Tag Archives: Book review

01Jun/20

A Little Chatter by Terry Connell

To find out more about Terry and his work, check out Episode 264 – There Are No Shoulds!

I was a little hesitant about reading this book at first. The cover doesn’t invite one in, with a barrage of repeated words that made my eyes go funny. It had a bit of a “try hard” feel about it, and the title seemed to suggest something frivolous, a trifling matter to pass the time if one had nothing else to do. It was an inauspicious start, and a shame because the stories themselves are startling, poignant, sometimes desperately sad, but always entertaining and well-written.

A frivolous read, this certainly is not. It is a truly diverse collection of vignettes than actual stories; snapshots of people’s lives and experiences, each one very different from the last. The author uses dialogue, prose, sections as if taken from official reports, and weaves all those things in to a highly readable package with some intriguing characters.

These stories feel more personal than ones written with fictional characters. These tales read like people who have really existed, people from the author’s past, or echoes of people he has encountered, however briefly. There are exquisite observations of everyday life, perfectly preserved. I can imagine the author sitting in a diner with his notepad, quietly taking in all the tiny dramas around him, then weaving them with words drawn from his imagination. It is a true piece of literary work, crafted with skill and a keen eye.

Standouts for me are the first story, Goodbye, Willow Grove, where two people have very different memories of the same, sun-drenched day. The Tire Swing, where an elderly man reminisces over his life. It is written from a second person aspect, which isn’t for everyone, but there was a poetic rhythm about it that I loved. Finally, Thursday Night at Niko’s Italian Restaurant, which sounds like a Billy Joel song and is a slice of life from the underbelly of old-school Americana.

There’s a theme of savagery running through a lot of the stories, a cynicism as well as rose-tinted sentimentality. Just like any good conversation, there is something for everyone. The book isn’t always a comfortable read. I didn’t warm to some of the stories, but that’s like any collection, as well as being human. And everyone in this book is achingly human; flawed, honourable, selfish, angry, loving. This is definitely a short story collection to check out if you want human stories to make you think.

BLURB

The characters moving through Connell’s wondrous, hypnotic stories are vivid, unique, and somehow familiar. With insight and humor, they challenge the status quo, wrestle with shadows from their past, and make innocent mistakes – not always with the best results.

16May/20

Hallelujah by Kim Fielding and F.E. Feeley Jr.


To find out more about Kim Fielding and F E Feeley Jr. and their work, check out the following episodes! For Kim, there is

Kim Fielding – Episode 266 – Marry In A Cemetery!

And for F E Feeley Jr., Episode 255 – The State Of The Queer Union!

If I’m totally honest, I was avoiding this book at first. The cover was tempting. Show me a tornado and it’s usually a must-read, but I wasn’t sure of the premise. Demons, a religious backstory; in these times, I can’t cope with anything too weighty and dystopian. Real life is a bit too much like a disaster movie at the moment, and we can’t predict what the ending will be.

And yes, there are serious issues in this book, the state of the world today, war between states and countries, climate change, man’s inhumanity to man. There’s bleakness and horror which cannot be denied BUT:

Then I remembered When Heaven Strikes, another book with a tornado, written by F E Feeley Jr, and I remembered how I loved it, so I took the plunge. From the first moment, I felt for choir master, Joseph, who in the first part of the book (1991) had turned his back on his musical dreams to support his father on the family farm. He was torn about how he would ever be accepted in his hometown if he came out, and his relationship with his father is prickly. His church seem determined to see him paired off with the sister of the man Joseph secretly longs for. Oh, and Joseph also sees dead people. Some of them are quite persistent, but he is in denial about his talent, and hasn’t found a way to deal with it affectively.

So far, so earnest, but after some demonic activity, the story veers off in an unexpected direction, with hot and tender scenes which were a welcome respite from the encroaching menace. Then tragedy strikes, and the scene closes on 1991.

Skip forward to the present day, and Joseph is still working the farm. He’s given up on being a choir director and is literally treading water, unable to move on with his life.

I’m not going to spoil it for you, but Joseph is compelled to head off into the desert with a mysterious Creole woman, Francine, who says she is his distant cousin. Francine has a message from the past, warning Joseph he is being hunted by the demon who has haunted him for most of his life. As they search for answers, Joseph also has to deal with questioning his faith, and the constant company of a familiar ghost who he isn’t ready to let go of.

Okay, so that doesn’t sound a barrel of laughs, but trust me, this is an expertly woven tale, with likeable characters and a good dose of humour to balance the darker scenes and themes. Joseph is supported by equally compelling secondary characters who enrich the story and give it a colourful energy. I read the book over three nights and was totally hooked.

Can I address the Stephen King thing? To invite comparison is also to invite criticism. Forget King; this is something else. Something unique to these authors. I’m not saying it’s better than King, or worse. It’s totally different. Comparisons are impossible and pretty unfair, if I’m honest.

There’s a road trip, magic that is written in a way that you totally believe it, a respect for religion that I wasn’t expecting, a running theme based around Leonard Cohen’s masterful rendition of Hallelujah, and a powerful, satisfying denouement. The writing was excellent, the plotting off the scale. It was an imaginative, hugely enjoyable journey and I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to read it.

BLURB

Can you hear it?

Whispering in the dark.

Secrets only the dark knows.

Joseph Moore, choir director for the First Baptist Church of Lenora, Nebraska, has secrets of his own. Terrible, lonely secrets. One that involves natural human desire. One that calls forth powers he cannot begin to understand. Both with the potential to destroy him and those he loves.

Now the world is changing. The darkness, the shadows, the ghosts, are closing in—and Joseph and his lover, Kevin, are being stalked by a merciless demon, hell-bent on possession.

Can you hear it now?

There in the dark.

It’s whispering your name.

18Sep/18

Irresistible by Andrew J Peters

Andrew J Peters has very recently been a guest on our little show! To check out his work and listen to his interview, check out Episode 180: A Very Spoofy Rom-Com

This was a difficult one to review fairly. I decided to go in and start reading without checking the blurb first, liking the element of surprise. The cover is gorgeous and I was expecting a fairly standard romance, if I’m honest.

I liked Brendan, although he clearly has issues with falling in insta-love and not learning his lesson when it all goes horribly wrong. He’s a modest guy, still reeling from the latest romantic disaster, when his head is turned by a gorgeous blond antique seller in New York. It must be love!

From there, the cynics will be gnashing their teeth. Insta-love, a Big Misunderstanding caused by the iffy-est of circumstances. And then it gets really weird. Suddenly I’m reading about lecherous drug dealers and a military coup.

I can’t actually say more about the plot without giving it away. It’s a real mixed bag, with dilemmas that kept me turning the page to find out what on earth was going to happen next. There were also some sweet moments (Faraj!) And some frankly ludicrous ones. (If I was escaping kidnap from gun-wielding terrorists, I wouldn’t stop to give my rescuer a blow job, however cute he was.)

Because I hadn’t read the blurb, I didn’t realise this was a comedy of errors, so there were a few “wait, is he serious?” moments, before I decided to sit back, enjoy the ride and not take it too seriously. The problem with labelling a book “comedy” is that people will expect funnies, and what’s funny for some won’t be for others. I found the balance between serious and comedic a little bit lumpy in places. If a laugh is unexpected, that’s one thing. But when the reader can see the set up a mile off, knowing they’re expected to find the situation funny at the end, it loses something for me. This book shows why comedy is so hard to write.

But comedy is subjective, and what I find funny (the darker the better) isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s. The long-running theme of Cal being “irresistible” was pretty funny, as was some of the dialogue between him and his ardent suitors. I winced a bit at the racial and cultural stereotypes, but having thought about it, I’m wondering if that really was the whole point. No one is safe. And yes, I did pick up on the irony of the line, “You can’t just buy people. At least, not in America.” (Trump, anyone?)

Also, the book mocks the stereotypical MM Romance expectation on so many levels: insta-love, Everyone Is Gay! The bitchy mother-in-law, rich man/poor man dynamic. I could list quite a few of them.

So while the book didn’t quite work for me, I applaud the boldness of it, the big fat one-fingered tribute to those who like their tropes in narrow straight lines with no diversions, and the courage to throw the reader headlong into unexpected WTF situations. If I did a star system, I would award an extra star for the FUCK YOU element, especially one delivered with such a sweet, mischievous grin.

BLURB

Brendan Thackeray-Prentiss is an Ivy League-educated trust-funder who Gotham Magazine named the most eligible gay bachelor in New York City. He lives for finding his soulmate, but after walking in on his boyfriend of three transcendent months soaping up in the shower with an older female publicist, he’s on a steady diet of scotch, benzodiazepines, and compulsive yoga. Men are completely off the menu.

Callisthenes Panagopoulos has a problem most guys dream of. With the body and face of a European soccer heartthrob, the vigorous blond hair of a Mormon missionary, and a smile that makes traffic cops stuff their ticket books back in their utility belts, he’s irresistible to everyone. But being a constant guy-magnet comes with its discontents, like an ex-boyfriend who tried to drive his Smart car through Cal’s front door. It makes him wonder if he’s been cursed when it comes to love.

When Brendan and Cal meet, the attraction is meteoric, and they go from date to mates at the speed of time-lapse photography. But to stay together, they’ll have to overcome Cal’s jealous BFF, Romanian mobsters, hermit widowers, and a dictatorship on the brink of revolution during a dream wedding in the Greek isles that becomes a madcap odyssey.

A gay romantic comedy of errors based on Chariton’s Callirhoe, the world’s oldest extant romance novel.

 

 

23Feb/18

A World Apart by Mel Gough

I read this in two days as despite the subject, it was an easy, compelling read. Without adding any spoilers, it does deal with some kicker subjects, and it deals with them sensitively and realistically. What I thought was a “wrong side of the tracks” love story is actually something a lot deeper and darker than that, and I enjoyed it all the more for it.

Ben seemed something of a saint. He was endlessly patient and unassuming, and as a result, people did things for him that raised a sardonic eyebrow on my part. (If I was his newly estranged wife, I’m not sure I would have been as understanding.) Also, Ben’s voice was somewhat passive at times. We weren’t let into his world enough to really feel for him. It was as if one of my oldest friends had suddenly turned around and said, “by the way, I’ve bought you a house.’ Wait, what? When did this happen? There were a few instances where Ben did things “off-camera,” which were as much of a surprise to me as to Donnie. Again, no spoilers, but it’s obvious when it happens.

Donnie was a sweetheart, not the aggressive thug he first appears. I thought he and Ben were perfect together, once their differences had been dealt with. He did seem to have rotten luck, though, namely in the guise of his drugged-up brother, Floyd, with whom her had an uncomfortable, I would say abusive, relationship, and a history of drug misuse.

As I said at the start, there are some tough themes here. Drugs, abuse, long-term illness, homophobia. Having said all that, a few things fell into place almost too easily. Ben’s reaction to his newly-discovered gayness was almost a shrug of the shoulders, the only worry being what his best mate would think. Jason (his best friend, although he seemed a bit of a toss-pot to me) didn’t take it well…. And the ending had all the feels, possibly too many for cynical bitch like me. As for the sex, this isn’t a one-handed read. I thought it was dealt with very well, considering the circumstances. It felt awkward, poignant, a little desperate. Not easy to read but it needed to be there.

In all, I enjoyed the book, despite the dark undertones, and would definitely read more by this author. I like their easy-to-read style and character development. The plot was paced just right. Apart from a few niggles (see above) I thought it was a great read.

BLURB

Ben Griers is the darling of Corinth Georgia’s Police Department—intelligent, handsome, and hardworking. Thanks to his beautiful wife and clever daughter, Ben’s family is the envy of the town. Yet desperate unhappiness is hiding just below the surface.

When Donnie Saunders, a deadbeat redneck with a temper, is brought to the Corinth PD as a suspect in a hit-and-run, Ben finds himself surprisingly intrigued by the man. He quickly establishes Donnie’s innocence but can’t shake the feeling that Donnie is hiding something. When they unexpectedly encounter each other again at an AA meeting in Atlanta, sparks begin to fly.

With his marriage on the verge of collapse, Ben is grateful for the other man’s affection. But he is soon struggling to help an increasingly vulnerable Donnie, while at the same time having to deal with the upheaval in his own life. Ben eventually realizes that they cannot achieve happiness together unless they confront their darkest secrets.

23Feb/18

Beneath The Surface (The Outsider Book 1) by Rebecca Langham

The beauty of science fiction is there no real rules other than the science has to stand up, and it has to sound plausible, even if it isn’t. I’ve read more varied books under the “science fiction” label over the last few months than I ever have with romance, which is why I love it.

Beneath The Surface is a meaty read, an involved novel with a plethora of secondary characters surrounding the two main protagonists, privileged Lydia and sharp Alessia, her Outsider counterpart.

This story could have been written in a simpler style, and it still would have been a good read, possibly a little easier to get through. There seems to be quite a bit of set-up, when really, the story just needed to get on with it. Having said that, the author has done a great job in lovingly creating the world inhabited by the humans and Outsiders, and whilst doing so, keeping relevant with various issues troubling the world today. The refugee crisis and alienation of races seem horribly familiar, with the aliens being almost too human so at times. It didn’t seem too preachy, but if you’re looking for escapism rather than realism, this may not be the book for you.

There is a lot to pick over, and it would take me a couple of readings to pick up all the subtleties. Like I said at the start, it is a substantial read. At times I felt it seemed longer than it should have been, and it took me a while to warm to the characters but the last third of the book was definitely worth waiting for.

Finally, I thought the book was well-written, a serious sci-fi novel for far less frivolous readers than myself. I stand in awe of the world the author has built and the gravitas of the overall book. It will be very interesting to see where the series goes from here.

BLURB

When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonization of their peers is simply more “humane.” There’s no question, nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking, and a future worth fighting for.

08Feb/18

The Calling by M.D. Neu

This is an elegant vampire novel, with cleverly interwoven plot arcs that are challenging and intriguing at the same time. It begins with main character Duncan being lured (or “Called”) to meet a beautiful and mysterious woman, along with other disparate individuals. He doesn’t know that he is being tested, and once he passes the test, whether he wants to take advantage of the riches he is promised.

Duncan was slightly irritating at first, as he seemed not to be able to commit himself to anything, both in thought or deed. Always second-guessing himself (is he or is he not a nobody?), there was not enough for me to really identify with his dilemma and I found it difficult to relate to him as a human being thrown into a glamorous, Immortal world. However, as his relationship with Juliet and her assistant develops, he becomes a more rounded character. There is an undercurrent of menace, as he is treated like a human dress-up doll by the two women, whilst being subtly manipulated into the Immortal lifestyle and having strange, disturbing dreams.

I wouldn’t say it was a particularly dark read. There is a bit of gore in places, and sexy undercurrent which streams throughout the book but I’m not sure the warning of “graphic sex and violence” at the beginning was really warranted. There are a couple of sexy, explicit scenes, but I’ve read much stronger stuff in so-called romantic fiction.

The important thing is the story, the Eighties-esque glamour, the fashion amidst almost corporate intrigue. If Judith Krantz had written paranormal/vampire novels, they may have been very much like this.

To round up, although I didn’t really connect with Duncan’s character, I had a lot of respect for this book’s ability to immerse the reader in the Immortal world. It was well-written and carefully balanced, with alluring background characters and fabulous set-pieces. I didn’t find it an easy read, as I don’t normally gravitate towards paranormal novels, but for those who want their vampire novels a little different, not twinkly yet not too dark, it’s definitely worth checking out.

BLURB

Being nobody isn’t necessarily Duncan Alexander’s life goal, but it’s worked for him. He has a nondescript job, a few good friends, and overall he’s content. That’s until one fateful trip to San Jose, California, where he is ‘Called’ to meet the mysterious Juliet de Exter.  Juliet is a beautiful, wealthy, powerful Immortal who is undertaking ‘The Calling’ – a search for a human to join her world of Immortals.  Inexplicably, Duncan’s calling is more dangerous than any of the Immortals, even Juliet, ever thought it would be.

There is more to this nobody, this only child of long deceased parents, than anyone thought. When Duncan begins experiencing uncontrollable dreams of people and places he doesn’t know and hasn’t been, Juliet and the other Immortals worry. Soon, his visions point to a coven of long dead witches. The dreams also lead Duncan to his one true love. How will Duncan navigate a forbidden romance with an outcast Immortal.  Will he and the others keep the balance between the Light and Dark, survive vicious attacks, and prevent the humans from learning who they truly are? More importantly, who is this implacable foe Duncan keeps seeing in his dreams?

02Jan/18

Waiting for Walker by Robin Reardon

This novel takes a lot on. Without giving too much away, there are some big issues at  play here, amongst them coming out to parents, the processing of grief, learning to trust, racism and dealing with all the questions arising from Walker being intersex. It could be a murky mix of navel-gazing and histrionics, but it isn’t. Instead, there is a delicately-balanced story of young love, set against the misunderstandings of two families, one of which have their own devastating loss to deal with as well.

The story, intricate and compelling, is told through the eyes of Micah, a young gay man who falls totally in love with Walker. Even as he learns more about Walker’s gender, and the inevitable questions it poses about his own sexuality, his emotions are incredibly tender and real. At the same time, he is dealing with his mother’s grief over his lost brother, and the fact that his father has moved on and found happiness with another woman. It’s a huge burden for any teenager to bear, and Micah reacts in a totally convincing manner; switching from surly to affectionate to sullen again. He was written very well, never losing my interest for a moment, and remained appealing even when he was in one of his moods, and the author has a knack of drawing their secondary characters so well, they almost share top billing with the two leads.

The descriptions of Long Island Sound, sailing for the first time and the burgeoning emotions are exquisite. You can almost smell the sea air and feel that flutter of anticipation as Micah falls inexorably in love with Walker. The story is atmospheric, almost dreamy at times, but not in a way that gets in the way of the plot, which moves along at just the right pace. For an easy read, it packs a big emotional punch.

I believe this book has a wide appeal, from young teenagers just exploring who they are as people, to anyone interested to know more about intersex relations and love. It certainly educated me without being preachy, and the ending was immensely satisfying (no spoilers.) This is definitely a book I will read again in the future.

BLURB

“Maybe, when you trust completely, you leave yourself open to the pain of someone else.”

Micah Jaeger’s life is a mess. His folks have split, and his mother is seeing a medium to communicate with Micah’s older brother, killed in Afghanistan. He had to change schools for his junior year, and he retreats further into himself, hiding behind his camera—and hiding that he’s gay.

One sunny day in June, as he’s shooting a dead seagull on the shore of Long Island Sound, a mysterious guy appears in a beautiful sailboat. At first, the guy’s boat shoes are the image that stays with Micah. But soon it’s the person himself, Walker Donnell, who haunts Micah’s dreams.

Walker’s life looks perfect to Micah. His wealthy parents adore him. He has everything he could want. He’s gorgeous and generous. And he falls hard for Micah. But he has a secret: Walker is intersex.

The closer Walker and Micah grow, the more Walker feels the need to be sure of himself in ways he hasn’t fully faced before, and now it’s his turn to retreat. Micah knows Walker is worth waiting for, so he waits. And waits.

20Nov/17

Night Drop: A Pinx Video Mystery by Marshall Thornton

Marshall Thornton was one of our lovely guests recently! To hear his episode and learn more about his work, check out Episode 136: Enjoy What You Enjoy!

REVIEW

This book is the first in the Pinx Video Mystery series, and is a fun read, a murder mystery set against the backdrop of the LA Rodney King riots, and the first in a new series of Pinx Video mysteries.

Okay, those things sound as if they should be mutually exclusive, but bear with me. Noah is the engaging owner of Pinx Video, a store close to where the riots were taking place, but luckily, not close enough to be damaged by them. A distance acquaintance is not so lucky, however, so when his charred body is found in his burned out shop, the natural conclusion is to assume that he is an unfortunate victim of looters.

Set in the early 1990’s, when video stores were still thriving and LA is going to hell in a handcart, store owner Noah is too curious for his own good, but questions have to be answered, and he seems to be the only one wanting to answer them. Gradually, he uncovers a murky plot involving corrupt cops, redneck villains and a photographer blackmailing clients with kinky photographs. It’s all deliciously prurient and seedy, yet Noah seems coated with Teflon as he bravely asks searching questions to potentially lethal people.

I loved Noah’s private life, the support he has from friends as he continues to recover from his own tragedy, and the tight community surrounding him in Silver Lake. He is complimented by warm characters that don’t outshine him in any way, even though he is an unassuming hero; not too handsome, or too bright, just an everyday Joe trying to get by after the death of his partner. He is also like a dog with a bone when it comes to solving a mystery, and the way the author weaves the story around him, throwing up red herrings, tying together a potentially convoluted plot, makes for a page-turning read. The denouement is satisfying as well, balanced and not too “shock and awe.” I had kind of worked it out before that, but Noah’s journey to the truth was compelling and entertaining. I look forward to the next book in the series.

BLURB

It’s 1992 and Los Angeles is burning. Noah Valentine, the owner of Pinx Video in Silver Lake, notices the fires have taken their toll on fellow shopkeeper Guy Peterson’s camera shop. After the riots end, he decides to stop by Guy’s apartment to pick up his overdue videos, only to find Guy’s family dividing up his belongings. He died in the camera store fire—or did he? Noah and his downstairs neighbors begin to suspect something else might have happened to Guy Peterson. Something truly sinister.

The first in a new series from Lambda Award-winner Marshall Thornton, Night Drop strikes a lighter tone than the Boystown Mysteries, while bringing Silver Lake of the early 1990s to life.

 

 

20Nov/17

Once Upon A Rainbow Volume 1 by Various

REVIEW

I always find it difficult to review anthologies, as I want to give each story due diligence. In this case, I was asked to review one of the stories, (Hood’s Ride, by J.P. Jackson,) but found myself being drawn into a rabbit hole of fantasy, eroticism, horror and romance

These stories are based on well-known children’s fairytales, but with a definite adult twist, featuring LGBTQ characters from across the spectrum. Some fairytales are merged together, with aspects of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella in one of the tales, and the heartrending Little Match Girl being given a happier ending in another. This is a real mixed bag, with the most striking being Hood’s Ride, by J.P. Jackson, which sits like a Quentin Tarantino movie accidentally replaced into the Hallmark section of the video store. Immediately, it is obvious that this ain’t no fairy story, with the glowering Hood banged up in jail, being tormented by guards who don’t know what he’s capable of. It’s essentially a rescue story, the twist being that Hood is the wolf, a shifter who discovers his true identity in the most dramatic way.

The Gingerbread Woman is another standout. Shorter than the rest, it is a funny and erotic lesbian tale with a wistful twist at the end, and Once Upon a Mattress was the nearest thing to a classic fairy story, amalgamating Cindefella with the Prince and the Pea to humorous and romantic effect. Because the stories are of varying lengths, the effect could feel uneven, but it doesn’t. The writing style of each author compliments each other, rather than duking it out for top billing, which makes this a highly enjoyable read.

It would be hard to choose a favourite, so I won’t. And anyway, each tale is so different, the characters so diverse, it would be unfair to. Like every good anthology, this book is like a box of chocolates. There’s something for everyone, and you never know what you’re going to get.

BLURB

Your favorite stories from childhood have a new twist. Nine fairy tales of old with characters across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Morning Star by Sydney Blackburn – Five wishes; one desire.

Fairest by K.S. Trenten – What will you change into?

Gingerbread by Riza Curtis – A night out to die for.

Sleeping Beauty by A. Fae – United by true love’s kiss.

Little Match Girl by Dianne Hartsock – Falling in love with the Little Match Girl was easy, but now Christian is determined to help Dani find his family, even if doing so means he might lose him forever.

Hood’s Ride is Red by J.P. Jackson – A red car, a werewolf, and a trip to grandpa’s house – this ain’t your usual Little Red Riding Hood.

The Gingerbread Woman by Donna Jay – When Candace sets out for a weekend of solitude she gets far more than she bargained on.

White Roses by A.D. Song – A kiss to break the curse…or continue it.

Once Upon a Mattress by Mickie B. Ashling – Will Errol spend a miserable night and prove his worthiness or will Sebastian have to keep on looking?

17Nov/17

The Laconic Lumberjack (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 4) by Frank W. Butterfield

Frank W. Butterfield was one our lovely recent guests! To find out more about him and get links to his work, check out Episode 138: It’s All True and Very Silly!

REVIEW

This was an interesting one, the 4th book in a long running series of stories featuring fabulously wealthy P.I. Nick Williams and his partner, Carter. Set in 1953, when bigotry and homophobia were legal and enforced by law, the two men tread a fine line between living their lives as they want to, but always aware their loving relationship could land them in jail.

Having said that, this is a jolly escapade in the main, possibly a little too jolly, considering that Carter’s father has just been murdered in a most grisly way, and a local black man has been arrested as a result. Nick hires a plane forthwith, and off they go to Georgia, where every stereotype of Southern man and woman-kind awaits to cause them all kinds of problems. This wasn’t a bad thing though, because let’s face it, a LOT of people in the 21st century are walking stereotypes.

It’s hard not to like this story, although I ran up against a few niggles that threw me off a bit. The first, and biggest, were the occasions when a character would do or say something, “for some reason.” As a reader and writer, I am always looking for reasons. They don’t need to be immediate or blatant, but they need to be there. Adding nuances to writing can be difficult, especially when there are a lot of characters and different plot lines zinging about, but the phrase would have been better left on the cutting room floor, so that the reader could make their own decision as to what the reason was.

The other niggle, possibly because I’m a curmudgeon, is the uneasy mix of tough subjects (racism, homophobia, murder, lynchings) with the amount of time the characters spent laughing. They all seemed rather too happy. Possibly this was because trust-funded golden boy, Nick, could afford to buy everyone out of trouble. If this makes him sound like a bit of a wanker, he really isn’t. He and Carter are so achingly sweet, especially together, it could make your teeth hurt if you’re in any way a cynic. The sex is fade to black, as it would have been in any respectable 1950’s film, so anyone expecting woody shenanigans will not get them.

Instead, there is a lot of other stuff to enjoy. The plot weaves and ducks and dives. The author throws a lot at them, jail-time for Nick, followed by a  kangaroo court, and inserting him and Carter in with a lot of rufty-tufty lumberjacks to try to weed out the murderer. I looked forward to a woodsaw-related climax, especially after the gory death (off-script) earlier but bearing in mind the novel is 1950-esque, with the restraint, decency and politeness of that era, it’s best to read the book to find out if and when that happens.

On the whole, bar the few hiccups, I enjoyed it. Nick and Carter are engaging, fun and cute, even though people around them keep dropping dead. Readers not wanting sex and too many f-bombs, and who appreciate a sense of decorum as well as humour, will enjoy this retro romp very much indeed.

BLURB

It’s just another Thursday morning in July of 1953 when the doorbell rings at 137 Hartford Street and it’s bad news.

Carter’s father has been murdered in Georgia and the local sheriff has no intention of finding out who really did it.

So, Nick and Carter borrow the first plane that Marnie, Nick’s amazing secretary, can find for them and they zoom off back into the past to see if they can uncover the truth of what really happened before the wrong man is convicted. And, knowing the lay of the land under the moss-covered oaks, Carter is pretty sure that the color of a man’s skin will figure heavily in who takes the fall.

In The Laconic Lumberjack, the best Nick can do is stand by Carter’s side as he confronts an awful past, uncovers some surprising secrets, and deals with the unsavory reality of small-town hypocrisy.

In the end, Nick and Carter discover more about themselves than they ever expected to find.