simplistic reason for being, and a perceived enemy—both within and without. For example:

According to Randy Gonzales, over the past thirty-five years the United States managed to save itself from moral corruption because of the newest branch of our nation’s government. Since its inception by President Sarah Palin in 2014 and the constitutional amendment she and the Republican majority helped pass the following year, the moral downslide the country experienced then had not only been halted but come about at least 180 degrees. Gone were the days of media violence and pornography. All illegal drugs and associated crimes had been virtually eliminated. Murder, rape, gang violence, thefts, domestic crimes, prostitution, and even vandalism accounted for less than 10% of the overall crime rate in the entire nation. As a result, communities within the United States enjoyed a golden age. 14

And the perceive enemy:

Constitutional amendments and which all had their origins from within the Moral Authority, freed this country from such unhealthy lifestyle choices that caused many health and societal problems, such as homosexuality, obesity, smoking, alcoholism, and even profanity. To commemorate the thirty-fifth anniversary, the Supreme High Chancellor of the Moral Authority, Samuel Pleasant, planned to address the nation the following week. Speculations already abounded that Supreme High Chancellor Pleasant intended to unveil further social legislation to better streamline this nation’s morality. This came about due to recent attacks against moral law instigated by a group of domestic terrorists calling themselves the Human Rights Campaign.  15 [Emphasis mine].

The story then builds on this theme, and as it progresses the plot gets darker and darker in very much the same fashion as totalitarian states rule by edict and the point of a gun. However, at no time does the author push any of this over the top so that credibility is strained. Even in the latter parts of the story when the Moral Authority’s “K3s” are at their cruelest (i.e KKK, the equivalent of the Nazi’s SS elite guard), the reader is never caused to doubt that it could happen.

Along the way, however, the author does make some cogent observations in the context of the narrative, i.e.

According to Mark’s research, the number of Americans cited with violations of the moral code of respect had risen in many major U.S. cities. The manpower and resources alone used to enforce such petty violations could be better redirected to rehabilitating offenders who committed more egregious crimes in the nation, 33

which is a point that applies beyond this fiction to real life. I might add, as well, that the hidden cost of every law—large or small—that is made and enforced is a diminution of our civil liberties. I think this is the message to be gained from this story.

On the other hand, I think I could be tempted to accept a law that restricted unruly children in restaurants, i.e.

The mother and father looked exhausted, and he could see why. Their two preschool aged boys were in the middle of a pretend sword fight with their chopsticks as stand in swords. Obviously, there were no moral officers here as the parents would certainly be in violation of the code of respect concerning the appropriate behavior of children in public. 35 [Emphasis mine].

Altogether this is an engrossing story from beginning to end, a real page-turner and superbly written. I nominate Moral Authority by Jacob Z. Flores as the most outstanding debut novel of the year. Five Stars.

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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. Your continuing interest is greatly appreciated.

 

September 4, 2011 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Homoerotic | 5 Comments

Long Hard Ride, by Keta Diablo

A hard-riding and entertaining adventure

Civil War divides a nation, yet nothing will stop Grayson Drake from breaking Corporal Marx Wellbourne out of a Union prison. Assigned to bring Wellbourne to Richmond, Grayson soon discovers not only is the Corporal courting death, but he’s also the same man he coveted from afar four years ago in a Charleston brothel.

Pursued by the villainous warden of the prison, Major Britton Darkmore, nothing is as it seems when intrigue, danger and passion collide on the Long, Hard Ride back to Richmond.

Available in eBook format.

Review by Gerry Burnie

The title and the Civil War genre first attracted my attention to Long Hard Ride by Keta Diablo [Decadent Publishing, 2010] and as an in-the-saddle story it delivers quite well. However, it is more of a period story, as apposed to historical fiction, for the American Civil War is merely a backdrop.  Nonetheless, I will quickly add there is nothing wrong with this except the tag.

The crux of the story is that Marx Wellbourne is being held in a hellhole of a Union prison, known by its pejorative, “Helmira,” and is in dire straights. But inside his head are battle secrets that the South is desperate to know, and so Grayson Drake is sent to spring him from this maximum security institution.

The warden, Major Britton Darkmore, is a stereotypical villain who psycho-pathetically  guards his ‘no-escape’ record, and so when Wellbourne is sprung the pursuit is on from New York State, to Richmond, Virginia.

Along the way Grayson and Wellbourne have a rather tempestuous relationship, with neither one trusting the other, but they nonetheless manage to get it on both hot and heavy—such, that an uneasy love bond is formed.

***

Critically speaking, the writing is both strong and mature. The sentence and paragraph structures are smooth, such that the reader isn’t stubbing a toe over rough patches, and the dialogue is effective and believable.

As I have also alluded above, the characters are well developed but somewhat stereotypical—villainous warden, macho and omni-capable hero, and a reluctant lover. Nevertheless, they are consistent and made to play their parts well.

The plot is also clever, but being a bit ‘fantastic’ it could have benefited from more development. For instance, the secretive agency for which Drake worked could have done with more expansion to make it credible, and the happenstance surrounding Wellbourne’s escape from Elmia Prison—as well the old boy’s lodge that just happened to be there when it was needed—could have used some further thought.

Nonetheless, overall it was an entertaining read that had some top-rate moments. Recommended. Three and one-half stars.

News

This past week I entered into a deal with Maple Creek Media to format Two Irish Lads in eBook format. This will be a stand-alone publication with a new cover design by Alex Beecroft and a separate ISBN number. Therefore, this old scribe is entering (slowly) into the 21st-century.

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The manuscript for Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big Sky is now in the hands of the publisher, and so it is on schedule for a July, 2011, release.

 Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 11,756

July 3, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical period, Homoerotic, Uncategorized | 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.

***

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

Song on the Sand, a short story by Ruth Sims

A 24-carat nugget of a story, and highly recommended.

 

 

Story blurb: Tony Dalby finds himself on the wrong end of his 80s, confined to a nursing home, with his days as a dancer a thing of the past. The appearance of Drew into his life brings a welcome distraction, as well as a bit of mystery as to why Drew constantly visits the wheelchair-bound, comatose Jesse. As secrets are revealed, Dalby finds he may have a renewed purpose for living after all.

Kindle edition, 44KB (19 pages).

About the author: Ruth Sims has lived her entire life in small town Mid-America, surrounded by corn, wheat, and soybean fields. Like Emily Dickinson she has never seen a Moor and has never seen the Sea, but she’s seen plenty of silos, Amish buggies, whitetails, and amber waves of grain. She’s the wife of one and mother of two … or vice versa. She gets a little confused by the rush of living.

Though many years past schooldays, her education is continuous and far-ranging, with interests running the gamut from Shakespeare to awful puns and limericks; from criminal psychology to the science of baking towering chocolate cakes and artisan bread. Her special love of theatre (as reader and observer only) is apparent in The Phoenix. Her passion for classical and romantic music comes to life in Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story, published by Dreamspinner Press, July 2010. The Phoenix, originally published in 2004, was revised and republished by Lethe Press in 2009.

Though best known as a novelist, she is proud to have several short stories published.

Review by Gerry Burnie

As someone who knows, I’ve always said that a sure sign of getting old is when nearly every topic begins with, “I used to.” Ruth Sims has captured this regrettable fact remarkably well in her poignant short story, Song on the Sand [Untreed Reads, 2010]. In fact Tony Dalby and I share quite a few “I used tos.” I was a former dancer who now only walks with the aid of a walker.  I was also an actor and singer (who once played Curly in “Oklahoma”—like Jesse), so I could relate to Tony Dalby at a very personal level. However, unlike Dalby I have never developed a resentment for the loss of these abilities. That’s what makes Song on the Sand so poignant, though. Conflict and resolution, which Ms Sims weaves into the narrative with remarkable believability.

Tony Dalby is a somewhat bitter old man, irascible as well, confined to a wheelchair in an impersonal nursing home. He is in fact what we all fear about getting old; finding ourselves helpless, alone and lonely. Redemption is on the way, however, in the person of a handsome young stranger named Drew. He is a frequent visitor to the nursing home because his “cousin” Jesse is a comatose inmate—the victim of a hit-and-run. Drew befriends Tony and it is then revealed that Jesse (a former amateur actor and singer) is really Drew’s lover, but because same-sex relationships are not recognized as kin, Drew has had to fabricate a kinship in order to gain access to him.

The pathos of this situation begins to inspire Tony to help, and in fact gives him a reason to help himself. He therefore suggests a form of musical therapy by playing music from Broadway musicals, and one of these is Song on the Sand from “La Cage aux Folles,” in which Jesse and he have previously played the same role.

Will it work? Will Jesse respond? Those are questions that I will leave with you, but like me I think you will be as surprised with the answers.

This is a superbly written story about a topic we rarely see in GBLT literature, i.e. the elderly. Nevertheless those usually hot young things do get old, and I am so very pleased to see aging dealt with with such insight and understanding. Do read this story for several reasons. First—as I’ve already mentioned—because of the uniqueness of topic, and also for the masterful way inwhich Ms Sims has crafted it.

A 24-carat nugget of a story, and highly recommended. Five stars.

News: Earlier this week Gerry B’s Book Reviews welcomed its 10,000th vistor. Thank you all. I am humbled.

Read an excerpt from Nor All Thy Tears by Gerry Burnie, scheduled for release in hardcopy and e-book formats, July 2011.

A bittersweet story of love, obsession, treachery, murder, and finally solace under the northern lights of Big Sky, Saskatchewan.

Sheldon Cartwright is a young, exceptionally handsome and gifted politician, with a beautiful wife and two charming children. His career is also in ascendance, and given all this the sky seems seems the only limit to this talented, blue-eyed lad from small-town Ontario, Canada.

However, Cartwright also has a hidden past that one day bursts onto the front page of a tabloid newspaper with the publication of his nude photograph. Moreover, the inside story alleges that he was once a high-end male prostitute with a romantic connection to an an ex-con whose body has been recently found mutilated beyond recognition in a burned-out apartment.

Enter a homophobic cop who is willing to go to any lengths to tie Cartwright into the crime, simply because he is young, handsome and well-educated, and the stage is set for a political crisis of destructive proportions.

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mere Mortals, by Erastes

This is perhaps Erastes best effort yet

 

 

 

Orphaned Crispin Thorne has been taken as ward by Philip Smallwood, a man he’s never met, and is transplanted from his private school to Smallwood s house on an island on the beautiful but coldly remote, Horsey Mere in Norfolk. Upon his arrival, he finds that he’s not the only young man given a fresh start. Myles Graham, and Jude Middleton are there before him, and as their benefactor is away, they soon form alliances and friendships, as they speculate on why they ve been given this new life. Who is Philip Smallwood? Why has he given them such a fabulous new life? What secrets does the house hold and what is it that the Doctor seems to know? Trust acclaimed author Erastes to tell a moving story in the field of gay historical romance.

About the author: Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives in the area where this book is based. Author of seven books and twenty short stories, this is her third full-length novel. A Lambda award finalist and keen lover of history, she began writing full-time after leaving the legal profession finding it stranger than any fiction. 

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

When it comes to man-on-man, historical romance and adventure, the name Erastes invariably comes to the fore, and her latest creation, Mere Mortals [Lethe Press, March 23, 2011] is perhaps her best effort yet. It is in my mind, anyhow, and I’ve read and reviewed many of her novels and short stories in the past.

The first thing one notices about this novel is the subtlety with which the story unfolds, and the leisurely, measured pace that is so in keeping with a nineteenth-century theme. For example, the story opens with a coach ride through the countryside setting, and with this clever device the reader is invited aboard to see it for him/herself, i.e:

“There was nothing here to write about, or so it seemed. After so many years spent at school in the well manicured quadrangle and playing fields of Barton Hall, this new landscape seemed empty, untidy and bleak. A light mist covered the land as far as the horizon, little more than a thin vapour, but it was enough to drain all colour from the scene passing by the carriage window. I gave a wry smile. Colour that mainly consists of bleached dead reeds, brown ditches and brown muddy pools

“Since leaving Yarmouth the coach had travelled slowly north, following the coast road, such as it was. The coachman had warned us passengers that the roads were bad at this time of the year and he wasn’t wrong; more than once the three of us – for that’s all there was, travelling in the filthy weather – had to alight, braving the vicious biting wind to assist the coach out of one of the larger ruts we encountered. Even inside the coach with the curtains drawn, the wind sliced its way through any small gaps in the woodwork.”

Ergo, in one deft stroke the author sets the tone, the pace, the theme, as well as introducing the narrator and some of the characters. This is writing at a very high level of the craft—almost a textbook example—and it is why Erastes has earned the respect she enjoys.

Mere Mortals is very much a Gothic story with the requisite manor located on a bleak mere, secret passageways, sphinx like servants, and a handsome but mysterious master. All of them playing their parts delightfully, as do the three boys. There is tension, too; plenty of it. Tension that is velvet-wrapped in mystery. It permeates the atmosphere but never becomes blatant or oppressive until it surfaces near the end; when the secret of Bittern’s Reach is revealed.

If you are a fan of M/M romance, historical fiction or Gothic tales, all superbly written, then Mere Mortals is bound to please on all counts.

Be an alpha reader: Read an excerpt from my in-progress novel, The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia, an M/M light comedy and adventure tale, and add your comments at the bottom of this page, or email them to me at: gerryb@gerryburniebooks.com.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 1 Comment

Two Irish Lads , by Gerry Burnie

Note: A tribute to St. Patrick’s Day. This review by Mark Probst originally appeared in Speak its Name, April 15, 2009.

 

 

two irish lads - final - medStory blurb: Two Irish Lads is a pioneer story with a difference. It is at once a carefully-researched depiction of pioneer life in the early part of the nineteenth century, and also a love story of two men who might have lived during such a challenging time.

Sean and Patrick McConaghy are two young cousins who set sail from Ireland one St. Patrick’s Day in 1820, and after a long and eventful crossing of the Atlantic, they tackle the mighty St. Lawrence River with a band of rugged voyageurs to eventually settle in the wilderness of Upper Canada.

Here they are not only confronted by the daunting task of carving a homestead out of the vast primeval forest, but also the ever-present danger of living as a devoted couple in a world where the possibilities of humiliation and death stalked them at every turn if their secret should ever be discovered.

It is a tale that also encompasses mystery, tragedy, brawling, humour and pathos, and altogether it will have you turning pages to discover what is about to happen next.

About the author: Gerry Burnie is a dedicated Canadian author, best known for his historical fictions, Two Irish Ladsand Nor All Thy Tears: Journey to Big SkyNow retired, he has had a long and varied career. For twenty-five years prior to his retirement, he lectured on the topics of political science and law, and then turned his interest to history for a further five years. In addition, he has been an actor, singer, dancer, artist and a municipal politician at various times in his life.

♣♣♣

Review by Mark Probst – Author of “The Filly

Gerry Burnie’s Two Irish Lads is a quaint tale of second cousins Sean and Patrick McConaghy who migrate to Canada from their homeland of Ireland in the year 1820. With their life’s savings they intended to buy some land in “upper Canada” (the area now known as Ontario) and make a good life as farmers with the hope of prosperity.

Once they arrive they visit the land office and select a choice piece of property. With a few supplies and a tent, they take on the task of clearing the land, hoping to build a shelter before winter. The two lads eventually realize they are in love. One of the settlement’s wealthy leaders, Nealon, takes them under his wing, giving them advice, arranging a cabin-raising for them, and even getting Sean a job as a schoolmaster. It is soon revealed that he has an ulterior motive in that he hopes they might marry his two daughters.

There are a few harsh realities through which they must persevere, before all the dust settles, but I won’t spoil it by revealing any more.

The story is written in the style of Sean’s daily journal. While the first few chapters do indeed read like an authentic journal, thankfully Burnie then shifts to more of a first-person narrative than how a real journal would read, but that is simply to accommodate the storytelling process.

Burnie’s knowledge and research shine through in that the story beautifully describes 19th century Irish customs and decorum. He even uses a few Gaelic phrases, always with translation, and the dialog sounds so right you can practically hear the Irish brogue.

I thought the characters were well-developed and exuded a great deal of charm. Sean was the leader and sensible one, whereas the younger Patrick was more carefree and daring. While he yearned to be able to be open and proclaim his “secret love” to the world, he deferred to Sean’s wisdom and together they balanced each other out. The details of frontier life were also well researched, and the descriptions were vivid enough to give us a good picture of the landscapes and the settlements.

My quibbles are minor – I’d have liked to see more of Sean actually teaching the children, and I felt there were a few times some of the characters were just a little too perky for my taste.

I really enjoyed Two Irish Lads. It suits my personal taste of an upbeat depiction of frontier life, and I especially like stories where people come together to help each other and fight against the evils that threaten them. I look forward to reading more from this gifted author.

♣♣♣

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.

                

 

March 12, 2011 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Canadian Irish tradition, Coming out, Fiction, gay cousins, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, gay pioneer christmas, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Homesteading in Canada, Irish, Irish pioneers in Canada, Irish romance, M/M love and adventure, Sea voyage from Ireland | 1 Comment

Lessons In Trust: A Cambridge Fellows Mystery No.7, by Charlie Cochrane

An absolutely must read

 

 

 

Book blurb: When Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith witness the suspicious death of a young man at the White City exhibition in London, they’re keen to investigate—especially after the cause of death proves to be murder. But police Inspector Redknapp refuses to let them help, even after they stumble onto clues to the dead man’s identity.

Orlando’s own identity becomes the subject for speculation when, while mourning the death of his beloved grandmother, he learns that she kept secrets about her past. Desperate to discover the truth about his family, Orlando departs suddenly on a solo quest to track down his roots, leaving Jonty distraught.

While Jonty frantically tries to locate his lover, Orlando wonders if he’ll be able to find his real family before he goes mad. After uncovering more leads to the White City case, they must decide whether to risk further involvement. Because if either of them dares try to solve the murder, Inspector Redknapp could expose their illicit—and illegal—love affair.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

I say with great regret, for the genuine enjoyment I have missed, that Lessons in Trustby Charlie Cochrane [Samhain Publishing, 2010] is the first of the “Cambridge Fellows Mysteries” I have read. Fortunately it is not the first of Ms Chochrane’s stories I have reviewed, for “Sand,” (her contribution to the Last Gasp Anthology) holds that delightful distinction. Nevertheless, Lessons in Trust gives a much broader picture of her remarkable talent, and it has left this particular reader yearning for more of the same.

The book blurb quite adequately covers the story outline, and so for my part I will ‘read between the lines,’ so to speak.

The early 1900s was an interesting and colourful era with vestiges of Victorian stodginess reluctantly giving way to what would soon become the “Flapper” generation. In between were bright, ‘modern’, fashionable young men like Jonty & Orlando, with a foot in both generations. The common ground was style, and these two—from quite different backgrounds—had it in spades.

What delighted me about this read is that the author has been able to capture this with remarkable credibility: Victorian correctness mixed with a ‘bending of the rules’ (correctly, of course); a begrudging acceptance of the motor car (but properly dressed for the occasion); and wit and scintillating conversation to carry it all off.

The mysteries are truly mysteries, too, and will leave any reader turning pages. I guarantee it.

A must read. Five stars.

 

Progress report, re: Coming of Age on the Trail. I’m happy to say that the first draft is finished and heading for the editors desk. Probable release date: January. 2011.

 

November 7, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | 1 Comment

Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story, by Ruth Sims

A truly great story that reads like silk rippling across naked skin

Publisher’s blurb: COUNTERPOINT: DYLAN’S STORY is the story of Dylan Rutledge’s life, from the age of eighteen until his early thirties, and of the two men whose lives were intertwined with his at different times and in different ways.

At eighteen Dylan Rutledge has one obsession: music. He believes his destiny is to be the greatest composer of the rapidly approaching twentieth century. Only Laurence Northcliff, a young history master at The Venerable Bede School for Young Gentlemen, believes in Dylan’s talent and encourages his dream, not realizing Dylan is in love with him.

But Dylan’s passion and belief in his future come at a high price. They will alienate him from his family and lead him on a rocky path fraught with disappointment, rejection, and devastating loss that kills his dream. A forbidden love could bring the dream back to life and rescue Dylan from despair and bitterness, but does he have the courage to reach out and take it? Will he deny the music that rules his soul?

 

Ruth Sims has lived her entire life in conservative, Republican, tiny-town Midwest USA surrounded by corn, wheat, and soybean fields. It’s a strange place indeed for a Liberal Democrat to have sprouted. Like Emily Dickenson she’s never seen a moor and never seen the sea but she’s seen plenty of silos, Amish buggies, whitetails, and amber waves of grain. She’ll battle anybody who says the flat, fertile land of the Midwest doesn’t have its own kind of beauty.

Though many years past schooldays, her education is continuous and far-ranging, with interests ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, from Shakespeare to groan-inducing puns and limericks. Her library has many shelves of history, biography, drama, and reference books. Her special love of drama is apparent in The Phoenix, and her passion for Classical and Romantic music comes to life in Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story.

Words, imagination, books, music, and writing have always been the means by which she could slip into more exciting lives than her own. When the chance finally came for her to write full-time, she was able to focus on the stories that have been in her head for years. Her many characters are thankful to escape; it was getting crowded in there.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

 In March of this year I had the pleasure of reviewing The Phoenix by Ruth Sims, and described it as, “A masterful piece of writing, credible and enjoyable from start to finish.” At that time I thought that I had exhausted all the superlatives possible on a novel, but with Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story [Dream Spinner Press, July 2010] she had surpassed even these. Indeed, Counterpoint has been described as “A symphony of words.”

It begins with a tasteful cover design by Alex Beecroft that captures the theme of the novel with just the right flare. Then the story opens like an insightful overture containing a glimpse of what is to come, but most of all it artfully introduces Dylan’s impetuous personality better than any descriptive narrative could do. Here we find Dylan playing one of his own composition illicitly on the main organ of the Bede College (for young gentlemen) chapel; an instrument that is almost the ‘proprietary’ province of the old-school, hide-bound choir master—ushering in one of nemesis in Dylan’s life; the first of many.

Chapter one also introduces us to Laurence Northcliff, a more liberal-minded teaching master—although, how ‘liberal’ remains to be seen in a later chapter.

In fact, the character development in this story is one of the very strong points of Ruth Sims’ writing; for they are all true to the period in their attitudes and way of thinking, credible for who and what they are, and consistent throughout. For example, Dylan retains his artless idealism throughout; Northcliff his maturity and understanding; Dylan’s father his ultra-conservative, middleclass standards; etc. I also thought it very true-to-life that his father would blame Northcliff for Dylan’s ‘downfall,’ referring to his homosexuality, because it couldn’t have come from his genes—plus ca change.

The setting, both in England and in Paris, deserve a special mention as well; for I find it quite remarkable that a gal who “has lived her entire life in conservative, Republican, tiny-town Midwest USA,” can create 19th-century, European settings that are so credible in detail and ambiance that they rival travel brochures.

Indeed ‘ambiance’ is another aspect of her writing that is worthy of praise. It creates that period “feeling” that so many of her readers have commented on, including myself regarding The Phoenix:

“Not to be overlooked is the amount of research required to reproduce Victorian England to a credible degree is quite considerable—especially for a gal who, according to her biography, has never seen a moor! Well, the test of the ‘credibility factor’ is that I as a reader certainly believed it.”

Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story reads like silk rippling across naked skin, and the overall experience of it—the heights and depths of love, the highs and lows of life, the counterpoints of success and failure, and the triumph of the human spirit has left me with the afterglow of having read a great story!

See a preview of Coming of Age on the Trail

July 18, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

From the Closet to the Courtroom: Five LGBT Rights Lawsuits that have Changed Our Nation, by Carlos A. Ball

It is a truly fascinating study, superbly researched, and remarkably readable in spite of being a complex topic.

 *Non-fiction books of this nature do not fit the star-rating system.

Publisher’s Blurb: The advancement of LGBT rights has occurred through struggles large and small-on the streets, around kitchen tables, and on the Web. Lawsuits have also played a vital role in propelling the movement forward, and behind every case is a human story: a landlord in New York seeks to evict a gay man from his home after his partner of ten years dies of AIDS; school officials in Wisconsin look the other way as a gay teenager is repeatedly and viciously harassed by other students; a lesbian couple appears unexpectedly at a clerk’s office in Hawaii seeking a marriage license.
Engaging and largely untold, From the Closet to the Courtroom explores how five pivotal lawsuits have altered LGBT history. Beginning each case narrative at the center-with the litigants and their lawyers-law professor Carlos Ball follows the stories behind each crucial lawsuit. He traces the parties from their communities to the courtroom, while deftly weaving in rich sociohistorical context and analyzing the lasting legal and political impact of each judicial outcome.
Over the last twenty years, no group of attorneys has helped to transform this country more than LGBT rights lawyers, and surprisingly, their collective accomplishments have received relatively little attention. Ball remedies that by exploring how a band of largely unheralded civil rights lawyers have attained remarkable legal victories through skill, creativity, and perseverance.
In this richly layered and multifaceted account, Ball vividly documents how these judicial victories have significantly altered LGBT lives today in ways that were unimaginable only a generation ago.

About the Author: Professor Ball received his B.A. summa cum laude from Tufts University, his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was a Kent Scholar and the book reviews editor of the Columbia Law Review, and his LL.M. from Cambridge University, where he was awarded a “First.” He clerked for Chief Justice Paul Liacos of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and worked as a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society in New York City in the early 1990s. He joined the law school in 2008 after teaching at the University of Illinois College of Law for eight years and at the Penn State University School of Law for five. 
Professor Ball is also the author of The Morality of Gay Rights: An Exploration in Political Philosophy (Routledge, 2003), and co-author of Cases and Materials on Sexual Orientation and the Law (West, 2008).

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

If I were putting together a mini-course on the social history of GLBT discrimination in North America, I would definitely include Gay American History: Lesbian and gay men in U.S.A.- Johathan Katz , and Carlos A Ball’s, From the Closet to the Courtroom: Five LGBT Rights Lawsuits That Have Changed Our Nation [Beacon Press, 2010]. Moreover, at the risk of coming across as a ‘missionary’ for the cause, these two seminal works should be put on every GLBT individual’s ‘must-read’ list.

When reviewing a book of this nature it is necessary to say from the outset that one cannot possibly do justice to the amount of research and detail contained therein, in a few words. This is particularly so when dealing with a topic like constitutional law—probably one of the most complex but fascinating of all the areas of law. Nor should a review like this be read as authoritative in any way—i.e. the opinions expressed are not legal opinions.

Having said that, however, Professor Ball writes in a very readable style for legals as well as those with no legal training whatsoever. Therefore, the fact that it deals with law and judicial interpretation should not deter the average reader from reading and enjoying—and learning from—this important work.

To accommodate the space available, what follows is a sample of some of the cases covered, and a more detailed summary of one of them. You may want to take note of the dates to appreciate the fact that these legal break-throughs have been relatively recent in coming.

Harassment

Jamie Nabozny was a seventh-grader (age 11, 1988) when the harassment started with some of his school peers taunting him with words like “faggot” and “queer.” The harassment grew progressively worse over a four-year period—including one instance where he was knocked into the urinal in the boys’ washroom, and then peed on—and culminated in finding himself lying on the floor of his school’s library as a boy repeatedly kicked him in the stomach while other kids cheered. During these intervening years Jamie and his parents complained on countless occasions to the school administrators. However, the officials refused to get involved; in fact, no student was ever disciplined for verbally or physically harassing Jamie.

In 1993 (now a university student)  Jamie contacted a lawyer who filed a complaint again the school district, the two principals involved, and the assistant principal, on the basis that school officials had refused to take the necessary steps to protect Jamie from harassment because he was gay. It also alleged sex discrimination by contending that school officials would have responded differently to the harassment had Jamie been a girl (records showed that one of the boys who had tormented Jamie had been suspended for calling his girlfriend a bad name). 

The Federal Court, however, ruled that there was no evidence suggesting that Jamie had been treated differently because of his sex.

It was then that Jamie contact Lambda lawyer Patricia Logue, and although no student had ever succeeded in suing school officials for failing to protect him or her from anti-gay harassment, the facts in Jamie’s case were so compelling that the lawsuit might serve as a test case for the benefit of other GLBT youth across the country.

Logue therefore argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals that government officials (i.e. the school district, school principals and vice-principal), for discriminatory reasons, had failed to provide him with the protection from violence and harassment to which he was entitled under law. She also told the court that the defendants had discriminated against Jamie both because he was gay, and because he was a boy.

Jamie had offered evidence of such discrimination, including his contention that school officials had told him on several occasions that he was to blame for the harassment because he insisted on being openly gay in school.

Logue also pointed out that it was difficult to imagine that the school officials would have ignored the level of abuse and harassment to which Jamie was subjected if he had have been a girl.

The outcome of the U.S. Court of Appeals appeal was that the three-judge panel agreed with the appellants (Logue and Nabozny) and ordered a new trial.

Now that the case was going to trial (before a jury) it was decided to add an experienced litigation lawyer to the team, and David Springer (an HIV positive individual) signed on to represent Jamie in the fall of 1996.

At the trial the lawyer for the school board’s insurance company argued that the officials were all basically good people, and that these experienced professionals had no recollection of Jamie Nabozny or of his complaints; therefore, the alleged complaints were a “pack of lies.” However the issue was not whether the defendants were good or bad people. Instead, the case was about whether the defendants had failed to address antigay harassment against a gay boy in the same way that they had in the past treated harassment against heterosexual girls. Moreover, the apparent inability of the defendants to recall anything related to Jamie Nabozny whil he attended their schools, including incidents of serious physical assaults was just not credible.

After deliberating for just under four hours the jury returned a unanimous verdict that the school officials had intentionally discriminated against Jamie because he was a gay boy.

The impact: To emphasize the impact of the Nabozny decision, the author quotes several studies that attempted to bring attention to the prevalence of antigay harassment in American public schools. For example, a 1993 survey of Massachusetts high school students reported that 98 percent had heard homophobic remarks at school and that more than half had heard school staff were five time more likely to have missed school on account of safety concerns, and four times more likely to have attempted suicide than straight students.

Professor Ball points out that it is not an exaggeration to say that the Nabozny lawsuit changed much of that when the news media reported the almost $1 million settlement, and school officials across the country scrambled to prevent what happened to Jamie from being repeated. In addition, insurance companies were now insisting that their policy-holding schools implement programs to prevent multi-million dollar, antigay lawsuits.

Family

When Leslie Blanchard died of AIDS (September, 1986) at Newark, New Jersey, he did so in the arms of his partner of ten years, Miguel Braschi. As loving partners the two men had lived together in a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan, with only Blanchard’s name on the lease. sHowever, three months after Blanchard died the landlord threatened Braschi with eviction because he was not a “surviving spouse of the deceased tenant or some other member of the deceased tenant’s family who has been living with the tenant.

As far as the landlord was concerned, Braschi was not Blanchard’s spouse nor a member of his family. He was therefore not legally entitled to remain in the apartment after Blanchard died. However, although none of the precedent cases had gone to appellate courts, the cases nonetheless showed a tendency to recognize committed same-sex relationships with deceased tenants were entitled to anti-eviction protection.

The job of ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] lawyer, Bill Rubenstein, was to show he appellate court that it was appropriate and necessary to define the meaning of family functionally by focussing on the extent of the emotional and financial interdependence of the parties rather than formalistically by focussing on whether the parties were linked through ties of marriage, blood, or adoption.

In the end the court did what Rubenstein had asked it to do by rejecting a definition of family that only looked to whether the individuals have “formalized their relationship by obtaining, for instance, a marriage certificate or an adoption order.”  Furthermore, it went on to say:

[T]he intended protection against sudden eviction should not rest on fictitious legal distinctions or genetic history, but instead should find its foundation in the reality of family life.

The impact: One of the beneficial things that the Braschi case achieved was that the highest court in New York provided considerable legitimacy to the claim the GLBT were as capable of forming loving and lasting familial ties as were straight people.

Marriage

Glenora Dancel and Nina Baehr were born in Honolulu in 1960. Some years later (1990), after discovering their sexual orientation as lesbians, they met, fell in love, and made a decision to get married. At almost the same time Baehr had to be rushed to the hospital regarding a serious infection, and because she had no health insurance Dancel later tried to add Baehr to her employer’s health insurance. That is when she learned that such a benefit was available only to the spouse and children of employee. She also tried to buy life insurance and name Baehr as beneficiary but was told the beneficiary could only be someone related to her be blood, marriage, or adoption. Nor was it possible for same-sex partners to register as domestic partners because domestic partners were not recognized under Hawaiian law. This meant, basically, that a serious illness could mean bankruptcy, and if either one of them was hospitalized the other could be denied the right to visit or to help make decisions about their treatment.

American laws criminalizing same-sex conduct goes back to colonial times, but it was only in the 1990s that some states started to prohibit the recognition of same-sex relationships as marital. Up until this time the courts had taken the position that thee plaintiffs were denied the opportunity to marry not because of their sex, but “because of the recognized definition of that relationship as one entered into only by persons who are members of the opposite sex.”

At issue:  Lawyers Evan Wolfson of Lambda, and Daniel Foley—a non-gay, ACLU advocate—saw the pursuit of marriage equality as the most effective way of changing the terms of debate over GLBT issues—i.e. putting the relationships and families of GLBT people front and centre, show there was just as much love and devotion there as with straight relationships.

The outcome: After the state court had rejected the initial lawsuit, the case was then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals (1992) by Wolfson and Foley, and as part of its reasoning the Court held that the plaintiff’s legal challenge had nothing to do with sexual orientation. In its opinion  that “homosexuality and same-sex marriages are not synonymous” because under the law of Hawaii a gay person could marry someone of thee opposite sex while a straight person could not marry someone of the same sex. This showed that they Hawaii’s marriage law classified individuals according to their sex and not their sexual orientation—something that was clearly wrong.

As mentioned above, these are just a sampling of the important milestones that have been achieved by courageous individuals willing to ‘stand-up and be seen’ for the good of the movement, and the very fine lawyers who gave of their talents in the pursuit of justice for all. It is a truly fascinating study, superbly researched, and remarkably readable in spite of being a complex topic.

 

See Journey to Big Sky by Gerry Burnie

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Gay Literature, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navajo, by Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnston

An entertaining and fascinatng tale of historical and socialogical significance

 

 

Publisher’s blurb: [Lethe Press, 2005] Twenty years after publishing his groundbreaking The Spirit and the Flesh, anthropologist Walter L. Williams breaks his silence and publishes another book on Native Americans by teaming up with award-winning writer Toby Johnson. Together they have produced a work of historical fiction that is striking in its evocation of Navajo philosophy and spirituality. Set in the Civil War era of the 1860s, this novel tells the story of a feckless Virginian who finds himself captivated by a Two-Spirit male highly respected among the Navajo. It is a story of tragedy, oppression, and discrimination, but also an enlightening story of love, discovery, and beauty. Two Spirits illuminates the truth of what the United States did to the largest indigenous people of this nation. Full of suspense, plot twists, and endearing romance, this novel will captivate readers.

Review by Gerry Burnie

This is a novel that admirably fits the category of ‘historical fiction’.

The history: Set in the rugged Territory of New Mexico in the 1860s, it tells the story of a tender love that blooms against a backdrop of shame, cruelty, corruption and death.

In 1864 twelve thousand Navajo (Diné) were forced to march from their homeland in Canyon de Chelly (now Nevada) to Bosque Redondo Reserve outside Fort Sumner; a distance of 325 miles in the dead of winter. More than three thousand individuals died en-route, and because the soil was so unfertile at the Reserve another quarter of the population may have died as a result of starvation.

This ill-fated scheme was the brainchild of General James Carlton, a so-called “Indian Fighter” who regarded the Navajo as “savages,” per se, and promptly set about embezzling money and supplies from them; making their existence even more precarious.

The fiction: William Lee is a young, idealistic and confused young man, who is literally cast out into the world after being caught by his fundamentalist father having exploratory sex with another youngster. Now disowned, he is assisted by a sympathetic member of the community and eventually sent to New Mexico as the apprentice to the Indian Agent at Bosque Redondo—more-or-less a banishment from the God-fearing, white society.

Unbeknownst to Washington or William Lee, the Indian Agent has ‘disappeared’ from his post, and Lee therefore becomes the acting Agent in his absence. Well aware of his inexperience, General Carlton sets about moulding his character by treating him like a novice clerk whose only function is to maintain the status quo of Carlton’s making.

Early in William’s experience he encounters a mysterious, but strikingly handsome ‘woman,’ named Hasbaá—in reality a Two Spirit, possessing both male and female spirits. Such individuals were considered a blessing sent by the Great Spirit, and possessed very powerful medicine for healing and other religious ceremonies. Of course William is unaware of any of this, and his confusion is only exacerbated when he discovers the Hasbaá has the body of a man. Nonetheless, Will and Hasbaá are drawn together, and the two of them eventually fall in love.

William then goes on to learn the ways of the Navajo, assisted by an old woman who acts as his interpreter, and at the same time he begins to learn about himself—ultimately accepting his homosexuality. His curiosity doesn’t end there, however, because he goes on to enquire into the discrepancies that are becoming apparent at the Fort—an inquiry fraught with intrigue and danger.

***

The question that always accompanies historical fiction, is: Is it history, or is it fiction? In fact the resolution between these two fundamentals is a very tricky business, indeed. The ideal, of course, is a more-or-less 50/50 split; provided the two are woven seamlessly into an integrated whole. Only then, in my opinion, has the writer achieved harmony.

If I have one criticism of this novel it is that the fiction does not always measure up to the history; seeming at times to almost be a contrivance to introduce a fact, etc. Moreover, the ‘old lady’ character who is charged with interpreting some very complex Navajo beliefs, while obviously needing to be wise, is far too articulate to be credible as a woman with no educational background.

Having said that I hasten to add the pluses far outweigh the negatives, and I therefore recommend Two Spirits: A Story of Life With The Navajo as an entertaining and fascinating tale of historical and sociological significance.

See an alphabetical list of titles and authors reviewed.

See a preview of Coming of Age on the Trail

July 4, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | 2 Comments

At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill

a powerful and yet tender coming-of-age tale that engages the reader with layers of emotion, from the pinnacle to the depths and back again.

 

 

Publisher’s blurb: Set in Dublin, At Swim, Two Boys follows the year to Easter 1916, the time of Ireland’s brave but fractured uprising against British rule. O’Neill tells the story of the love of two boys: Jim, a naive and reticent scholar and the younger son of the foolish aspiring shopkeeper Mr. Mack, and Doyler, the dark, rough-diamond son of Mr. Mack’s old army pal. Doyler might once have made a scholar like Jim, might once have had prospects like Jim, but his folks sent him to work, and now, schoolboy no more, he hauls the parish midden cart, with socialism and revolution and willful blasphemy stuffed under his cap.

And yet the future is rosy, Jim’s father is sure. His elder son is away fighting the Hun for God and the British Army, and he has such plans for Jim and their corner shop empire. But Mr. Mack cannot see that the landscape is changing, nor does he realize the depth of Jim’s burgeoning friendship with Doyler. Out at the Forty Foot, that great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the scandalous nude, the two boys meet day after day. There they make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, Easter 1916, they will swim the bay to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves.

Awards: Winner, Lambda Literary Award, 2002

About the Author (From Amazon.com): You may have read the hype. Irishman Jamie O’Neill was working as a London hospital porter when his 10-year labour of love, the 200,000-word manuscript of At Swim, Two Boys, written on a laptop during quiet patches at work, was suddenly snapped up for a hefty six-figure advance.

 

Review by Gerry Burnie

Shortly after I reviewed Gay Male Fiction Since Stonewall, I received a note from author Les Brookes suggesting I read At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill [Scribner, 2002]. I took him at his word, and I am ever so happy that I did. This is an epic tale (576 pages) that has been compared to such heavyweights as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and Flann O’Brien, and arguably so.

The setting is the village of Glasthule, near Dublin, Ireland, in the year 1915. Glasthule is a quintessential Irish village that O’Neill has populated with a cast of colourful characters: Jim Mack, the sixteen-year-old ingénue, unworldly to the point of being naïve; Doyler Doyle, similar in age but worldly in all the ways Jim isn’t, and a socialist-patriot; Mr. Mack, Jim’s father and an inveterate social-climber, both for himself and his son; Eveline MacMurrough, Glasthule’s local gentry and leading citizen; Anthony MacMurrough. Eveline’s nephew back in Ireland after his release from an English prison for ‘gross indecency’; Mr. Doyle, “Himself”, Doyler’s father and a veteran of the Boer War—which status he uses to illicit free drinks at the local pub; and the Catholic clergy-establishment represented by Brother Polycarp, a paedophilic conservative, and Curate Father O’Toiler, a devout, Irish nationalist.

Each of these characters is unique in some way, well-developed throughout, and each represents an element of traditional Irish society. Moreover, O’Neill has endowed them all—especially the poorer-classes—with a wonderfully quaint vernacular of Irish words and phrases; including Gaelic. He then goes on to surround these with an equally lyrical narrative that captures the lilt of the Irish language to a delightful degree.

At the beginning of the story Jim is a student at the Catholic college, a remarkable achievement for a lad of his modest, economic background, but it is only made possible by winning a scholarship. While this is a most credible accomplishment on Jim’s part, it also labels him a step below his wealthier classmates—a reflection of the classist-based stratification of Anglo-Irish society during this era. As a result Jim is somewhat of a loner; feeling neither at ease with his peers nor in his father’s pretentious, middleclass lifestyle. That is until he serendipitously encounters the rakish Doyler Doyle, a former childhood friend who has returned to Glasthule to assist his poverty-stricken mother and ailing father—i.e. “Himself.” Coming from the other side of the tracks, and employed as a “shit shoveller,” Doyler represents the lowest class of all on the economic scale; nevertheless he possesses a “what cheer, eh?” attitude, and a high level of fundamental honesty and principle—if one overlooks the occasional ‘sex-for-incentive’ activity.

Like a moth to a beacon, Jim is drawn to this outgoing, verbose, and also affectionate rascal, and together they find common ‘ground’ in swimming at “Forty Foot”; a promontory near Dublin, famous for nude bathing. Thus the two become dedicated to the swim such that they make a solemn pact to swim to Muglins Rock a year hence—Easter Sunday, 1916—as the pinnacle of their achievement and their growing friendship. Unwittingly, therefore, they have also laid the cornerstone of their romance, which will grow apace.

Here O’Neill has purposefully cut through the economic class structure of the day to find a more meaningful commonality to bind the two boys together, acceptably, while letting their romantic love develop almost imperceptibly at the same time. Interestingly, for a novel written in 2002, it is a classic assimilationist approach to gay fiction; i.e. an idealistic love between two males ‘unblemished’ by sex. The melancholy ending also reflects the unwritten, pre-Stonewall (1969) rule that covert or overt gay characters couldn’t be allowed an ‘happily-ever-after’ ending.

Representing the Irish Nationalist movement of the period, O’Neill has surprisingly assigned Eveline MacMurrough, and to some extent Curate Father O’Toiler—although his nationalism is firmly grounded in the interest of the Catholic Church as the national church. Ergo, the landscape of early 20th-century Ireland is painted in shades of conflict: conflict between the classes; conflict between Ireland and Britain; conflict between the Catholics and Protestants, and conflict between gays and the heterosexual establishment.

Jim and Doyler are also caught up in these conflicts regardless of their quite innocent and as yet unconsummated love. Jim’s bullying peers taunt him about his relationship with Doyler, Brother Polycart is darkly jealous of Doyler’s attention toward Jim, and Jim is torn between his religious belief and his growing sexual desire for Doyler—so much so that he ultimately experiences a nervous breakdown, and Doyler is driven away for being a socialist.

Rising above all this the two boys do eventually reach the apex of their love/relationship by swimming to Muglins Rock, where they finally consummate their love as well. However, having reached the pinnacle of their relationship there is no place but down when they are caught up in the ill-fated, 1916 Easter uprising.

This is a powerful and yet tender coming-of-age tale that engages the reader with layers of emotion, from the pinnacle to the depths and back again.

 

See Two Irish Lads by Gerry Burnie

 

June 27, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | 2 Comments

The Phoenix by Ruth Sims

A masterful piece of writing, credible and enjoyable from start to finish

 

 

At fourteen, Kit St. Denys brought down his abusive father with a knife. At twenty-one his theatrical genius brought down the house. At thirty, his past-and his forbidden love-nearly brought down the curtain for good. This is a compelling Victorian saga of two men whose love for each other transcends time and distance-and the society that considers it an abomination. Set in the last twenty years of the 19th century, The Phoenix is a multi-layered historical novel that illuminates poverty and child abuse, theatre history in America and England, betrayal, a crisis of conscience, violence and vengeance, and the treatment of insanity at a time when such treatment was in its infant stage. Most of all it is a tale of love on many levels, from carnal to devoted friendship to sacrifice

________________________________________

Review by Gerry Burnie

Ruth Sims’ The Phoenix (Lethe Press, 2009) is the first of her several novels I have read, but it definitely will not my last. My first impression was of the tasteful and relevant cover, beautifully designed by Ben Baldwin.  It is truly refreshing to see an M/M novel that isn’t adorned by a muscle-bound, headless torso or a bulging ‘basket.’

The above abbreviated summary will have to suffice as an overview of the story because otherwise it is so intricately constructed that to elaborate on any one part of it would be to risk giving away the plot. However, this doesn’t prevent describing certain aspects of it in a general fashion, i.e. characterization, setting and pace.

The novel opens in full flight with a running introduction to Jack Rourke, street urchin and pickpocket-thief, and his twenty-minutes-younger twin brother, Michael. The setting is the seamier side of London in 1882, effectively described as “…dingy shanties, tenements, gin shops, pubs and little shops with flyblown windows.” Nevertheless, Jack is clearly in charge as they go about putting together an ill-gotten purse to one day escape “him:” Their black-bearded, abusive and sadistic father, Tom Rourke. The mother—a secondary character—is also introduced from the wings as a battered wife who lacks the willpower to escape him; even by 19th-century standards.

Right from the get-go, therefore, the reader is transported back in time in the company of strong, juxtapositioned characters. Indeed, Jack’s character is such that he practically steps from the page as a tough, cocky and street-wise kid with a heart for his less-capable twin brother. Moreover, while we all recognize that he is an unapologetic thief, we still like him; and even more importantly we care for both of them and their collective welfare. That is the sign of a good story, masterfully conjured-up by the author with nothing more than ink on paper—and imagination, of course.

Quite a large cast of characters are introduced after them, both principal and secondary, but all of these have a definite place and purpose and are never gratuitous or cluttering as far as the story goes. Moreover, whether major of minor, they are all developed to be distinct in some way, and therefore add their various shades of colour to an overall palette.

The pacing, which includes the unfolding of events, ranks alongside characterization as one of the strong points of this novel. On the one hand it takes time to develop complex characters and settings like these, and the risk here is to slow the pace such that it becomes tedious. On the other, the introduction of various events, in an event-driven plot, poses the risk of leaping from one to another to maintain a connecting thread. Here, the author has achieved a happy compromise that remains consistent throughout.

Not to be overlooked is the amount of research required to reproduce Victorian England to a credible degree is quite considerable—especially for a gal from “…conservative, Republican, tiny-town Midwest USA” who, according to her biography has never seen a moor! Well, the test of the ‘credibility factor’ is that I as a reader certainly believed it.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy a serious literary effort with a sexy adult theme.

Visit Gerry Burnie Books

Read Part One of my second novel, Journey to Big Sky.  

March 10, 2010 Posted by | Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature | 1 Comment

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

A classic by an iconic master of observation, narrative skill, style, wit and humour

[Now a major motion picture by Tom Ford, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.] 

Review by Gerry Burnie. 

How do you go about reviewing Christopher Isherwood [“A Single Man,” Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1964, Vintage Classics, 2010] without the urge to genuflect at the beginning of each chapter? Answer: You don’t! It is somewhat similar to reviewing E.M. Forster, or perhaps Charles Dickens. To comment on Isherwood’s strengths as a writer would be presumptuous to say the least. His strengths lie in each word, times the number of words in a phrase, multiplied by the number of phrases in a paragraph, etc., etc. Besides, having been deceased since 1986 he is in no need of advice from a neophyte like me. Rather, about the most one can do, realistically, is to comment on what can be learned from this acknowledged master of observation, narrative skill, style, wit and humour. 

A Single Man,” considered by many to be his finest achievement, was a daring novel for 1964—the same decade that saw the homophobic ‘Stonewall Inn raid,’ in New York City, 1969. This story depicts George Falconer, a gay, middle-aged British college professor who has recently lost his longtime partner, Jim. It occurred as the result of a car accident while Jim was visiting his parents in Ohio, and to protect Jim’s image George declines an invitation to attend his lover’s funeral. Therefore, he is deprived of even this token closure. 

Left alone in the modest house that Jim and he shared, which is only accessible by crossing a sagging bridge, George now uses this ‘moat’ to defend his lifestyle against the Strunks and Garfeins; representing suburban family values. In this milieu ‘The Girls’ nurture their obstreperous brood according to the latest psychology book; the self-expressing kids run amok; the grown-ups hold weekend barbeques complete with “martoonies” beside the kidney-shaped pool, and the paunchy Mister Strunks can be heard muttering such things as, “I don’t give a damn what he does just as long as he stays away from me.” 

Consequently, overwhelmed by the surrounding common denominator, George is struggling to find meaning in his humdrum existence; a situation that Isherwood ingeniously captures with the opening line, casting George as an “it.” 

“That which has awoken then lies for a while staring up at the ceiling and down into itself until it has recognized I, and therefrom deduced I am, I am now. ‘Here’ comes next, and it is at least negatively reassuring, because here, this morning, is where it had expected to find itself;” [Quotation marks mine]. 

Without addressing the issue directly, therefore, Isherwood nevertheless draws the reader into the depths of despair plaguing his main character; i.e., the purposelessness of his existence. He then proceeds to transition George by way of a sterile freeway to the San Tomas State College campus—passing an equally septic senior-citizen’s complex along the way. Once on campus, however, George starts to feel a measure of regeneration, for suddenly his life regains a semblance of meaning; like an actor stepping outside of himself to assume the role of an alter ego. 

“He is all actor now; an actor on his way up from the dressing room, hastening through the backstage world of props and lamps and stagehands to make his entrance. A veteran, calm and assured, he pauses for a well-measured moment in the doorway of the office and then, boldly, clearly, with the subtly modulated British intonation which his public demands of him, speaks his opening line ‘Good morning!’” 

He also feels some semblance of power as he signs a student card, thus giving some faceless student a bona fide academic identity; for without it the student would cease to exist in the eyes of San Tomas State College; and worse still, in the eyes of the IBM gods that are just beginning to stir in the early 60s. 

Feeling thus re-invigorated he crosses the campus, coming across a tennis match in progress along the way. The sun has broken through the early morning smog, and the two boy-combatants are stripped nearly naked. They have nothing on their bodies but tennis shoes and tight-fitting shorts, the type that cyclists wear, moulding themselves to the buttocks and loins. One is Mexican, representing the growing ethnic challenge to the bastions of Caucasian middle-class establishment, and the other, representing the latter, is blond and beautiful but no match for the darkly handsome, aggressive and cat-like Hispanic. Therefore they are a metaphor, and George observes that the blond boy has accepted the rules and will suffer defeat and humiliation rather than break them. He will also fight clean with an almost un-modern-like chivalry until the game and the cause for which he stands are both lost. Nevertheless, from George’s perspective there is a more immediate and personal outcome: 

“The game is cruel; but its cruelty is sensual and stirs George into hot excitement. He feels a thrill of pleasure to find the senses so eager in their response; too often now, they seem sadly jaded. From his heart, he thanks these young animals for their beauty. And they will never know what they have done to make this moment marvellous to him, and life less hateful … 

George then resumes his role as a college professor, boldly making his dramatic entrance into the classroom where he is now front-stage-centre. It is a role that he is expected to play, and one that he acquits with subtle mastery; lecturing, scolding, amusing and hopefully imparting as well. From his place in the limelight the majority of students are merely an amorphous blur of faces; however, certain students—a handful—stand out as individuals: Kenny Potter being one of them. Potter sits in the front row because he tends to do the opposite of what most people do. George finds himself constantly aware of Kenny, and Kenny seems aware of George as well, but since Kenny also has a steady girlfriend George puts no more significance on it than that. 

Feeling fortified by this up-lift, he next makes a stop at the hospital. He has gone there to see Doris; a former femme-fatale who, like her kind, once thought nothing of openly raiding a gay partnership because “They can’t really be serious …” or “All they really need is a good woman in their mixed-up lives,” and Jim in his insecurity had succumbed to her wiles. 

“I am Doris. I am Woman. I am Bitch-Mother Nature. The Church and the Law and the State support me. I claim my biological rights. I demand Jim.” 

Now this yellow, shrivelled manikin with its sticks of arms and legs was all that was left of her, and George could let it go. Therefore, he quietly affirms his state of being: I am alive, he says, I am alive! His tough, triumphal body had outlived Jim and was going to outlive Doris, too; moreover, it felt good to be alive to dream about dark-eyed, Hispanic seducers and golden-haired Adonises. 

In the same celebratory spirit he decides that he doesn’t want to eat alone that night. He therefore calls the remaining person in this world who still cares; his boozy best friend, Charlotte—“Charley.” At one time they had had a brief affair, and although other relationships had intervened on both sides they had remained friends. Like Woman, however, Charlotte still harboured hopes that they might one day pick up where they had left off. Nevertheless George was used to this by now, and in spite of having to diplomatically manoeuvre around compromising situations he was able to enjoy their times together. The booze helped, of course, and George was feeling no pain by the time he finally left for home. 

Still on a high he decides to by-pass the house to visit a nearby bar on the ocean front; the very bar where he had met Jim looking gorgeous in his WWII sailor’s uniform. It was a neighbourhood hide-away with a long history of make-outs to its credit—mostly of the heterosexual variety, but tonight there is solitary young man sitting quietly at the bar. It isnone other than Kenny Potter, a surprisingly long way from his own neighbourhood on the other side of town. Surprised, George makes contact, and the two of them proceed to get drunk—Kenneth fairly, and George very. In the course of doing so it has now been revealed that Kenny’s choice of this bar was no coincidence; that, in fact, he has made quite a study of George’s haunts and habits, and in response to the question of how he managed to get there he readily admits that his girlfriend drove him. 

George can almost feel the electric field surrounding them. More than anything he wants Kenny to understand it, too; to know what this dialogue is all about. So there they sit smiling at one another, or more like ‘beaming,’ and suddenly the suggestion of a skinny dip is raised—by Kenneth. Ever ready to accept a dare, especially from a radiant, younger man, George agrees through an alcoholic haze. Challenge given and challenge accepted, Kenneth suddenly becomes master of the situation, his physical size dictating the logic of it, and when it appears that George is floundering Kenneth insists that he take George home to recoup. 

It has therefore become quite obviously that this is a flirtation, but George cannot bring himself to say the words of outright seduction; not to one of his students. The rules forbid it, and like the blond Adonis George must play by the rules. Moreover, his years of avoidance have made the idea somewhat of a taboo. Nevertheless he finally passes out, and wakes up in bed mysteriously dressed in his pyjamas. Meanwhile Kenneth has taken off, but his note provocatively suggests that they might have shared an intimate moment together: or is it just a tease? 

“If those cops pick me up, I won’t tell them where I’ve been … I promise!  “This was great, this evening. Let’s do it again, shall we? Or don’t you believe in repeating things?” 

George’s rejuvenation is now complete. However, at this point I will leave it up to the reader to discover how the story ends. Suffice it to say that it is as abstract and as real as the opening line. In other words, it is typically Isherwood! 

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

The Early Journals of Will Barnett – Ronald L Donaghe

A touching coming out story

Story outline: From the time Will Barnett was fourteen until he entered college, the one constant in his life was writing in a journal, first about his Uncle Sean and the feelings he had for him, then his love affair with Lance, a violet-eyed boy he met on a windswept ledge in the desert of southwestern New Mexico. The Early Journals of Will Barnett, consisting of Uncle Sean, Lance, and All Over Him is now collected into one volume. 

 

About the author: Ronald L. Donaghe is a native of the desert Southwest, and he uses this mystical, wide-open place where the sky meets the universe, for the setting of many of his novels. He has published almost a dozen books in three fiction series, including the first book in a fantasy series known as “The Twilight of the Gods.” He is the editor of the online book review magazine, The Independent Gay Writer.

_________________________

Review by Gerry Burnie

“The Early Journals of Will Barnett” by the prolific pen of Ronald L. Donaghe (Two Brothers Press, 2004) is a series of three stories under one cover; therefore, I will review each one in the order that they are presented. However, over all, it is a compelling story about a naïve teenager growing up in a remote part of New Mexico, and the sometimes painful evolution he undergoes from the time he first discovers his burgeoning physical attraction to his “pretty” Uncle Sean, until his eventual maturity–both sexually and as a man.

Therefore, the reader is drawn into the story at a very early stage–appropriately told in Will’s `transcribed’ words, and is then swept along as Will moves from one stage of his development to another.

These developments the author unfolds with insight and understanding, as well as some unexpected twists along the way.

“Uncle Sean”

This is the first of Will Barnett’s journals, and the author has cleverly opened it with a credible (…or perhaps true) account of how he found these `scribblings’ in a derelict barn. Donaghe then takes on the voice of a unsophisticated, fourteen-year-old farm boy, to relate his awe and wonderment regarding his somewhat older uncle, Sean–recently returned from active duty in Vietnam.

Thereafter, Will’s fascination deepens as he tries to fathom this exceptionally handsome, but otherwise complex and troubled man, and his confused feelings toward him. In this regard, the author has awakened within all of us that wonderment over an older boy next door, or down the street, or perhaps a relative when we were Will’s age–I know it resonated with me.

“Lance” (The second in the series)

At the opening of this particular novel, the author conjures up a meeting with the real(?) Will Barnett–now in his early forties. This meeting auspiciously provides the material for this and the concluding novel as well.

Now, somewhat aware of his sexuality, Will encounters a boy his own age with a deeply troubled background. Lance is an abused youth with an abusive stepfather and condescending mother. Therefore, Will and Lance form a bond against the abuses of the world, and this bond gradually deepens into an abiding love

This is a recurring theme in the four Ronald L. Donaghe novels I have read to date, and I commend him for that. An author’s job is not just to tell a story. It sometimes involves holding up a mirror to society with a carefully crafted message attached. In this regard Ronald L. Donaghe has done both. He has not only vividly described the shortcomings readily apparent in our society, i.e., bigotry, intolerance, religious fundamentalism, bullying, child abuse, etc., but he has also dramatized the harm these intolerances cause to innocent youths already struggling to understand their own complex sexuality.

“All over him”

At the opening of this novel, Will and Lance have temporarily separated in order to attend different universities–Lance in San Francisco, and Will in Austin, Texas, to live with his Uncle Sean as well. It is a poignant separation, but they both vow to remain faithful for the two years that it will take Lance to graduate. Of course, the question is: Will they be able to honour their vows in spite of overwhelming temptation?

For obvious reasons I’m not going to answer that question, except to say that this is the final stage in Will’s evolution from boy to man.

Once again the author has captured the experience of every farm boy who migrates from farm to the big city with rmarkable credibility. Five Stars. 

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January 26, 2010 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Literature, Gay romance | 2 Comments

Queer Cowboys – Chris Pickard

Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan (2006) 

Three 1/2 stars

Outline: “Brokeback Mountain” exploded the myth of the American cowboy as a tough, gruff, and grizzled loner. “Queer Cowboys” exposes, through books by legendary Western writers such as Mark Twain, James Fenimore Cooper, and Owen Wister, how same-sex intimacy and homoerotic admiration were key aspects of Westerns well before “Brokeback’s” 1960’s West, and well before the word “homosexual” was even invented. Chris Packard introduces readers to the males-only clubs of journalists, cowboys, miners, Indians, and vaqueros who defined themselves by excluding women and the cloying ills of domesticity and recovers a forgotten culture of exclusively masculine, sometimes erotic, and often intimate camaraderie in the fiction, photographs, and theatrical performances of the 1800’s Wild West.

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An interesting and informative anthology 

Review by Gerry Burnie 

While my usual genre is historical fiction, I am always on the lookout for research of a historical variety. Therefore, although it has been around for a while, “Queer Cowboys: And other erotic male friendships in nineteenth-century American literature” by Chris Packard (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) is one such work. 

The stated objective of this thesis is to explore the “bonds that hold … [same-sex partners, i.e. ‘sidekicks’] together, particularly the erotic affection that undergirds their friendship.” To do this it painstakingly explores the “originary” texts of seminal, nineteenth-century writers who, individually and collectively, created the prevailing stereotype of the devoted same-sex partners. Moreover, the author undertakes to “teach readers how to recognize homoerotic affection in a historical discourse that was free from the derogatory meanings associated with post-1900 evaluations of male-male erotic friendships”—a not overly presumptuous ambition, given that Packard teaches literature and writing at New York University and New School University. 

 Okay, I am one such hypothetical reader, so let’s see how well Professor Packard achieved his objectives. 

At the risk of oversimplifying Packard’s thesis, it starts with an underlying premise that before 1900—i.e. before “the modern invention of the ‘homosexual’ as a social pariah”—cowboy relationships were freely represented as quite a bit more affectionate than they are after that date. Moreover, although the stereotypes generally depicted ethnic warfare; citing the threat of “savagery” as justification for ethnic slaughter, and the freeing-up of territory to make way for European homesteaders, writers like James Fennimore Cooper wrote about friendships, “even marriage rituals,” between members of warring groups based on shared values. In addition friendships between young whites and natives were quite common. These mixed friendships usually had the natives tutoring the boys in the primitive ways of the wilderness, and included rituals of brotherhood, i.e. exchanging blood, and other physical, nuptial-like rites. 

Notably absent from this literary same-sex scenario is any role for femininity, which is described by one quoted authority, Walter Benn Michaels, as “…the problem of heterosexuality.”  The ‘problem’ being the threat of reproduction in a period when fear of mixed-ethnicity through sex or marriage was keen in American culture. Moreover, femininity and reproduction ran contrary to the strong, independent, and particularly ‘free’ nature of the cowboy characters. 

“Within canonical as well as ignored literature, high culture as well as low, homoerotic intimacy is not only present, but it is thematic in works produced before the modern want him to be queer. America’s official emblem of masculinity is not one who settles down after he conquests … rather, he moves on, perpetually conquering, and repeatedly affirming his ties to the wilderness and his male partner.” 

Having thus stated his hypotheses, Packard then goes on to support these with an anthology of mostly “canonical” writings—i.e. Cooper’s “The Leatherstocking Tales,” Owen Wister’s “The Virginian,” and Walt Whitman’s poetry.  He also introduces some lesser known examples, such as Claude Hartland’s “The Story of a Life,” Frank Harris’s “My Reminiscences as a Cowboy,” and Frederick Loring’s “Two College Friends.” 

While circumstantial, when read from a homoerotic perspective Packard makes a very compelling case, over all.  There are no ‘smoking-gun’ examples, of course, because such blatancies would have been considered excessive by Eastern readers—meaning east of the Mississippi, but it is evident that the implication was there just below the surface. Consequently, he has also taught us how to recognize homoerotic affection in “historic discourse.” 

To get to that level of edification, however, the reader has had to wade through an Introduction that I found to be a jumble of complex ideas, confusingly presented and fraught with academic jargon—i.e. “nexus,” “praxis,” “lingua franca,” and so forth. A case on point: 

Given the instant and undying popularity of cowboys in U.S. popular culture during a period of rapid national expansion, to identify a homoerotic core in its myth about the supremacy of white American masculinity is to imply that American audiences want their frontiersmen to practice nonnormative desires as part of their roles in nation building. In other words, if there is something national about the cowboy (and other frontier heroes of his ilk), and if there is something homoerotic about American national identity as it is conceived in the American West.” 

Perhaps I am a bit slow on the uptake, but I didn’t find the “In other words” any more elucidating than the original statement. 

Happily, once he launches into the body of the argument his tone becomes somewhat less esoteric, and apart from belabouring some points—giving a new dimension to the term ‘moot point’—he presents a very interesting and informative perspective on nineteenth-century thought. 

Those looking for titillating erotica, however, are bound to be disappointed but well-informed after reading this work.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Gay Literature | 11 Comments

   

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