Gerry B's Book Reviews

Clockwork Romance by Skye Dragen

  A bemusing story.

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clockmaker

Clockmaker by day and thief by night, Arthur Winfield is used to charming his way into the homes and pocket books of London’s wealthiest patrons. He robs the rich to fund projects designed to help those in need and uses the nobility of his goal as an excuse for the continuation of his thieving. Little does he know that his latest mark may well be his last.
Lord Percival Brien’s wealth has acquired him a reputation for being one of the richest men in London. Solicited to ferret out the thief who robbed his uncle, he walks into Arthur’s shop with one purpose: divining whether or not the man he is looking for is the pretty-faced clockmaker in front of him. As he builds a friendship with Arthur, he may find that their tastes run to more intimate tracks than steam trolleys and airships.

817 kb, 47 pages.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

What in hell is ’streampunk?’

Anyway, whatever it is, Clockwork Romance by Skye Dragen [Starving Artists Ink; 2 edition, May 10, 2015] apparently is an example.

Not being conversant ith these trendy labels, and even less of an adherent, I simply found it a short read – which suited my hectic schedule this week – and reasonably creative.

Arthur Winfield is a clever clockmaker, which talent he uses to bemuse wealthy patrons sometime in the 19th century. Once inside their defences, he then pilfers a bauble or two for the benefit of the poor (a sort of Edwardian Robin Hood.)

Meanwhile, along comes Lord Percival Brien, an amateur sleuth, who is on the trail of a thief who robbed his uncle. Needless to say, Arthur and Lord Percival develop an attraction for one another, but the stumbling block is set in place when Arthur’s sideline is revealed. The story then becomes one of finding a compromise that the two men can live happily ever after with.

It is a bemusing little story. The writing is smooth, and the clockmaker’s trade is one that hasn’t been used before in my experience. Four bees.

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May 25, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Harry’s Great Trek (The Empire Series #3) by Roger Kean

A history lesson in novel form … And a great read…

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To order, click on the above cover.

To order, click on the above cover.

What do you do when the person you have loved in secret since your schooldays finds happiness with another, leaving your heart bereft and your future a bleak, lonely prospect?

For Harry Smythe-Vane, junior officer serving in the British army at the end of the failed campaign to rescue Gordon of Khartoum from the Mahdist siege of 1885, finding childhood friends Richard and Edward united in love spells the end of a dream he knows was doomed from the start—more so, a dream condemned by society at large: the love of two men for each other.

Harry must now pluck up the courage to pursue an uncertain quest for an elusive new soulmate—his great trek to attain fulfillment.

From dangerous missions on India’s wild North-West Frontier to the deserts of Sudan, Harry forges a career and experiences fleeting friendships, but when a spell of leave takes him to London his heart is struck. He meets his almost-forgotten godson Jolyon Langrish-Smith, a troubled teenager in Oscar Wilde’s louche circle. It’s an encounter that pitches Harry headlong on a turbulent journey of emotional involvement, of hurt and joy.

Painting a vivid panorama of the British Empire at its height, with its multi-faceted but rigid society hovering on the brink of change, Harry’s Great Trek is an epic saga of love and war—alive with an engaging cast of the humble and the famous, the honorable and the scoundrels—which climaxes in 1900 amid the carnage of the Boer War. There Harry’s future is decided as one quest ends and a new journey begins…

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the most grievously overlooked genres in GBLT fiction is ‘the gay adventure story’. That is not to say there are none. There are – and good ones, too – but they are few and far between.

One of the best writers in this genre is Roger Kean, and his latest offering Harry’s Great Trek (The Empire Series #3) [Reckless Books, February 1st 2015] is proof positive of this estimation.

His Empire Series has taken us through the hot spots of Imperial Britain’s golden age of domination and plunder (always for ‘their’ own good, of course.) Nevertheless, it remains one of my favourite eras for an overall commitment to ‘God and Empire’. It is probably the last example of a people willingly committed to a state that was ‘politely’ corrupt and exploitive, through-and through.

The blurb provides as good a synopsis of the story as I could write; therefore, I will contain my comments to some of the highlights as I see them.

First of all, I like the cover art and design by Oliver Frey. It has a rugged, masculine look about it that suits this type of novel. With a few notable eceptions, adventure novels tend to be written by male authors, and so anything less rugged wouldn’t have met my expectations.

I also love Kean’s choice of names, i.e. Harry Smythe-Vane, and Jolyon Langrish-Smith. How delicious zany! I have often observed that authors don’t give enough attention to names – especially historical names – but these certainly do add a ‘stuffiness’ to the era that fits.

The introduction of certain celebrities of the day – especially young Winston Churchill – added a whole new dimension to the already interesting historical events. There are also some who also say that Baden-Powell had an interest in boys beyond scouting, and so these characters can add wonderful fodder to a story.

The writing is, of course, top notch (if, perhaps, a bit over-expansive), and so I am going to award this novel with a five-bee rating.

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March 23, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Afghanistan, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Academician (Southern Swallow #1) by Edward C. Patterson

A credible plunge backward in time to an intriguing realm –

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Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

“A bigger fool the world has never known than I – a coarse fellow with no business to clutch a brush and scribble. I only know the scrawl, because my master took pleasure in teaching me between my chores. Not many men are so cursed . . .” Thus begins the tale of Li K’ai-men as told by his faithful, but mischievous servant, K’u Ko-ling – a tale of 12th Century China, where state service meant a life long journey across a landscape of turmoil and bliss. A tale of sacrifice, love, war and duty – a fragile balance between rituals and passions. Here begins the legacy of the Jade Owl and its custodian as he holds true to his warrants. The Academician is the first of four books in the Southern Swallow series, capturing the turbulence of the Sung Dynasty in transition. Spanning the silvery days under the Emperor Hui to the disasters that followed, The Academician is a slice of world events that should never have been forgotten.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I am always in the search of a unique story, that is a story or setting that is off the beaten path, and The Academician (Southern Swallow #1) by Edward C. Patterson has both.

Set in 12th century China, which in itself is unique enough, The Academician is also chock full of unique characters who, in their variety, resemble a Chinois tapestry of the same period.

The story of Li K’ai-men begins as a brilliant student, top of his class, who is challenged by his renowned master, Han Lin, to fulfill a number of missions. This he does successfully, and as a result he is elevated to the position of superintendent of Su Chou. Again, he proves his metal by restoring this neglected province to its former prosperity, which in turn catches the attention of the emperor himself. Li then finds himself tutor to the emperor’s son and prince of the realm.

Of course, the history of Imperial China is fraught with wars and political unrest, and in the midst of this Li K’ai-men must protect his young protégé, the prince, and also the secrets surround the legendary Jade Owl relics.

Told from the point of view of K’u Ko-ling, Li’s faithful servant, this is a credible plunge backward in time to encompass 12th-century China with remarkable detail.

The writing is first rate, of course, but what really stands out for me is the strong character development that captures the essence of the time.

Highly recommended. Five bees.

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February 16, 2015 Posted by | China, Fiction, fiction/autobiographical, Gay fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher

Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London.

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pretty gentleman - coverErotic sketches, a blackmail letter, a closeted aristocrat, his ambitious lover, and a sacrificial murder. Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London. George Rowlands, an aspiring young painter meets the charismatic Sir Henry Wallace who invites him to draw his sculpture collection and his handsome valet Gregorio Franchese. Patronised by Wallace to study at the Royal Academy, George is befriended by the aloof John McCarther, assistant to the eccentric Gothic painter, Henry Fuseli. Meanwhile, Lady Arabella Wallace becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband’s enthusiasm for his new protégé. When a male brothel, the White Swan, is exposed, Henry Wallace receives a letter of extortion in George’s handwriting. After Gregorio Franchese is found murdered, George is suspected when erotic drawings of Gregorio are discovered in his possession. Will he face the gallows? Or will self-sacrifice and truth save his fate?

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The era is Regency England, 1810, and a young painter awaits his fate for the alleged murder of Gregorio Franchese, valet to aristocrat Sir Henry Wallace. Yes, The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher [Max Fincher, March 8, 2013], is chalk full of intrigue; the way a good Regency novel should be.

While he prepares for his demise, he reflects back on how it began: when, as a youth, he had been indulging in his favourite pastime of sketching, when he happened to capture the attention of the charismatic Sir Henry Wallace. How proud he had been when the nobleman invited him to sketch his sculptures, as well as his handsome valet, Franchese.

From there, Rowland is sent off to study at the Royal Academy about the same time as the relationship between him and Sir Henry bursts into a full and furtive affair – beyond the eyes of Lady Wallace, who, in spite of this, is becoming increasingly suspicious of its nature.

Things are brought to a head when Franchese is found dead, and a number of erotic drawings of him are found in Rowland’s possession. Rowland professes his innocence, of course, and quite legitimately, but to go beyond this would irrevocably compromise his lover’s reputation.

The resolution of this dilemma brings about the climax of the story in quite a satisfactory manner.

It is a captivating plot, and reasonably well written – if you overlook the editing issues. It doesn’t bode well for a story when there is a spelling error within the first three or four pages. However, these are to an extent offset by some beautifully descriptive passages of the grotty and quaint sides of Regency England, as well as the manners and mannerisms that prevailed. Three and one-half bees.

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January 26, 2015 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Lover’s Knot by Donald Hardy

A masterfully crafted and delivered story.

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

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

Story blurb: Jonathan Williams has inherited Trevaglan Farm from a distant relative. With his best friend, Alayne, in tow, Jonathan returns to the estate to take possession, meet the current staff, and generally learn what it’s like to live as the landed gentry now. He’d only been there once before, fourteen years earlier. But that was a different time, he’s a different person now, determined to put that experience out of his mind and his heart….The locals agree that Jonathan is indeed different from the lost young man he was that long ago summer, when he arrived at the farm for a stay after his mother died. Back then the hot summer days were filled with sunshine, the nearby ocean, and a new friend, Nat. Jonathan and the farmhand had quickly grown close, Jonathan needing comfort in the wake of his grief, and Nat basking in the peace and love he didn’t have at home.

But that was also a summer of rumors and strange happenings in the surrounding countryside, romantic triangles and wronged lovers. Tempers would flare like a summer lightning storm, and ebb just as quickly. By the summer’s end, one young man was dead, and another haunted for life.

Now Jonathan is determined to start anew. Until he starts seeing the ghost of his former friend everywhere he looks. Until mementos of that summer idyll reappear. Until Alayne’s life is in danger. Until the town’s resident witch tells Jonathan that ghosts are real. And this one is tied to Jonathan unto death.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have a special place in my reader’s heart for an English country novel set in a small, rural town, with history dripping from every greensward. Somehow they are made for one another. So, when I read the lead-up to Lover’s Knot by Donald Hardy [Running Press, December 22nd 2009], I was hooked.

Donald Hardy’s bio (… no relation to the ‘Hardy Boys’) says he lives in California, but his writing style (particularly in his description of Cornwall’s ancient countryside) is British to a ‘T’.

The characters are well developed and credible, as well, from the reasonably well-adjusted Jonathon to the troubled Nat, his shrewish girlfriend, Rose, and Jonathon’s faithful (and ever-so-patient) friend, Langsford-Knight.

Briefly, Jonathon is sent to spend a summer at a cousin’s farm where he encounters Nat, a young farmhand. Being of more-or-less similar ages, a friendship if struck that grows more intimate until it culminates in sex. However, Nat is already involved with a harpy girlfriend who is a study in shrewishness, and as things deteriorate Nat is written out of the story by falling off a cliff.

Fourteen years later, Jonathon returns to Trevaglan Farm as owner, with Langsford-Knight for company. During the interim, Jonathon and Langsford have maintained a friendship that all but verges on romance. Albeit, neither have had the nerve to say so, or take it to the next step.

Once at the farm, however, strange things begin happening to Langsford until it appears his life might be in danger. This leads to the ferreting out the sinister mystery that ultimately resolves the story.

From personal experience, I can say that juggling a supernatural element with more conventional aspects of a story is no mean fete, and so I give Mr. Hardy for a job well done. Four and on-half bees.

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November 17, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Dominus, by JP Kenwood

A lusty romp through Ancient Rome.

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dominus -coverIn AD 107, after a grueling campaign against Rome’s fierce enemy, the kingdom of Dacia, Gaius Fabius returns home in triumph. With the bloody battles over, the commander of the Lucky IV Legion now craves life’s simple pleasures: leisurely soaks in fragrant baths, over-flowing cups of wine, and a long holiday at his seaside villa to savor his pleasure slaves. On a whim, he purchases a spirited young Dacian captive and unwittingly sparks a fresh outbreak of the Dacian war; an intimate struggle between two sworn enemies with love and honor at stake.

Allerix survived the wars against Rome, but now he is a slave rather than a victor. Worse, the handsome general who led the destruction of his people now commands his body. When escape appears impossible, Alle struggles to find a way to preserve his dignity and exact vengeance upon the savage Romans. Revenge will be his, that is, if he doesn’t lose his heart to his lusty Roman master.

Dominus is a plot-packed erotic fantasy that transports readers back to ancient Rome during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. This is the first book in an alternate history series—a tumultuous journey filled with forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception and murder.

Front cover design: Fiona Fu

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the genres I enjoy now and then is a well-written recounting of Ancient Roman society. By all reports they were lusty, hedonistic society, and over-the-top in just about everything they did. That’s one thing that drew me to Dominus by JP Kenwood [JPK Publishing , April 21, 2014] – That and the beautifully illustrated cover.

There is some quite clever writing here, and some not.

I like the opening business, whereby a group of modern archaeologists discover an anomaly during an Italian dig, and pursuing it they then find a full mystery – two undisturbed skeletons and a dagger.

Now, to me a modern-day find is only half the story. The larger part of it is the ‘who,’ ‘when,’ and ‘why?’ So an opening of this kind is bound to grab people’s interest.

Dacia map cf. Ptolemy (2nd century AD)

Dacia map cf. Ptolemy (2nd century AD)

The story then flashes back to 107 AD with an introduction to Dominus (keeper of the pleasure slaves of Gaius Fabius Rufus) and Maximus (a former pleasure slave, but now a freedman), and of course, Gaius himself (celebrated conqueror of Dracia – a branch of Thracians north of the Haemus range, later Romania.)

The next nice bit of business is the purchase by Gaius Fabius of Allerix, a Dracian slave. One could almost see where this was going, but the tension created by pitting enemies together in one bed is well worth it. Moreover, it is a builder that works right up to the climax (…of the story).

I also admired how she worked the settings and juggled a large cast of characters without losing their identities. All very nicely done.

On the other hand, the gratuitous use of expletives – particular since they were mostly of modern derivation – detracted from the credibility of time and setting. Likewise, there were several other examples of modern terminology that just didn’t belong in the 1st century AD.

I got lost a couple of times as well, where I had to turn back and find out who was speaking. Now granted, I speed read. I must to get all the novels in that I choose to review, but since others have mentioned this same point, I am not alone in pointed it out.

A good effort, and shortcomings aside this has a good story line and interesting characters. Three and one-half bees.

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October 13, 2014 Posted by | Ancient Rome, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, M/M adventure, Male bisexual | Leave a comment

The Medici Boy, by by John L’Heureux

Love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue — Just the way a 15th century novel should read.

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

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

Story blurb: The worlds of art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s masterful new novel, The Medici Boy. With rich composition, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant. While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to Agnolo’s brutal murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save the life of Donatello, even if it means the life of the master sculptor’s friend and great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici.

About the author: John L’Heureux has served on both sides of the writing desk: as staff editor and contributing editor for The Atlantic and as the author of sixteen books of poetry and fiction. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have frequently been anthologized in Best American Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. His experiences as editor and writer inform and direct his teaching of writing. Since 1973, he has taught fiction writing, the short story, and dramatic literature at Stanford. In 1981, he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and again in 1998. His recent publications include a collection of stories, Comedians, and the novels, The Handmaid of Desire (1996), Having Everything (1999), and The Miracle (2002).

 

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When I think of 15th century Italy and the Medicis, I think of people dressed in cloaks, skulking about on nefarious errands, as well as Roman-nosed clergy and medieval nobility indulging themselves on sumptuous living, intrigue and lust. Happily, John L’Heureux captures all this in his latest book, Medici Boy [Astor + Blue Editions, LLC.; 1 edition, April 7, 2014].

Donatello's "David and Goliath" located in the  Bargello, Florence.

Donatello’s “David and Goliath” located in the Bargello, Florence.

It is told from the point of view of Luca Mettei, Donato Donatello’s fictional assistant. Most everyone will recognize that Donatello (c. 1386 – December 13, 1466) was the Florentine sculptor who created, among other masterpieces, the first free-standing nude sculpture since the Classical Greek era—the beautiful and enigmatic David and Goliath.

What makes the story intriguing is that L’Heureux has went behind the bronze to give it a personality; that of the radiantly beautiful and nymph-like model, Agnolo. Indeed, when you compare L’Heureux’s creation to the perceived personality of the statue, the similarity is remarkable. There is the same Narcissistic and self-centred beauty that could very well attract the unwary to their doom, and in this case, Agnolo himself..

Other notable characters add a measure of intrigue, as well. For example, Cosimo de Medici, the inspiration for Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, was banker to the Vatican, enormously wealthy, a political manipulator extraordinaire, and patron of the arts. It was he who commissioned Donatello’s David for his garden.

Beside all this cloak-and-dagger intrigue, honour and loyalty also exist—as in Mattei’s loyalty to his master, Donatello. In this story Mattei is heterosexual, but in an age where the lines were sometimes blurred, on can image an affectionate love (at least) between the two.

Indeed, it has all the ingredients of a Florentine caper, i.e. love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue. Four and one-half stars.

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July 7, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Medieval prtiof, Historical period | Leave a comment

River of the Brokenhearted, by David Adams Richards

A dynastic novel as Canadian as maple syrup…

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Click to purchase at Barnes and Noble. Also available in Kindle format.

Click to purchase at Barnes and Noble. Also available in Kindle format.

(Non-GBLT)

Publisher’s Story blurb: In the 1920s, Janie McLeary and George King run one of the first movie theatres in the Maritimes. The marriage of the young Irish Catholic woman to an older English man is thought scandalous, but they work happily together, playing music to accompany the films. When George succumbs to illness and dies, leaving Janie with one young child and another on the way, the unscrupulous Joey Elias tries to take over the business. But Janie guards the theatre with a shotgun, and still in mourning, re-opens it herself. “If there was no real bliss in Janie’s life,” recounts her grandson, “there were moments of triumph.”

One night, deceived by the bank manager and Elias into believing she will lose her mortgage, Janie resolves to go and ask for money from the Catholic houses. Elias has sent out men to stop her, so she leaps out the back window and with a broken rib she swims in the dark across the icy Miramichi River, doubting her own sanity. Yet, seeing these people swayed into immoral actions because of their desire to please others and their fear of being outcast, she thinks to herself that “…all her life she had been forced to act in a way uncommon with others… Was sanity doing what they did? And if it was, was it moral or justified to be sane?”

Astonishingly, she finds herself face to face that night with influential Lord Beaverbrook, who sees in her tremendous character and saves her business. Not only does she survive, she prospers; she becomes wealthy, but ostracized. Even her own father helps Elias plot against her. Yet Janie McLeary King thwarts them and brings first-run talking pictures to the town.

Meanwhile, she employs Rebecca from the rival Druken family to look after her children. Jealous, and a protégé of Elias, Rebecca mistreats her young charges. The boy Miles longs to be a performer, but Rebecca convinces him he is hated, and he inherits his mother’s enemies. The only person who truly loves her, he is kept under his mother’s influence until, eventually, he takes a job as the theatre’s projectionist. He drinks heavily all his life, tends his flowers, and talks of things no-one believes, until the mystery at the heart of the novel finally unravels.

“At six I began to realize that my father was somewhat different,” says Miles King’s son Wendell, who narrates the saga in an attempt to find answers in the past and understand “how I was damned.” It is a many-layered epic of rivalries, misunderstandings, rumours; the abuse of power, what weak people will do for love, and the true power of doing right; of a pioneer and her legacy in the lives of her son and grandchildren.

About the author: David Adams Richards (born 17 October 1950) is a Canadian novelist, essayist, screenwriter and poet.

Born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, Richards left St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, one course shy of completing a B.A. Richards has been a writer-in-residence at various universities and colleges across Canada, including the University of New Brunswick.

Richards has received numerous awards including 2 Gemini Awards for scriptwriting for Small Gifts and “For Those Who Hunt The Wounded Down”, the Alden Nowlan Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Canadian Authors Association Award for his novel Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace. Richards is one of only three writers to have won in both the fiction and non-fiction categories of the Governor General’s Award. He won the 1988 fiction award for Nights Below Station Street and the 1998 non-fiction award for Lines on the Water: A Fisherman’s Life on the Miramichi. He was also a co-winner of the 2000 Giller Prize for Mercy Among the Children.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

The present day City of Miramichi, on the river from which it derives its name.

The present day City of Miramichi, on the river from which it derives its name.

I must admit that I have been working on this novel, River of the Brokenhearted by David Adams Richards [Arcade Publishing, January 12, 2012] (450 pags.) for a while, but like a glass of mellow wine it never suffered from age.

The people of Canada’s maritime region are great story tellers, as witness Alistair MacLeod, Linden MacIntyre, and now David Adams Richards, the latter two being both Giller Prize winters. Part of this remarkable ability may come the maritime provinces themselves, which, like most seafaring cultures, seem to have an uncommonly large population of characters just waiting to be written about.

This, coupled with David Richards’ keen ability to capitalize on every nuance of a character’s personality, makes this pithy read from that point of view, alone.

Plot wise it covers four generation, and so the pace is understandably slow in places, but never tedious. The topic of generational feuds on Canadian soil could, I think, only ring true in the Maritimes with its large population of Scots and Irish, as could the iron-willed resilience of Janie McLeary, but both are rich fodder and credible in every way.

One of the interesting touches was the inclusion of Nova Scotian, Max Aitkin (“Lord Beaverbrook”), for no story about Nova Scotia for the time would be complete without him.

I am unimpressed by the both the Giller and the GG awards, but in this case I believe they are well placed. Five bees.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Frank Augustyn, OC, Canada’s ‘Principal’ Principal Dancer…

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June 2, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, Historical period, non GBLT, Nova Scotia Setting, Twentieth century historical | Leave a comment

While England Sleeps, by David Leavitt

A historical novel that lives up to its name.

 

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while england sleeps - coverSet against the rise of fascism in 1930s Europe, While England Sleeps tells the story of a love affair between Brian Botsford, an upper-class young English writer, and Edward Phelan, an idealistic employee of the London Underground and member of the Communist Party. Though far better educated than Edward, Brian is also far more callow, convinced that his homosexuality is something he will outgrow. Edward, on the other hand, possesses “an unproblematic capacity to accept” both Brian and the unorthodox nature of their love for each other—until one day, at the urging of his wealthy aunt Constance, Brian agrees to be set up with a “suitable” young woman named Philippa Archibald . . . Pushed to the point of crisis, Edward flees, volunteering to fight Franco in Spain, where he ends up in prison. And Brian, feeling responsible for Edward’s plight, must pursue him across Europe, and into the chaos of war.

About the author: David Leavitt is a graduate of Yale University and a professor at the University of Florida, where he is the co-director of the creative writing program. He is also the editor of Subtropics magazine, The University of Florida’s literary review. 

Leavitt, who is openly gay, has frequently explored gay issues in his work. He divides his time between Florida and Tuscany, Italy.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was looking for a good adventure story this week, and with luck While England Sleeps, by  David Leavitt [Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition, June 3, 2014] came into view.

The story is set in 1930s England, the years leading up to WWII, and features a young aristocrat (dilettante) named Brian Botsford, an amateur playwrite and narrator, and his opposite, Edward Phelan, an idealist and Marxist-labourer.

From this perspective, one might assume that this is a story about class—and it is to a certain extent, but it is also a story about different ideals and approaches to life.

Brian is in a word “spoiled,” with little ambition beyond floating on the surface with the largesse of an aunt. Edward, on the other hand, is self-educated and ambitious to ‘work his way up’ to a better life.

In fact, Brian is not a very likable person, an ‘anti-hero’ and purposely so. Now, from a writer’s point of view this is a risky proposition—to invite your audience to dislike your main character—but with an ounce of redemption Leavitt pulls it off quite admirably.

It all comes together when Edward makes an attempt to rescue friends from the growing storm in Europe, but to get into the part of the plot would definitely be a spoiler, and so I will leave it for the readers to discover.

One of the things I like about this story is the subtle way the author draws the reader into the tenor of the times. In spite of the fact that the dialogue tends to slip into a more modern vernacular from time to time, the reader is nonetheless persuaded that they are experiencing 1930s England or Europe, as the case may be.

Likewise, the mock prologue and epilogue add a sense of time and place, as well.

However, if you are the type that prefers a happy-ever-after ending, this might not be the story for you. Four and one-half bees.

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

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May 5, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Brothers of the Wild North Sea, by Harper Fox

A good solid read that most fans of historical fiction will enjoy.

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brothers of the wild north sea - coverStory blurb: His deadliest enemy will become his heart’s desire.

Caius doesn’t feel like much of a Christian. He loves his life of learning as a monk in the far-flung stronghold of Fara, but the hot warrior blood of his chieftain father flows in his veins. Heat soothed only in the arms of his sweet-natured friend and lover, Leof.

When Leof is killed during a Viking raid, Cai’s grieving heart thirsts for vengeance—and he has his chance with Fenrir, a wounded young Viking warrior left for dead. But instead of reaching for a weapon, Cai finds himself defying his abbot’s orders and using his healing skills to save Fen’s life.

At first, Fen repays Cai’s kindness by attacking every Christian within reach. But as time passes, Cai’s persistent goodness touches his heart. And Cai, who had thought he would never love again, feels the stirring of a profound new attraction.

Yet old loyalties call Fen back to his tribe and a relentless quest to find the ancient secret of Fara—a powerful talisman that could render the Vikings indestructible, and tear the two lovers’ bonds beyond healing.

Warning: contains battles, bloodshed, explicit M/M sex, and the proper Latin term for what lies beneath those cassocks.

About the author: Harper Fox is an M/M author with a mission. She’s produced six critically acclaimed novels in a year and is trying to dispel rumours that she has a clone/twin sister locked away in a study in her basement. In fact she simply continues working on what she loves best– creating worlds and stories for the huge cast of lovely gay men queuing up inside her head. She lives in rural Northumberland in northern England and does most of her writing at a pensioned-off kitchen table in her back garden, often with blanket and hot water bottle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although the author’s bio states that Harper Fox has produced six books in one year, my only experience with her writing has been Scrap Metal [https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/?s=scrap+metal], which I enjoyed; however, Brothers of the Wild North Sea [Samhain Publishing, Ltd., June 11, 2013] is quite a different story in many respects.

For one thing, it is set in the 7th century, a time of emerging beliefs; it has a strong religious bent—although not a religious story; and it includes some violence in connection with Viking raids and wars. Therefore, it is well removed from pastoral settings and sheep herding.

The basic story revolves around Caius, an enlightened son of a warrior chieftain, who has been converted to Christianity and joins an order of monks in order to continue his enlightenment. He is quite content with this life and his lover Leof, but when Leof is killed during a Viking raid, Caius thirsts for revenge.

Enter Fenrir, a wounded Viking raider, but rather than take his life Caius nurses him back to health. However, taming Fenrir’s fierce side takes time and patience, and in the meantime Caius falls for this erstwhile enemy who is drawn back to his own in search of a talisman with invincible powers.

In the end, however, all works out and true love prevails.

It’s a good story, competently written with some really interesting elements. As in Scrap Metal Harper Fox demonstrates an ability to draw the reader into her sometimes austere settings, and in this case a unique time period. Certainly it is one that I have not encountered before.

Having said that, however, it reads a bit slow until all the elements are put together, but then it moves along at a more agreeable pace. Also—and this is something I have to guard against in my own writing—Fenrir’s change of allegiance seems just a bit too ‘convenient’ for the short time allowed.  Yes, we’re all rooting for them, but to logically go from enemies to lovers takes a couple of transitions that seemed to be passed over.

Overall, however, this is a good solid read that most fans of historical fiction will enjoy. Four bees.

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

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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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March 24, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America, by Don Jordan, Michael Walsh

The ‘lost slaves’ of history brought to the fore by two distinguished journalists. A truly fascinating read.

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white cargo - coverStory blurb: White Cargo is the forgotten story of the thousands of Britons who lived and died in bondage in Britain’s American colonies.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, more than 300,000 white people were shipped to America as slaves. Urchins were swept up from London’s streets to labor in the tobacco fields, where life expectancy was no more than two years. Brothels were raided to provide “breeders” for Virginia. Hopeful migrants were duped into signing as indentured servants, unaware they would become personal property who could be bought, sold, and even gambled away. Transported convicts were paraded for sale like livestock.

Drawing on letters crying for help, diaries, and court and government archives, Don Jordan and Michael Walsh demonstrate that the brutalities usually associated with black slavery alone were perpetrated on whites throughout British rule. The trade ended with American independence, but the British still tried to sell convicts in their former colonies, which prompted one of the most audacious plots in Anglo-American history.

This is a saga of exploration and cruelty spanning 170 years that has been submerged under the overwhelming memory of black slavery. White Cargo brings the brutal, uncomfortable story to the surface.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Yes, I know, today is St. Patrick’s Day: a day when we celebrate an Irish saint who was born in Rome, who wore blue (not green), and who didn’t really drive all the snakes out of Ireland because there weren’t any to begin with. However, green beer and silliness aside, the history of Ireland and its people has been (unfortunately) far from celebratory, and Don Jordan and Michael Walsh (two distinguished journalists) have brought yet another dark chapter to light in their  extensively-researched book, White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America [NYU Press, March 8, 2008].

white cargo - prisonersI first became aware of “white slavery” when I was reviewing The Naked Quaker: True Crimes and Controversies from the Courts of Colonial New England, by Diane Rapaport, and in it she cited the case of two Irish lads (11 and perhaps 14) who were kidnapped from their beds and brought to Massachusetts as indentured “servants.”  They were sold to a magistrate to work on his estate, and some years later they appealed to the court (on which their master sat) for relief from their servitude. They lost.

Thereafter, I mentioned this case to several people who were utterly shocked that such a thing could happen.

But happen it did, and in great numbers. It began when James I sold 30,000 prisoners to the American colonies as slaves, and in 1625 he proclaimed that Irish political prisoners were to be transported to the West Indies. Therefore, by the mid 1600s Irish slaves amounted to 70% of the population of Montserrat. Moreover, in the early days of slavery in the New England colonies, the majority of slaves were actually white.

white cargo - slave adIreland was the main source. In the decade following the failed Irish Rebellion of 1641, it is estimated that 300,000 Irish rebels were sold as slaves, and thereafter 100,000 children between the ages of 10 to 14 were taken from their parents, 52,000 (mostly women and children) were sold, and 32,000 men and boys went to the highest bidder in slave market from the West Indies, to Virginia and New England.

The African slave trade was just beginning during this period, and African slaves were therefore more expensive, i.e. £50 sterling (compared to £5 sterling), and so white slaves were often treated more harshly than the other. Moreover, it was quite legal for Blacks and Indians to own white slaves. In fact, the practice became so prevalent that the Virginia Assembly passed a law prohibiting it, i.e. “It is enacted that noe negro or Indian though baptized and enjoyned their owne freedome shall be capable of any such purchase of christians…” ~ Statutes of the Virginia Assembly, Vol. 2, pp. 280-81.

This is a fascinating read with enough research to make it reliable, but written in a journalist’s easy-to-read fashion. Highly recommended. Five bees.

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

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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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March 17, 2014 Posted by | American History, Historical period, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

Thoreau in Love, by John Schuyler Bishop

A fictional tale of youthful love and misgivings, evolving into a 19th-century literary giant

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thoreau in love - coverStory blurb: Two years before he goes to Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau, 25, leaves Concord, Massachusetts, to live in New York, where the new America is bursting into life. But before he even gets there he falls in love—with a young man.

It’s 1843, a repressive puritanism still hangs over Concord, Massachusetts, and Henry Thoreau wants out. When his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, gives him an opportunity to move to New York City, Henry leaves Concord with no thought of ever returning.

In his journals, 250-some pages about his trip to New York have been ripped out, the only substantial number of pages missing from the forty-seven journal volumes. What was so scandalous that Thoreau—or, more likely, his literary executor—decided no one should see it?

And why did Thoreau stay only six months in New York?

Thoreau’s biographers go out of their way to convince us that the writer was heterosexual, although he never married and wrote freely in his journal about the beauty of men. His poem “Sympathy,” one of the few published in his lifetime, is a love poem to a boy who was his student. (About that poem, one celebrated biographer went so far as to say, “When he wrote ‘he’ Thoreau really meant ‘she,’ and when he wrote ‘him,’ he really meant ‘her.’”) By denying Thoreau’s real sexuality, scholars have reduced him to a wooden icon.

Thoreau in Love imagines the time of the missing pages, when Thoreau emerged from his shell and explored the wider world and himself before he returned to Concord, where he would fearlessly live the rest of his life and become the great naturalist and literary giant.

About the author: Schuyler moved into the city as soon as he could, wrote plays at home and worked in the Letters Department at Newsweek until his total output for three months work was two letters; he decided he was possibly burned out…. His boss did too, but she then hired him as a proofreader at Sports Illustrated, where Schuyler enjoyed the great benefits and moved up rapidly to copyreader and then, because of a story he wrote for the magazine, to the exalted position of Late Reader, possibly the greatest job that ever existed: when the editors and reporters went to Schuyler to go over their stories it meant they were finished their week’s work, and more often than not, because of S.I.’s deadline, Schuyler worked one 35-hour day and made lots of money. All the while he was writing and mostly not sending things out…. but a couple of years ago he resolved to change that….

Two of Bishop plays were produced many years ago off-off Broadway, and he’s had stories published in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and in Alyson’s Best Gay Love Stories 2005. After a couple of years at sea and in Florida, he’s happily back in New York City.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

thoreau in love - portaitI don’t suppose there is anything more intriguing to a historian, or writer thereof, than to find 250 pages missing (ripped out) from a famous person’s personal journals. Why the possibilities are endless, and John Schuyler Bishop takes full advantage of this in Thoreau in Love [BookBaby; 1st edition, May 14, 2013].

Henry David Thoreau, an enigmatic and intriguing character in his own right, takes a trip to New York to tutor the children of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s relative William Emerson, in their Staten Island home. On the way he meets a breathtakingly handsome sailor, Ben Wickham, and despite Thoreau’s Puritan background and his (till-then) repressed sexual inclinations, he falls madly in love with this beguiling lad.

As the ‘captain’s boy’ Ben is experienced in the manly art of making love, and by the time they reach Staten Island a most touching and memorable love affair has evolved.

However, once separated, Thoreau begins to have second thoughts. He fervently wants to be ‘normal’ in order to avoid the recriminations of a mostly homophobic society, but  at the same time he carries on a romantic correspondence with Ben. Finally the two spend a couple of weeks together, and afterward they separate with Ben urging him to find his true self.

Thoreau then returns to Concord, and Walden emerges.

All of this is Schuyler Bishop’s invention, of course, but it is wonderfully credible and in keeping with Thoreau’s complex nature. It also explores the misgivings that most gay men experience somewhere along the line in their careers; even in today’s more liberal society. Arizona and Uganda are proof positive that to be gay, or GBLT, is still far from mainstream in 2014.

There are some graphic sex scenes, but it is the story that predominates throughout—as it should be.

Altogether, I think this is a story that will appeal to most everyone who enjoys a well-written historical fiction. Five bees.

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

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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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February 24, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay romance, Henry David Thoreau, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Door Behind Us, by John C. Houser

Altogether an engaging and enjoyable story.

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the door behind - coverStory blurb: It’s 1919, and Frank Huddleston has survived the battlefields of the Great War. A serious head injury has left him with amnesia so profound he must re-learn his name every morning from a note posted on the privy door.

Gerald “Jersey” Rohn, joined the Army because he wanted to feel like a man, but he returned from the trenches minus a leg and with no goal for his life. He’s plagued by the nightmare of his best friend’s death and has nervous fits, but refuses to associate those things with battle fatigue. He can’t work his father’s farm, so he takes a job supervising Frank, who is working his grandparents’ farm despite his head injury.

When Frank recovers enough to ask about his past, he discovers his grandparents know almost nothing about him, and they’re lying about what they do know. The men set out to discover Frank’s past and get Jersey a prosthesis. They soon begin to care for each other, but they’ll need to trust their hearts and put their pasts to rest if they are to turn attraction into a loving future.

Cover art: Paul Richmond

About the author: John C. Houser’s father, step-mother, and mother were all psychotherapists. When old enough, he escaped to Grinnell College, which was exactly halfway between his mother’s and father’s homes—and half a continent away from each. After graduation, he taught English for a year in Greece, attended graduate school, and eventually began a career of creating computer systems for libraries. Now he works in a strange old building that boasts a historic collection of mantelpieces–but no fireplaces.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 1 JULY - 18 NOVEMBER 1916: The badly shelled main road to Bapaume through Pozieres, showing a communication trench and broken trees

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 1 JULY – 18 NOVEMBER 1916: The badly shelled main road to Bapaume through Pozieres, showing a communication trench and broken trees

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, July 28, 1914—one of the bloodiest wars in world history (to that date)—it is appropriate to remember the human sacrifice in both fact and fiction. Therefore, The Door Behind Us by John C. Houser [Dreamspinner Press; 1st edition, October 13, 2013] is a timely contribution.

Fiction, I believe, is a particularly effective way of dealing with a broad range of ills occasioned by the victims of war while giving them a human face, which Houser has done remarkably well. Likewise, the time (post war, 20th-century—a time of lost innocence) and place (conservative, mid-west America) are equally brought to the fore with admirable accuracy.

The well-written blurb provides a good synopsis of the plot line. Here we have two disabled veterans, one an amputee, and both suffering from psychological damage as well. Frank has lost all memory of his life before the war—even his name—and “Jersey” Rohn has not only lost a leg, but he also suffers from the so-called “shell-shock syndrome,” a term that prevailed until well after WWII. Today, we know it as PTSD.

Brought together as strangers, but with much in common, they quickly form a bond that is remarkable strong: A bond that is built on their strengths as apposed to their frailties. This includes both emotional and physical love, but given the circumstances one could hardly expect less.

They then go on a mission of discovery—Frank to discover his forgotten memories, and Jersey to find a prosthesis to bolster his physical self.

There are very few shortcomings to this well-crafted story. The main characters are both likeable and credible: In love, but not overtly so—in keeping with the times. The ‘villains’ are nasty but not threatening, and the sex is passionate but about the right balance with the rest of the story.

Altogether an engaging and enjoyable story. Five bees.

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

 It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John Anderson, Free! A blow for freedom. In commemoration of Black History month.

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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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February 17, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay WWI stories, Historical Fiction, Historical period, WWI | Leave a comment

I Am John I Am Paul: A Story of Two Soldiers in Ancient Rome, by Mark Tedesco

A well-written historical novel with an emphasis on history –

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i am joh i am paul - coverStory blurb: “Adventure, intrigue, faith, commitment, love and hate and everything between! Mark Tedesco has done it again, fashioning what is arguably his best work yet! He entices you on a phenomenal journey into the fascinating lives of two 4th century Roman soldiers, John and Paul, in a tale of loyalty and love that grabs you by the throat from the very first sentence and holds you spellbound, gasping for air as you’re swept from chapter to chapter with barely a moment to breathe. An unbelievable marriage of fact and fiction that will leave you applauding or appalled but never bored or indifferent. A must read!” Fox news.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I can’t say that I am well versed in Roman history, about average I suppose, so the extensive research conducted by Mark Tedesco in his writing of I Am John I am Paul [Academia Publishing; Second edition, November 9, 2012] was a help.

The basic story follows the adventures of two Roman Soldiers, Ioannes Fulvius Marcus Romanus, and his brother-in-arms, Paulus. The time is during the reign of Constantine  (306 – 337 A.D), and is typically full of political intrigue.

John and Paul meet during the Germanic wars, and form a loving bond that is put to the test when John is sent off to Alexandria by a tyrannical centurion. While in Alexandria, he becomes involved in Mithraism—a nice touch by the authorin order to explore this mystic religion—but, eventually, he is returned to Rome to rejoin Paul once again.

Another nice touch, and also a nice bit of drama, takes place when John and Paul undertake to successfully rescue the kidnapped daughter of the emperor, and in gratitude the emperor grants them both land and a house in Rome.

Not to be forgotten, either, is their experience with Christianity—i.e. “The Way.” After all, it was Constantine who converted Rome to Christianity (…and had “Great” added to his name), so historically it was an intriguing time that the author didn’t miss.

Technically speaking, this is not a gay story in the erotic sense—which doesn’t disturb me at all. It is romantic, given the love the two boys have for one another, but mostly it is a well-written historical novel with an emphasis on history. My kind of meat. Therefore, for people like myself, I’m going to go the full five bees.

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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:  Mary Grannan – “Just Mary”: Canadian pioneer in children’s programming.

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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

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February 3, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

A Place to Call Their Own, by L. Dean Pace-Frech

A gay pioneer story: Two against the prairie.

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a place of their own - coverStory blurb: Is it possible for two Civil War veterans to find their place in the world on the Kansas Prairie?

When the War Between the States ended in 1865 many Americans emerged from the turmoil energized by their possibilities for the future. Frank Greerson and Gregory Young were no different. After battling southern rebels and preserving the Union, the two men set out to battle the Kansas Prairie and build a life together. Frank yearned for his own farm, away from his family—even at the risk of alienating them. Gregory, an only child, returned home to claim his inheritance to help finance their adventure out west.

Between the difficult work of establishing a farm on the unforgiving Kansas prairie, and the additional obstacles provided by the weather, Native Americans and wild animals, will their love and loyalty be enough to sustain them through the hardships?

About the author: With inspiration from some historical tourism sites, the love of reading, and a desire to write a novel, L. Dean Pace-Frech started crafting his debut novel, A Place to Call Their Own, in 2008. After four years of writing and polishing the manuscript, he submitted it for publication and Musa Publishing offered him a contract in early 2013.

Dean lives in Kansas City, Missouri with his partner, Thomas, and their two cats. They are involved in their church and enjoy watching movies, outdoor activities in the warmer weather and spending time together with friends and family. In addition to writing, Dean enjoys
reading and patio gardening.

Prior to novels, Dean did some technical writing in his career. He has written another complete fiction manuscript and has a third manuscript outlined.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

To me, the American Civil War was a period of great upheaval, but it was also a time of great promise: the conviction that when the war was over, things would be better. That is the sentiment L. Dean Pace-Frech has captured in his debut novel A Place to Call Their Own [Musa Publishing, July 4, 2013].

Frank Greeerson and Gregory Young meet and fall in love in the midst of the conflict, and when the fighting is over they each stake a claim to free land (presumably under the Homestead Act of 1862) in the State of Kansas—the beginning of the American frontier.

vintage CW soldiersThe story begins with Frank Greerson’s father, Paul, trying to talk him out of this adventure, but failing that, Frank and Gregory set out on their journey like two wide-eyed innocents—a little scared, and a whole lot excited.

The author takes us along with them, and that is the charming part of the story as we follow these two neophytes through their first years of homesteading on the vast, unspoiled prairie. He has also given them moments of bliss, and moments of hardship and challenge, but always shared between them.

The supporting cast is quite charming as well, refreshingly supportive as I think most pioneer communities were. They truly were communal in the sense that everyone pitched in to help their neighbours for the good of the community and of themselves.

In this regard it is a story that will appeal to most people: a romance set in an expansive setting, with likable characters and just enough tension to keep it interesting.

My minor quibble is with the vocabulary at times. Without going into chapter and verse on what I mean, here is an example. In the opening pages Frank says to his father, “I’ve considered all the scenarios, pa,” etc. Now, the difficulty I have with this choice of words is that they don’t fit the character of a farm boy, i.e. “scenarios” (formal) doesn’t fit with “pa” (informal). Perhaps a better fit might have been, “I’ve looked at it from all directions, pa,” etc.

However, this is my personal opinion.

Otherwise, there is nothing about this story not to like. Four and one-half stars.

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Views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 62, 574

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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:  Nancy Greene – Canada’s skiing sensation.

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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

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January 27, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay pioneers, Gay romance, Historical period | 1 Comment

A Shiny Tin Star, by Jon Wilson

No shoot-em-up, but a darned good story.

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shiny tin star - coverStory blurb: On a scorching summer’s day in 1903 the sheriff of Creek County, Eugene Grey, unexpectedly finds himself partnered with feisty young Federal Marshal Forest O’Rourke. The marshal is hell-bent on capturing a wanted man—a man Eugene knows as nothing but an amiable old geezer living quietly in the hills.

But, of course, all is not as it seems. As the manhunt progresses, Eugene slowly works out the true nature of the marshal’s relationship to the old man. And something Eugene has long kept hidden begins to stir inside him. He finds it impossible to deny the desire he feels toward the determined young marshal.

Death and fiery destruction follow, but also passion and stolen moments of joy. Eugene’s journey takes him from his small town of Canyon Creek, Colorado, to the stately homes of Atlanta and Philadelphia. But it also pits him against the very laws he has sworn to uphold. He finds himself risking prison or even death—all in the name of love.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As most people who visit this page know, I have a fondness for westerns. I think this is because they recreate a life and times that were basic. Not ‘basic’ in the sense of being crude, as they are often portrayed today, but a simpler life in terms of common sense and the ‘golden rule.’ For the most part, I think that Jon Wilson has captured this simplicity in his novel A Shiny Tin Star, [Cheyenne Publishing, November 19, 2012]. Certainly he has captured the laid-back cadence of the narrator, Eugene Grey.

Eugene Grey is a down-home country sheriff, confidant in what he knows from having lived it, seen it, or done it, and sceptical of anyone who hasn’t—especially those who think they know better. That includes Marshall Forrest O’Rourke.

O’Rourke is a cocky Federal Marshall, and worse still, an Easterner. That pretty well sets the tone of the first eight or ten chapters. [I particularly liked the knock-down-drag-em-out fight between O’Rourke and Rawley Scoggins.]

In a somewhat surprising turn, the story shifts east to the cultured life of Atlanta and Philadelphia, taking Eugene out of his rustic element and into Forrest’s element. It also takes them into a climate of artifice and bigotry, which threatens to destroy their simple relationship.

In the end, however, love prevails.

The story is cleverly written, with a keen grasp (however gotten) of the laid-back, country vernacular of the narrator. That was a strong point for me.

The eastern segment was well done, and I can understand why a shift in setting was introduced to add tension, but for me it was a disconnect from the western roots. Having said that, however, I don’t know how else it could have been written.

Altogether, though, I thought it was a good story, well written, and with enough unexpected twists to make it unique. Four and one-half stars.

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Views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 62,129

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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:  Jacques Cartier, Explorer: The “Discoverer of Canada” (…Not that it was ever lost.)

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

            

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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

Thanks again!

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January 20, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Gay western, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land: A Novel by P.S. Duffy

happy new year

A well-balanced blend of story-telling and historical fact.

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cartographer - coverPublisher’s blurb: From a hardscrabble fishing village in Nova Scotia to the collapsing trenches of France, a richly atmospheric debut novel about a family divided by World War I.

When adventurous Ebbin goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and search for his beloved brother-in-law. With his navigation experience, Angus is assured a position as a cartographer in London. But upon arriving overseas he is instead sent directly into the trenches, where he experiences the visceral shock of battle. Meanwhile, at home, his perceptive son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a fishing village torn by grief and a rising suspicion of anyone expressing less than patriotic enthusiasm for the war.

With the intimacy of The Song of Achilles and the epic scope of The Invisible BridgeThe Cartographer of No Man’s Land offers a lyrical and lasting portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home.

About the author: P.S. Duffy grew up in Baltimore, MD and spent summers sailing in Nova Scotia. She has a degree in History from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec and a Ph.D. in Communication Disorders from the University of Minnesota. Currently, she is a science writer for the Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN where she lives with her husband. The Cartographer of No Man’s Land is her first novel.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

While this is not a GBLT novel, it could be with just a few minor twists. Set in Nova Scotia during WWI, The Cartographer of No Man’s Land: A Novel, by P.S, Duffy [Liveright, October 28, 2013], is an evocative story of human nature that also includes a stint in the hell-hole-trenches of France.

Angus MacGrath is a man caught in the centre of competing forces. He is a fisherman with artistic aspirations–contrary to his father’s idea of what a man should do–and a husband to a wife who’s affections have grown cold. To make matters worse, his brother-in-law, Ebbin, a headstrong youth, has gone missing somewhere in France.

With nothing compelling him to remain at home, Angus enlists as a cartographer with the idea of searching for Ebbin, but when he gets to England he is quickly transferred to the front lines. Needless to say, life in the trenches is a far cry from Snag Harbour, or cartography, and so Angus is transformed by the experience in many ways.

Meanwhile, back home, Angus’ son Simon is learning about the vagaries of life, as well. He, too, is caught-up in the midst of divergent forces: His grandfather’s pacifist sentiments, held by many of the older generation, versus the virulent form of patriotism that gripped nearly everyone at the beginning of WWI. Many eagerly answered the call, and many reluctantly died.

As I say, with a few simple twists this could have been a GBLT story, but even so it is a engrossing study of human nature, set in a turbulent time, and in a colourful and picturesque setting. Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 60,846

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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:  “Stonehenge Ontario”… Another of Canada’s hidden secrets.

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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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December 30, 2013 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fiction, Historical period, Nova Scotia Setting | Leave a comment

Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality, by Jonathan Ned Katz

Another milestone from the dean of gay history in North America.

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love stories - coverStory blurb: In Love Stories, Jonathan Ned Katz presents stories of men’s intimacies with men during the nineteenth century—including those of Abraham Lincoln—drawing flesh-and-blood portraits of intimate friendships and the ways in which men struggled to name, define, and defend their sexual feelings for one another. In a world before “gay” and “straight” referred to sexuality, men like Walt Whitman and John Addington Symonds created new ways to name and conceive of their erotic relationships with other men. Katz, diving into history through diaries, letters, newspapers, and poems, offers us a clearer picture than ever before of how men navigated the uncharted territory of male-male desire.

Available in print format, only – 440 pgs.

love stories - katzAbout the author: Jonathan Ned Katz (born 1938) is an American historian of human sexuality who has focused on same-sex attraction and changes in the social organization of sexuality over time. His works focus on the idea, rooted in social constructionism, that the categories with which we describe and define human sexuality are historically and culturally specific, along with the social organization of sexual activity, desire, relationships, and sexual identities.

Katz received the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Sex Research from the German Society for Social-Scientific Sexuality Research in 1997. In 2003, he was given Yale University’s Brudner Prize, an annual honor recognizing scholarly contributions in the field of lesbian and gay studies. His papers are collected by the manuscript division of The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library. He received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle in 1995.

[See also my review of Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. by Johathan Katz.]

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Over the centuries, Erotic love between men has had its ups and downs (no pun intended): From the socially-acceptable, Greco-Roman periods, to the reviled years under the predominantly Catholic-dominated-states of Europe; and from the relatively tolerated years following the Stonewall Raids in New York, and the Bathhouse Raids in Toronto, to the same-sex-marriage debates of today. We’ve come a long way, baby, but we’re not there yet.

In his superbly researched thesis, Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality, [University Of Chicago Press, June 15, 2003], Jonathan Ned Katz takes a look at one of these eras—the ultra-conservative, tradition-bound, 19th century.

The one constant throughout, of course, is that certain men are romantically drawn to one another in spite of all. Today, we call it being “gay” or “homosexual,” but having been around for less than a century these are relatively modern terms; therefore, what did the men of the 1800s call it, and how did this affect their attitudes towards themselves and others?

Katz attempts to answer these questions by delving into the letters, diaries, writings, etc. some 19th-century men left behind, and extracting such kernels of evidence as may be found.

Portrait of Joshua Fry Steed as a young man

Portrait of Joshua Fry Steed as a young man

He begins with the now famous (infamous?) friendship, and sleeping arrangements, of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Fry Speed.  The story goes that Lincoln rode into town with two saddlebags, and inquired at Speed’s store where he might purchase a “single beadstead.” Speed replied that he had a large room and bed, and that Lincoln was quite welcome to share it with him. Thus, began a twenty-eight-year friendship that Speed later described as, “No two men were ever more intimate.”

The term he used was “intimate,” which was quite acceptable because love was considered separate from sex. Platonic love between men was seen as idyllic (and still is by many) while erotic sex was labelled “sodomy,” “mutual masturbation,” and/or “a crime against nature.” In fact, it wasn’t until Freud (1856 – 1939) that the a-sexual relationships and erotic sex were thought to be connected. Having been reconstructed, therefore, even Platonic love became suspect.

Not surprisingly, however, men went on loving one another regardless of what society thought, so how did they choose to call themselves? Walt Whitman and others tried to transform an illicit sex story into a romantic sex-love story, and adopted terms like “associate” and “partner” to describe the players.

The point being that labels do matter, both to the individual and to society.

Besides Lincoln and Walt Whitman, other personalities are: John Stafford Fiske, the U.S. consul to Scotland in 1870; famous British cross-dresser Ernest Boulton; noted Harvard mathematician James Millis Peirce, writer Charles Warren Stoddard, and English philosopher Edward Carpeter Katz. All of these men have one thing in common: they all indulged in a deeply loving and erotic relationship during the 19th century.

This is such a fascinating and educational book on many levels, and Katz is the undisputed dean of gay, historical studies in North America; therefore, it comes with my highest recommendation. Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 60,145 (A new milestone!)

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Don’t just give a book this year. Now, you can give one with a personal dedication from the author.

… That is, if you choose one of mine and let me know the details—i.e. Who it is going to (name); your name; and any personal message you wish to include (15 words or less). I’ll create a PDF file that can be printed and placed between the pages, -or- if the book is in PDF format already, I can insert it as a title page. Please allow a week to ten days for processing, and this latter service is not available to Kindle formatted books.

Here’s a sample of what a finished dedication will look like:

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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 postCharles William “C.W.” JefferysCanada’s chronicler of the pioneer past.

 


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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.

christmas promo - TIL - green    christmas promo - NATTchristmas promo - TIL paperback

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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Thanks again!

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December 16, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Gay American History, Historical period, Johathan Ned Katz, Non-fiction | 1 Comment

The Boy I Love, by Marion Husband

Words to describe The Boy I Love: Intense, complex, starkly realistic, and superb.

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the boy I love - coverStory blurb: A compelling debut novel [at the time] set in the aftermath of World War I, exploring the complex relationships of Paul. On his return he finds himself torn between desire and duty; his lover Adam awaits, but so too does Margot, the pregnant fiancée of his dead brother. Paul has to decide where his loyalty and his heart lie.

About this author (…from her blog): December 6, 2013 – “I was asked to give a talk to a group of Creative Writing MA students last night. ‘Talk about how to find an agent or publisher,’ I was told. Well, you’d think I would know how to do this, wouldn’t you? I’ve had four agents (it’s a long story) and I’ve been published – short stories, poems and novels. I’ve even self-published. I called myself Ragged Blackbird Books, after a ragged blackbird that used to hop around our garden until one day it didn’t. So there you are: I am experienced.”

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Review by Gerry Burnie

There are several words that could be used in describing The Boy I Love by Marion Husband [Accent Press Ltd., April 11, 2012]. Among these are intense, complex, starkly realistic, and superb.

The story line is set in a period just after WWI, and revolves around Paul Harris. He is a returning soldier who has spent several months in a psychiatric ward, recovering from “shell shock”—PTSD, as it is called today. He is also “queer” (in the terminology of the time), and so he picks up where he left off with Adam, his lover from before the war.

In the meantime, he has a chance encounter with Margot—the pregnant fiancée of his recently deceased, much-cherished older brother—and in a remarkably chivalrous act, he proposes to her. This doesn’t displace Adam, however, for Paul continues to see him, too.

Also in a supporting role is Paul’s army sergeant, Patrick, who has a crush on Paul as well, and at one point Paul is having individual sex with all three of them.

This in no way detracts from Paul’s character, or cheapens the story. Indeed, I think it is the flaws in all four characters that make them especially appealing, in a vulnerable way, and the story all the more believable. Ms Husband has a remarkable ability to give her characters depth, be it psychological or physical, and this carries the reader’s interest throughout.

Given the melancholy tenor of the story and setting, like a rainy day, I thought the ending was appropriate. In fact, I couldn’t see it resolve in any other way. However, for those who prefer a ‘happy ever after’ ending, it isn’t. Highly recommended. Five bees.

♣♣♣

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 59,781

♣♣♣

Don’t just give a book this year. Now, you can give one with a personal dedication from the author.

… That is, if you choose one of mine and let me know the details—i.e. Who it is going to (name); your name; and any personal message you wish to include (15 words or less). I’ll create a PDF file that can be printed and placed between the pages, -or- if the book is in PDF format already, I can insert it as a title page. Please allow a week to ten days for processing, and this latter service is not available to Kindle formatted books.

Here’s a sample of what a finished dedication will look like:

christmas dedication.

♣♣♣

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 postDionne QuintupletsFive children and a media circus.


♣♣♣

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.

christmas promo - TIL - green    christmas promo - NATTchristmas promo - TIL paperback

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

 

December 9, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Make Do and Mend, by Adam Fitzroy

A charming time capsule set in rural Wales

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

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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: Johnny Fauquier – DSO (Double bar): Probably Canada’s greatest bomber pilot.

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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.

                  

♠♠♠

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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

Thanks again!

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

 

 

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

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

 

Edition of Gerry B’s Book Reviews

 

  

Some interesting facts

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

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

  

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

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

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

Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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


[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

The Second Ring, by Anthony Kobal

A great adaptation of an historical event, skilfully told.

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

Cover design by Fiona Jayde

Editing by Mary Harris

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vemork heavy water plant after the allies' sabotage.

The Vemork heavy water plant after the allies’ sabotage.

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

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

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

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

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Authors in Depth

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

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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:  Barbara Ann Scott: “Canada’s Sweetheart”.

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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.

            

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

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

signed copy logo_edited-1

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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

Wild Onions, by Sarah Black

A tale of hope and heritage, as well as a gentle love story. 

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Wild Onions - coverStory blurb: THE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.

Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.

He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.

There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.

Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.
The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”

Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”

The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”

Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”

The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Three Piegan Blacckfoot chiefs on the prairies of Montana.

Three Piegan Blacckfoot chiefs on the prairies of Montana.

And speaking of shared dreams (…as does the story of Wild Onions by Sarah Black) I believe she and I may have shared a couple of visions as well. My latest work-in-progress-novel deals with forgotten legends and unsettled spirits too, and so I read this story with particular interest,

It is a lovely story—a true romance—and somewhat unique inasmuch as it deals with love across cultural lines.

The story opens poignantly with Robert Mitchell visiting the cabin he frequently visited with his deceased lover, Val.  The cabin goes way back in Val’s ancestry, but beset with medical bills Robert is now thinking of selling it to get out from under these. However, once he gets there and surrounded by memories, he has a change of thought.

Enter Cody Calling Eagle [my main character’s name is ‘Cory’], a Blackfoot descendent  who is still as fresh-faced and unaffected as the wilderness around Salmon River, where he is employed as a conservation officer.

He is like a breath of fresh air that fans the embers of love within Robert, and Cody is open to it as well. Then, as mentioned above, they began experiencing visions of a disturbing past connected to the cabin and Val and Cody’s ancestry. These also begin to have an affect on their relationship, and so Robert has to work hard to overcome this.

At another level, Ms Black weaves  into the storyline some of the history of the Piegan Blackfeet, i.e. the 1882 disappearance of the buffalo, and the ‘Winter of Starvation”  (1883-84),  during which 500 Blackfeet died of starvation.

Despite this it is a story of hope and dedication, as well as a gentle love story. Five bees.

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Presenting the revised cover for my upcoming novel: Coming of Age on the Trail – Part One 

Presenting the revised cover for my forthcoming novel: ComiNG of Age on the Trail - PART ONE.

Presenting the revised cover for my forthcoming novel: ComiNG of Age on the Trail – PART ONE.

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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:  “Spadina House:  One of the great houses of Canada.

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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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October 14, 2013 Posted by | Cross Cultural romance, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, Native history | 2 Comments

The Absolutist, by John Boyne

A poignant story of love and sacrifice.

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the absolutist - coverStory blurb: It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will–from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.

The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they’ve turned the last page.

About the author: John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown prize. But it was during his time at Trinity that he began to get published. To pay his way at that stage of his career, he worked at Waterstone’s, typing up his drafts by night.

John Boyne is the author of six novels, as well as a number of short stories which have been published in various anthologies and broadcast on radio and television. His novels are published in 39 languages. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which to date has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a film adaptation was released in September 2008.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

It was only after I read The Absolutist by John Boyne [Other Press, July 10, 2012] that I came to realize how many reviews had been written about this book—by some pretty heavy-hitters, as well. It made me pause to wonder if there was anything new to say about it, or, indeed, if there was anyone in the world who hadn’t read it.

Nevertheless, I decided that my own opinion is all I can ever offer, anyway, and like me, there might be a few out there who have taken a while to find it.

The story is written around Tristan Sadler at various stages of his life, from his expulsion from home, to his enlisting in the army in 1919, and then afterward until he is a reclusive old man. Interspersed among these is his relationship with a boy named Will Bancroft, his war years, and his withdrawal from society to live with his memories.

In spite of the complexities of this story the author kept a fairly steady hand on the reins. Tristan, as the protagonist, is a likeable kid who is somewhat adrift on the fickle currents of life, and as such he is frequently knocked about. His drill sergeant is a sadist, His friend (lover) Will is a cad, and Will’s family are an insensitive lot. Nonetheless, he endures all of this with a kind of innocence that is allotted to fools and children.

As I alluded above, all of this is well written, and for the most part quite credible. We can feel for Tristan’s disappointment that Will won’t commit himself (even though we’d like to slap him); the mud, discomfort and hell of WWI trenches are vividly portrayed; and the poignant moments of Will’s death are all quite real.

However, the shortcoming (in my mind) is that it follows in the wake of so many other GBLT novels, inasmuch as it is well-written but dark. Is there no joy in ‘gayville’’? There were a few anomalies, too. For example, Tristan seemed remarkably literate from his stated background, and I found the ending—particularly with the gratuitous visit Will’s sister—somewhat unusual.

Altogether, however, it is a story that will hold your interest. Three and one-half bees.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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

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

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting books as well. Latest post: (Sir) Ernest Thompson Seton, Author, artist and naturalist extraordinaire.

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persecution of gays in russia

Protest staging the Olympic Games in Russia — There is an alternative

This is the face of state-sanctioned persecution of gays and lesbians in Russia, To date vicious beatings, arrests and even murder have been spawned under Vladimir Putin’s so-called ban on “homosexual propaganda.” It is a cruel, political ploy to prop up his sagging popularity. He is playing St. George, and homosexuals are his made-up dragon. At the bottom of it, however, is a unwarranted attack on human right for which Putin has no regard.

Protest the staging of the Olympic Games in Russia. There is an alternative in Vancouver that won’t penalize the athletes. Do it for the GBLT community, do it for human rights, and do it for humanity.

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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.

      

      

Thanks for dropping by. I’ll be spending the week reading another novel for next week’s review, so please come back.

 

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay military, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Into Deep Waters, Kaje Harper

An enduring love story … True love conquers all.

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

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

Available as a free download from Kindle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Russian youth murdered because he was gay and honest…

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

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

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

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

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting books as well. Latest post: Casa Loma (one of Canada’s more than 20 castles).

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

      

      

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

A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956)

“It’s not often one has the chance to become 20 again…”

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A world ago - coverStory blurb: A World Ago chronicles, through one young man’s journal and vivid letters to his parents, his life, adventures, and experiences at a magical time. It follows him from being a Naval Aviation Cadet to becoming a “regular” sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga on an eight-month tour of duty in the politically tense Mediterranean Sea.

Learn to fly a plane, to soar, alone, through a valley of clouds, experience a narrow escape from death on a night training flight, and receive the continent of Europe as a 21st birthday gift. Climb down into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius, visit Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul and places in-between; wander the streets of Pompeii, have your picture taken on a fallen column on the Acropolis, ride bicycles on the Island of Rhodes, experience daily life aboard an aircraft carrier during the height of the cold war—all in the company and through the eyes of a young will-be-writer coming of age with the help of the United States Navy.

A World Ago is a rare glimpse into the personal and private world of a young man on the verge of experiencing everything the world has to offer—and discovering a lot about himself in the process.

About Dirien Grey: Born Roger Margason in Rockford, Illinois, far too many years ago, Dorien emerged, like Athena from the sea, full-blown with the first book in the Dick Hardesty Mystery series in 2000. Roger, a lifelong book and magazine editor, is in charge of all the details of day-to-day living, allowing Dorien full freedom to write books and blogs. The Dick Hardesty series was followed by the Elliott Smith Mystery series, which now alternates with the Dick Hardesty series.

Dorien emerged partly because Roger has always resented reality. It is far too capricious and too often unkind and unfair. Roger avoids reflective surfaces whenever possible. Having Dorien as an alter ego allows the “duo” to create their own reality, and worlds over which they have some degree of control.

Both are incurable romantics, believing strongly in things which reality views too often with contempt, such as happy endings, true love, and the baic goodness of people.

As the real-life spokesman for the pair and using “I” for both, the one personal characteristic in which I take great pride, and which has been my rock throughout life is that I never, ever, takes myself too seriously. If one has a choice between positive and negative, why would anyone (though too many people do) opt for the negative? Life is not always kind, but it is a gift beyond measure, and one which must all too soon be given back. I really try to enjoy and be thankful for ever single day allotted to me.

For most people, children are their posterity. For me, as a gay man, it is my words which will, I hope, stand as evidence that I was here (albeit, no matter how long I may live, never long enough to suit me).

And because written words are nothing unless someone reads them, I am heavily reliant on my readers, who I sincerely consider to be partners and traveling companions on every journey my writing embarks on.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

There isn’t a great deal of critical comment one can make about a book like A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956) by Dorien Grey [Untreed Reads Publishing, April 8, 2013]. It is a charming look into one man’s life at an interesting age and time I would say; although, the older Roger Margason, a.k.a. Dorien Grey has the depth of character I prefer. Therefore, I will limit my remarks to some personal observations.

I am a great advocate of journal keeping for very selfish reasons. They are absolutely invaluable when it comes to recreating someone’s life and times. Therefore, I am utterly amazed that he had the foresight to save these epistles intact. Otherwise the memories they contain might have been lost forever. Moreover, for informal writings, they are remarkably literate and easy to read.

At the time the letters where written, 1954 – 1956, Dorien was between ‘grass and straw’—as the old cowpokes would say, i.e. past puberty but not quite matured. Interestingly the letters show this, for there is a perceptible maturing as they progress in time.

One is also struck by the candid nature as well. They may have been edited for journalistic reasons, but one does not get the impression they have been altered in the process.

His powers of observation regarding the exotic places he visits, i.e. Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul, etc. is like reading a travelogue of the time, and as an amateur historian I found this intriguing.

Altogether, therefore, this is a fascinating insight into a personality and the times, and not once did I feel it lost my interest on account of self-ndulgence. A truly interesting read. Five bees.

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

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

It is a collection of little-known facts and events in Canadian history, and a bibliography of interesting books I have collected to date. Latest post: Superintendent Sam Steele of the North West Mounted Police – Canada’s toughest gentleman police officer.

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Update:

CoA6edit3 - medI thought I would take this opportunity to update the news regarding my work-in-progress novel, Coming of Age on the Trail. The rewrites are coming along well, and it looks like it will be published in time for the Christmas market.

I also plan to publish  it as a two part series. Already the manuscript is up to 140,000 words (387 pages in book form), and that is far too long for a novel of this type. Part One will therefore contain the introduction, while Part Two (scheduled for the spring of 2014) will contain the conclusion.

I will update you again as the work progresses.

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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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July 22, 2013 Posted by | Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Non-fiction, Semi-autobiographical, Twentieth century historical | | 1 Comment

The City War (Warriors of Rome #3) by Sam Starbuck

An erotic tale of intrigue, set in Imperial Rome

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city war - coverSenator Marcus Brutus has spent his life serving Rome, but it’s difficult to be a patriot when the Republic, barely recovered from a civil war, is under threat by its own leader. Brutus’s one retreat is his country home, where he steals a few precious days now and then with Cassius, his brother-in-law and fellow soldier—and the one he loves above all others. But the sickness at the heart of Rome is spreading, and even Brutus’s nights with Cassius can’t erase the knowledge that Gaius Julius Caesar is slowly becoming a tyrant.

Cassius fears both Caesar’s intentions and Brutus’s interest in Tiresias, the villa’s newest servant. Tiresias claims to be the orphaned son of a minor noble, but his secrets run deeper, and only Brutus knows them all. Cassius, intent on protecting the Republic and his claim to Brutus, proposes a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. After all, if Brutus—loved and respected by all—supports it, it’s not murder, just politics.

Now Brutus must return to Rome and choose: not only between Cassius and Tiresias, but between preserving the fragile status quo of Rome and killing a man who would be emperor.

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Review by Gerry burnie

It has been said, correctly I think, that ‘history is the tricks the living play on the dead,’ and The City War (Warriors of Rome #3) by Sam Starbuck is no exception.

For example, Julius Caesar has been various portrayed as a capable leader and a tyrant, and his assassins as patriots and ambitious thugs at the same time. So who knows?

Sam Starbuck has chosen to portray Caesar as a tyrant, thus making Marcus Brutus a ‘good guy’ of sorts. Philosophically, he believes Rome would be better off as a republic, free of the fickleness and excesses of dictatorships, and so he is willing to listen when his lover, Cassius, proposes a plot to assassinate Caesar.

Cassius is a complex character. He is less high-minded and idealistic than Brutus, but equally committed to the idea of a republic through his lover. Without Brutus’ universal respect the assassination would be seen as just that.

And then we find Terisias. I’m not certain what function Terisias serves, whether it is the spirit of change, the POV of the servant class, or just a change of pace from the two main characters. Whatever it is, he makes an interesting if unexpected personality.

Holding all of this together is some first class writing, which makes the story very readable from start to finish.

Although personally I am growing somewhat weary of stories set in Imperial Rome, I can recommend this interpretation as having an interesting plot and good solid journalism. Four bees.

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April 22, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Life Apart, by Roger Kean

Superb writing, refreshing break-though plot, and bang-on history –

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a life apart - coverStory blurb: 1884—Deep in the Sudanese deserts a crazed religious fanatic spawns violent bloodshed.

In Victorian England Edward and Richard enjoy a blessed life at home and at their elite private school for boys, and with prospects of army commissions ahead.

But then a dreadful secret and a woman’s greed tears them apart and destroys their comfortable world. Even though their love is forbidden, for Edward there is no other in his life but Richard, and for Richard a life without Edward is unbearable.

Has fate determined that they must lead their lives apart?

As members of the British force engaged in a doomed bid to save heroic Gordon of Khartoum, besieged by the frenzied armies of the Mahdi, Edward and Richard, cruelly separated by events, and ignorant of the other’s presence, are thrown into their own desperate adventures as the conflict rages on around them… 

One an officer, the other a lowly cavalry trumpeter, both find Muslim allies willing to risk all to see them through… Two lovers far from each other in a hostile world of enervating heat, unforgiving sand, rocky wastes, but also burning passions—will the young men overcome the ordeal of a life apart to achieve their dream of a destiny together?

Front cover art and design by Oliver Frey.

About the author: Film-maker, journalist, publisher, Roger Kean (also writing under the names Roger Michael Kean and Roger M. Kean) has written about subjects as varied as the utilization of electronic publishing techniques for pre-press, video games, and gay life in London. His published books include histories of the Roman Emperors, Byzantium, Ancient Egypt, and pirates. Fiction includes five boys’ adventure stories available from Smashwords, and two for Kindle on Amazon, Storm Over Khartoum and Avenging Khartoum.


He now divides his time between website design and writing gay-themed novels with illustrations by his lifelong partner, the artist Oliver Frey (a.k.a. Zack). Their first collaboration, published by Bruno Gmünder, Boys of Vice City and its sequels, Boys of Disco City and Boys of Two Cities are available as ebooks in various formats and in print from Amazon. The fourth in the series, Boys of the Fast Lane will publish in the summer of 2013.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

A Life Apart, by Roger Kean [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, January 11, 2013] can be categorized by several genres: historical fiction, historical, gay romance, and even young adult. It is also a refreshingly different story set in an exotic and somewhat uncommon setting.

The story opens on Edward and Richard Rainbow, purportedly twin brothers, and also students at the prestigious Benthenham College in England. Their relationship can be described as ‘loving,’ both in the ethereal and physical sense, but such “dirties” as transpired between them are always couched in euphemistic language—i.e. “hardness,” “bitties,” or “stiffness,” etc.

Indeed, Richard and Edward are utterly charming adolescents, and Kean has done quite a good job of portraying them as normal, mischievous and inquisitive schoolboys, who indulge in the “dirties” as naturally as they play soccer or go swimming.

However, an unexpected and devastating revelation emerges from the past, and because of it Edward is ripped from Richard’s arms and his family.

a life apart - mahdistsSkipping forward, Richard has received his commission to the army, and England has become caught up in Egyptian affairs to protect its financial interests and the Suez Canal.  Consequently, it is also drawn into a vicious guerilla war instigated by the Islamic cleric, Muhammad Ahmad, who has declared himself ‘Mahdi’ (a messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith).

After considerable bloodshed, the English decide to withdraw from the southern regions, including the Sudan, and Major-General Sir Charles Gordon is sent to oversee the evacuation of Khartoum. In the process, however, he becomes isolated and trapped by the Arab and Mahdist forces. A relief expedition led by Sir Garnet Wolseley is sent to rescue him, but due to several delays they arrive too late to save Gordon. At the same time, however, it is the perfect opportunity for fate to reunite Richard and Edward, and Kean takes full advantage of it.

The writing is superb, the plot is refreshing, the description is vivid, and the history is bang-on. Five bees.

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I’ve been censored:

I’ve been censored by Huffington Post! The article dealt with “Female Board Directors Better At Decision Making: Study…” [see:http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/25/female-board-directors-decision-making-study_n_2951084.html“]

My comment was “I am so damned weary of the press perpetuating this myth of male/female differentiation. The right person will always make the best decision regardless of gender. To appoint either on the basis of gender is not only contrary to common sense, it is also utterly stupid.

I realize this crap sells papers to the non-thinking, but it is also an unmitigated bore to anyone who has moved past this manufactured debate. Please do move on!”

This is what Huffington post had to say: “This comment has been removed. Most comments are removed because of an attack or insult on another user or public figure. Please see the guidelines here if you’re not sure why this comment was removed.”

I guess I shouldn’t have criticized the press!”

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

      

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March 25, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Military history | 2 Comments

Allegiance: A Dublin Novella, by Heather Domin

A skillful mixture of intrigue, action and romance, set in the charm of Ireland –

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allegiance - coverStory blurb: 1922. William Young is an MI5 informant, using his working-class background to gain the trust of those deemed a threat to the Crown. Tiring of his double life, William travels to Dublin for one last assignment: infiltrating a circle of IRA supporters. But these “rebels” are not what he expected — and one of them, a firebrand named Adam with a past as painful as his own, shakes William’s uncertain footing to its foundation. As the crisis in Dublin escalates, William treads a dangerous path between the violence in the streets, the vengeance of the Crown, and the costliest risk of all — falling in love with the man he was sent to betray.

Available as a free download at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view

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Review by Gerry Burnie

This being the “Irish month” of March, and although I’m a day late for the 17th, Allegiance: A Dublin Novella by Heather Domin [smashwords, 2013] is is my St. Patrick’s Day contribution.

allegiance - IRA informantsThe story is set in the period just after the so-called “Irish War of Independence” (1919 – 1921), and the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty. William Young is a MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5) Agent, sent to Dublin to infiltrate the IRA (Irish Republican Army.) He does this successfully, posing as a barkeeper at the Flag and Three Pub. There—quite in pace with the story—he meets his intended target—Adam Elliot—who is described as:

[A] bright-eyed young man, several years younger than himself, with his cap cocked too far in one direction and his grin cocked too far in the other. He was cleanfaced and well-dressed, pale brown hair curling out beneath his cap and clear skin glowing in the smoky light. Hands clapped him on the back as he approached the bar, and he smiled at each face in turn and dipped his head in greeting.

The two gravitate toward one another, partly due to William’s prompting, but there is also a genuine attraction between them. I will also mention right here, I found it quite refreshing that neither spends much time worrying about being attracted to another man. Indeed, the only real soul searching is William’s who questions the wisdom (and well he might) of falling in love with a potential enemy.

Nonetheless it happened, and I thought it was quite in keeping with the characters. Being both Irish and Catholic, I don’t ever recall going through a great deal of soul searching because I was attracted to boys. I was too busy trying to get them to notice me, or getting them off alone, so I thought the author handled this part very well.

The ending, although not overly dramatic, was quite satisfactory, and I was left satisfied. I can’t provide any details for fear of spoiling it for others, but it also had a moral to it.

As a relative novice (with only two novels to her credit) Heather Domin is a writer with a maturity well ahead of her experience. Her style is well nigh flawless, and her plot and structure are a delight to read. However, it is her understanding of the characters—both primary and secondary—that adds the charm that should be part and parcel of any Irish novel. Four and one-half bees.

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March 18, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Male bisexual | , , | Leave a comment

The Fallen Snow, by John J. Kelley

A touching coming of age novel –

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fallen snow - coverStory blurb: In the fall of 1918 infantry sniper Joshua Hunter saves an ambushed patrol in the Bois le Prêtre forest of Lorraine . . . and then vanishes. Pulled from the rubble of an enemy bunker days later, he receives an award for valor and passage home to Hadley, a remote hamlet in Virginia’s western highlands. Reeling from war and influenza, Hadley could surely use a hero. Family and friends embrace him; an engagement is announced; a job is offered.

Yet all is not what it seems. Joshua experiences panics and can’t recall the incident that crippled him. He guards a secret too, one that grips tight like the icy air above his father’s quarry. Over the course of a Virginia winter and an echoed season in war-torn France, The Fallen Snow reveals his wide-eyed journey to the front and his ragged path back. Along the way he finds companions – a youth mourning a lost brother, a widowed nurse seeking a new life and Aiden, a bold sergeant escaping a vengeful father. While all of them touch Joshua, it is the strong yet nurturing Aiden who will awaken his heart, leaving him forever changed.

Set within a besieged Appalachian forest during a time of tragedy, The Fallen Snow charts an extraordinary coming of age, exploring how damaged souls learn to heal, and dare to grow.

About the author: John J Kelley is a fiction writer crafting tales about healing, growth and community. Born and raised in the Florida panhandle, he graduated from Virginia Tech and served as a military officer. After pursuing traditional careers for two decades, he began writing.

John is a member of The Writer’s Center (www.writer.org). He lives in Washington, DC, with his partner of eighteen years and can often be found wandering Rock Creek Park or hovering over his laptop at a local coffee shop.

John recently completed his debut novel, a work of historical fiction set at the close of the First World War. The Fallen Snow explores the emotional journey of a young infantry sniper returning to a remote mountain community reeling from war, influenza and economic collapse.

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Review by Gerry Burnie
fallen snow - wwi collageI have done a fair amount of research into WWI (1914 – 1918), and because of it I have developed a real admiration for the young men who fought and died in unfamiliar places like Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. It was hell on earth with the “mustard” gas, the relentless mud, the rotting trench feet, and the barbarity in general, and their sacrifices should never ever be forgotten. Because of this, Fallen Snow, by John J Kelley [Stone Cabin Press, December 19, 2012] appealed to me as an appropriate memorial.

The story follows the experience of one young man from the rural uplands of Virginia to the battlefields of Alsace Lorraine, France, and back again. However, the man who left Virginia is not the man who returned; not emotionally, anyhow. For want of a better name hey called it “shell sock” back then, but we now know it as PTSD (“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”)

Complicating this even further is the fact that Joshua Hunter is also gay, which in the context of the time and rural setting was yet another source of emotional distress.

Along the way he meets a variety of characters, each with their own story, but only Aiden has the strength to help Joshua come to grips with himself.

I thought the author did quite a good job of depicting the battlefield scenes, although I would have liked to see them a bit more stark to reflect the reality of it, and even though I am unfamiliar with Virginia, I was able to visualize the Appalachian setting quite well. I could also identify with the insular society of his village, and with his ultra-conservative family.

I understand this is John Kelley’s debut novel, and so I look forward to reading more. Four and one-half bees.

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Announcing a new blog!

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March 11, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Grass Beyond the Mountains: Discovering the Last Great Cattle Frontier on the North American Continent, by Richmond P. Hobson, Jr.

A true Canadian story that proves once and for all time that Canada has a history  equal to any in the world for colour, drama and interest.

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grass - coverStory blurb: Three cowhands with a dream of owning a cattle ranch make a heroic pioneer trek across uncharted mountain ranges to open up the frontier grasslands in northern British Columbia during the early 1930s.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Considering that my next novel is partially set in the same district of British Columbia as Grass Beyond the Mountains: Discovering the Last Great Cattle Frontier on the North American Continent, by Richmond P. Hobson Jr. [McClelland & Stewart, 1978], I can hardly believe I hadn’t  found it until now.

In my own story (based on an actual cattle drive from Hanceville, B.C. to Teslin, Yukon, in 1898), one of the things I worried about was that people wouldn’t believe 10-foot snowfalls—on the flat—and surviving minus-forty degree temperatures, but those are really rather tame compared to what Hobson and his partner endured in real life.

The first thing to emphasize about this story is that it is true pioneer history–with allowances for the cowboy’s tendency to exaggerate–made at a time when there was still room for a man to shape his destiny with courage, hard work and determination. That is to say, it probably wouldn’t be possible today, given all the emasculating government rules and regulations. For one thing, you’d probably need a building permit to build a simple shelter.

In addition, adventurers like Hobson, Stanley Blum, and ‘Panhandle’ Phillips, are harder to find these days, as is their ability to withstand hardship—the rougher the better. As they say, “They just don’t make them like they used to.”

grass - chilcotin2The basic tale is about Hobson and Panhandle setting out from Wyoming to the wilds of British Columbia to find a goldmine in “Free grass reachin’ north into unknown country. Land— lots of it— untouched— just waitin’ for hungry cows, and some buckaroos that can ride and have guts enough to put her over.”

So with little more than that, they head for Canada in  an obsolete panel delivery Ford, distinguished by large printed letters across its body, “BOLOGNA— BLOATERS— BLOOD SAUSAGES.”

Across the border they followed the “Old Cariboo Trail’ (the ‘ Trail of  ’98’), which:

Wound its way for more than a hundred miles along the face of a cliff, with the Fraser River twisting like a tiny thread through the rocky gorge a thousand feet below. In places small slides blocked the highway, and we shovelled enough rock out of the way to carry on. Once a driver, whom we nearly pushed over the bank, found it necessary to back up a hundred yards to a place in the road where we could squeeze by him. We thanked him.

grass - black wolf2“That’s all right,” he said, “but watch it ahead— the road narrows up.”

That was merely the beginning!

Following that they endured frost bitten feet; warded off giant, killer black wolves circling the camp; survived when the waters under the frozen ice sucked them and their cattle and horses down into the freezing deep hole; stared a Grizzly down; and gambled the horses and cattle could make it across ice encrusted snow 20-feet deep below.

It should also be added that there are no offensive bits to navigate, and so it is appropriate for children—in fact I encourage you to share the history with them. Let them know that Canada has a history equal of any in the world in colour and drama. Five (solid) bees.

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Visitor’s count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 45,653

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February 25, 2013 Posted by | biography, British Columbia history, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Historical period, Homesteading in Canada, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | 4 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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[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

A Heart Divided, by J.M. Snyder

A true romance with an authentic core –

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a heart divided - coverStory blurb: Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks has grown weary of the War Between the States. He is all too aware of the tenuous thread that ties him to this earth—as he writes a letter home to his sister, he realizes he may be among the dead by the time she receives the missive. His melancholy mood is shared by other soldiers in the campsite; in the cool Virginia night, the pickets claim to hear ghosts in the woods, and their own talk spooks them.

Andy knows the “ghost” is nothing more than a wounded soldier left on the battlefield, dying in the darkness. With compassion, Andy takes the picket’s lantern and canteen in the hopes of easing the soldier’s pain. After a tense confrontation with the soldier, Andy is shocked to discover none other than Samuel Talley, a young man Andy’s father had chased from their plantation when the romantic relationship between the two boys came to light. The last time the two had seen each other, Sam had been heading west to seek his fortune, and had promised to send for Andy when he could.

Then the war broke out, and Andy had enlisted in the Confederate Army to help ease the financial burden at home. Apparently Sam had similar ideas—he now wears the blue coat of a Union solider.

Sam is severely wounded and infection has begun to set in. Andy can’t sneak him into his own camp for treatment because all Union soldiers are taken prisoner. But Andy’s Confederate uniform prevents him from seeking help from the nearby Union camp, as well. It’s up to Andy to tend his lover’s wound and get Sam the help he needs before it’s too late…and before Andy’s compatriots discover Sam’s presence…

About the author: An author of gay erotic/romantic fiction, J.M. Snyder began in self-publishing and worked 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

One of my favourite genre settings is the American Civil War. In reality it was a brutal conflict with unimaginable bloodshed and death, but it also had a strong element of gallantry and romance as represented by the young men, the ‘flower of manhood,’ who participated in it because of principles they were willing to die for. This is the sense I found in J.M. Synder’s period novel A Heart Divided [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, July 27, 2011].

The story begins in March, 1865,just  one month before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865, and at the opening we find Confederate Lieutenant Anderson Blanks writing to his sister with the pathetic notion that he could well be de dead by the time she receives his letter. It is a powerful opening, and true, for death was always just one breath away in this conflict.

Snyder also does quite a fine job of capturing the tense environment of the encampment, frequently in sight of the enemies picket fires, and surrounded by the yet-to-be-retrieved wounded and dead. His men fear the voices of ghosts when they hear an enemy soldier crying out for water, but Blanks recognizes it as such and takes a lantern and a canteen in search of him.

This scenario struck a familiar chord, for I remembered reading about Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland, the so-called “Angel of Marye’s Heights,” and his heroic deeds.

a heart divided - richard kirland paintingThe story goes that on hearing the cries of wounded Union soldiers: “Kirkland gathered all the canteens he could carry, filled them with water, then ventured out onto the battlefield. He ventured back and forth several times, giving the wounded Union soldiers water, warm clothing, and blankets. Soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies watched as he performed his task, but no one fired a shot. General [Joseph B.] Kershaw later stated that he observed Kirkland for more than an hour and a half. At first, it was thought that the Union would open fire, which would result in the Confederacy returning fire, resulting in Kirkland being caught in a crossfire. However, within a very short time, it became obvious to both sides as to what Kirkland was doing, and according to Kershaw cries for water erupted all over the battlefield from wounded soldiers. Kirkland did not stop until he had helped every wounded soldier (Confederate and Federal) on the Confederate end of the battlefield. Sergeant Kirkland’s actions remain a legend in Fredericksburg to this day.” Wikipedia.

Whether or not Snyder was aware of this story is immaterial. What is relevant is that it makes a most powerful device by which to reunite Blanks with his tragically lost love, Samuel Talley.

The rest of the story pits the two of them against the ideological divisions of “north” and “south,” and the severity of Samuel’s wound. I won’t elaborate beyond saying that the tension is balanced with romance, and the writing is strong.

My quibbles are almost too trivial to mention, but at times I felt the coincidences were just a bit convenient.

Altogether, it is a true romance with an authentic core. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,529

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Sometimes a single letter can make all the difference. That’s how I felt when this missive arrived:

Dear Mr. Burnie,

After I finished Two Irish Lads I immediately ordered Journey to the Big Sky.  Both books are fantastic… I’ve just found another favorite author.  Thanks so much for such fantastic reading.  Your words make the characters come alive and become someone we care about, and to me that is what makes a great author.   Thanks ever so much for you dedication to these books, their research, etc.  However and FWIW, I really was disappointed in the cover of Big Sky though – IMO Sheldon doesn’t have the looks that your Sheldon has to command the attention, etc..  But I did thoroughly enjoy both books; now the big question… when can I get Coming of Age, I can’t find it available anywhere?  Also, I really appreciate the fact that you’re making them available in e-books.  Thanks ever so much again.

Best,
Rock H

Definitely inspirational … And humbling.

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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 visits are inspirational and humbling as well. See you next week

February 4, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

Longhorns, by Victor J. Banis

An enjoyable read in the style of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour

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longhorn - coverForty-year-old Les, the trail boss of the Double H Ranch, works for its beloved chatelaine, the elderly widow Miz Cameron, “a little dumpling of a woman, dressed in black.” Les rides herd over a crew of rowdy cowboys, roping steer and sleeping around prairie campfires. Young drifter Buck, part Nasoni Indian, catches up to them on a roundup. After proving himself an expert sharpshooter, rider and roper, Buck celebrates his initiation to the group by luring one of their number, Red, into his bedroll. But Buck is really after Les, sandy-haired and significantly endowed.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I had previously passed on  Longhorns by Victor J. Banis [Running Press, July 13, 2007] several times, fearing that the title was a euphemism for long (male) ‘horns,’ but seeing the reaction it has received from so many readers, my curiosity finally got the better of me.

What I found was a pulp-style western, written (for the most part) in the classic vernacular. These are both good features from this reader’s point of view. Moreover, Victor Banis has also done quite a good job of capturing the atmosphere and camaraderie of a 19th-century cattle roundup; ruggedly independent men, interacting man-to-man, and free from the disruptive influence of women.

And, yes, there was sex between some of them [see: Queer Cowboys by Chris Pickard]. It was common for men in early Western America to relate to one another in pairs or in larger homo-social group settings. At times, they may have competed for the attention of women but more often two cowboys organized themselves into a partnership resembling a heterosexual marriage. This is reflected in a poem by the renowned cowboy poet, Charles Badger Clark, i.e.

longhorn - lost pardnerWe loved each other in the way men do
And never spoke about it, Al and me,
But we both knowed, and knowin’ it so true
Was more than any woman’s kiss could be.
We knowed–and if the way was smooth or rough,
The weather shine or pour,
While I had him the rest seemed good enough–
But he ain’t here no more!
The range is empty and the trails are blind,
And I don’t seem but half myself today.
I wait to hear him ridin’ up behind
And feel his knee rub mine the good old way
He’s dead–and what that means no man kin tell.
Some call it “gone before.”
Where? I don’t know, but God! I know so well
That he ain’t here no more!

Nevertheless, as can be seen from the above, it was seldom if ever overt, and this is where the story lost credibility with me. Buck was just a bit too out to be believable—or to have even survived, for that matter. Moreover, as several other reviewers have already noted, his fellow cowhands were also incredibly accepting of a way of life that was still considered “unspeakable.”

These are not fatal flaws, just niggling drawbacks, so I want to stress that this is an enjoyable story with some really strong writing, and a bang-on style. In fact, the style is every bit as authentic as Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 44,099

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Glory Hallelujah! – I am pleased to announce that I have finished the pre-edited draft of my WIP novel, Coming of Age on the Trail. It has taken three years, 227 pages, 133,500 words, and a good deal of sweat and tears. I also feel behoved to mention that I had to fight Microsoft Word (“Microcrap”) every single line, paragraph, and page along the way. In fact, I have given it an un-dedication at the front of the book. To learn more, click on the above link or image.

stag dance copy2

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

      

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January 28, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure, Traditional Western | 2 Comments

The Celestial, by Barry Brennessel

It’s unanimous: The Celestial by Barry Bennessel is a great read!

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celestial - coverStory blurb: Love was the last thing Todd Webster Morgan expected to find while searching for gold in 1870s California. But that was before he met Lâo Jian.

Hardened beyond his nineteen years, Todd Webster Morgan is determined to find gold high in the Sierra Nevadas. But his dream is violently upended. Complicating matters even more, he meets a young Chinese immigrant named Lâo Jian, whose own dreams of finding gold have been quashed by violence.

But life back in Sacramento isn’t any easier. Todd’s mother struggles to make ends meet. His invalid uncle becomes increasing angry. Todd seeks employment with little success. Meanwhile his friendship with Lâo Jian turns to love. But their relationship is strained as anti-Chinese sentiment grows.

Todd vows not to lose Lâo Jian. The couple must risk everything to make a life for themselves. A life that requires facing fear and prejudice head on.

About this author: When Barry’s first collection of stories was read aloud by his second grade teacher, the author hid in the bathroom. As the years flew by, he wrote more, hid less (not really), and branched out to Super 8 films and cassette tape recorders. Barry’s audience—consisting solely of friends and family—were both amused and bemused.

Since those childhood days, Barry has earned degrees in English and French from the State University of New York College at Brockport, and a Master of Arts in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

It’s unanimous: Barry Brennessel’s novel The Celestial [MLR Press,LLC, September 6, 2012] is a great story! Most reviews I have read have dipped into the superlative bag for apt descriptors, and I must agree.

My approach comes from my passion and accompanying research into American frontier history, including the California mining communities of  the mid-1800s, and I must say that the author has captured the tone of these rough-and-tumble, gritty and grotty settlements remarkably well.

Set against this rugged backdrop is the wide-eyed naïveté of farmboy, Todd Morgan, and his companion Lâo Jian; both innocent romantics who just want to live and love in the midst of this harsh environment.

Part of Brennessel’s strength as a writer is his ability to create vivid characters who are both interesting and unique. Each character has a distinctive voice that sets him (or her) apart while contributing to the over all story. So, whether it’s Ned Calvert, Todd’s irascible uncle, or the young Irish miner, Breandon (on whom Todd has an early crush), they all contribute in their own way.

celestial - chinese minersOne of the regrettable aspects of frontier society was the degree of prejudice against certain ethnic societies, i.e. Native Americans and certain foreigners, especially–to the miners–the Chinese, who were called “Chinamen,” “Johnny Pig Tails,” or “Celestials” (because they came from the so-called “Celestial Empire.”)

The miners resented them because they saw them as competition, and distrusted them because they tended to stick to their own communities, which is not surprising since they were generally shunned elsewhere. As a result the Chinese were subjected to all manner of abuse, even murder, and Brennessel has done quite a credible job of portraying this.

Nonetheless, Todd and Lâo Jian persevere primarily because of the strength and love they derive from one another, and this is the inspirational theme that underlies the whole story. Highly recommended. Five bees!

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 43,538

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Coming of Age on the Trail: A number of people have inquired about my forthcoming novel, and where they can find more information on it. Others have expressed concerns that the URL link “COA related photos” listed earlier, is not operating. That’s because I have changed servers in the meantime. So, to Answer both queries click on the banner below to be taken to the new URL, and follow the links you will find there. Thanks for your interest.

COA - banner - 500px

A progress report: I will finish the pre-edit draft in about 2 – 3 days, and after one more re-write it will be on its way. Watch for it early summer 2013.

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

      

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January 21, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Northern Lights, by James Matthew Green

This is  history as it should be told (and taught): A history lesson that can be absorbed while enjoying a truly enjoyable story.

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northern lights - coverJames Matthew Green’s historical novel, Northern Lights, takes the reader into the vivid excitement of the French and Indian War. Daniel Allouez, whose father is French and mother is Ojibwe Indian, enters into the war not only to fight the enemy, but to discover who he is at the crossroads of race, religion, and sexual orientation.

The spiritual nature of Daniel’s search draws beautifully upon his Ojibwe tradition, with its emphasis on experiencing the Divine in nature. Daniel’s discovery of love in a same-sex relationship presents difficulties as well as transformation in this resounding story of triumph and emotional healing.

About the Author

  • James Matthew (Jim) Green is a psychotherapist in private practice in Charlotte, NC. Born in 1952, Jim grew up in Minnesota, and has lived in California, Oregon, Montana, and North Carolina. His ethnic roots include Norwegian, French, and Ojibwe/Odawa. Jim is enrolled at White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
  • Jim’s work as a psychotherapist and as a writer explores the Sacred Mystery and Power encountered in nature and in the experiences of life.
  • Jim is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He studied theology at Saint John’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Camarillo, CA, and earned a Masters of Divinity at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC.
  • In his psychotherapy practice, Jim specializes in spirituality for emotional healing.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Ever on the lookout for Canadian authors and/or Canadian content and history, especially from a gay perspective, I came across Northern Lights, by James Matthew Green [CreateSpace Independent Publishing , June 23, 2012], and although the author is American this novel fills the latter two categories quite admirably. Moreover, it fits my concept of gay historical fiction to a “T” by giving history a face—albeit a fictional one—to represent those GBLT men and women who lived and loved in another time.

Northern lights - French-Indian-WarThe story is set in the 1750s against the somewhat neglected backdrop of the so-called “French and Indian War ” (1754-1763) [more about this point below]. It is also the backdrop for James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. However, in this novel the main character wasn’t merely raised by Indians, he is in fact half-Indian (Métis), and the other half being French. The Métis theme is also one that has been surprising neglected in the past, for few things can evoke the northern frontiers like a band of the bon vivant Métis and Coureurs de bois.

While these elements form the backdrop, and at times provide some exciting drama, the main theme here is spirituality—both Christian and Native. Being part Ojibwe himself, the author has provided some fascinating insights into Ojibwe spiritual beliefs, including Two Spirit culture, as the main characters, Daniel and Rorie, come to terms with divergent beliefs and their sexuality.

I was particularly intrigued, as well, by the scenes involving ‘near death experience,’ for it was a widely held belief among many tribes that the spirit left the body to converse with inhabitants of the “Other Land,” and then returned with messages to “This Land.” In fact, I have used this theme in my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail.

I was also struck by the way the author emphasized the reverence and respect Natives held for the environment around them without flogging the point. For indeed, that is how it was. It was a natural as etiquette is today—or was.

My quibbles are minor and technical, and probably wouldn’t even be noticed by anyone who wasn’t a former professor of history, but they stood out for me. The first, as I mentioned above, has to do with the use of the lable “French and Indian War” to describe the conflict. The author does acknowledge that this is an American term, but goes on to describe the Canadian equivalent as “The War of conquest.” Nope—not exactly. English-Canadians refer to it as “The Anglo-French Conflict,” while French-Canadians refer to it as “La guerre de la Conquête” (i.e. “The War of Conquest”.)  In a country with two distinct cultures, and an underlying current of nationalism, that is a big deal.

My second quibble has to do with the term “Winnipeg;” as in “Winnipeg River.” Actually, the much later name Winnipeg is an English bastardization of  the Cree word “Wīnipēk (ᐐᓂᐯᐠ)”, meaning “murky waters,” and contemporary maps of the period also show it as such.

That said, this is history as it should be told (and taught): A history lesson that can be absorbed while enjoying a truly enjoyable story. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 43,006

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

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Notice: Due to Amazon’s recent decision to arbitrarily purge customer reviews from  its pages, I will no longer be posting  on Amazon.com and/or Amazon.ca. Instead, I will be posting on this site, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. If and when Amazon changes its policy, I will be happy to resume.

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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’ve recorded 3,000 visits in just over three weeks. Congratulations! I’ll keep looking for more interesting stories, so please come back soon.

January 14, 2013 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

For a Lost Soldier, by Rudi van Dantzig

A powerful story of coming of age –

Story blurb: Forty years after the fact, Dutch choreographer Jeroen Boman recalls a wartime romance. During the Allied liberation of Holland, the eleven-year-old Boman entered into a tender relationship with a Canadian soldier. Back to the present, Boman attempts to incorporate his experiences in his latest ballet work, a celebration of the Liberation.

The printed version of For a Lost Soldier is no longer available, but the film version (written by director, Roeland Kerbosh) is available on DVD.

About the author: The choreographer and director Rudi van Dantzig (August 1933 – January 2012) played a major role in the development of classical ballet in the Netherlands. Many of his ballets contain a strong thread of social criticism; he was not afraid to explore difficult subjects. The vividly theatrical Monument for a Dead Boy (1965) told the story of a boy who discovers his hitherto repressed homosexuality and is ultimately destroyed by his own desires. This ballet brought Van Dantzig international notice and was mounted for several major companies.

He also had a second career, which developed later in his life, as a novelist. In 1986 he wrote an autobiographical novel, Voor een verloren soldaat, about his love affair while a young boy with a Canadian soldier, which became a great success. It was awarded several times and a film was made of it. An English translation, For a Lost Soldier, was published in 1996.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In preparation for this week’s review, I went in search of a gay Canadian novel in all the usual places (including Amazon.ca), but I may as well have gone searching for a unicorn! All I found were a couple of pages of outdated, academic, and even American offerings (i.e. The Best American Short Stories 2012). To add insult to injury, my own novels weren’t even included.

All was not entirely lost, however, for I came across a book I had read some time ago, For a Lost Soldier, by Rudi van Dantzig, [Gay Men’s Press, 1997], which is now out of print. However, a DVD film version (written and directed by Roeland Kerbosch, and starring Maarten Smit as young Boman, Jeroen Krabbé as the adult Boman, and Andrew Kelley as the Canadian soldier) is still available.
The book and the film differ quite significantly, especially in the way the ending is constructed, but the basic story outline is the same.

Near the end of the war in Holland, eleven-year-old Jeroen Boman is sent to live in the country due to a food shortage in Amsterdam. However, despite a relative abundance to eat he is wracked with loneliness for his parents and friends.

This is subject to change when the village is liberated by a group of Canadian Troops, and Jeroen encounters a 20-something soldier named Walter Cook. Jeroen revels in the attention shown by Cook, and a relationship is formed between them that eventually becomes sexual in nature.

A dark cloud forms, however, when Cook’s regiment moves on, and he leaves without saying goodbye to a devastated Jeroen. Even the photograph of him—the only token Jeroen has left—is damaged by rain.

The remainder of the novel is dedicated to Jeroen’s life when he returns to Amsterdam, and the desperate but fruitless search for his first, lost lover. Eventually Jeroen is forced to realize that all he has left are memories.

Given the controversial nature of man/boy love, even when it is pseudo-autobiographical (as it is in this case), a number of people will be put off by this point alone. However, the sexual aspect in the novel is delicately handled, and in the film it is so subtle that one might actually miss it. What remains is a powerful story of coming of age, and the lifelong impact of first love. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 38,355

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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!

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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 you for dropping by. It appears almost certain that we will reach 40,000 by year’s end. Congratulations!

November 26, 2012 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Coming out, fiction/autobiographical, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

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

Gerry B’s Book Reviews’ Remembrance Day Tribute

 

Remembrance Day Facts

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

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

Available in hardcover and paperback formats, only – 338 pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 36,585

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

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

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

      

Thanks for dropping by. Add a “like” of comment so that I know you’ve been here. See you next Monday.

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

Out of the Blue, by Josh Lanyon

A bang-up short story, enthusiastically recommended –

Story Blurb: Grieving over the death of his lover, British flying ace Bat Bryant accidentally kills the man threatening him with exposure. Unfortunately there’s a witness: the big, rough American they call “Cowboy” – and Cowboy has his own price for silence.

About the author: A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USA Book News awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In preparation for Remembrance Day–for which I have a non-fiction book picked–I came across Out of the Blue [Just Joshin Publisher, 2012] by Josh Lanyon. It’s a name I’d heard of before, but had never stopped to read any of his works. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did.

The tale is set at an allied air base in France during WWI. Captain Bat Bryant is a British flying ace with an Eton College background, and as the story opens he is being confronted by a potential blackmailer. During the course of this confrontation Bryant strikes and accidentally kills the extortionist, and is witnessed by an American flying ace named “Cowboy.” Cowboy then reveals that he also knows of Bryant’s brief affair with Lieutenant “Owl” Roberts, but inexplicably offers to dispose of the body just the same. Bryant accepts his offer, and the stage is then set for the bulk of the story involving the relationship with the exploitative American.

***

At 193 KB this ranks as a short story, which I tend to like because of their distillation of events. Author Lanyon appears to understand this appeal as well, for he has staunchly adhered to the three basic rules; i.e. get in, tell the story, and get out. There is no dallying here. The prose is spare but efficient, the characters tend to develop as they go along (mostly relying on dialogue for their personalities), and the era and setting get a just-enough amount of description.

Having said that, there is very little missed. Cowboy is a ‘cowboy,’ and Bryant is his willing ‘mount,’ yet there is a genuine affection as well. The era is effectively evoked by touches like the lyrics to “Roses of Picardy”—an iconic song of WWI—and the “dogfights” are some of the best I’ve read.

My only quibble with Out of the Blue is that some (a few) of the events tend to come out of blue as well, and as such I was ‘quizzical’ regarding the motivations. Nonetheless, this is a bang-up story that gets my enthusiastic recommendation. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 36,104

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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!

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A personal boycott.

Just received notice of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012. I WON’T be taking part. For one thing, it is only open to “Books published for the first time in the United States,” (nothing about Canada), and of the 15 categories, not one of them is for GBLT books–fiction or non-fiction. So best of luck, but no thanks.

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

      

Thanks for dropping by. I hope that all my friends living on the east coast of United States and eastern Canada will be safe from Sandy’s wrath. My thoughts are with you.

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay military, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Grab Bag (Little House on the Bowery), by Derek McCormack and Dennis Cooper (Editor)

A refreshingly unique style that is also universal –

Story blurb: Grab Bag is comprised of two interrelated novels, Dark Rides and Wish Book, from one of Canada’s most important young writers. Both books are set in the same small rural city, in different eras (1950s, 1930s), each characterized by McCormack’s spare and elliptical prose. Front cover illustration by Ian Phillips.

Available in ebook format – 1148 KB

About the Author: Derek McCormack is the author of Grab Bag (Akashic) and The Haunted Hillbilly (Soft Skull), which was named a ‘best book of the year’ by both the Village Voice and The Globe and Mail, and a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He writes fashion and arts articles for the National Post. He lives in Toronto. Dennis Cooper (editor) is the author of ‘The George Miles Cycle,’ an interconnected sequence of five novels that includes Closer (1989), Frisk (1991), Try (1994), Guide (1997), and Period (2000). The cycle has been translated into fourteen languages. His most recent novel is My Loose Thread (Canongate, 2002). He lives in Los Angeles.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As Halloween approaches I looked around for something along this line, and quite by accident I found Derek McCormack’s Grab Bag [Akashic Books, 2004], edited by Dennis Cooper, which expanded my knowledge of Canadian writers (always a happy occurrence!)

Derek McCormack is one of those treasures that Canada and the Canadian literati keep hidden under a bushel. It is probably due to the GBLT content of his works, which, as a genre, has yet to be anointed for consideration by any of the major awards.[1] Indeed, when Dark Rides was first published, Globe and Mail’s book critic, Laura McDonald, had this to say:

Derek McCormack’s first published work, Dark Rides, was released in Canada this summer to little notice. It had three problems: It was slim, it was issued by a small press and its writer was unknown. Fortunately for McCormack and his readers, Dark Rides received more ink in the U.S. where, to be fair, there is more ink. Detour magazine even included him in its ‘Top Thirty Artists Under Thirty’ list. Why? Well, cynics might dismiss the book as trendy – a gay coming-of-age story. But anyone who reads the book closely will attribute the success to his skillful, tight-rope walking prose.
– Laura MacDonald, Globe & Mail

Grab Bag is a combining of two McCormack novellas, Wish Book and Dark Rides. Wish Book is set in the depression era of the 1930s, and is a bizarre romp through as list of situations and circumstances that defy probability, and yet could have happened.

Dark Rides is set in the 1950s (an era I am nostalgically familiar with) and is the story of a teenage, Canadian farm boy trying to come to grips with his homosexuality. Regretfully he has less than a minimum of sophistication and no one to turn to in a small, roughneck community. It is a dark plot in some ways, and yet it is humorous on account of his naiveté.

My views

I once read that successful writing is at once unique and universal, and this applies fairly well to McCormack’s style. It has a refreshing difference that almost defies comparison, and yet I was able to identify with the farm boy’s naive character quite well. Even the small community and its denizens were familiar to me.

Journalistically, McCormack is a minimalist. There is no superfluity or long poetic narratives here, only the bare minimum to tell the story and define the characters. Yet they were as developed as any I have read. They are a young farm boy and a ‘slicker,’ base individuals in a loveable way, and so too much development would clutter the picture.

Grab Bag is one of those stories that will stay with me long after I put it down. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 35,598

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

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A personal boycott.

Just received notice of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012. I WON’T be taking part. For one thing, it is only open to “Books published for the first time in the United States,” (nothing about Canada), and of the 15 categories, not one of them is for GBLT books–fiction or non-fiction. So best of luck, but no thanks.

[Also, see my comments regarding awards in general in paragraphs 2 and 3 (above).]

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Help put Richer, Manitoba, on the national Map

Cynthia Cramer, Author of “Real Justice: Guilty of Being Weird,” has submitted a short story to the Reader’s Digest “Most Interesting Community” contest. Her submission is about her municipality of Richer. Manitoba, so let’s help recognize Richer by taking a moment to vote. To cast your vote, go to: Canada’s Most Interesting Towns Contest | Readers Digest.ca: http://www.readersdigest.ca/cmit/submission-details?submission_id=187. YEA RICHER, GO, GO. GO!

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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 visits are my inspiration to discover new and interesting books for your consideration. 


[1] Among over two dozen Canadian literary awards there is not one GBLT award.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Only Make Believe, by Elliott Mackle

A well-conceived, superbly written murder mystery/romance –

Story blurb: It’s amateur night at the ultra-private, members-only Caloosa Club on the Fort Myers, Florida, riverfront. Trouble begins when the fat lady sings. Her triumph is sweet. But, only hours later, the diva lies near death in a hotel room upstairs, the victim of a vicious beating. Hotel manager Dan Ewing and his sidekick, Lee County Detective Bud Wright, soon discover that this was no lady and that a variety of unsavory characters hoped to dance on the dead diva’s grave. In Southwest Florida in January 1951, almost anyone who wanted to have a little illicit fun put his—or her—life on the line.

Dan, a World War II veteran who survived Japanese torpedoes, five days on a life raft and the death of his Navy lover, feels he’s found more safety and freedom than any gay man might expect. Dealing cards, serving untaxed mixed drinks and selling the services of escorts of both sexes, he acts as if he has nothing to lose. Yet he does. Bud, his secret lover, is a former Marine sergeant twice decorated for valor. Strong and brave but deeply conventional, he lives with the uneasy knowledge that every time he and Dan make love they commit a felony according to the laws he is sworn to uphold.

The Caloosa, exposed to the pitiless glare of a front-page homicide investigation, attracts unwanted attention. The mounting pressure, instead of forging a stronger bond between Dan and Bud, threatens to tear them apart. As the jeopardy to both escalates, Dan realizes he may lose the one man who holds the key to the peace and harmony of his postwar world.

About the author: Elliott Mackle served four years in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam era. As a very green second lieutenant he commanded a squadron of cooks and bakers, later achieving the rank of captain. He was stationed in California, Italy and Libya, the latter the setting for his new novel, CAPTAIN HARDING’S SIX-DAY WAR (Lethe Press). His previous novel, HOT OFF THE PRESSES (Lethe Press), is based in part on his adventures covering the 1996 Olympic Games for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Then an AJC staff writer, he served as the newspaper’s dining critic for a decade, also reporting on military affairs, travel and the national restaurant scene. His first novel, IT TAKES TWO, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. He has written for Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, the Los Angeles Times, Florida Historical Quarterly, Atlanta and Charleston magazines and was a longtime columnist at Creative Loafing, the southeast’s leading alternative newsweekly. Mackle wrote and produced segments for Nathalie Dupree’s popular television series, New Southern Cooking, and authored a drama about gay bashing for Georgia Public Television. Along the way, he managed a horse farm, served as a child nutrition advocate for the State of Georgia, volunteered at an AIDS shelter, was founding co-chair of Emory University’s GLBT alumni association and taught critical and editorial writing at Georgia State University. He lives in Atlanta with his partner of 40 years.

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Review by Gerry Burnie (http://www.gerryburniebooks.ca)

Only Make Believe by Elliot Mackle [Lethe Press, 2012] is the second in a series, but the first I have read. However, it does very well as a stand-alone  novel.

The story is set in post WWII, 1950s Fort Myers, FL, and is a next adventure in the lives of Dan Ewing, owner of the members-only “Caloosa Club,” and his closeted lover, Detective Bud Wright. Bud also works, part time, with the county sheriff’s office.

Both are good strong characters, but it is Dan who is the stronger, mostly on account of being comfortable in his own skin.

This particular adventure centres around a cross-dressing amateur singer who is murdered at the hotel, and the resulting publicity puts a strain on both men, particularly on Bud because of his clandestine sexual preferences—make that, ‘practices.’

One of the areas that I thought Mackle captured very well was the schizoid thinking of the time, regarding homosexuality. Homophobia was very much to the fore, of course, but even those who were somewhat sympathetic (i.e. marginally accepting) shrunk from the scene when forced to make a choice. Moreover, the over-the-top reaction of some homophobics made a nice bit of tension while the plot was unfolding.

Another aspect that I thought was both effective and clever was to show the impact of this tragedy on the victim’s 17 y.o. son. An aspect that is very often overlooked.

My quibbles are minor. For example, I thought the resolution of the murder investigation was a bit incredible (but not inconceivable), and although it is not specifically directed at this novel, I am beginning to weary of the ‘persecution complex’ that seems to be dominating most GLBT stories.

While persecution is an undeniable aspect of GLBT life that has existed since the advent of Christianity, the burden of this one particular theme is becoming repetitious. To borrow a phrase from renowned sociologist, Jane Jacobs, it is becoming the “Great blight of sameness.”

I do recommend Only Make Believe, however, as a well-conceived, superbly written murder mystery/romance. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 35,087

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

♥♥♥

Help put Richer, Manitoba, on the national Map

Cynthia Cramer, Author of “Real Justice: Guilty of Being Weird,” has submitted a short story to the Reader’s Digest “Most Interesting Community” contest. Her submission is about her municipality of Richer. Manitoba, so let’s help recognize Richer by taking a moment to vote. To cast your vote, go to: Canada’s Most Interesting Towns Contest | Readers Digest.ca: http://www.readersdigest.ca/cmit/submission-details?submission_id=187. YEA RICHER, GO, GO. GO!

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

      

Thanks for dropping by. I hope I have given you some ideas for your reading pleasure. The authors featured here, and I, welcome your views.

 

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | 2 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!

♣♣♣

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

The Pleasuring of Men, by Clifford Browder

A delightful story–in the manner of “Tom Jones” – 

Story blurb: In New York City in the late 1860s, Tom Vaughan, a respectably raised young man, chooses to become a male prostitute servicing the city’s affluent elite, then falls in love with Walter Whiting, a renowned scholar and lecturer who proves to be his most difficult client. Having long wrestled with feelings of shame and guilt, Whiting, a married man, at first resents Tom’s easy acceptance of his own sexuality. Their story unfolds in the clandestine and precarious gay underworld of the time, which is creatively but vividly created. Through a series of encounters– some exhilarating, some painful, some mysterious—Tom matures, until an unexpected act of violence provokes a final resolution.

Available in e-book format – 443 KB

About the author: The Pleasuring of Men is Clifford Browder’s fourth book and first novel. His short fiction is set in New York City in the years 1830-1880. Characters often reappear in other novels and, quintessentially, in poetry in the form of monologs. Selections of his fiction have been published in Quarter After Eight, Third Coast, and New York Stories. His poetry has appeared in various reviews and online, including Poetic Voices Without Borders 2 and ArLiJo. He has helped two aspiring authors, a Sister of Mercy and a gay inmate in North Carolina, write their memoirs. He is also the author of two published biographies and a critical study of the French Surrealist poet André Breton.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I know almost northing about New York now or in the 1860s, but after reading The Pleasuring of Men by Clifford Bowder [Gival Press; 1 edition, 2011] I am sure I have a fairly credible idea of what it was like. It’s that sort of a novel.

Indeed, we get our first impression from Tom Vaughan (the protagonist and first-person narrator) in the opening of Chapter 1, i.e.

“When Mr. Neil Smythe became a roomer in our brownstone, my brother Stewart scowled and wondered if the subtle scent he gave off was cologne or “hair slime”; my mother declared his last name “elegant, and so much nicer than Smith”; and I said nothing, knowing that I’d just met the handsomest man in the world.

“That we were taking in a roomer was the result of a desperate need to put our finances in order. Since my father’s death years before, following heavy losses in a panic, my moher, having mourned him interminably, through skimping and saving had done her best to maintain herself and her two sons in our handsome brownstone on Twenty-fifth Street just off Fifth Avenue, a fashionable address that she could not bring herself to leave in a move to humbler quarters.”

And of his impressions of Mr. Neil Smythe:


“A clean-shaven young man of twenty-two, he was tall and thin, with smooth skin and wavy long blond hair. He came to us correctly dressed in a gray frock coat, fawn trousers, and bland pointed shoes, with a scarf pin and cuff links that glittered, and a boyish look that I, myself sixteen found stupendously appealing.”

From Tom’s observation that he had “…just met the handsomest man in the world,” we know that there is definitely more to come, and it is not long before he admits to “playing games” with himself in front of an ornate, “oval-shaped” mirror, secretly admiring a cherubic, blonde-haired choir boy, and having a crush on the elegant Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D.

Then, on a mischievous schoolboy outing prompted by one of his school mates, he accompanies him to some of the seedier bars and clubs of the lower side, and one in particular; the  Lustgarten or “pleasure garden.” Tom is shocked and intrigued by sight of men dancing together, some of them dressed as women, and of the lascivious interplay between younger and older. However, as shocked as he might be, he decides that this is the life for him.
Inevitably, Mr. Neil Smythe shows up at the Lustgarten, and tom learns that he is employed by a call-boy ring owned by corrupt politicians and businessmen (quite conceivably “Boss” Tweed and the Tameney Hall gang).[1] Intrigued by Smythe’s stylish way of life, Tom implores him to teach him the ‘tools’ of the trade, which Smythe does in a hands-on sort of way.

Being a quick learner Tom is soon out on his own, pleasuring the grey set with his charms, and being generously rewarded in return. His clients are numerous and varied, and here the author (through Tom’s words) out does himself with colourful and often amusing descriptions of their proclivities—from a European who masquerades as a nobleman; an ‘athletic’ lawyer; and even the Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D.

Eventually Tom is sent to the townhouse of Walter Whitling, a formidable scholar in just about everything, including the Greek language, and after a rather tempestuous getting-to-know-one-another, the older scholar agrees to teach Tom Greek in the manner of an Erastes with his Eromenos. Thereby Whitling first undresses Tom, and seating himself in front of him he touches Tom’s genitals before proceeding where the scene ends.

Altogether this is a tale encompassing both sophisticated wit and humour, and yet the subject matter is the grotty underbelly of society as enacted by its leading citizens—including the Reverend Timothy Blythe, D.D. Indeed, as I followed Tom’s sexual romp through the streets of New York, I couldn’t get the image of that other Tom out of my mind i.e. “Tom Jones.”. It is absolutely delightful. Five Bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 34,069

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Here is an interesting report on Gerry B’s Books Reviews for 2011. I had almost forgot about it until someone requested it, the other day. Something I found interesting was that the visitors count at that time was 13,000! We’ve come a long way, Baby. To see the report, click on the image or go to: https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/2011-in-review/

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Announcement: All of my web pages now have new URL address. Gerry Burnie Books now resides at http://www.gerryburniebooks.ca, and Coming of Age on the Trail now has both a new address and design. It can now be found at: www.comingofagenovel.ca. Or click on the image.  


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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!

♥♥♥
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.

      

On behalf of the wonderful authors featured on this blog, I thank you for dropping by. Do drop back next week.

[1] an American politician most notable for being the “boss” of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th century New York City and State. At the height of his influence, Tweed was the third-largest landowner in New York City, a director of the Erie Railroad, the Tenth National Bank, and the New-York Printing Company, as well as proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel.

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Station, by Keira Andrews

An outstanding plot, likeable characters, and a first-rate adventure – 

Story Blurb: Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster secretly watched stable master Patrick Callahan mastering the groundskeeper, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death, Colin speaks up in his defense, announcing that he, too, is guilty of “the love that dare not speak its name.” Soon they’re both condemned as convicts and shipped off to the faraway prison colony of Australia. Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale and is determined that no one will scale the wall he’s built around his heart. Yet he’s inexorably drawn to the charismatic Colin despite his best efforts to keep him at bay. As their journey extends from the cramped and miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must build new lives for themselves. They’ll have to tame each other to find happiness in this wild new land.

Available in electronic format – 325 KB

About the author: After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes both contemporary and historical fiction and — although she loves delicious angst along the way — Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said:

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I’ve had my eye on The Station by Keira Andrews [Loose Id LLC, 2010] for quite some time. In addition to the Canadian and American frontiers, the Australian outback is an equal favourite. Similar ingredients apply, of course: strong, independent characters; rugged settings; and an overall sense of adventure. This story is slightly different inasmuch as it commences in England, but most of the other ingredients are there.

Colin Lancaster is the privileged son of English gentry, and is thereby accustomed to the pampered lifestyle that goes along with it. On the other hand Patrick Callahan is an Irish stable hand, and under ordinary circumstances the two should never have found common ground apart from being master and servant.

However, at sixteen Colin witnesses a tryst between Callahan and another male servant, and the impact of it throws Colin into a turmoil. He’s fascinated by what he sees, but conflicted by his upper-class beliefs and morals values. Nonetheless, Colin frequently dreams of being taken advantage of by the earthy Patrick Callahan.

As fate would have it Callahan has the misfortune of being caught in the act of sodomizing another male, and is in immanent danger of being lynched. That is when Colin rather gallantly steps in to save Patrick’s life by declaring that he too is a sodomite. He therefore manages to save Patrick’s life, but the two of them are sentenced to be transported to the penal colony of Australia.

The real adventure starts the moment they board the prison ship—generally anchored offshore until a full load was achieved—and although Ms Andrews has done a good job of describing the harsh conditions aboard ship, the reality is they were frequently much worse. During this voyage Colin is nearly raped and Patrick almost dies, but through it all Colin maintains a stoic optimism of starting a new life with Patrick.

Patrick, on the other hand, is more of an enigma. We know he has been emotionally scarred in the past, and that he has steeled his heart on account of it; nevertheless, there is nothing that binds two males together like the sharing of adversity, i.e. ‘equals’ even if they do come from opposite ends of the social spectrum.

The Australian adventure is equally rugged, but I’ll leave that for other readers to discover.

My view

Ms Andrews does a very nice job of wilderness adventures, and also of character development  [see my review of Voyageurs, by Keira Andrews]. In the aforementioned, the characters are social opposites with the baser character taking the lead. In this story, however, it is Colin who possesses the inner strength. The juxtaposition works, but the result is that Patrick is not as well developed as he could be.

Nevertheless the description is first rate, and it is this that keeps the rating well up there. An outstanding plot, likeable characters, and a first-rate adventure. Four and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 32,338

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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!

♥♥♥

Altered – Revelations of the Evolved,  by Shawnda Falls Currie is now available as a paperback https://www.createspace.com/3882371
To get your copy: click on link, create an account using your email address and use coupon code F7UA8S7H for a $2.00 discount.
There will also be 3 copies available for giveaway on Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/. I will post direct link once it is active (approx 2 days). Giveaway will last until 3 Oct 2012. Good luck!

 

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

       

Thanks for dropping by. I’ll have another great novel read for you next Sunday, so do drop back … Oh, and leave a comment as well. T.T.F.N

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Alike as Two Bees, by Elin Gregory

A happy-ever-after story for a summer afternoon

Story blurb: Horses, love, and the tang of thyme and honey…

In Classical Greece, apprentice sculptor Philon has chosen the ideal horse to model for his masterpiece. Sadly, the rider falls well short of the ideal of beauty, but scarred and tattered Hilarion, with his brilliant, imperfect smile, draws Philon in a way that mere perfection cannot.

After years of living among the free and easy tribes of the north, Hillarion has no patience with Athenian formality. He knows what he wants—and what he wants is Philon. Society, friends and family threaten their growing relationship, but perhaps a scarred soldier and a lover of beauty are more alike than they appear.

Available in ebook format – 244 KB (approx. 54 pages).

About the author: Elin Gregory lives in South Wales and has been making stuff up since 1958. Writing has always had to take second place to work and family but now the kids are grown up it’s possible she might finish one of the many novels on her hard drive and actually DO something useful with it.

Elin’s first published stories appeared in the British Flash and Tea and Crumpet anthologies produced by the UK Meet team. Elin still can’t quite believe it. However, there are always new works on the go and she is currently finishing a novel about pirates, planning one set in 6th century AD England and contemplating one about the British Secret Service between the two World Wars. Heroes tend to be hard as nails but capable of tenderness when circumstances allow. Historical subjects predominate but there are also contemporary and historical paranormals, science fiction, crime and a Western.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As far as I can determine,  Alike as Two Bees by Elin Gregory [Etopia Press, 2012] is the debut novella for this author, and as such it is a worthy effort.

Set in ancient Greece the story focuses on Philon, a sculptor’s apprentice, who is characterized as a somewhat shy but talented boy. His character is rounded out be his fellow apprentice, Anatolios, a precocious thirteen-year-old.

Playing opposite them are Aristion, the bratish son of a wealthy patron, and his older cousin  Hilarion. Due to Aristion’s bullying of Anatolios, Hilarion and Philon meet and are immediately attracted to one another. However, Aristion remains resentful and even vengeful, and when he threatens Philon, Hilarion comes to his lover’s defence and all is agreeably resolved.

This is a sweet, uncomplicated story that focuses on romance in a romantic setting. It is well written,  and the characters are appealing rather than complex. In fact they are rather standard fare. Philon is the struggling good boy, Aristion is the spoiled rich kid, Anatolios is the impish-catalyst, and Hilarion is the mature kid who is attracted to the good boy.

There is nothing wrong with this type of character development, and it makes for a good solid read, but it doesn’t break any new ground, either.

Altogether, Alike as Two Bees is a happy-ever-after story that will pleasantly fill an afternoon at the beach, or an evening curled up in your easy chair. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 32,020

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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!

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Notice: Have you had any dealings with  Fontcraft? (http://www.fontcraft.com/fontcraft/#axzz22jaeXIBi)

This is my experience: I ordered a font online from Fontcraft, for which I paid $18.00, but the download URL I was instructed to use was non-functioning [see:http://www.fontcraft.com/download/9e5U4a4Iz3viqEsU/ ]. I wrote with my concerns 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. Hope you found your visit enjoyable. Please drop by again.

 

August 26, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

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!

 ♣♣♣

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

Calico, by Dorien Grey

(This marks the 150th post to date)

An excellent, engaging, and well-written story – 

Story blurb: It seemed like a simple job—guide Josh and Sarah to Bow Ridge to live with their aunt until they reached their 18th birthday. It was want [sic] their aunt Rebecca wanted, and the best choice Calico Ramsey thought he could make. But someone wants them dead, which makes no sense to Calico. Neither do the feelings aroused by the nearness of the handsome young man from Chicago-feelings that seem to be returned, and nothing in his past has prepared him for either.

Available in paperback and e-book format –  344 KB

About the author: If it is possible to have a split personality without being schizophrenic, Dorien Grey qualifies. When long-time book and magazine editor Roger Margason chose the pseudonym “Dorien Grey” for his first book, it set off a chain of circumstances which has led to the comfortable division of labor and responsibility. Roger has charge of day-to-day existence, freeing Dorien—with the help of Roger’s fingers—to write. It has reached the point where Roger merely sits back and reads the stories Dorien brings forth on the computer screen.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I love a good western—especially if it is written in the classical style of Calico, by Dorien Grey [Zumaya Publications, 2006]. To me this genre speaks of an earlier, simpler time, populated by strong, independent men and women who set the foundation of our present-day nation(s). They were simple folk, and yet they possessed a nobleness of spirit based primarily on the “Golden Rule,” i.e. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” [I hasten to add, however, that my preference does not run to gratuitous, rodeo-like romps from one bed to another; which I generally pass up.]

Calico Ramsey fits the bill of a hard-working, dedicated cowboy,[1] raised by a kindly rancher , “uncle Dan,” who took him in when he was orphaned. To get the plot rolling, Dan is unexpectedly named guardian of his twin, seventeen-year-old niece and nephew, Sarah and Josh, who are on their way from Chicago.

Nevertheless, tragedy strikes when Dan is murdered, and Calico picks up the task of meeting the twins at the railway station, and also delivering them to Dan’s sister, Rebecca, who lives in far off Colorado. Moreover, the plot thickens when it becomes evident that someone is out to kill them.

Since Calico is the oldest (at 27) he assumes the role of leader, and also undertakes to protect Josh and Sarah from harm; a not-so-easy task when confronted by fires, rock slides, stampedes, and the like. But, as the old saying goes: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” all this adventure draws the three of them closer together—especially Josh and Calico, who like most trail mates gradually build a bond of mutual admiration and respect. Comrades first, and then lovers when a handshake isn’t enough.

Having said that, I should point our that while this is a sweet, romantic relationship, it is strictly Platonic when is comes to sex. In other words, there ain’t none.

This, I presume, has to do with it being targeted toward a ‘young adult’ readership, which has never really been satisfactorily defined in my mind. Most adolescents could give us chapter and verse on sex and sexual practices, so where does one draw the line? Nonetheless, most writers pussyfoot around the topic of adult/youth relationships in the 16 – 20 year-old category [the age of consent is 16 in most jurisdictions], and so there is no real breakthrough here.

Nonetheless, while I demand a good plot, I am very content with a story that is sensual rather than erotic. I mean, how many ways are there of doing ‘it’ that haven’t been written about? So Dorien gets full marks on the romantic side.

My only complaint has nothing to do with this excellent, engaging, and well-written story. Rather it has to do with the story blurb, which has to be one of the poorest I’ve read (including a rather blatant typo).  So someone should get their knuckles rapped for this one.

Otherwise, I loved “Calico,” and I think you will, too. Five bees.

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Visitors Count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 30,256

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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!

♥♥♥

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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. This week we set a new milestone of 30,000 visits. On behalf of myself and all the remarkable authors represented here, I thank you!


[1] I hesitate to use the term “cowboy.” When asked about cowboys and cowponies, legendary rancher Granville Stuart replied, “There weren’t no ‘boys’ and there were no ‘ponies.’”

July 29, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, Traditional Western, Uncategorized | 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

Secret Light, by Z.A. Maxfield

Superb atmosphere and character development –

Story blurb: Rafe Colman likes his life. He has a nice home, a good job, and a wonderful dog. But he’s exhausted by living a lie. When his home is vandalized because of his perceived German ancestry, he can’t even share the irony with friends.

Officer Ben Morgan falls for Rafe’s dog first, but it isn’t long before he’s giving her owner the eye. He thinks they have more in common than the search for Rafe’s vandals, and he’s willing to take a chance and find out.

If life in 1955 is tough on a cop in the closet, it’s even tougher on a refugee who’s desperate to hide his roots and fit in. Rafe knows from tragic experience how vicious prejudice can be. Every second with Ben is stolen, every kiss fraught with danger.

When Ben’s partner threatens to ruin everything, Rafe and Ben have to fight to protect what they have but they’re tired of hiding their secret light.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Editorial comment: The Goodreads’ posting of this book comes with a caveat, i.e. Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices,” which I find ‘objectionable’. Were this a heterosexual story with heterosexual ‘sexual practices’ would it have the same caveat? I think not. Therefore it is demeaning at best.

This is the second of Z.A. Maxfield’s stories I have reviewed (see: St. Nacho’s, February, 2010) and I am happy to say that Secret Light [Loose ID LLC, 2011] is generally of the same well-written calibre.

Set in 1955, a period when the memory of WWII is still fresh in many people’s minds, we find Rafe Colman, an gay Austrian DP (displaced person) with his own, tragic memories of the war. These include the death of his parents and the murder of his dearest friends, a gay couple, and so he is understandably and profoundly affected by these events.

As is so often the case (it certainly was in mine) he has learned to cope by adopting a persona that ‘fits’ mainstream expectations; especially for a single man–nice guy with an eye for the ladies, friendly with everyone but seldom personal, successful with a medium-high profile. The problem with role playing of this nature is that it sublimates the real person inside, and no one can be allowed behind the scenes for a closer look.

Of course, this doesn’t prevent some busy bodies from drawing their own conclusions, rightly or wrongly, and from acting on them on account of prejudice or spite. So, when Colman’s house is vandalized because he is perceived as ‘German,’ the police become involved in the person of officer Ben Morgan; a closeted gay man, himself.

Call it “gaydar,” or whatever, the two of them come to recognize themselves in the other, and a relationship is formed based on mutual understanding, honesty and caring. It is not all cotton candy and roses, however, but at least the promise of an HEA ending is there.

While the plot circumstances aren’t particularly original, as they were in “St. Nacho’s”, the same attention to detail and atmosphere has been used to give the reader a sense of time and place. The character-development is also topnotch, which adds greatly to the credibility of their actions, and the pace allows the reader to appreciate both these aspects.

The drawback for me was the somewhat obvious story manipulation, resulting in resolutions that were just a bit on the convenient side. I hasten to add that these were not incredible in nature, but they were noticeable enough to affect my score.

Altogether, though, I have no hesitation in recommending Secret Light as an enjoyable read for all its great parts. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 29,343

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It’s so gratifying!

Although it was published in 2008, Two Irish Lads is still ranked #4 on the Old Line Publishing Best-Seller list. In the past, the Two Lads have also been awarded the iUniverse’s “Editor’s Choice,” “Publisher’s Choice,” and “Reader’s Choice” awards. As they say, “Them’s my boys!”

Oh, by the way, Nor All Thy Tears, is ranked #6 on the Oldline list, as well.

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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 you for dropping by! We are approaching a milestone of 30,000 visitors, so I hope you will continue to come back.

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | , | Leave a comment

Blazing the Old Cattle Trail, by Grant MacEwan

 

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

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

Available is paperback & hardcover – 223

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

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

Adam and Eve of the Cattle Kingdom

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

English Stallion for Red River

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

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

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

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

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

The Trail from Stowaway to Cattle King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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 interest is what I work for.

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

Tecumseh: Diplomat and Warrior in the War of 1812, by Irene Gordon

June 2012 marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812 – 1814, an historic event that set the groundwork for Canada’s identity as a nation. Native peoples also played an important part in this process, and none more significantly than Tecumseh, of whom Sir Isaac Brock wrote: “A more sagacious or a more gallant Warrior does not I believe exist.”

Story blurb: This is the biography of Tecumseh, a legendary nineteenth century Shawnee warrior, a hero of the War of 1812 and a man who spent most of his life trying to build a Native confederacy to withstand the pressure on native lands from American settlement.

It also tells the story of his younger brother Lalawethika and of Lalawethika’s transformation from a drunken ne’er-do-well to the charismatic spiritual leader known as The Prophet.

As a diplomat, Tecumseh dealt with the British and American authorities, with settlers and with First Nations peoples on both sides of the border. He fought with the British in the War of 1812, and lost his life at the Battle of Moraviantown.

Available in paperback (128 pages) and in epub formats.

About the author: IRENE GORDON, who lives along the historic Assiniboine River just west of Winnipeg, has had a passion for history, reading and writing since childhood. After a career as a teacher-librarian, she became a freelance writer in 1998.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In my estimation there are two types of history books: the regretfully ‘dusty’ kind that I was subjected to in my school days, a chalk-dry collection of dates and events that one could only find interesting in passing; and then there are those that have some colour to them–some human interest woven into the fabric. Fortunately, Tecumseh: Diplomat and Warrior in the War of 1812 by Irene Gordon [Lorimer ‘Amazing Stories’ series, 2009] is of the latter variety.

Tecumseh, whose name loosely translates as “Panther passing across (the sky),” was born in Ohio in 1768, to a minor war chief of the Shawnee people (“people of the water”). Shortly after he was born, his father was killed by white frontiersmen who had crossed onto Indian land in violation of a recent treaty, and Tecumseh then resolved to become a warrior like his father and to be “a fire spreading over the hill and valley, consuming the race of dark souls.”

He was one of those people who was born to greatness, whether by design or circumstance, and would probably stand out in any society. In Tecumseh’s case he was visionary who saw a confederacy of Indian peoples as the only salvation in the face of the ever-expanding “white tide.” A confederacy was also the foil against some thoroughly unscrupulous politicians who regarded the Natives as ignorant savages, and a hindrance to their ambitions.

Tecumseh also saw salvation in a peaceful co-existence with the whites, but with the rights of the “Red Man” firmly entrenched in territory they could call their own.

Regretfully, as it often is with great men, those around him, both white and red (with the exception of Isaac Brock), did not—or could not—share his vision, and so Tecumseh was challenged on three sides: The “long knives” (Americans); his own independent-thinking people; and the British, who were as political as the Americans.

Tecumseh and British General Sir Isaac Brock were cut from a similar cloth, and it is said that he and Tecumseh rode into Detroit together after its defeat. However, when Isaac Brock died at the Battle of Queenston Heights, Upper Canada, in October 1812, the command passed to Major General Harry Proctor; a foppish, indecisive man, whom Tecumseh distrusted, and whose indecision eventually led to Tecumseh’s death.

Irene Gordon has written a concise account of Tecumseh’s life, historically accurate and balanced, but what I like most about it is that she has breathed some life into a story that could otherwise be as dry Mr. Ewart’s high school history classes. I also applaud her (and Lorimer’s Amazing Stories series) for keeping Canadian history from going down the gopher hole of obscurity. Five bees.

For more vignettes of history, search “Amazing Stories” on this blog, or go to http://www.lorimer.ca/en/Series/29/Amazing-Stories.html.

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Visitor Count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 27,871

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“Microcrap” and I

I never cease to be amazed by how “Microcrap” (Microsoft) can find new and annoying ways to be a pain-in-the-butt! Last week I related the tale of my $135 purchase of Office: Home and Student Edition 2010, that wouldn’t download on one of my computers (running Microsoft Vista), but this week it outdid itself. It did download properly on another, but after working on and saving my current manuscript (61,000 words), I discovered that it has deleted the spaces between words—not all, but perhaps half-a-dozen per page (102 pages). Therefore, I have prepared this little one-finger salute to its dishonour. Hope Microcrap looks down from its ivory tower to see it!

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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. You and the featured authors on this blog are what it is all about!

June 17, 2012 Posted by | biography, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Historical period, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

According To Hoyle by Abigail Roux

Well written in the classic western style

Story blurb: By the close of 1882, the inhabitants of the American West had earned their reputation as untamed and dangerous. The line between heroes and villains is narrow and indistinct. The concept that a man may only kill if backed into a corner is antiquated. Lives are worth less than horses. Treasures are worth killing for. And the law is written in the blood of those who came before. The only men staving off total chaos are the few who take the letter of the law at its word and risk their lives to uphold it. But in the West, the rules aren’t always played according to Hoyle.

U.S. Marshals Eli Flynn and William Henry Washington are escorting two prisoners to New Orleans for trial when they discover there’s more to the infamous shootist Dusty Rose and the enigmatic man known only as Cage than merely being outlaws. When forces beyond the marshals’ control converge on the paddlewheeler they have hired to take them downriver, they must choose between two dangers: playing by the rules at any cost or trusting the very men they are meant to bring to justice.

Available in e-book format – 640 KB

About the author: Abigail Roux was born and raised in North Carolina. A past volleyball star who specializes in pratfalls and sarcasm, she currently spends her time coaching middle school volleyball and softball. Any spare time is spent living and dying with every Atlanta Braves and Carolina Panthers game of the year. Abigail has a little girl they call Boomer, four rescued cats, one dog, a certifiable extended family, and a cast of thousands in her head.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Like the title implies, “According to Hoyle,” by Abigail Roux [Dreamspinner Press. 2011] is a “thinking western.” Oh, it has the usual standbys, i.e. the gunfights and rough-and-tumble, plus the ‘good guys’ in the persons of two lawmen, Marshals Eli Flynn and William “Wash” Washington, a pair of ‘not-so-good’ guys, Gabriel “Dusty” Rose and the mysterious ‘Cage,” and some downright no-goodnics like Stringer & company. However, being plot driven it has somewhat more sophistication than shoot-em-up.

The crux of the story comes in the second half when Flynn and Washington undertake to deliver Rose and Cage to justice in New Orleans, and to do so they take a riverboat down the mighty Mississippi.  Cloistered, so-to-speak, the four men cannot help but interact, and Rose, the plot catalyst, sets the pace by openly taking a shine to the enigmatic Cage. Dusty is the one to do it, of course, because he is written as a glib-talking, iron dandy, who makes no apologies for his preference for men, and as their relationship develops it gets Flynn and Wash thinking romantically as well.

By way of a parallel plot there is a valuable artefact on the boat, and its allure attracts the attention of the sinister Stringer and his band of outlaws. Standing in the way, of course, are Flynn and Washington who are sandwiched between the outlaws they have in custody, and the ones they haven’t dealt with, yet. This inevitably causes some rethinking and reshaping of trusts and alliances.

My views

Overall, I liked it for the complexity of plot, and the adherence to classic western principles; i.e. resisting the prevailing temptation of bouncing characters in and out of bed. For some unknown reason, contemporary westerns tend to consist of riding the range on someone’s butt; whereas, Zane Grey (“Riders of the Purple Sage”), Max Brand (“Destry Rides Again”), and Owen Wister (“The Virginian”), etc., wrote no sex whatsoever.

But while we are on the topic of sex and sexual orientation, I did find the occurrence of four same-sex-oriented characters in the same plot a bit much. Yes, there probably was as much same-sexual activity as there is today [see: Queer Cowboys – Chris Pickard for a discussion on that topic], but, for the most part, it was all very hush-hush.

I also had a bit of difficulty following the plan for the heist. It just didn’t seem as solidly thought out as the rest of the plot. However, that may be just me. Recommended as a good read. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 27,065

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Come visit “We Carry the Torch – It is an event linked to the Olympic torch relay through the UK, trying to cover all 70 days of the event with posts linked to the area the torch will visit that day. Something about a GLBTQ story set there (published or about to be), or about an author who lives there. Some research set in the vicinity or a link to a character from a story (born there, left in disgrace, or the like).

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My “work-in-progress” novel (no name yet)

I’m working diligently—when I’m not doing the governments’ bidding or wrestling with computers and computer programs—and it is moving ahead (about 40%) rewritten. Basically it is the same story as in Coming of Age on the Trail, but in two parts. Therefore, I’m rewriting Part 1 as a stand-alone novel that will have a sequel in Part 2.

I’d love to use the picture of these two lads on the cover, but I don’t have the rights to it. Nonetheless, this is the image I’m using (in my mind) as I develop “Cory” and “Reb” as characters.

More news as I go along.

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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! Please feel free to leave a comment.

June 3, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | 1 Comment

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch, by Shelter Somerset

A classic-style western that touches all the right bases –

Story Blurb: It’s 1886, and Chicago is booming, but for nineteen-year-old Torsten Pilkvist, American-born son of Swedish immigrants, it’s not big enough. After tragically losing a rare love, Tory immerses himself in the pages of a Wild West mail-order bride magazine, where he stumbles on the advertisement of frontiersman and Civil War veteran Franklin Ausmus. Torsten and Franklin begin an innocent correspondence—or as innocent as it can be, considering Torsten keeps his true gender hidden. But when his parents discover the letters, Tory is forced out on his own. With nowhere else to go, he boards a train for the Black Hills and Franklin’s homestead, Moonlight Gulch.

Franklin figures Tory for a drifter, but he’s lonely after ten years of living in the backcountry alone, and his “girl” in Chicago has mysteriously stopped writing, so he hires Tory on as his ranch hand. Franklin and Tory grow closer while defending the land from outlaws who want the untapped gold in Franklin’s creek, but then Franklin learns Tory’s true identity and banishes Tory from his sight. Will their lives be forever tattered, or will Torsten—overhearing a desperate last-ditch scheme to snatch Franklin’s gold—be able to save Moonlight Gulch and his final shot at love?

Front cover design by Mara KcKennen

Available in e-book format – 1024 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie
I’m a great fan of classic western tales, especially if they are accurately portrayed regarding setting and lifestyle, and in my opinion On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch, by Shelter Somerset [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] touches most of the  right bases.

The story is about a lonely, tenderfoot Easterner, Torsten Pilkvist [I love the names], who naively starts a lovelorn correspondence, as a woman, with an equally lonely rancher, Franklin Ausmus, and when Torsten is forced to leave home he impetuously makes his way west to find him.

As improbable as this may seem, it nonetheless works because Somerset has done a superb job of bringing the loneliness of these two characters to life, and since we’ve all “been there,” so to speak, it is easy for us to empathize with them—i.e. the litmus test of a good writer.

Thinking Torsten is a drifter, Ausmus takes him on as a ranch hand, but Thorsten chickens out on telling Frank he is the ‘gal’ he has been writing to—setting up a conflict of significant proportions later on.

Of course, no good western would be complete without villains, and there are a whole cast of them in this story. The ring leader is a French Canadian by the name of Henri Bilodeaux who, along with others, covets the gold that still remains on Ausmus’ property.

What I liked

The writing is solid from start to finish, and the descriptions are not only vivid but also informative at times. Somerset has done his research well, and it shows.

For the most part the characterization is also done well. The good guys are principled but ‘human,’ which makes them all the more credible, and the bad guys are definitely bad. The author has also given Torsten a reasonable period of adjustment to fit into the role of ranch hand, rather than thrusting him into it as many writers do.

The other supporting characters, Wicasha the Indian and Madame Lafourchette, are a bit formulaic but nonetheless charming—almost de rigueur in a classic-style western of this sort.

Altogether, this is a delightful read for all those who like their westerns ‘classic.’ Four solid bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 25,328

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

It might seem odd for a western-themed story to have a mythological element to it, but in addition to the appearance of the Sasquatch, it also has an underlying role for the Greek God Apollo, god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, healing, plague, music, poetry, and more.

His involvement comes by way of a prophecy given to two young lovers who died with the legendary, Sacred Band of Thebes at Chaeronae, in 338 B.C. It seems their spirits somehow became separated, but in the prophecy Apollo has promised to guide them back together “for all eternity.”

      • Your devoted love will span the millennia,
      • Though cast apart in unknown lands,
      • Yet will Apollo guide your steps across time
      • Until you be united again for all eternity.
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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 what I work for.    

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

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

A raw, unapologetically sensuous novel – 

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

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

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

Available in e-book format – 459 KB.

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

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Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News, etc.

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

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

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

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

Click on image to enlarge.

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Introducing a brand new author and her new Novel.

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

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

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

        

Thanks for dropping by. See you next week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available from Hancock House Publishing in paperback – 208 pages.

***

Review by Gerry Burnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

***

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

News, etc.

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

Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

 Vote

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

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

The Stampede

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

      

Thanks for dropping by. I look forward to your visit every week!



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

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.

***

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.

Independent Book Blogger Awards

Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Vote


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

***

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.

***

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!

***

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

The Master of Seacliff, by Max Pierce

An American Gothic novel reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel –

A gothic mystery with a decidedly masculine point of view

The year is 1899, and Andrew Wyndham is twenty years old—no longer a boy, but not yet the man he longs to become. Brought up by a harsh and stingy aunt and uncle in New York City after the death of his parents, young Andrew dreams of life as an artist in Paris. He has talent enough but lacks the resources to bring his dream to fruition. When a friend arranges for him to work as tutor to the son of a wealthy patron of the arts, Andrew sees a chance to make his dream come true and boards a train heading up the Atlantic coast. His destination is the estate called Seacliff, where he’ll tutor his new charge and save his pay to make the life he dreams of possible. But danger lurks everywhere and nothing is quite as easy as it seems.

I pulled some paper out of my makeshift sketchbook and started a study of the mighty train that brought me here. Lost in thought, I had completed one drawing when a slurred voice came from my left.

“Want some advice? Get back on that train. There’s nothin’ but death and despair at Seacliff.”

A grizzled man stood at the west edge of the platform. He was short, tanned like oilpaper and wearing dried out, wrinkled clothing. Staring ahead as he limped towards me, the lenses of his glasses made his eyes look larger than normal. Without waiting for me to respond or acknowledge him, he continued, rasping.

“Take it from one who’s seen the devil’s wrath. They’ll all join Satan in hell. You too, unless you leave. Run.”

“Seacliff is my home,” I answered with false confidence. But as I turned, the stranger had evaporated.

Seacliff: A dark and brooding cliff-top mansion enshrouded in near-eternal fog, dark mystery, and suspicion—perhaps a reflection of the house’s master. An imposing Blackbeard of a man, Duncan Stewart is both feared and admired by his business associates as well as the people he calls friends. And his home, in which young Andrew must now reside, holds terrible secrets, secrets that could destroy everyone within its walls.

Available in e-book format – 452 KB

Review by Gerry Burnie

Every once in a while I get a yen to read a gothic tale—something like the compulsion for a decadent dessert—so when I came across one in the gay genre I just had to order a serving.

The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce [Lethe Press, 2012] is a gothic novel written in the classical style, with a quintessential brooding mansion atop a seaside cliff; a cast of eccentric servants; a young innocent (male); and a darkly-handsome master with a slightly sinister reputation.

Young Andrew Wyndham, driven by his ambition to study art in Paris, takes a position as tutor to the son of a wealthy, hardnosed businessman, Duncan Stewart. He therefore travels from his modest home in Manhattan to take up residence at “Seacliff,” Stewart’s remote seaside estate on the Atlantic Coast.

His arrival is none too encouraging when the first person he encounters is a grizzled man who warns him to flee for his life—and his soul. He nonetheless carries on, and eventually hears that Duncan is rumoured to have shot his father and his father’s friend in order to gain control of the family business.

However, this is not the only mystery hanging over Seacliff Manor, for Duncan’s protégé (and secret lover), pianist Steven Charles, disappeared a year before Andrew’s arrival and his absence has cast further suspicion on Duncan. But Duncan is a man who can be disarmingly charming, as well as irascible, and so Andrew is more intrigued by him than frightened.

Other characters populate this story, as well: The dour and suspicious butler; the (gay) brother and sister who own the neighbouring estate; Duncan’s son, Timothy; and the mute son of the housekeeper’s daughter (who leaped from the cliff when she found her lover had been murdered.)

All is revealed in the end, but in the meantime it is a fun read, almost reminiscent of suspects ‘popping in and out of doors’ in an Agatha Christie novel. Highly recommended. Four bees.

News, etc.

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 23,262

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Independent Book Blogger Awards

Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Voting begins Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

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

In an atmosphere where men were drawn together by mutual dependence and respect, Cowboys did fall in love—as Cory and Reb did. But driving skittish cattle over hundreds of miles, through terrain that could change from drought to flood in a matter of minutes, was a risky business. So what happened when a lover was killed and you couldn’t talk about it? Badger C. Clark, the iconic cowboy poet, addresses this question in “The Lost Pardner”.

  •  I ride alone and hate the boys I meet.
  • Today, some way, their laughin’ hurts me so.
  • I hate the mockin’-birds in the mesquite–
  • And yet I liked ’em just a week ago.
  • I hate the steady sun that glares, and glares!
  • The bird songs make me sore.
  • I seem the only thing on earth that cares
  • ‘Cause Al ain’t here no more!
  • ‘Twas just a stumblin’ hawse, a tangled spur–
  • And, when I raised him up so limp and weak,
  • One look before his eyes begun to blur
  • And then–the blood that wouldn’t let ‘im speak!
  • And him so strong, and yet so quick he died,
  • And after year on year
  • When we had always trailed it side by side,
  • He went–and left me here!
  • We loved each other in the way men do
  • And never spoke about it, Al and me,
  • But we both knowed, and knowin’ it so true
  • Was more than any woman’s kiss could be.
  • We knowed–and if the way was smooth or rough,
  • The weather shine or pour,
  • While I had him the rest seemed good enough–
  • But he ain’t here no more!
  • What is there out beyond the last divide?
  • Seems like that country must be cold and dim.
  • He’d miss the sunny range he used to ride,
  • And he’d miss me, the same as I do him.
  • It’s no use thinkin’–all I’d think or say
  • Could never make it clear.
  • Out that dim trail that only leads one way
  • He’s gone–and left me here!
  • The range is empty and the trails are blind,
  • And I don’t seem but half myself today.
  • I wait to hear him ridin’ up behind
  • And feel his knee rub mine the good old way
  • He’s dead–and what that means no man kin tell.
  • Some call it “gone before.”
  • Where? I don’t know, but God! I know so well
  • That he ain’t here no more!

***

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!

***

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.

***

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 makes it all worthwhile!

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Eunuch Neferu, by Daniel Tegan Marsche

A love story set in the 23rd century BC –

Publisher’s blurb: Marsche conveys an enthralling, historical fiction tale with The Eunuch Neferu. Upon the canvass of Roman-occupied Egypt in 23 B.C., this literary tapestry is woven using a rich and enchanting combination of history and human emotion. Controversial and thought provoking, The Eunuch Neferu chronicles the life of a boy who rose from desert poverty to aristocracy in ancient Alexandria. Illustrating both the power and delicacy of the human spirit, this book is about desire, drive, choices and consequences. Take a look at 23 B.C. through the eyes of Kebryn – peasant, servant, student, nobleman – and discover one of history’s most alluring, enigmatic characters.

Available in e-book format – 445 KB

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Review by Gerry Burnie

For this week’s review I looked around for something a little different, and when I spied The Eunuch Neferu, by Daniel Tegan Marsche [Xlibris, Corp., 2006] it occurred to me that I hadn’t previously reviewed a story with an Egyptian theme. Mind you, The Eunuch Neferu is an Egyptian boy’s story told from a Roman perspective, but its close enough.

The story centres around an Egyptian peasant boy, Kebryn, who is purchased as a slave by a retired Roman general who then confesses his love for the boy within the first dozen-or-so-pages. It seemed like an odd things for a high ranking Roman general to do so quickly, but ‘love at first sight’ has long been postulated as possible, and so I read on.

The relationship continues to grow between the general and the boy, with the lad returning the older man’s affections, but when Roman law threatens to separate them due to Kebryn’s reaching a certain stage in life, the boy has to be castrated in order to avoid its onslaught; thereby becoming the Eunuch Neferu.

The general ultimately declares Neferu his heir, and changes his will accordingly.

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As a gay romance this is a tender love story, and there are certain aspects of the setting that are evocative of BC, 23rd-century Egypt, but once you add the term “historical” to it the problems (for me) begin to arise.

Even if it is classified as fiction—as apposed to a fantasy—there is a certain expectation of accuracy regarding the facts. For example, as has already been pointed out by other reviewers, potatoes didn’t reach Europe until the 16th-century, AD, and the same for tomatoes. Moreover, these were both introduced by Spanish explorers, not Italian.

There is also an unwritten rule regarding historical fiction, and that is there should be a balance between research and plot. That is to say, the plot should not ignore historical facts, as it did in this case, and the facts should not burden the plot to the point where it overwhelms it. Regrettably, I found that this was frequently the case as well.

To comment further would not serve any purpose except to say these are my opinions and may not agree with others. Two bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 22,948

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

The theme of this story is the struggle to get a herd of cattle to the gold fields of Dawson City, YukonTerritory, where beef was fabled to be selling for $48-a-pound.

Cory and Reb, the main characters, attempt to do it overland because the alternative was by the notorious White Pass from Anchorage, Alaska.

White Pass

The White Pass trail brought out the worst in the men and women who traveled it. It came to be known as the Dead Horse Trail for the bodies of animals that lined its length like gruesome trail-markers. It is estimated that over 3000 horses died on the trail, their untrained owners caring nothing for their horses health in a mad lust for gold.

The difficulty of the trail made it all but impassable by September 1897. The trail was closed for a time while a proper wagon road was constructed and was reopened later during the winter of 1897-98. The stampeders who followed were charged a toll to use the trail; the grisly remains along the path were a constant reminder of the horrors that had taken place there.

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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!

March 28, 2012 – Get your FREE Kindle copy of Altered – Revelations today: Click here to go to Amazon.

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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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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! Since last week you and over 500 visitors have dropped by. Thank you for your participation.

March 25, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

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.

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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! Please come back often. 

March 18, 2012