Tag Archives: Jayne Lockwood

29Mar/18

Closer by F.E. Feeley Jr.

Listen to F.E. Feeley Jr’s latest interview on Episode 155: A Fun Return to the Dark Side!

This book had a lot to live up to. After the sublime When Heaven Strikes, I put a lot of (rather unfair) expectations on this book. The author’s writing skill and storytelling ability isn’t in doubt, but would I feel the same about Closer as I did about Heaven?

The truth is, they cannot be compared, because they are intrinsically different. Yes, there is a new relationship at the heart of the novel, when Hayden moves into his new lakeside house and meets the gorgeous, straight-seeming Tommy, but then the mystery begins. At first, I thought it would be a straight-up ghost story, but the horrors begin to build, and Maplewood, the eponymous small town on a lake, is the centre of some very disturbing activity.

The action and tension builds very nicely. Tommy seems devoid of the angst that straight people can have when faced with unfamiliar feelings for a member of their own sex. It makes a refreshing change and as a result, doesn’t get in the way of the main story. The good people and bad people are established quickly and don’t really change. In the best tradition of horror novels, you kind of know who is going to get offed, yet there definitely some I didn’t expect. I liked the way the characters were drawn, reminiscent of Dean Koontz. (It’s a compliment. I LIKE Dean Koontz’s work. It seems more accessible and human than some of Stephen King’s…) There is a touch of religion without pulpit posturing, some vivid imagery, and an exciting denouement, leading on to another book whilst nicely rounding off this one. The author likes to leave things tidy, and so he does, with very satisfactory results.

The two leads were very personable and believable. Hayden’s grief over losing his partner was raw and handled brilliantly. Tommy’s love for Hayden, being devoid of the gay-for-you angst I mentioned earlier, was very touching without being sugar-sweet. Yes, a leap of believability was needed at the end in regards to both Hayden and Tommy’s incipient powers (no spoilers,) but I was beguiled by the author’s storytelling. If the reader goes with it, they will be well-rewarded.

Finally, there is an alluring ‘To be continued…’ at the end, but this book can easily be read as a standalone. However, this couple are shaping up to be an interesting team, and I’m curious to know what else the author has in store for them!

BLURB

Maplewood, Vermont is a picturesque town filled with unique shops, unique homes, and a quaint familiarity all centered around a lake with an unusual history.

Legends, old as well as Urban, float around like the mist that hovers above the lake at break of dawn.

But they’re just stories, right?

Hayden Moore’s life was destroyed when his husband, Malcolm, was murdered. Giving up his job as an assistant district attorney in Boston, Hayden moved to the little burg of Maplewood to recover.

A new life.

A fresh start.

However, something underneath the water is stirring. Something rotten. A deadly secret wakes underneath the black waters of Lake Veronica so disturbing it haunts the nightmares of the local residents.

It’s coming closer…

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.

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.

27Dec/17

Brobots by Trevor Barton

This is an extremely likeable book, with two engaging leads and a host of affectionately-written, secondary characters. At first, Jared seems a little nondescript, but soon grows in strength after he finds Byron in a dumpster and begins the quest to find a replacement battery to switch him back on.

The book was fairly slow to get going, but there is a lot of corporate intrigue to set up first, plus the familiarisation with Brobots (the company’s) AI technology.

The book gained in purpose as it went along, developing into an interesting story about how the humanoid robots fair when they are unleashed from human bondage to set out on their own. Their first stop is to a “farm” set up by the mysterious Susan, where they begin to learn about what it is to be human. In doing so, the humans teaching them learn more about themselves as well.

It was a clever plot, and one that I can see easily developing over the next two stories. It mainly deals with Jared and Byron, their burgeoning love, and the problems that an AI/human relationship come up against. In the background, Byron’s AI friends are also adjusting to life as free sentient beings, making mistakes along the way.

I guess at first I was slightly uncomfortable at the way the sentients seemed almost too human. It seemed a bit of a cop-out, but the author was at pains to describe the feelings they experienced though the medium of technology and science, and it was well done without being too technical. Also, the author has a style of writing that I haven’t seen since the 80’s, that of varying points of view within the same chapter, sometimes even the same paragraph.

Done badly, this can be catastrophic, but done well, it can really immerse the reader into the minds of the characters, all of which are experiencing new sensations. On the whole, it worked, and after the initial shock, I got over it and wasn’t jolted out of the story.

The love scenes between Byron and Jared were also convincing, although some poetic licence had been taken, especially with regard to … er … dousing electrical components with liquid, for example. Their love was sweet, Byron being a big lunk still learning the niceties (or otherwise) of human behaviour. There was some humour and some tension and not too much sentiment. The romance element was pitched just right, and didn’t get in the way of the other aspects of the plot. The author answered all my questions as they came up, and didn’t leave anything dangling. This is a carefully thought-out book, with a highly creative plot and characters to root for.

Without spoilers, I can say the ending was interesting, satisfying, and led neatly into the next book. If it’s as good as this one, readers will be in for a treat.

BLURB

Brobots is substantial science fiction with gay characters told across three continuous books.

Rod burners. Scaff dawgs. Laggers. Bucket dumpers. Lerps. Duct monkeys. Tin knockers. Lumbergs. Artificial big guys. Product of a troubled firm. Brobots.

They’re easy to treat like trash. But they’re not so easy to ignore; especially the ones experiencing “the wake up.” The idea was that they could work hidden in society’s plain sight, allowing humanity time to get used to the fact of sentient machines.

But it’s all too easy for others to take advantage of those who live on the edge. What they, and their allies, must do is work out who, and why, before it gets too late.

Plug them in. Wish they never end.

Brobots Book 1:
Jared takes home a cute man he finds in a dumpster and then gets drawn into a world of robots, parenting and conspiracy.

Artificial intelligence can’t be programmed. It has to be grown. Some machines are learning who they are, and humans could do with a bit of that, too.

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.

19Nov/16

Review of At Danceteria And Other Stories by Philip Dean Walker

philipdeanwalker

Listen to Philip Dean Walker’s show and find out more about his work here!

REVIEW

This is an audacious collection, set in the 1970’s and 80’s, featuring the rich and famous, dead or still alive. Audacious because the events are (probably) fiction, featuring real life celebrities (Freddie Mercury, Princess Diana, Halston, Liza Minnelli, to name just a few.) These affectionate and mischievous tales are moving, visceral and funny all at once, leaving the reader feeling as if they’ve been sand-blasted with fabulousness. Sparkly, yet sore as hell.

There is a distinct cool 1970’s/hot 1980’s vibe shimmering through this book, flamboyant characters coming to vibrant life, the drugs, the partying, the sex, the smart talk. Yet the whole thing is overshadowed by the spectre of AIDS. Death, dawning realisation, partying before someone turns the lights out, it is all here, in an incredible group of stories, the like of which I will never forget.

To find out more about each story, read below. Or don’t, and just read the book instead. It’s wonderful. And four weeks after reading it, still as clear as crystal. Damn you, Philip Dean Walker for getting inside my head!

By Halston is one night in the life of the fashion designer and his muse Liza Minnelli as they Hoover cocaine like Tony Montana before the launch of a new fashion collection (for JC Penney…) and party the night away at Studio 54. The crisp dialogue and insights into an outwardly glamorous world are pin sharp. Walker has studied these people and loves them, for all their faults and insecurities. Halston’s ultimate destiny is hinted at in one chillingly mundane observation, that he has “always preferred black rough trade.” He draws Halston as generous, egotistical, colourful, insecure, talented. Simply, he is Halston. By Halston.

Don’t Stop Me Now. Four besties, Freddie (Mercury,) Kenny (Everett,) Cleo (Rocos,) and Diana (Spencer,) a fantasy foursome if ever there was one, enjoy ribald humour and a night at a drag show.  This was hugely enjoyable yet so poignant, considering that all but one are now dead. I grew up with Freddie and Kenny. I watched Lady Di turn into Princess Diana. When they fell, one by one, it was as if a piece of my own history had died with them. So reading this gleeful tale of “what ifs” with the four of them having good times, going to a drag club, was wonderful. Diana dressing as a drag king might be implausible, but the way it was written, you could easily imagine it happening. As she strips herself of her “Princess” persona, a drag queen dresses up in her image, reminding her that the world needed Princess Diana. Nothing could stop her now.

In Charlie Movie Star, Rock Hudson is at the White House, a guest of Nancy and Ronald Reagan. Although he’s aware of the new virus circulating around the gay community, he feels remote from it, first inviting a younger staffer back to his room. Fast forward to Tracks nightclub, and he meets another man called Gus. In 2016, we know he’s playing with fire. Every fibre in me wanted to call out across the decades, “beware!” But he doesn’t, and we know what happened next.

The Boy Who Lived Next To The Boy Next Door deals with AIDS head-on, as the narrator (we never learn his name) observes people in his community dropping like flies with what he calls HGF (Hot Guy Flu.) For a while, it seems as if people actually want to get this new virus, because it is seen as a badge of their desirability. That is, until the first not-so-hot guy falls ill. From then on, no-one is safe. This is meant to hit hard, and it does. The beautiful ballet dancer cutting his own face to make himself ugly and protect himself against HGF is especially shocking; a sobering reminder of those terrible dark years.

Sequins At Midnight is one night in the life of Sylvester, disco king at the height of his fame. One fabulous night, with his adoring fans before him, among them is Jason, waiting for him to sing his favourite song. As Sylvester toys with him from the stage, he thinks about his life so far, and we are given glimpses into his private persona, from when he is growing up to what brings him to this night. AIDS hasn’t yet struck, but it is waiting in the wings. We know this, yet Sylvester doesn’t. He is thinking about his life, from the brutal realisation that he is gay, to his famous friends who adore him. Yet he also knows full well, no-one gets a show for free. There are no refunds at the door….

Jackie and Jerry and The Anvil A somewhat sombre tale. Jerry Torre (The Marble Faun) takes Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis to The Anvil, a notorious leather bar, after she insists he escort her for a night out. The idea of the fragrant Ms. Onassis in such a sweaty place, smelling of ass and leather, is a mischievous one, yet it turns slightly melancholy as Jackie O recalls a lost love, and it seems that life can be lonely living with so many riches, yet so little excitement. Meanwhile, Little Edie Beale seethes with resentment on the sidelines, thinking her cousin is so lucky to be in the position she’s gained….

At Danceteria, Keith Haring is celebrating his 26th birthday. Madonna is on stage, singing just for him. Life looks good, but talking to friends, he sees the undercurrents threatening the stability of his life. “Something is fucking happening here.” Five words that spread a chill throughout the sweaty club. Keith escapes the noise and craziness and goes up into the roof of the club. With a couple of Sharpies he begins to draw. He’s drawing his future, and what he thinks is the future of his community. He leaves an indelible mark, to show that once, he was there.

This is a brilliant, acid-tipped spear of a collection. Not to be missed.

 

 

15Jul/16

Chained In Darkness (Episodes 1-5) by Nicholas Bella

 

chained-in-darkness-nicholas-bella-audiobook (1)

Yes, I wish to woo the Dark Lord of gay erotica onto our show, but the following review is absolutely genuine. His website is nicholasbella.com and is definitely NSFW!

REVIEW

Nicholas Bella has written several series, and this is a standalone story told in five excoriating episodes.

They tell the story of Noel, captured by vampires after being betrayed by his best friend. The vamps rule over a kingdom of Dystopian bleakness, where the humans are an inferior species kept alive to do menial tasks and feed the vampire’s lust for blood.

Told in the first person, Noel describes in brutal detail the punishments bestowed upon him, and how his initial horror turns to hunger as he is turned into one of the fanged ones and becomes the favourite whipping boy of Theoden, one of the most sadistic Vampire Lords in the city. He is put through a series of challenges and punishments before he can earn the title of Theoden’s child and the privileges that Theoden’s other children already enjoy.  “Children” is just another way of saying “fuck slaves.” The punishments include descriptions of piercings (guiche, Prince Albert, apadravya) done with silver, which is like Kryptonite to vamps and stings like hell (squirming yet? I sure was…)

So you might have guessed by now that this is not a series for the faint of heart. Full strength erotica, chock full of BDSM, horror, punishment, and reams of bottom-clenching sex. I was actually reading some bits through my fingers, and I know that sounds dumb, but it’s true. Sometimes, only having one eye on the page is the only way to read the really gruelling bits.

And yet …. It’s strangely hot as well. Even when you think “hang on, I’ve just read a description of a guy being forced to drink piss from another guy’s arsehole.” The author stops short of making his MC indulge in Human Centipede-style Scooby snacks, but only just. Maybe that’s in next season’s episodes. I don’t know, but I feel strangely compelled to find out.

And so do a lot of other “Bellaholics,” Bella’s avid fans of all sexes, who are practically (ball) gagging for more and more. That takes a certain set of skills on the author’s part; not only punishing the reader with the literary equivalent of the Cruciatus Curse, but making them love it.

Needless to say, it isn’t all grim reading or grinding sex. It is the story of a man’s gradual submission and acceptance of his fate, very cleverly executed and well-balanced. Eventually, Noel discovers that as a Vampire, his virginal arse heals after every brutal gang-ravishing and bodily fluids taste like nectar. This might elicit eye-rolling from cynical readers (if they haven’t already thrown the book into a corner and are hunched on the sofa, keeping it in full view of their staring, bulging eyes) but it shouldn’t. Bella has created a dark world where anything is possible, and any punishment that could be meted out is done so with lavish gusto and salacious glee. He’s written a series where it’s okay to read uber-gritty, filthy, hardcore erotica and not feel grubby/cheap/perverted whilst doing it. He’s successful and rightly so. He plays his readers like a finely tuned instrument whilst simultaneously flogging them into submission with every relentless sexual encounter. Well played, Mr. Bella.

So, in one word – phew!

In several words – Recommended for anyone who would really like to see Edward Cullen’s pretty twinkly arse pounded. Again and again.

And again.