Archive for category GLBT Fiction

“Gone to the Movies”– How Could I Have Missed these Flicks”?


HvH, “Gone to the Movies”, Bruno Gmunder, 2008.

How Could I Have Missed These Flicks?

Amos Lassen

It has been said that they don’t make movies like they used to and they obviously do not make movie posters like the ones in “Gone to the Movies”, a parody of movie posters. HvH has taken classic movie posters and redesigned them so that they are extremely homoerotic.

This is a wonderful collection of drawings that is great dun. HvH changes the names of films and stars to give us a whole new way of looking at Hollywood. I found it very hard to pick a favorite as each is so ingenious. I do, however, lean toward “Cockapatra” starring Lickbeth Gaylor, Dick Burbon and Sex Garrison presented by 69th Century-Foxy. And of course there is “Bareback Mountain” starring Hot Leader, Jack Gimmeall, Mark Thatstheway and Michael Willing and “Gigantic”—“the cruise lines that gave new meaning to cruising…” with a cast led by Jamie Wood and Sucking Smiths (will Amazon post this?).

It’s all tongue in cheek and all great fun. I thought I recognized HvH’s work but it wasn’t until I read the introduction by Eric Arvin that I realized that I had actually read about the author on Eric’s website and realized that he had done the covers of Eric’s books. Like Arvin says “there is intimacy in his (HvH’s) art, even at its most epic…he inspires us…he entertains us, he makes us think”. The artist’s work is filled with passionate color and skillful use of shadow and his eroticism is in no way cheap or offensive. He is touching and unique and I look forward to seeing more from him.

Leave a comment

“Getting Life in Perspective: A Fantastical Romance”–fantastic?

Johnson, Toby. “Getting Life in Perspective: A Fantastical Romance”, Lethe Press, 1991, updated 2008.


Amos Lassen

I must admit that before I read “Getting Life in Perspective” that I had no idea of what a fantastical romance was. I now understand that it is a novel that suggests “attitudes toward important issues” that are personal to the reader. This novel is a gay spiritual romance that is entertaining, fulfills emotionally and is somewhat erotic. The characters are both identifiable and likeable who have the same kinds of problems that all of us do and the book is educational as it talks about spiritual traditions that engender good attitudes toward love and sex. life and death, being human and toward issues of importance.

In the words of Toby Johnson, a fantastical romance is “about getting life in perspective”.

The two characters in the novel, Rick and Hubert, tell the story of gay life and relationships in the way it may have been at the end of the 19th century as the world was preparing to enter the 1900’s. The story is myth but it is steeped in history as it brings together a strong spiritual message and youthful romance and a bit of the other worldly,

Emotionally the book tugs at the heartstrings and it made me long for those days of childlike innocence and think about the meaning of love. Not many books do that and not many novels can cause the reader to open his perspective and cause him to remember. Toby Johnson has written an incredible look at gay life and thereby gives a wonderful reading experience.

Leave a comment

“Embrace the Rain: A Novel”–Perronne is Back and Better


Perronne, Michael Holloway. “Embrace the Rain”, Chances Press, 2008.

Perronne is Back and Better

Amos Lassen

I have been following Michael Perronne’s writing since I feel in love with his first book. “A Time Before Me”. It was a story that touched me because it was about my home town, New Orleans. Then in his two books that followed, I noticed a more disciplined Perronne whose writing was becoming more and more polished. Now with “Embrace the Rain”, he is at his story telling best and his prose is the best he has written. (Of course the fact that the book is set near New Orleans and after Katrina did influence my opinion. There has not been a lot published about the storm that tried to carry New Orleans and the Gulf South away so when I do get a chance to read about it, I am like a kid eating popcorn at the movies. I was there during Katrina and did not know what was going on and I have not been back since I relocated to Arkansas),

“Embrace the Rain” is about teen romance and how it affects those involved directly as well as those on the periphery. The novel is set a year after Katrina in the town of Long Beach, Mississippi. Matt a high school football player is dating cheerleader Alison. Matt’s family is wealthy and the family business is involved in the rebuilding after the storm. Sean, Matt’s gay brother, who has been living in San Francisco, decides to come home only to face difficulties with his father who cannot accept his lifestyle. Matt’s father has therefore put a lot of pressure on Matt to be a real “man” since his other son seems to have failed at the job. Matt, however, is having his own problems and is suffering from a personal crisis that began when, during Katrina, he had to be rescued from his bedroom. Matt has chosen not to share his problems with anyone and because of this has no one to confide in or talk to. He has begun to feel trapped in his own little world.

Into the picture comes another family. The Santos family moves from California to Mississippi so that Mr. Santos can find work in the construction that was going on. His family now has to deal with both social and cultural change. Moving from their Hispanic neighborhood, they now have to live among Blacks and Whites who have their own problems dealing with accepting each other and now a Mexican family enters the picture.

As can be expected Mr. Santos gets a job from Matt’s father but no one was prepared what would happen when Javier, Santo’s son, met Alison. Matt and Javier have a differing of the ways (to say the least). When Alison breaks up with Matt, Matt loses it and hits rock bottom and even though Alison and Javier had not done anything more than be attracted to one another, they feel to blame for Matt’s depression and for what happens next.

Sean becomes involved in his family again but his father both rejects and disrespects him and he returns to California but when the family crisis peaks, Sean again steps in and his mother agrees to accept whatever help he can give. By opening the door to his world, she is able to see her son as the fine person that he is.

So what does “Embrace the Rain” do for us aside from being a wonderful read? I think what it does is show us that we all have the ability to overcome crises. In order to do that, however, it is necessary to be open to what we can learn when we are in crisis. Here is the story of a teen that needs help and people were too wrapped in their own worlds to see it or to even care. Almost everyone had to learn how to overcome guilt feelings and instead of waiting to do something, they should be ready to step in. We must all learn acceptance and understanding of ourselves and others.

Congratulations on a job well done, Michael. You just keep getting better and better.

Leave a comment

“Death of a Department Chair”–A “Shedunit”


Miller, Lynn C., “Death of a Department Chair”.  Terrace Books, 2006

“A Shedunit”

Amos Lassen

Lynn Miller is a mystery writer who has done a bang up job with “Death of a Department Chair”. This is one of the fastest moving murder mysteries I have ever read and boy did it pack a wallop. Academia is always fun to read about and throw in a gay theme, it is twice as fun. And then are twice as many villains here. Those of you who have been to college will feel right at home with this cozy book. It is witty and a real page turner.  It is not just a “whodunit” but a “who woulda done it if they coulda”.

Margaret Held, our heroine, tells the reader of the previous year when she was the chief suspect in the murder of her former lover and department chair, Isabel Vittorio. Vittorio was not all that clean herself; she had been involved in hanky panky regarding the hire of a new female professor who happened to be African American and was at odds with the majority of the faculty. Miriam, on the other hand, was forced into acting in the opposite direction and therefore had to defend both her reputation and her life. In her quest for the truth, Miriam gathers evidence that seems to incriminate all of her friends and colleagues. What develops is an atmosphere and mistrust and a new look at departments of literature that few of us have ever seen before.

Cleverly and wittedly, written there are enough twists and turns to made heads spin and what emerges is a clever satire of the academic world. Miller’s characters are so finely created that there were times that I felt that if I looked up from the pages of the book, I would find one of them sitting in the room with me. Combined that with clear and lucid prose, a wonderful story and outrageous goings on, you are set for a wonderful read.

Miler has written one other book, “The Fool’s Journey” which I can’t wait to read and co-edited “Voices Made Flesh: Performing Women’s Autobiography.” What she has done for me is create a fan that is anxious to explore her writing. I have never really liked what is referred to as “Lesbian Lit” but this book sure made me change my mind.

Leave a comment

“Wrestling with Love”–facing challenges

Starr, Doug. “Wrestling with Love”, Ai Books, 2011.

Facing the Challenges

Amos Lassen

Not long ago I predicted that Doug Star would be a guy to watch after I reviewed his first two books. I am convinced I am right about this and he proved it to me with his new book, “Wrestling with Love” which premiered yesterday as an ebook. We all know something about love and many times we forget that it takes work to be in love.

Derek Thompson and Scott Thayer became friends when they were still in high school and they faced issues that many of us could not have stood. Now they are in college and they finally have an opportunity to build a life together. They now don’t have to answer to anyone and they have the time and place to deal with their feelings. Or at least this is what they think. As gay people there are challenges for us everywhere and I think that we sometimes forget that love is one of the biggest challenges of all. Derek feels it is time to acknowledge who he is to the world and he wants to live openly. Scott, on the other hand, feels that he is not ready to be out to that degree and prefers a more private lifestyle.

But that is not all. There is another character who comes into the story—Tyrell Jackson, another freshman finds Derek irresistible and wants him for his own. This threatens what Scott and Derek have and they are forced to do some introspection and make decisions that can change their lives forever.

I think it is important to note that although our characters are young, the issues they face are the same for all ages and just the degree may change. All of us face difficult choices throughout life.

Derek and Scott not only need to define their relationship they need to find the courage to be who they are and accept themselves and that is what they face here. Starr gives us two very real characters and that is probably because we see something of ourselves in them. Starr has taken a very delicate and difficult problem and thrown it out to the two men to deal with it. Whether they succeed or not, you will have to read the book to find out. The writing is wonderful, the character development is excellent and the plot is one of the best that I have read in quite a while. Starr seems to have found himself the age group to write about and it is so good that someone is looking at young love.

Leave a comment

“Close Contact”– steamy


Wolfe, Sean. “Close Contact”, Kensington, 2005.


Amos Lassen

Have you ever wondered how much truth goes into fiction? I often do—especially with erotic stories. I question all literature—we all know that every writer is influenced, to some degree, by his own personal experiences. Sean Wolfe’s stories are very sensual and very erotic and I can only hope that he has been able to experience some of the things he writes about…or he has a very fertile imagination.

In “Close Contact” he provides a story for everyone’s taste—at least, for those who have been involved in having sex. This fits the definition of erotica to the letter.

“Close Contact” has one purpose—to arouse the senses and in that it succeeds wonderfully. Aside from the purely sexual nature of the stories though, there is humor and even hope for love. I think the humor is great because it shows that we can laugh at or during sex. There is also hope for something better than just great sex.

One of the stories is about a guy peeking into his lover’s diary and feeling like he is cheating. In “Badlands”, a naïve kid from Texas gets quite an education in a wild gay bar. “Lessons in Life guarding: Lesson I” does for showers the opposite of what “Psycho” did. How about what happens when a truck driver checks into a bed and breakfast and gets more than a meal and a place to sleep. There is nothing like three fraternity brothers understanding the true meaning f brotherly love. And so on and so on the stories go.

I really do not read a lot of erotica but this is the second book of Sean Wolfe’s that I have read and I am quickly becoming a fan of his. His twenty-eight stories are more than erotic; they are well written short stories. This is quite an accomplishment.

Leave a comment

“Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada”–coming of age

Hale, Keith. “Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada”, Book Surge, 2007.

Coming of Age

Amos Lassen

When I first moved to Little Rock and began reviewing, someone told me about Keith Hale being from Arkansas but I could find out nothing about him. Recently while browsing I came upon this recent book of his. After reading his biographical blurb, I see that there is much more by him that I want to read.

“Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada” is a novel that takes you back to the days of adolescence when having friends is so important and how the world outside destroys those friendships. It is a tale of first love and how it is dealt with. Interestingly enough, this is a reprint of the book that was originally entitled “Cody” which I read years ago and was highly impressed by and it was not until I was one-third of the way through did I realize that.

The book is a well written and very believable romance and so much of it reminds you of your own teen years—they are a special time that we all go through and that stay with is forever.

The story is set in Little Rock and is about the relationship between Cody and Trotsky and shows the depth of emotion between the two teens. The reader cannot help feel what the characters feel.

The book is real and honest and if you want to read a coming of age novel, this is the one to choose.

Leave a comment

“Choir Boy”– Black Humor

Anders, Charlie. “Choir Boy”. Soft Skull Press, 2005

Black Humor

Amos Lassen

Charlie Anders’ “Choir Boy” is a laugh a line, suffused with black humor, off the wall happenings and a coming of age novel. Berry is a choir boy and it is his life’s ambition to always be a choir boy. He is enamored with the church and the idea of being involved in the world of divinity is especially appealing to him. The only truth he finds is n church. He is at odds with his parents who always are at war with one another and his best friend, a transsexual prostitute never lives up to expectations. Knowing he is reaching the age when little boys’ voices deepen and his approaching puberty could cause him to have to leave the boys’ choir. In order to prevent this, he deliberately hurts himself and goes to a clinic to get testosterone inhibiting medication. The problem is that the drugs come with a large dose of female hormones. Ashe takes the drugs, strange things happen to his body and when he suddenly discovers that his breasts have reached cup size B, he knows that he has a lot of explaining to do. You can only imagine the chaos that ensues. But Berry learns a great deal from the entire business. He learns what humanity really is and he falls in love. Because he chose to grow up on his own, his coming of age was a bit more difficult than the average kid.

This is not your regular standard coming of age story. It has somewhat of a “tranny” twist to it and the circumstances that make it different also are the reason for the hilarity. Whatever you thought was the meaning of the word “universal”, I can almost guarantee that when you finish this book, you will have found a brand new meaning to the word. Berry came of age in the most unconventional of ways but no matter the trimmings, the story of coming of age is one everyone can relate to. The book is both funny and complex at the same time but it is also strange and engrossing. You grow to love Berry and you laugh and you cry with him. What I found so amazing about “Choir Boy” is that taught me, once again, to reconsider my thoughts on gender. I do not think that I would have been attracted to Berry in anyway—he was nerdy but sweet but I grew to love him.

Anders writing style is wonderful and his descriptions are clear. He really caught me with his writing. The novel is appealing on several different layers. It is not only about coming of age but also an explanation of gender, study of school intolerance and a critique of religion as well as a commentary on the minds of adults. Berry’s resilience to what happens to him is sometimes surreal but always funny and is important to know about a kid who just doesn’t fit into either gender category.

If you have ever felt confused about anything in your life, then you know what I am talking about. Read this book and you will find that your confusion is nothing as compared to Berry’s. All in all, “Choir Boy” is a wonderful way to spend a few hours a day. I highly recommend it.

Leave a comment

“Chemistry”–Love and Mental Illness


DeSimone, Lewis. “Chemistry”. Lethe Press, 2006.

Love and Mental Illness

Amos Lassen

If you like emotion and melodrama this is a book for you. “Chemistry” by Lewis DeSimone is a love story that is bittersweet and lovely. Dealing with attraction and repulsion here is a book that you will not want to close the cover of.

Ask yourself this question, “What happens when the person you love wakes up as a completely different person”? Zach and Neal fell in love at first sight; it was a chemical attraction. Yet the catalyst that set off the romance changes as they become better acquainted. Here is a novel that deals with identity and yet by chemical means that identity can be changed. Set in the time of Prozac and AIDS we meet characters that will haunt us after the covers are closed. The passion of Neal and Zach is torn apart by mental illness; at their first meeting they are inexplicably drawn to one another but as one falls victim to an illness, the other realizes that he must grow and rebuild himself. What hits so hard here is that as we read the book, our own lives come into play and as the characters search for their identity, the reader likewise searches for his. No matter how well you know yourself, “Chemistry” will give you things to think about.

The story of two men desperately trying to find out how to love each other is extremely moving and highly emotional. DeSimone has written in such beautiful language that there were times I felt my heart begin to break as I read the trials of the lovers.

Neal is an intellectual who exerts a great deal of self control.  He is the victim of an unhappy past and the idea of a loving relationship is ideal for him. He has met the guy who he thinks is the man of his dreams only to learn that his new lover suffers from a severe mental illness. His involvement into an affair with Zach can bring him to the point of codependence, something that his own controlled personality abhors.

Zach is beautiful, a true free spirit, sexy and sexual. His childhood was unhappy and abusive and his adult life has been an attempt to forget his past. As he descends into clinical depression his life becomes nightmarish for both him and his lover.

When the men meet the chemical attraction is so strong that it is almost explosive. But as time goes by and Zach loses himself in his disease and his problems, it is up to Neal to be the strong one and watch both his lover and his love for him deteriorate. As explained by Neal, “Chemistry is about reactions”…the merging of two elements which come together to create “something new…two elements come together and neither is the same again”. When the two elements are two men who are lovers, the experience can be disastrous on both of them.

What first appears to be a novel of everyday romance soon tears at the reader as he watches the two men interact. Here is sensuousness, and eroticism and brutal honesty. The questions that the book poses about the nature of identity and attraction are very real and very hard issues with which to deal, DeSimone does so with tact, style and grace.

And as he does this, he makes us witness to the inner thoughts and feelings of his characters.

The book is disturbing but positively so. I can honestly Say that the identification I felt with the characters was real and that when I finished reading I was very sad that Neal and Zach were no longer a part of my life. I was wrong in that assumption. I finished the book on Tuesday and today is Thursday and they are still with me. I am prone to think they will be with me for a very long time.

Leave a comment

“Chaos: A Novella and Four Stories”–When Life Implodes

White, Edmund. “Chaos: A Novella and Stories”, Carroll and Graf, 2007.

When Life Implodes

Amos Lassen

Edmund White is one of the deans of gay literature as well as a highly respected author in his own right. He is the author of over 20 books and has won numerous awards. Three of his novels are autobiographical and in his new book “Chaos” A Novella and Stories”, he takes a look at what happens when gay men age.

Before he wrote “Chaos”, White published “My Lives: An Autobiography” and it and the new book cover roughly the same material.

In the novella “Chaos”, we meet Jack, a 66 year old university faulty member whose claim to fame is the blurbs that he writes for other’s books. He worries a great deal about sex and money. And like other older gay men, he lusts after those who are younger than himself. He is not above paying for sexual favors and spends a lot of time cruising “Craig’s List”. When he meets Seth, a young blonde Mormon, he is quick to take out his wallet and pay him every time they have sex. In fact even when they become friends, Jack continues to pay. But Seth is only the first of many. What Jack wants in his life is culture as well as good food and men, men, men. But we also learn that Jack is not just a sexual animal, he is also a good friend—we learn this when we read of how he reacts when he learns that a good female friend is diagnosed with cancer.

One of the stories “Give It Up for Billy”, looks at aging from a different aspect as does “A Good Sport”. Aging has always been an important idea in gay culture and White looks at it deeply and personally. White, as usual, is iconoclastic ad he writes about maturity in much the same way he wrote about youth. White looks at growing older not as a bane but rather as a fact of life—it happens to all of us and it is something we must accept. There is a certain guilt felt as one grows more mature and this is evident in White.

I found it hard to sympathize with White’s characters. I am a middle aged gay man and I am not lonely nor do I wallow in self pity or escape through opium or by paying prostitutes. However, the beauty of White’s language males the plots of his stories seem unimportant.

All in all, this is a satisfying read and unfortunately it is very true. I have read some really bad reviews and I think this is because facing maturity is ever a pretty thought. Yet the world is not always pretty and Edmund White succeeds in telling a story that is not pretty in the most beautiful of ways.

Leave a comment