530 Followers
6 Following
abgayle

abgayle

Preserving the Past and the Precious

Waiting for the Flood - Alexis Hall

I got a headache after reading this. Note, I did not say "from" reading this. But I made the mistake of looking up Game Theory on Wikipedia and trying to understand it. I can sort of. And I am in total awe of people who can discuss it intelligently.

 

Which our two characters do in this lovely tale by one of my favourite authors.

I'm going to reread this book and perhaps edit this review but I want to say how much I enjoyed it.

 

In RL I have actually been affected by a flood. Even had to be taken out by boat and wasn't allowed back in the flat for a couple of days. Just be glad we were spared details of the stinky clean up at the end.

 

But our hero should have no problems with that aspect as his day job involves saving precious things from the effects of damp and time.

 

Book and paper preservation is another thing I have had a touching acquaintance with as my brother in law has had training in the subject and deals in antique maps and prints. So I knew the type of time, patience and care you needed to do a job like this.

 

These two factors helped me get a handle on the story.

 

For starters, I knew I wasn't about to embark on a thrilling encounter involving a gung ho macho alpha male. That helped.

 

It also helped when shortly after the start, the self effacing, stuttering hero had a Save the Cat moment of looking out for his elderly neighbour. On one level he knew she was helping him as much as he was helping her but neither articulated that fact as it would spoil their interaction.

 

For readers used to being fed easily digestible romances, this story may cause them stomach aches. (Or a headache!)

 

The previously mentioned Game Theory may be seen as simply a means to make them both sound intellectual. This is why I have to reread it.

 

Game Theory is of prime importance to an ecologist worried about Global Warming, but I don't rememer this example being used specifically. Maybe I missed it. I was reading it late at night and woke up hours later with my glasses still on. Lol.

 (Edit to add, he didn't mention this aspect which is kinda weird but perhaps he thought this might come across as preachy and act as a red herring for all those who don't agree - thus detracting from the point he's trying to make)

 

Google it for the whole scenario, but at the heart of it is every country has to decide whether or not they will decrease emissions, but because they are concerned that they will lose their competitive edge economically if other countries don't, most don't.

 

It's not classic game theory, like the one where prisoners are offered varying degrees of prison terms if they rat on the other, because with Global Warming the rewards aren't as definite. It's still an example where a person has to choose between a rational decision and an irrational one and they choose the latter even though rationally they are aware they are being irrational.

 

Okay, I can hear you saying now. This is all well and good for our hunky environmentalist but why include it?

 

Because our narrator is doing just that. Rationally, he knows he has to move on but irrationally he doesn't for all sorts of reasons.

 

I could go on but won't for now. Maybe after my reread I will see more parallels between the examples offered and their lives and the decisions made.

 

There are some beautiful quotes later on in the book when it really gets to grips with what is going on. Those who have persevered this far get this payoff. Those who gave up, like those impatient with stutterers, will miss gems like these:

 

I was, all overthrown by a sandbag philosopher who listened because he wanted to listen, not because he was afraid to speak.

or this

Feelings only exist in your head. Thoughts only exist in your head. I'm not sure how you draw the line between thinking about feelings, and feeling about feelings, or even just having feelings." He shrugged. "Basically: if you think you're happy, you're happy. Problem was, you thought both of you were happy, and it turned out he thought he wasn't."

 

To be followed up by the killer line later: "It would have been so much easier if he'd done s-something, betrayed me or cheated on me.

 

To which our lanky, gawky, but oh so kind hero replies:
(If he felt that way)...you wouldn't have really wanted to go on like that, would you? You wouldn't have wanted him to stay.


Rationally our narrator knew that but irrationaly he clung to this image of happiness he had created in his own head simply because he wanted it so much.

 

This book deserves a second read. But even on the first I caught onto the significance of the lack of a preface to the last chapter. The previous ones started in different parts of the house, mentioning the importance and the memories it held. In a way, he was clinging onto these memories, trying to preserve them just like the ephemera he rescued for a living. But the last chapter doesn't have a preface. He has finally moved on.

 

Two to three years of grieving over a ten year relationship, the only one he knows, is not "too long" as some readers have complained. For someone who rescues lost causes for a living, who preserves memories, he could have spent a lifetime like that. But thankfully at the combined urging of his neighbour, his ex's mother and his new friend, he doesn't.

 

I loved the way he saw the painting of himself done by his ex. He recognised it captured the sensual passion he once held inside. He is not a cold, rational man. That's his problem. He feels things deeply. I get the impression (and the glimpse we see of it later) he loved the physical side of sex. He uses the term :unabashedly, It was an area he could lose himself in. It didn't require speech.

 

Luckily our red-headed, gawky, lanky environmentalist sensed this and wanted this passionate man who took great pleasure and was capable of such great love as long as the recipient was prepared to earn it.

 

Thus Adam carried out the same role in life. Our environmentalist saw the ephemera that was Edwin, recognised his worth, kept him dry, patiently teased out the crinkles and was rewarded for his time and effort.

 

Lovely story and highly recommended to everyone who is looking for something more, has patience and doesn't mind being mentally challenged.

Wonderful Start to a Series

Love is a Stranger - John  Wiltshire

This book first came to my notice when I saw it on a list of most underrated books for 2014. It had garnished lots of very enthusiastic 5 star ratings.

 

The blurb is worth repeating: "How do you love someone who exists entirely in the shadows? How do you love a man who describes himself as dead? How do you get that ghost to love you back? Ex-SAS soldier, Ben Rider, falls in love with his enigmatic married boss Sir Nikolas Mikkelsen, but Nikolas is living a lie. A lie so profound that when the shadows are lifted, Ben realises he's in love with a very dangerous stranger. Ben has to choose between Nikolas and safety, but sometimes danger comes in a very seductive package."

 

Once I started reading, I found myself being blown away as much as I was when I came across "Special Forces". There are parallels, ex SAS (British) and a man who we discover is not only Spetznaz, but belonging to the more sinister, Zaslon unit. And the author even admits to having read the first two books of that series "Soldiers I and II"). But it was more like fabulous fan-fiction, taking those bare bone parallels and going off in another direction.

 

For a start, these characters are more likeable (for me anyway). They both do and have done horrendous things. Some "on camera". They both hurt others, each other and even themselves, but underlying that, their love seems more honest. The men are monogamous for starters. (At least except for a blip in book 4 which was integral to the plot).

 

The first book is told entirely from the POV of Ben. He's a bit like Dan. Happy go lucky, good at what he does, straightforward, what you see is what you get.

 

He was head hunted by his current boss who now works for the British Government in a covert cell. (In later books, we get flashbacks to how and why) and Ben has become his right hand man, an efficent tool for carrying out different operations.

 

The first was busting open an animal right's potential terrorist group. Ben has to infiltrate the group by gaining access via the man they see is the ringleader, Tim. Tim is a Professor in Ethics and gay. This last fact isn't too abhorrent to Ben as he has been fucking his boss almost ever since he started working for him four years ago. His boss is married.

 

Oohm cheating, infidelity. How could this man be termed "nice", Well it turns out that this is a marriage of convenience and a cover. The lovely twist being that not only is the marriage a cover for Sir Nikolas, it is a cover for his wife who is having an long term affair with a member of the Royal Family.

 

While the emotional arc of the ongoing changes in the relationship between these two men forms the backbone of the book, the plot is actually in a number of discreet parts. The next case Ben has is the abduction of a child on behalf of the father. The ethics of this one sits uneasily with Ben and he gets back in touch with Tim, for advice. For the operation Ben and Nik purchase a scruffy dog from the pound with the idea of using him to gain access to the target child's current family and then taking him back to the pound.

 

So, running along in the background of this book are all sorts of themes of ethics, lies, manipulation, using people and things and how far you are willing to go to achieve a goal.

 

In this book, the action is paramount. The sex scenes are pretty unemotional and because we only get Ben's POV, it's not that introspective (again shades of SF). But we do get introduced to some wonderful side characters. Including Radulf, the scruffy wolfhound, who in many ways, steals the series.

 

Critics will argue that the scenario is unrealistic, Nikolas turns out to be a billionaire. But he is so much more than that. How he came to be one: his family, his past, his enemies are only gradually revelaed to Ben and the reader.

 

Nikolas is a tortured hero who is willing to lie and manipulate to get what he wants, but his dark vision of himself is continually being challenged by Ben's love.

 

The story itself may not be perfect. The characters certainly are not, but in many ways these imperfections give the series somewhere to go. Everything that happens has repercussions down the line. And the books just get better and better.

 

Fabulous story telling.

 

 

Best book I've read for years

This Other Country - John  Wiltshire

If I could give this book more stars I would. While the other books were good, this one was brilliant. For only the second time in my life, I pulled an all nighter. How could I not?

The story had everything. I made so many notes, marked so many passages as quotes that I need time to formulate them into a decent review.

This book has wonderful sex scenes, heartbreak, sadness, laugh out loud humor, it ticks every box without being a product of paint by numbers writing.

The sheer story telling craft impressed me as much as anything else. By now, we know the characters so well that you can almost anticipate what they do and say, yet, the author wove in such a brilliant twist that all bets were off for half the book, keeping the freshness and mystery alive.

Unlike the earlier books, this isn't a collection of novellas or episodes, but a story in two parts. The first is an action thriller and the second, which could only ever happen because of the climax to the first part, is much more cerebral.

And I'm not going to say any more about the plot because that would spoil it. Suffice it to say, this story is so good it could almost work as a stand alone. But it is better reading the first three just so you can appreciate this one that much more.

The old favourites are back but each plays such an integral part that they are not merely cameos or guest appearances. Everything and I repeat everything, once a specific action is set in motion is deeply rooted in what has come before.

That is why I am in awe of the craft.

This guy excels at GMC.

SPOILER ALERT!

The Power of It

The Last Rebellion - Lisa Henry

What a brilliantly written, well executed short story.

And it's free. This cements Lisa Henry's status as a very talented and versatile writer.

I want Miller's story next.....

The following discussion is spoilerish. I'm not giving away the specifics of the plot, but the content may still best be read after you finish reading it yourself.

What follows is an exploration of the power of one word.

After reading the story, I was surprised to find some reviewers referred to the ending as HFN (Happy for Now). Apparently “The Last Rebellion” was written to a story prompt which called for that.

The author herself has admitted the ending is ambiguous.

Why?

It all hinges around the two letter word: “it”

“Rho never saw it coming.”

But what is “it”?

Is it a positive outcome, something good happening in his life?

Or is it, his death?

Either outcome is possible and neither is "correct".

It’s the question of which the reader chooses that becomes interesting.

Pronouns have power. Our editors urge us to eliminate “it” from our manuscripts purely because of this ambiguity. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pointed this out when editing or beta’ing.

Most times, the author knows exactly what the word refers to, but because of other nouns used nearby, that may not be as obvious to the reader who has to pause and work “it” out.

Sometimes, the author may wish to leave this ambiguity in place, like I suspect Lisa Henry has done here.

Both variants can lead to sequels. In one, the couple would have to find ways that they can be together even though they are on different sides of a conflict.

In the other, the survivor may come to regret his action and over time change and hopefully even find ways to redeem himself, learning his lesson that there are no winners in war.

The case can be made for both interpretations. Studying the text, analyzing character’s dialogue and inner thoughts. Hints can be seen if you want to see them.

What it does expose is how much of the reader’s own personalities, experiences and wishes go into their interpretation. Those who want a happy ending will sometimes ignore the bits that don’t fit into this box. And vice versa. Is it the glass half full/glass half empty divide? Is it readers looking for or expecting a certain grittiness of a particular author?

Even though this is a gay fiction short story, I believe it is just as worth studying on these lines from an academic literary point of view. There is no reason why mm romances have to be light and fluffy. No reason why authors can’t test boundaries and try different literary styles. As long as they know what they are doing and why they are doing it.

I’d like to think there are enough intelligent readers out there to appreciate a story based on its craft and style as much as the plot and characters.

I’d be interested in hearing from other readers. What’s your take on that line? What does “it” stand for?

S

P

O

I

L

E

R


[Here's my interpretation. Miller kills/executes Rho. Probably by snapping his neck. Rho didn't see his death coming.

Why? Because Miller's primary motive was to break Rho whichever way he could. He recognised Rho had been trained to or was, by his nature, able to withstand normal interrogation techniques.

Miller wanted to see if he could use kindness or at least appeal to other needs Rho had. Once Rho had submitted, Miller knew he had "broken" him and the experiment was over. Underlying that was a fatalistic recognition that Rho had no future. Miller had already prevented his execution once (probably by a gunshot to the head while bound and hooded never seeing or experiencing freedom or sunshine again). The usual fate of prisoners who were no longer needed. To Miller, at least Rho found peace and did not die in fear. 

Let's look at the other interpretation. Rho never saw a "positive outcome" coming. Could Miller have gone AWOL and kept Rho at his farm?

Possibly, but why have that sentence in there at all? Remember we are in Rho's head at this point in time. Wouldn't the verb have been "happening"? and why place this at the end of the story. It's an omniscient viewpoint and would more likely have occurred earlier before we are shown how "good" it is. In fact, the story could have simply ended with "And it's good.

Personally, I felt the tragic ending suited the situation even though I felt gutted after.

But I could picture Miller doing it almost out of kindness and Rho's death would haunt him ever after. Where could he go from there? Could he ever redeem himself or would he see his soul forever tainted with that stain?" (hide spoiler)]

Plot Holes and GMC

Midnight in Berlin - J.L. Merrow

Midnight in Berlin to me is a classic case of plot holes that should have been seen at the editing stage and fixed before publication.

Plot holes are not just things that don’t get explained, they are inconsistencies between what happens and the motivations and goals of the people who are influencing the action. That’s where GMC comes in.

Plot holes make a story illogical.

From reading reviews, I gather that logic doesn’t mean a lot to a number of readers, but there are others where lapses in logic pull them out of the story.

Books with action and romance are difficult to write, but to make them work the action should flow seamlessly from one scene to the next where what occurs should be organic and have grown from what has come before.

The answers to “why did they say this” or “why did they do that” should be obvious.

In this book they weren’t.

Here are some examples:

Christoph is the boss of a large architectural company. Why didn’t he contact the office as soon as he was free or even check how things were going when he walked in? Because he was ashamed of his face? He didn’t even attempt to call them. Weren’t they worried about his absence?

That whole scene when they return to the house to confront Schreiber is a good example. In an instant, Sven goes from being the faithful second in command to attacking Schreiber. Why should he suddenly trust them? Why was he so revolted by the idea of being a super soldier? One minute he wants to rip off Christoph’s head and the next, Schreiber’s.

How come Silke suddenly has the ability to rip the head off a human much larger and stronger than she is? She must be a similar size to wolves in the zoo. Unless, perhaps this article was used for research: http://www.theonion.com/articles/stud...But once again, a simple reaction to her ferociousness in wolf form and alarm on the POV character’s part beforehand would stop this being a WTF moment.

What was Tobias doing during that scene? He’s obviously a threat because they knocked him out and put him in a cage after?

Why was his friend, Jon, so accepting of the mere fact that werewolves existed, let alone within minutes being in love and super protective of Silke?

And his involvement in the story is just too pat. The hero needed a friend and it just happens to be someone who can fall in love with a wolf? These sorts of things can be done, but earlier when he goes back to the hostel and meets him, he could be at least tempted to say, hey you know those werewolves you always love reading about. Guess what. They’re real. Instead he’s just “a friend” who he shelves his job to! (So that he would conveniently “owe him a favor”) And I’d forgotten he’d even existed by the time he’s needed again. Little snippets in between would have helped. Kicking himself for not passing on a clue, like mentioning he’s sorry he didn’t return the werewolf story he borrowed. Make Jon’s subsequent involvement in the story organic. Not just to fill a gaping plot hole.

Also Silke seems to have a sudden personality change from small and timid to large and ferocious. Not sure how that one happened. I know her father got attacked and she has Stockholm Syndrome, but a couple of fore-warnings might have helped the switch be more believable.

That’s the main issue I have with the story. The insta-attraction and shifts in action happened too suddenly. Now we are here and doing this and then we are there doing that with no smooth transition with one happening organically because of the other.

Perhaps it’s because when I read (and write) I see the scene in my head. For example, I tried to picture them at the internet café where people would be milling around, reading over their shoulder or sitting next to them while they accessed that data. I’d have been calling the cops.

And when they set off for Jon’s workplace. At least mention the Porsche and why they didn’t use it.

Maybe I’m being too picky, but it bugs me when problems like these aren’t picked up by beta readers. You need people who are prepared to say, hey I like your writing, but…. And I do, I like J.L. Merrow’s writing. The bits between the holes anyway.

Desire and Devour, Stories of Blood and Sweat - Jeff Mann Boy this guy can write. When a poet writes prose the difference is marked. I'm not a fan of shifters, shedders and suckers. Too often the genre is just used to circumvent the need to conform to contemporary rules and standards.

I also hate the vast majority of books written in the present tense. In some cases it suits stories dealing with young self centred heroes living in a world which revolves around them, but more often it seems pretentious. It's prevalent in fan fiction which is why I don't read much fan fiction. Often, just knowing a book has been written in present tense is enough to stop me buying it.

I hadn't read the blurb before reading this collection of stories and I was well into the first one before I realised I'd strayed not only into vampire territory but also was reading something in the present tense. Once again I honestly hadn't noticed.

Not know it was paranormal? Maybe the cover should have alerted me, but I'd already read some of Jeff's stories and knew he was into kinky leather sex. I figured, a bit of cutting might have been involved or maybe it was meant to be metaphorical. Lol.

The stories vary in length and are really stand alones with a common hero. If you're a fan of vampires, I'd definitely recommend it.

But more than that. If you're a fan of good writing. Writing that flows effortlessly and brings in enough lyrical description to lift the story above its peers then I'd also recommend this book. The editor in me kept marvelling at the way he constructs his sentences, but that feeling never lasted long as the content swept me up again and stopped me dwelling on the nuts and bolts and ensured I relaxed and enjoyed the overall effect.

If you want to know what the book is about, check out Nathan's review. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/411738995

A History of Barbed Wire

A History of Barbed Wire - Jeff Mann Jeff Mann is an excellent writer. No question of it. As Patrick Califia says in the opening words of his intro:
Poets. They'll break your heart every time. But until then, the sex is amazing.
I found it interesting reading this anthology after having read Jeff's essay in [b:The Other Man|17823716|The Other Man|Paul Alan Fahey|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1366201771s/17823716.jpg|24932743] based on something that happened to him in real life. He talks about being involved with "Another Man" even though he was in a committed loving relationship. This theme resonates through his stories. Having a lover who is a good, kind reliable person - but not kinky-and the way he got so aroused whenever he thought about being tied up and taken to his physical limits.

I've always been interested in uncovering men's fears and fantasies as knowing these gives a better picture of who they are. Jeff's are written here, plain to see.

Above all, this is a book about bears. Nowhere else have I really felt the essence of these big men. And not just big, hairy men with voracious appetites for food and drink, but also sex, especially the intense experiences brought on by the extremes of leathersex.

I deliberately skipped reading the introduction by Patrick Califia until I'd finished the collection as I didn't want to be influenced by anything other than Jeff's own words. However, Patrick does sum up what this essence is.

The last story was especially interesting from a writer's POV after having read [b:Fog: A Novel of Desire and Reprisal|12388664|Fog A Novel of Desire and Reprisal|Jeff Mann|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1338748876s/12388664.jpg|17369662]

The two stories have very similar plots but just some slight shifts as far as goal, motivation and circumstance leads to a different take on the scenario. Yes, there are similarities. But the differences are what makes them both worth reading. Both are satisfying in their own rights. Both had me on the edge of my seat wondering how it could ever be resolved without something drastic happening to one or all of the characters.

That's what good writing is all about.

(Incidentally, I managed to buy this through All Romance Ebooks but it definitely shouldn't be shelved as romance even though there is a lot of affection and love in the true sense of the word)

My Kind of Sucker Story

Desire & Devour: Stories of Blood & Sweat - Jeff Mann

Boy this guy can write. When a poet writes prose the difference is marked. I'm not a fan of shifters, shedders and suckers. Too often the genre is just used to circumvent the need to conform to contemporary rules and standards.

I also hate the vast majority of books written in the present tense. In some cases it suits stories dealing with young self centred heroes living in a world which revolves around them, but more often it seems pretentious. It's prevalent in fan fiction which is why I don't read much fan fiction. Often, just knowing a book has been written in present tense is enough to stop me buying it.

I hadn't read the blurb before reading this collection of stories and I was well into the first one before I realised I'd strayed not only into vampire territory but also was reading something in the present tense. Once again I honestly hadn't noticed.

Not know it was paranormal? Maybe the cover should have alerted me, but I'd already read some of Jeff's stories and knew he was into kinky leather sex. I figured, a bit of cutting might have been involved or maybe it was meant to be metaphorical. Lol.

The stories vary in length and are really stand alones with a common hero. If you're a fan of vampires, I'd definitely recommend it.

But more than that. If you're a fan of good writing. Writing that flows effortlessly and brings in enough lyrical description to lift the story above its peers then I'd also recommend this book. The editor in me kept marvelling at the way he constructs his sentences, but that feeling never lasted long as the content swept me up again and stopped me dwelling on the nuts and bolts and ensured I relaxed and enjoyed the overall effect.

If you want to know what the book is about, check out Nathan's review. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/411738995

Captive Prince: Volume One (Captive Prince, #1) - S.U. Pacat,  C.S. Pacat Fantastic. Thoroughly deserves all its accolades.
Homosapien ... a fantasy about pro wrestling - Julie Bozza After reading, and loving, four of Julie Bozza's most recent books, I had been checking this one out, but the reviews and the fact I'm not a fan of pro-wrestling made me wary of buying it.

However, I am a big admirer of Julie’s writing and her recent post into why she wrote the book made me curious: http://juliebozza.com/?p=1077

And I'm so glad I succumbed to temptation, as her story actually deals with the aspects that turn me off: the fakery, the frenetic fanfares, the fans themselves.

If you’re expecting a traditional m/m romance, this isn’t the book for you, but if you’re looking for an amusing, heart-warming, thought-provoking book this is.

While Patrick, her narrator, is awed by the romance that blossoms between his dour, idealistic, intelligent boss and his hero, a flamboyant pro-wrestler, he also explores the true nature of pro-wrestling and discovers the potentially deal-breaking fact that the fights and characters are all scripted. Note, I didn’t say “fake” and the difference is very much at the heart of the book.

Sure, the guys are excellent stunt men and the sport is potentially dangerous, however, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone should bet on the outcome of pro-wrestling matches, relying purely on technique or form. For if you did, you would be laying odds on whether you knew which way the soap opera unfolded. It would be like betting on what happened next in “Lost” or in the lives of Posh and Beck - a real life couple who carefully script what the public knows about their lives.

While the book doesn't deal with these sort of things I was reminded of many other instances that are manipulatively scripted while ostensibly being "real". For example, it’s becoming more obvious that shows like "Big Brother" are scripted. At least as far as what the producers care to show and what they don’t. Even the morning radio shows that revolve around the witty banter between two radio jocks is scripted to an extent. Just check out the comedy writers who are sometimes given credit. And another form of “script” is done in “real-life” diary blogs which sometimes even use made-up characters and include content based on comments from previous blogs all in an effort to gain maximum interest and patronage.

Because that’s what it all comes down to in the end. Bums on seats.

The pro-wrestlers' situations and storylines are manipulated to gain the most impact, whether shocking or affectionate. The viewers are also being manipulated. We love to hate just as much as we love to love.

In a way, pro-wrestling is the grown up version of clown routines at the circus. It is soap opera for men. There was even one section where the author told about how they’d performed live to differently aged groups of kids with cancer. The storyline/action changed appropriately.

Does this make it fake?

Should we care that it’s not “real”?

These are the sorts of questions that are covered in the book.

But the most telling conflict at the centre of the book is the way being a gay professional wrestler was seen as a mockery at first and then later brought out a lot of homophobic reactions from the red-neck crowds and fellow participants. This raised the question should this have been allowed to continue?

There was one brilliant quote in the book that summed up the author’s take on the situation. It came from Patrick after his eyes have been “opened”
”it occurs to me that the crowds are free to enjoy Butch and Sundance and their gay antics, because they are now beginning to know or at least guess that it’s all scripted. They don’t have to be uncomfortable about it, they can just cheer or (preferably, in this case) boo to their hearts’ content……because the mob just might find themselves enjoying all this queerness, and that might just painlessly widen out to an acceptance of real queerness before anyone notices.”
The writing style is worthy of comment as well. As a writer, I tried to picture other ways the subject could have been handled. For current day scenes, it even starts out in past tense and switches to present tense. We are given part of the story as reconstructed dialogue between two people and the narrator wasn’t present at the time. Patrick addresses the reader, yet fails to give insight into his own personal life at the time. Yet what happens to him is also ultimately affected by the pro-wrestling scene. These sorts of things might turn off some readers, but I loved the sheer audacity of it. Much like people either do or don’t like the flamboyance of pro-wrestling.

The themes of “Good versus Bad” and “Us versus Them” also formed a thread in the book.

None of these themes are “told” to us. We have to pay attention and see them ourselves, although the way Julie (or should I say the owner of WWW, Jack Dynes) switched to The Fallen vs The Righteous was an interesting twist. As Patrick says:
It’s all heat, whether it’s cheering or jeering, and heat’s a good thing. Heat is what they want.”
In the end, this is what the story is all about. Giving people what they want. Not necessarily what they need. Or it is, if what they need is a bit of passion in their lives. A bit of excitement.

I really enjoyed the book both on a visceral and intellectual level. Those only looking for the former might be frustrated that we aren’t given the story in traditional format, but I doubt the theme could have been explored so effectively if we were. At times, I was reminded of Jane Davitt’s [b:Hourglass|10137440|Hourglass|Jane Davitt|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347518982s/10137440.jpg|14879844] which deals with two men who appear in a TV show together.

Julie ends off with a statement:
”Wrestling’s more than just violence or a soap opera or a parody. It’s a postmodern phemomenon.
It is definitely worth thinking about this while reading it. See how many times we, as viewers or readers, are manipulated into reacting a certain way. With the instant feedback of TV ratings, being able to measure Youtube and Facebook “likes” and website “hits” those who manipulate or write the “scripts” can tweak them to gain maximum effect.

These sorts of stories deserve to be read more. Thank you, Julie for writing it.

Edited to add: I asked Julie about the tense changes and she said: Yes, the tense changes were indeed deliberate. Partly they were due to Patrick not being a ‘proper’ writer himself. Also, my hope was that they’d make those particular scenes more dynamic, more ‘happening right now’, and therefore were part of my solution to how to present pro wrestling on the written page.
Captive Prince: Volume Two (Captive Prince, #2) - S.U. Pacat

Just as good. I await the conclusion with just as much fearful anticipation as I did LOTR and Star Wars

A Red Rose Before Crying - Barry Lowe I loved this story by Barry. It's one of his most romantic ones. It's only short, but it still managed to move me.
Winner Takes All: Master/Slave Fantasies by Christopher Pierce - Christopher Pierce, M. Christian, David Stein The last story was one of the best examples of "The Test" that I've read since reading "Mr. Benson" How much is a person willing to withstand in order to prove (or discover) that he wants to be someone's slave? And from the other point of view, if you were looking for the perfect slave, wouldn't you keep trying to devise ways that would make them fail in order to satisfy yourself that, while good, this one wasn't "the one" you were searching for? And if they kept passing all the tests, wouldn't you in desperation, knowing that they couldn't be yours, keep upping the ante to find their weakness?

The only thing I found weird was the twist at the end, but that was more because I never saw the previous M/s relationship. It seemed a tad convenient. Seeing some earlier scenes (or at least have him think about them) would have given a comparison between the two experiences and prevented this from being a convenient plot hole filled.
Fog: A Novel of Desire and Reprisal - Jeff Mann Powerful writing. For once, the fact that it was present tense didn't irk me. In fact I was half way through before I realized. I'm not sure if that's testament to the fact that the story and characterisation swept me along so much or the skill of the writer. I suspect both. The subject matter is confronting, but what I liked best was that the GMC was consistent throughout and the emotional as well as the physical consequences of every deed rang true. Plausible? Likely? Who cares? The story is more about the character's needs and desires as much as what they do and why they do it. It's not m/m romance but there sure is a lot of love in it, and I don't mean sex.

The Other Man: 21 Writers Speak Candidly about Sex, Love, Infidelity, & Moving on

  To say that “The Other Man” is all about infidelity is short-changing the subject and defining the concept by very narrow values. While it’s true that for many readers and reviewers, infidelity is a deal breaker, the fact that these essays are all based on actual experiences makes them an intriguing study of this taboo topic.

Each essay shows a different aspect of the picture, making the issue less black and white and much more complex.

Firstly, Jeffrey Ricker details how while young, single and desperate he often found himself hooking up with married men when he used online dating services. This suited both parties as he wasn’t looking for commitment and neither were they. He states that according to the Kinsey Institute, between 20 and 25 percent of men engage in extramarital sex at least once during their marriage. Other studies put the number between 30 and 60 percent. Yet, during his summer of sin, the author never once saw himself as a home wrecker. In fact, he often felt he was the only one who saw anything wrong with what he was doing. Finally, he realized that there was a difference between fun and happiness and he wasn’t going to find the latter with someone whose heart was already spoken for. When he finally settled down, his relationship “wasn’t in the least bit open.” He was too selfish for that.

While living in a country where gay men were forced to remain in the closet, Glen Retief’s discovered that his rival was not a single person but many. His partner believed in monogamy but “had problems with truthfulness” and because sex had always been done on the sly, it had become a habit that his lover found impossible to break.

The more traditional concept is explored in the next story. After being cuckolded by his last boyfriend Jason Schneiderman had been determined to ease his way into his next relationship: “no longer falling into bed on first dates” only to discover that the man he is platonically dating already has a boyfriend who lives in another city. Unwittingly, he has become “The Other Man.” They decide to make it “just sex” and the person he is with is candid about their relationship with his current boyfriend. The strange thing is, that by eliminating the pressure of forming a committed relationship and worrying about love, the author relaxes and finds he really enjoys the time they spend together as well as the great sex. Time doesn’t stand still though and gradually things change.

The next story, by Austin Bunn, also involves straying husbands. In the essay, he describes the pro’s and con’s both for himself and them. According to him, married men have been trained by their wives to seduce and weren’t beyond using these wiles to catch available gay men. “They knew the triggers, the lingo, their niche in the market.” Inevitably a lot of the men he met were conflicted between their competing thoughts: heterosexual self image and homosexual desire. Denial predominates as they resist what they don’t want to think about. He thinks that the forbidden nature of these encounters might also explain why sex with straight men is such a common attraction for many gay men. What could have been a sordid story turns into an interesting look into this very common situation as it explores the possible motives for both types of men. For a time, “Married men validated my freedom without threatening my loyalty, just as I did for them.”

Another married man features in the next story by R.W.Clinger but this time the man is emotionally paired to the author and bleeds for him, literally, when he gets the guilts for being unfaithful. This is the viewpoint of the man betrayed. In highly charged prose we are led to feel the torment and jealousy after the confession. Then the mental breakdown of both parties as they try to come to terms with the infidelity. Intense emotions matched by intense, disturbing writing.

Tom Mendicino’s essay recounts an episode which later inspired his novel, “Probation” about a married man with unfulfilled homosexual cravings.

Some of the contributors to the anthology are authors, others have blogs. One of these is Mark Canavera who writes for the Huffington Post and worked for a time as a humanitarian aid and development worker in West Africa. While in a relationship with a local man he intercepted emails from his lover to someone who was described as “the only one who loves me.” However, earlier the author was himself discovered cheating, so the story revolves around the justification for doing so and the way infidelities eventually have to be laid to rest. “The parties must declare a truce; they must lay down their weapons. There is not any other way to cure them.” Forgiveness, yet another side to the concept of “The Other Man”.

A chance hook-up in an airport toilet kicks off the next story by Chuck Willman. This finds another angle, the hurt that can be caused to “The Other Man” who can be totally oblivious that he fills that position.

I really enjoyed “Just Wally and Me” by Allen Mack. In this case, “The Other Man” scenario covers how they, as a committed couple were affected by stories of their friends breaking up because of infidelity and resolved to set rules to live by when they were apart. “Neither of us expected the other would or should remain celibate.” “Outside sex was, to us, simply an adventure, not affection.” They were open about these encounters which sometimes even led to threesomes. However, on one occasion the rules were broken. Once was enough. An ultimatum was issued.

In “Way Off”, David Pratt, (author of “Bob the Book”) discovers that the threat to the committed relationship wasn’t another person but another thing. In this case, his boyfriend’s dream of becoming an actor. Infidelities were forgiven as they were caught up in a belief that if things were different they could be up on stage and become something they felt they were always meant to be.

Success was something the next author, Perry Brass had, in the guise of a book called “How to Survive You Own Gay Life: An Adult Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships.” The success of the book resulted in fan letters and many were from one persistent man. Despite being in a committed relationship for twenty years and the fan recently being divorced they have an affair. When it finally ends, we hear of the anguish this caused the author and the painful recovery process as he honestly bares his soul. Sometimes, the one who bears the brunt of the pain is the one who strays.

Many of those who contributed stories write now from the comfort and security of long term relationships. Thirty-seven years in the case of the editor of the anthology, Paul Alan Fahey. But before he found his soul-mate, he too had an early relationship “based on movie fantasies of romantic love.” As the romance waned and they drifted apart, he was picked up, almost literally, by a guy he thought of as a real jerk, but he was desperate. Even as he drives off with him, he’s mentally making excuses and imagining what is going to happen if his boyfriend finds out. It’s only when he’s listening to a particular song in the car that he realizes that there will be no going back. In other words even if nothing ever comes of it, sometimes it needs an encounter with “Another Man” to make it clear that the current relationship isn’t working.

Jeff Mann’s touching story chronicles the hurt felt by the “Other Man” when the furtive affair finishes, especially when the intensity of feelings was never reciprocated. Even twenty years later and in a happy relationship for the last fourteen years he recalls the way he was totally besotted even knowing that the end was inevitable. “Somehow I sensed that I’d never encounter such passion again, and I was determined to live it to the hilt as long as I could, despite the guilt I felt in deceiving Dick, despite the looming loneliness bound to come.” Poem after poem was written. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime ardor and inspiration, I thought. I was right.”

“Ballad Echoes” revolves around Spanish songs the author learned in Mexico from his lovers. The lyrics often expressed what he was feeling. In this case, feeling he was responsible for looking after his HIV infected lover and keeping the relationship going despite the fact love was no longer present and he’d fallen for another man. Ultimately both affairs ended but they taught him valuable lessons to take into a more lasting relationship.

Philip Dean Walker’s essay focuses on what happened when the Other Man was someone lusted after for some time. What should he do when this demi-God asks him out even though he knows he has a conveniently absent boyfriend. “It was easier just to hop into bed without a second thought….” Later he comments that: “The other man can pretend he has his man’s heart, and can even fool himself that he’ll leave his partner one day.” Inevitably he has to endure the “emotional jet lag one experiences in going from such a high to such an unfathomable low in a short amount of time.” After the demi-God goes back to his boyfriend, the author bemoans the fact that he can’t let go.

In Wes Hartley’s story, he outlines how he met his current boyfriend while going out with the young man’s uncle. We are assured that this is purely in an avuncular mentoring way as, like all teenagers, the kid needed a lot of head. The fact that the younger man hooks up with another even younger man, doesn’t faze anyone. As Wes says, “Three’s a Charm.”

In “Last Tango in Cambridge” Lewis DeSimone starts by relating how he was pulled out of the closet by suddenly falling in love with someone who was already taken. But when they eventually fell into bed together, it was sex in its rawest form. “It wasn’t sex we were afraid of; it was love.” He is told in surprise that “it was possible to love two people at once.” He states that he wasn’t “so oblivious as to believe our affair was innocent.” Yet he was romantic enough to believe that “Love is stronger than ethics.” He blamed it on reading too many novels, telling himself that great love requires great pain. In hindsight he believes it was the type of relationship that he needed at that stage of his life. His stolen lover became his mentor and taught him about literature, music, but being “in love” didn’t mean the same thing to them both. It was a perpetual romance, and they didn’t spend enough time together to grow tired of each other. The tedious aspects of life never cropping up to spoil the fantasy. Ultimately, the author realized it would never be enough, but he remembers his first lover as he was, “a creature caught in amber. Something beautiful I can pick up now and then…” and he wants to keep him preserved like that to remind him of a time when he it seemed possible that “romance would never end.”

“You Without Me” by William Henderson once again involves a married man having sex with a male, but this time, the narrator is the married man, finally getting to the point when he can admit that he is gay and is no longer interested in being married to his wife of a dozen years. For once, the present tense suits the tale perfectly, with the action unfolding for both the writer and the reader at the same time, just as mystifying to both because it is such new ground.

Rodney Ross, author of "The Cool Part of His Pillow” amusingly relates how he and his partner are The Other Couple. The college sweethearts who are still together thirty years later. As such they have become the sounding board for less fortunate couples who break up. Over the years, they witness the redrawn dinner lists, the battle over custody of the dog, and worst of all are often forced to take sides, sticking by their friends, or at least the one who ends up using the third plate at their dinner table when the relationship breaks down.

“The Child” by Felice Picano draws a picture of another type of third wheel. In this case, an open relationship that spanned sixteen years ended up with a body-builder being mentored by his partner. Unfortunately, that partner died and Felice was forced to pick up the burden of keeping an eye on an adult who couldn’t look after himself.

The final essay relates how the author stubbornly continued to hold a prior arranged party after being jilted by his partner of ten years. The fiasco became known as The Divorce Party and the entertainment wasn’t what the guests expected.

The strength of the anthology rests in the variety of slants each author contributes to the topic. The writing style is varied and the prose flows smoothly. No single story stands out or drags the others down by being inferior. I only found one typo: palette for palate.

Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child Was Saved from Religion - Scott  Terry 4.5 rounded up to 5

Scott Terry’s recollection of growing up in a household dominated by people claiming to adhere to the precepts of being Jehovah’s Witnesses is harrowing reading. What the author as a child longed for, more than anything, was acceptance and attention. Not because he was gay, as that was still something he was barely aware of, but first and foremost as a person and as a child of a father whose love he longed for. Everything changed when his mother left and he gained the stepmother from hell, Fluffy.

In some ways, the author’s life paralleled that of Cinderella. The evil stepmother and the step siblings who received everything that they craved for and the father who lurked in the background, unwilling to stand up to his new wife and preferring to remain ignorant to the way she was mistreating his children. At times, the deprivation of food and love to which the author was subjected took on almost fairy-tale horror proportions, but I have no doubt that the account reflects reality.

Being young and not comprehending the reason for this, his treatment filled him with confusion and resentment as much as anything. Later in life, his main questions were about why this was done as much as condemnation for it. Finally, he was able to escape and find love and acceptance from other relatives.

The fact that the abuse he received was not sexual didn’t lessen the damage it did to his spirit and his growth as a person. The fact that he continually struggled to fit this mistreatment with a love and loyalty that lingered for his cowboy father and even to extent the religion he was brought up in made the memoir more poignant. Thankfully, the author doesn’t seem to have been consumed by rage toward either. Anger and bitterness still survive but, at the end, these morphed more into disappointment. Both father and religion suffered because they weren’t what they could have been or should have been.

The book didn’t rate a perfect score for me as I would have preferred more reflection in the aftermath as to the reason for these shortfallings in the religion and his parents rather than a catalogue of their failings. From what I gather, he mainly wanted to document exactly what he had been forced to suffer for the benefit of the people who had helped him. Almost as if this litany of memories was evidence at a trial. The trial being, in essence, trying to deal with the guilt of rebellion against the fact that he could no longer respect his parents and uphold the religion and beliefs he was told to revere.

In some ways, growing up is all about finding your own path in life, unfortunately for Scott Terry the grip of a religion that thrives on fear and a stepmother that also used fear to exert control threw him into a deep pit that needed a steep climb to escape.

Using fear to hold people in your power is just another form of bullying and just like bullying it exposes the fear inside the perpetrator that this is the only way they can maintain control. In no way does it reflect on the person who is being bullied. In this case it was a vindictive stepmother jealous of love being given to anyone but herself or her progeny and a cult needing fear to ensure people’s obedience.

It certainly appears to have taken the author a long time to overcome the abuse and make peace with his guilt for doing things he’d been forced into in an effort to survive. Children should never have to endure this sort of treatment. The effects last long afterward and that fact alone makes it difficult to forgive the perpetrators, whether people or religion.

His exploits after he finally escapes his childhood and grows into a man who accepts he is gay are barely touched on, but are nevertheless interesting. Especially as it took him some time to comprehend that not all gay men are effeminate. His account of arriving in the Castro back in the late eighties reminded me of accounts of people “finding religion” later in life. He was presented with a new Truth.

Confessing his gayness to himself and the relative who had taken him under her wing was a huge step in his life and led to my favorite lines in the book.
“I’m gay,” I blurted.
She stopped chewing for a few seconds.
“And how are you doing with that?” she asked.
Memoirs are made up of memories and, as such, they consist of a jumble of things that have stuck over the years. To an outsider, these memories can seem irrelevant and at times unbelievable, but they are a valid and necessary way to show to those who didn’t live these memories what exactly happened.

The debate between nature and nurture never denies the profound effect of the latter. In this case, nurture didn’t make the author gay, but his experiences certainly shaped who he is today. You can feel a lingering sadness at the way he feels cut off from his sister who is still a Jehovah’s Witness. Thankfully, as he recounts at the end, he found someone who taught him to love himself and thus he was finally able to love others.

Apart from the horrors mentioned, the memoir draws a vivid picture of the Okies, a cult religion and a past era.