Category Archives: GLBT short stories

“If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There” by Dave Madden— Gay in the American Midwest

Madden, Dave. “If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There”, Break Away Books, 2016’

Gay in the American Midwest

Amos Lassen

In Dave Madden’s collection of short stories we read about men who are different in the American Midwest. For example, We read of an HIV-positive chemist who uses football to connect with his brothers; a 17-year-old girl struggles with a cartoon cobra to avoid thinking about her mother who walked out on her; a hotel concierge starts attending Mass even though his partner was molested by a priest. These are struggles of people who try to figure out their place within families and communities, outsider are always looking in at the society that they yearn to be a part of. Our characters have been marginalized simply because they are different yet they want to be happy.

The stories are by turns humorous, heartbreaking, and haunting, and Madden’ prose is gorgeous and populated by well drawn characters that find a place in our hearts and minds and who remain with us after the covers of the book are closed.

“Eros and Dust: Stories” by Trebor Healy— The Lives of Gay Men

eros-and-dust

Healy, Trebor. “Eros & Dust: Stories”, Lethe Press, 2016.

The Lives of Gay Men

Amos Lassen

One of the authors that I always satisfy is Trebor Healy and I eagerly await the publication each new book of each new book that he writes. In this collection of short stories, Healy brings us quite a cast of characters and themes. We meet a guy who is addicted to meth yet is determined to find redemption in the New Orleans of after the devastation of Katrina, a clown in a circus who runs away from his lover and goes to Argentina, men who like youngsters, lovers on the internet and so on. There are stories of unbridled lust, the supernatural and sex all written in the gorgeous prose that Healy is known for. Yet here there is something else—vulnerability and we get this in even the most undesirable of his characters.

“Book Tales” by David G. Hallman— A Collection

book-tales

Hallman, David G. “Book Tales”, iUniverse, 2016.

A Collection

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I am not much of a short story reader and the only reason for that is personal choice. Sure, I have read and loved some short stories but if I have to choose between a collection of stories and a novel, I choose the novel. Yet every once in a while a short story collection comes along that bowls me over. “Book Tales” is such a collection.

I have always felt that the purpose of reading (for me, at least) is twofold—entertainment and intellectual stimulation. Now if you follow my reviews, you know that I do not always find intellectual stimulation in the books I review so I must rely on entertainment. Then along comes David Hallman who fulfills both requirements in one book of short stories. In this diverse collection of seven stories, there is something for everyone. Let me go a step further and say there is something special for everyone. Gay life, like all life, is filled with joy and heartache, pain and pleasure, drama and melodrama and the key is finding out how to deal with it all. Each of the stories here looks at aspects of life that deal with our social and personal relationships.

After all, is life not a relationship? I have just begun to look at it as such. The stories here are also gay stories but that does not mean there is no crossover to straight society. After all, outside of the bedroom we are all the same. Each of our characters is looking for something and is not that which we all do in life. Birth is a beginning, death is an ending and life is a journey that we all take.

David G. Hallman sees literature and sexuality as those forces that determine our identities and the kind of experiences we have. We see that in the different experiences of gays and straights. To reach his obvious goal of each story having something to say, Hallman brings together fact and fiction as well as literature and sexuality. This might not sound original but it is the way that he does so that is fresh and novel. There is also erotica here and there is literature. I base this statement on the literary and erotica works that I have read. Hallman takes on an expository mission looking at the connection between art and life and we sense his love for literature in what he writes. Each story is based on literature and the uniqueness with which Hallman integrates it into a story is nothing short of amazing. We have books that act as catalysts for action and we have books that serve as a way to introduce characters. We have a story about a writer and his famous gay novel in which we learn about how he came to write it and why it was so real for him. From the world of art we learn of sexuality and identity that we see reflected in the works of art that they produced. I have deliberately not named any of the stores and if you continue to read here, you will understand why. I do not like to give a heads up to a specific piece when the entire collection is so good. Some of you may find the sexual explicitness to be a bit too heavy and I am ready to disagree on that. The sex is not gratuitousness but there to help develop the character and the plot. We see the importance of sex in one’s identity and humanity. Stop and think if you have ever thought about yourself minus your sexuality. I cannot praise “Book Tales” too much and in fact, I am reading it for the third time. I originally got a copy before it was officially published and I was so impressed with it that I could not sit down to write about it. In fact it has taken me two weeks to write this and now I am determined to read it just for pleasure’s sake. But before I do I want to publicly thank David Hallman for writing this and for remembering me as a reviewer.

 

“At Danceteria and Other Stories” by Philip Walker Dean— A Debut Collection of Seven Short Stories

at-dancetria

Walker, Philip Dean. “At Danceteria and Other Stories”, Squares & Rebels, 2016.

A Debut Collection of Seven Short Stories

Amos Lassen

I am always amazed by authors who can say a lot in a short period of time even though, I must admit, that I prefer long fiction to short stories but that is something personal with me. Against the background of the devastating AIDS epidemic, Philip Dean Walker gives us seven short stories in just 91 pages. We get a mix here that is diverse and that highlights the literary talent of the author.  Celebrities are a major part of six of the stories and we meet them after they have died and are returned to life in new and unique settings. Just to give you an idea of what to expect, we meet Halston, Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Freddie Mercury, Sylvester, Keith Haring, Princess Diana, Rock Hudson and Jackie O and we do so at the most unlikely placers be it a leather bar or a drag show. Walker writes with camp but does not overdue it and the stories are all plausible and relatable (if we use our imaginations). While this collection could have been quite frivolous, Walker chose the AIDS epidemic as a background and we find the link between the story and the devastation of AIDS.

One of the stories, “The Boy Who Lived Next to the Boy Next Door” captures the confusion and panic that we all felt with the AIDS epidemic began. Our unnamed main character decides to refer to the epidemic as “Hot Guy Flu” and that is because those dying were all good-looking and sexy men. The result is that the average-looking guys moved up the ranks of desirability because they were not hot enough to become infected. You can imagine where that leads.

Because the book is short, it becomes a quick read and one that can be read over and over again and there is always something new to find.

Walker writes with a quick wit and irreverence and that makes me love him even more. Our past was beautiful one hand and terrifying on the other. It has taken us quite a long time to be able to laugh about AIDS and I am not sure that I am even ready to do so I tended to push the wit and humor aside and see the threat to our community. We did not yet use the word “queer” to describe ourselves and while some fulfilled the stereotype of the erotic and sex-crazy gay male, others certainly came nowhere close to doing so. What we really see in these stories about America in the 80s is that we did not know that we could be killed by just that—what we did not know. There is a sense of loneliness in the stories making us want to reach out to the characters and make them our own. Walker takes us on a journey that never disappoints and is important for us to read so that we can better understand ourselves. It is necessary to know our past if we want to have a better future and we must never forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Our behavior might be different than what us but we can remember or read about how it once was even when exaggerated here.

 

“She Married a Zombie Truck Driver & Five other “Trucking” Tales” by Robin Anderson— Eight Deadly Sins

she-married-a-zombie

Anderson, Robin. “She Married a Zombie Truck Driver & Five other “Trucking” Tales”, CreateSpace, 2016.

Eight Deadly Sins

Amos Lassen

A new book by Robin Anderson is always fun. I do not know how Anderson does it but he is always able to put a smile on my face and good feelings in my heart. “She Married a Zombie Truck Driver…” is a collection of short stories about the now “eight deadly sins”— greed, envy, anger, laziness, gluttony, lust, pride and despondency take us to places of “euphoria and tantalization”. Anderson has updated the traditional sins and added the sin of despondency to make them relevant to today and to make theme stories of wry humor. Because each story is unique and has its own offbeat humor, it makes it impossible to summarize them without spoiling the read. We have quite a cast of characters that includes Claudette Cavil-Carter, a representative of the world of avariciousness and Tom Tattoo Edwards who is there to try to help her take all of what she has with her when her time comes. This is like reading a cookbook of sins with each sin having its own recipe and outcome. Then there is the fact that we get eight sins in six stories that are truly “naughty” (Thank you Grady Harp for finding the word I was looking for).

Reading Anderson is habit forming and I can no longer count how many books I have read, reviewed and relished. His output is so vast and such fun that I have given him his own section on my review site.

Anderson is wonderfully ridiculous and amazingly erudite and sophisticated. His seriousness is not in his plots but in his language and his usage of it to create situations that are off-color is a trait that he owns totally. I love his irreverence and the characters he has created here to reflect that. Don’t take my word for it— have a look for yourselves. You will never regret it.

The stories include “She Married a Zombie Truck Driver”, “The Advert” (yes, Anderson is British), “The Princess Michelin & Mr. Sprat”, “Eighty Six and a Half Percent”, “Four & Twenty Blackbirds” and “Seeing is Not Believing”.

 

“Unhinged” by Rick R. Reed— Just in Time for Halloween

unhinged

Reed, Rick R. “Unhinged: A Collection of Gay Horror”, Wilde City Press, 2016.

Just in Time for Halloween

Amos Lassen

We do not usually think of horror and romance at the same time yet in this new collection of six short stories by Rick R. Reed, we see that this is indeed possible. Reed takes us on a dark trip into a world where the fantasy and reality come together.

 “Echoes” is a story about a couple who is moving into a new apartment not knowing that there is a ghost in residence already. All that ghost wants is to have a chance to finally be put to rest.

In “How I Met My Man”, the LGBT community is attacked by a killer who has no boundaries. An uninvited guy came into Stephen’s home while he was not there- and returned the same night when he was. The story plays on the idea that there is someone in the house with you.

“The Man From Milwaukee” is a short, short story about the fragility of human nature and the ease there is in manipulating it.

Of course, we have a story with a vampire— “Sluggo Snares A Vampire” is about not knowing whom we are peaking with online. During the day, Sluggo works at a bank but at night, he becomes Sir Raven and when he invites a guest into his home one night, he discovers that his guest is a vampire.

The closet remains a popular theme in gay stories in “The Ghost” we meet two men who are having a sexual affair while one of them is still in the closet. Neither guy had any idea that he would fall in love and it takes a ghost to explain to them what love is all about.

Oliver’s husband was murdered and he senses his lover is still with him in “Incubus” and we see here that true love lasts eve after death.

We see that there is something for everyone here in this diverse collection that waves between romance and horror.

 

2016’s list of most-banned books is dominated by LGBT authors

LGBT books dominate 2016’s most-banned list

2016’s list of most-banned books is dominated by LGBT authors

Nearly half of this year’s most-banned books list have LGBT themes, signalling a worrying trend.
Banned Books Week aims to challenge censorship in schools and libraries across America by raising the profile of books that have most frequently been objected to and removed from collections.
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country.
2016’s list of most-banned books features, as usual, a number of LGBT-related books that homophobic and transphobic bigots have demanded removed.
Ranking at number three on the most-banned list is I Am Jazz by transgender teen author Jazz Jennings – which recounts her real-life experience of living as a trans kid, and educates and helps others.
Number four on the list is Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin, another book featuring young transgender people discussing their own identities.
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Out feminist Alison Bechdel’s award-winning autobiographic comic Fun Home ranks in at 7 for purported “graphic images”, presumably referring to the depiction of her early sexual experiences with women.
Republicans in South Carolina previously tried to strip funding from a university because its library contained ‘gay themed’ content including a copy of Fun Home.
Rounding out the list at number 10 is young adult novel Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, for obvious reasons.
The ALA said: “This list is a snapshot of the reports we receive every day.
“Our goal is not to focus on the numbers, but to educate the community that censorship is still a very serious problem.
“Even with all of our efforts to follow up and provide support, surveys indicate that up to 85% of book challenges receive no media attention and remain unreported.”
The full list is below:
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

“Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories” by Kathleen Collins— Sixteen Stories

whatever happened to interracial

Collins, Kathleen. “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories”, (Art of the Story), Ecco, 2016.

Sixteen Stories

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I had never heard of Kathleen Collins until I read this book but I am now certainly glad that I am familiar with her writing. Kathleen Collins was a groundbreaking African-American playwright, filmmaker, and educator who has been largely forgotten since her early death in 1988 at age 46. She was the first black woman to produce a feature-length film, and when that never-before-released movie, “Losing Ground”, finally premiered at Lincoln Center few years ago, it played to sold-out audiences for three weeks. Collins also wrote short stories, although her fiction was never published in her lifetime, or in the years since until this book.

In these sixteen stories, Collins writes with brutal honesty about the experiences of women and African Americans from the perspective of the seventies and eighties. She captures everyday lives and does so with grace and humor. She also intimately writes about race, gender, family and sexuality. She presents us with a look at race in the 1960s; something that only those of us who lived through that period can sense what is was like to be Black and female in this country.

She writes of the mingling of politics and desire and the quest for a place that is exotic and different while looking at the historical context in which the stories take place. Collins has preserved the past and what it was to black, young and in love amid the Civil Rights movement. She covers the themes of self-determination, group affinity and individualism, lovers and the power plays between them in ways we have not seen before. 

We read of “parents and children, blacks and whites, blacks and blacks, lovers, intellectuals, artists, dreamers, strivers, braggarts and idealists” and they all wan the same thing— justification for their lives and to be able to share that with others. This is a look at interracial America that we have never had before in that is a look at both white and black striving for the same goals

The characters here are conscious of their race but it is not what determines how they travel through life and/or make choices. With Collins the profound becomes personal and intimate and this is something I wish we would see from more writers. The stories make the black experience part of the characters’ lives and I emphasize the word “part”— black is only a part of who they are. I am not much of a short story reader mainly because I prefer to be involved with a book over a longer period of time but these stories not only allowed me to get to know the characters but to see them as friends and contemporaries. I grew up in the South in the 60s and dared defy my family by attending a southern integrated university where I met “some of the characters I read about here” but had forgotten them. This book puts them back into my life and I am so grateful for that.

“Homoerotic Tales” by David Holly— Twenty-eight Stories

homoerotic tales cover

Holly, David. “Homoerotic Tales”, David Holly’s Gay Romances, 2016.

Twenty-Eight Stories

Amos Lassen

I was just about to give up on gay erotic fiction since it has been a long time since I have read something that knocked me out. But then I received a copy of David Holly’s “Homoerotic Tales” and my mind was changed instantly. The stories collected here are about gay sex among men (duh!). They cover the spectrum of erotica and some are “explicit, comical, erotic, lascivious, enthralling, lewd, mouth-watering, shameless, scandalous, indecent, dirty, smutty, naughty, ribald, and rude”. I have, of late, maintained that thee are really two kinds of erotica—trash and literary smut. David Holly writes literary smut. In fact, on page six, Holly informs us that his stories are explicit and erotic. I have always felt that in order for erotica to really succeed, it has to rely n more than just being erotic. We need characters we can identify with and stories that are so far fetched, they just could not be. Holly obviously believes that as well as his stories are more than just cheap sex related in a tawdry manner. I even liked some of the characters and the plot lines (strike that word “even”—it sounds forced).

I have a problem with collections like these when it comes time to sit down and write a review. I suppose the best way to do this would be to same something about each of the stories but the that review would go on forever. I can say that I like the book but that in effect means nothing if I cannot say what I like about it. I could describe the erotica but that could get me censored. I could commend the author on a great imagination but the stories might be based on his own personal experience (and if these stories really happened to Holly, he is a very lucky man with a permanent erection. The best I can say is to tell you to get a copy and then see for yourself.

“A Book of Revelations” by A. C. Burch— Eight Stories

a book of revelations

Burch, A.C. “A Book of Revelations”, Homeport Press, 2016.

Eight Stories

Amos Lassen

In A.C. Burch’s new collection of eight short stories, we meet characters who face life with courage and humor as they seek to find meaning in their existence. in a tenacious search for meaning and fulfillment. The stories are set in Provincetown, Palm Beach, Boston, Maine, Carnegie Hall, and the Caribbean, and they not only deal with different places but also with different life experiences. these memorable stories span not just distance but the range of life’s experiences. There is a sense of the cautionary in each story and themes include coming of age, confronting old age, dealing with fear and old romance and each story is, as the title suggests, a revelation.

We all have our secrets and some of these we even keep from ourselves but somehow write Burch knows what they are and exposes them in his collection. The characters are both weird and wonderful and some become heroic by the most unlikely of circumstances. As I sat down to write this review, I was not yet sure how to approach. I have reviewed collections of stories before when I actually had something to say about each story and other times I reviewed just the book as a whole. I think because these stories are filled with surprises that I prefer to look at the book as a whole.

Burch is a wonderful writer and he writes to the readers’ emotions and I believe that this is what pulls us into his stories. I have never been a fan of the short story simply because they are short and I want to really get into the characters and the plot. In short stories there is not always time to do that. However, Burch’s were like novellas and I felt that I indeed got to the know the characters and where they were going even if there was a surprise at the end.

Burch is such a good writer and has such a way with words that I could not close the covers until I had read the entire book. Some of the stories deal with a style of lifetime that I am nowhere near but that did not stop me from identifying with the characters. High, middle and lower classes, we all share something and while it might not be obvious, it is there—- whatever it is.

I almost forgot to mention the wonderful illustrations by Madeline Sorel. I supposed I was too busy concentrating on handling the text in a way that I could it justice. If there is a single theme here it would have to be the human spirit and its abilities. And, Burch deals with those on the fringes of society as well as a part of it. If that sentence is unclear to you, you will understand what I mean by reading the book.