Monthly Archives: November 2013

“Men Can Do Romance” by Michael Holloway Perronne— Back to New Orleans

men can do romance

Perronne, Michael Holloway. “Men Can Do Romance: A Novella”, Chances Are Press, 2013.

Back to New Orleans

Amos Lassen

One of the first books I reviewed was by Michael Holloway Perronne, “A Time Before Me” which was set in my hometown, New Orleans. Since then I have been following Peronne and not just because he sets his stories in New Orleans but because he is such a good writer. Now we return to New Orleans and meet Elliot, an insurance actuary, who is not sure of his path in life. He had a crush on Troy when both were teens so when Troy comes back to New Orleans after having served in the Marines, Elliot is forced into deciding if it is possible for two men to find romance with each other.

Elliot has always wanted to find that one man with whom to build a life. Several friends and family members have tried to fix him up but to no avail and he feels that this was just not meant to be. Troy just happened to be his best friend’s brother and Elliot has lusted for him since he was in high school but never knew if Troy was gay or not. So when Troy came home and told people that he was gay, there seems to be hope.

Troy was faced with finding a way to tell his parents and friends about his sexuality. He sees how at ease Elliot is with who he is and feels that he also wants to be like that. He, like Elliot, has had a crush on him but was unsure how to deal with it.

New Orleans is as much a character in the book as are Elliot and Troy and if you have ever been there you know how the sultriness and decadence of the city influences people. The characters are typical French Quarter types—from Miss Althea, the boss at a drag cabaret to others who propel the plot forward.

What makes this story special is reading how Elliot and Troy develop a romance without having sex right away. They are friends first and love comes later. I love that they were such nice and considerate guys. And yes, men can do romance and Michael Perronne really knows how to write about it.

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“Inside Out” by Andrew Grey— Bull and Zach

inside out

Grey, Andrew. “Inside Out”, Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

Bull and Zach

Amos Lassen

Bull Krebs is head of security at a gay bar in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and he thinks that he has everything. Because of his job, people tend to find him unapproachable and this bothers him. One night, he does a random search on Zach Spencer, a twink waiting to get into the club. Zach does not let this bother him but later when the place gets rocking, Bull saves Zach from being stepped on and hurt. This gives Zach the inspiration he needs for his new graphic novel that he is working on.

Zach gets his nerve up and asks Bull for a date but their future together is threatened both by Bull’s mother and those from Bull’s past that threaten him.

As a bouncer, Bull has a “no tolerance” policy. He wants the club to be both drug and trouble free. Because he is a large man, people tend to be afraid of him but his private life suffers. Zach comes across as Bull’s total opposite. He sees beyond the imposing hunk and is not afraid to say what the thinks and Bull does not scare him. The two men get to know each other and the mutual attraction they share soon becomes something more lasting. Zach sees so much more than the bouncer in Bull and Bull learns that there is so much more than a twink mentality in Zach. While Bull is somewhat dominant, he does not dominate Zach—there is tenderness there. They actually achieve their own balance.

It is really fun to read how the two come together. The share a special chemistry and I really wanted them to make their relationship work. Actually they share some common experiences which include loneliness, rejection and family loss. They are able to overcome these and find their own safe place.

Grey beautifully takes us through their relationship and we read about they developed trust for each other and we see that even with their physical differences there are emotions that they share.

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“Dickinstein” by Shannon Yarbrough— “Science and Religion. Love and Hatred. Life and Death.”

dickinstein

Yarbrough, Shannon. “Dickinstein”, Rocking Horse Publishing, 2013.

“Science and Religion. Love and Hatred. Life and Death.”

Amos Lassen

Emily Dickinson began writing poetry in the mid 1800s and then only at the encouragement of a friend. Only about twelve of her poems were published while he was alive and the many poems that she became famous for were published after her death and then only because her sister fulfilled her wishes. Dickinson was afraid of death. Because she had seen so much of it, she locked herself in her room and became a recluse. Now we know, according to Shannon Yarbrough, what she was doing while she was in her room who maintains that she was giving life to the dead.

Having once watched a galvanism experiment during a biology class, she decided to try to build something that could give second life to some of the small animals and insects in her garden. Because she feared that her invention might be used for diabolical reasons, she decided to keep everything secret. However, when her closest friend suddenly died, Dickinson found herself battling between science and spirituality and this was to change her life forever.

Reimagining literary classics is quite popular these days but Yarbrough adds something to this new genre. His characters are human and have human hearts.  Written in the style of Emily Dickinson, we get a scientific minded poet who comes across as very real. We understand her view of the world as a woman who has been constrained and we want, more than anything, her to succeed. Her love of literature is now beside her love of science and the magic in the world and she transfers her own torment to the reader. Dickinson’s world was a hard one that was based on family and where sudden death happened all the time.

When Dickinson decides to explore the world of science she finds herself at that place between life and death.

When Benjamin, a friend, gave her a copy of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, she decided to try her own experiments in granting life to those in nature had lost their lives. However, this goes out of control. Leonard Humphrey, a professor, wants to use what she has done on men. She shows him what she has done and how it works. He builds a larger scale model but they cannot find someone who is willing to be a subject. When her friend Newton dies, they find someone to experiment on.

We see Emily Dickinson as curious which is quite far from being a recluse. Her experiments give her a reason to stay alive. Yarbrough did great research to construct her character. This is without question one of the most interesting reads of 2013.

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“Rolling Thunder” by Robert Cummings and John Simpson— A New Start

rolling thunder

Cummings, Robert and John Simpson. “Rolling Thunder”, (Pat St. James Mystery #5), Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

A New Start

Amos Lassen

With the poor economy, cuts were made to the Prince George County Police Department and after years as partners, Hank Capstone and Patrick St. James are separated and each has to work to get a new start. Hank is assigned as a training officer and he is responsible for showing Jessie Morgan, a new cop what he has to do. The problem is that Jessie is good to look at and he comes across as a homophobe. Hank hopes that he is hiding something.

At the same time that is going on, a former Iraqi officer who holds something against Hank is telling stories about him and how is out for revenge. Hank and Patrick come together to find out what is really going on. There is the feeling that the man who is out for revenge just might be a terrorist. This is the fifth book in the “Murder Most Gay”/Pat St James mystery series but it stands alone as well.  Hank and Patrick and their respective spouses continue their friendship even though they no longer work together.

As suspected Jessie is gay and hiding something between him and a sergeant from other police district. The characters are well drawn and the plot moves swiftly and keeps the reader on edge. There is not a lot of erotica and we are more concerned with the human relationship rather than the sexual.

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‘HE IS GONE” Plans Summer 2014 New England Shoot—new gay themed film

Gay-Themed Film He Is Gone Plans Summer 2014 New England Shoot

 

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Gregory G. Allen is co-producer and screenwriter of the upcoming movie He Is Gone. The movie, which is an adaptation of Drake Braxton’s book Missing, plans to shoot during Summer 2014 in New England.

And if you’d be interested in getting involved, there are various funding options for ‘those interested in films that champion the spirit of independence and more importantly, want to see more LGBT stories being told through the brilliance of film’.

 

Lois Munoz-Merka will direct, with ASD Media & Entertainment backing the movie. Munoz-Merka is a former resident of Boston and Providence and could not wait to return to that part of the US after reading a copy of the 2012 New England Book Festival – Best Gay Fiction prize-winning book and knowing it was to be her first feature film. With a varied background in music, film, and television, she knew the story of a gay couple from the Boston area that returns to the Deep South for a reunion and one ends up missing needed to be told in a truthful way.

 

“The story hits on so many topics that are true to both the gay community and the straight world,” the filmmaker comments. “As a straight woman, I was moved by the plight of this man because love is love. It is a powerful story that will translate beautifully into film.

 

He Is Gone is described as ‘a journey of self discovery when one is tested in the most extreme of circumstances. As momentum for marriage equality continues to build, the film illustrates the divide that is a constant reminder of how far we still need to go. It’s about friendship and love and what people will do for each other to aid in desperate times; and when that aid can become enabling of bad habits. It’s about the families we build and those we sometimes attempt to forget.’

 

“He Is Gone is a psychological drama that twists and turns like a winding staircase,” says Gregory G. Allen. “The main character is on a trek to reach the top as he unravels the mystery of the disappearance of his husband.”

 

For more information, please visit: http://www.asdmedia.co/film.html, and you can follow the movie on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Gregory G. Allen and Lois Munoz-Merka

Gregory G. Allen and Lois Munoz-Merka

“Baja Honeymoon” by Roland Graeme— A Honeymoon without a Wedding

baja honeymoon

Graeme, Roland. “Baja Honeymoon”, Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

A Honeymoon without a Wedding

Amos Lassen

Sometimes the best laid plans become “unlaid”. Rick Decareau (aka Deke Rowe) was all ready to marry his lover until he found out that he cheated on him and the wedding was not to be. However, the honeymoon was still enticing and Rick decides to have it anyway. They had planned to go to Baja and Rick feels Mexico beckoning. He invites Ken Bollinger, his neighbor, to join him. He figures they are good enough friends and, besides, he was really not looking for romance.

However Rick had no idea that Ken, who is promiscuous, had any feelings for him. It seems that Ken thinks Rick is straight so the two go away with no expectations. The trip was long and little by little the men become close and Ken manages to seduce Rick. Ken thinks that Rick is rebounding and both men wonder if the way they enjoy each other when they return home.

I really wanted to like this book and the writing is good but the whole situation is implausible. What begins as something of romance becomes an erotic read and I would have preferred knowing what was going in the minds of the characters rather than in the pants. Sex is great but I was hoping for more.

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“A Special Kind of Folk” by Barry Brennessel— Six Tales of Torment and Revenge

a special kind of folk

Brennessel, Barry. “A Special Kind of Folk”, MLR Press, 2013.

Six Tales of Torment and Revenge

Amos Lassen

What a nice surprise to receive a copy of Barry Brennessel’s new collection of short stories. For the last couple of weeks, I have been engrossed in academic texts and serious reading and I felt I had to take a break but could not decide what to read, especially since I tend not to like to read short stories. This collection allowed ne to forget everything and become involved in the stories mainly because they invalidated my negative feelings short stories and because each was interesting, (dare I say diabolical?) and fun.

“Revenge is a dish best served with a little bit of spice, three dashes of magic, and a whole lot of flair”.  So says Barry Brennessel and that is what you will find here. It is the torment added to the revenge that makes it such fun. We get family recipes, curses, hexes, secrets, thefts and this all happen to “a special kind of folk. Here are the tites of the six stories and they give you a clue to the diversity of what you will read:

Food & Spirits


Visions


Kill Them With Kindness


A Special Kind of Folk


All the Souls on Earth


Commedia dell’Arte

Stay tuned as I will be reviewing each story separately.

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“HIDE AND SEEK” (“MACHBOIM”)— Early Film from Israel with a Gay Theme

hide and seek

“Hide and Seek” (“Machboim”)

Early Film from Israel with a Gay Theme

Amos Lassen

In the last few years we have seen several movies with gay themes coming out of Israel but it was not always like that. But then again, there was a time during the 80s and 90s that the LGBT community had no rights and was totally hidden and closeted (but not by choice). There were a few brave gay Israelis who dared to speak up like Amos Gutman who in 1983 dared to release “Drifting” a bold film and the story of a young gay Israeli (Jonathan Sagall) coming to terms with his sexuality in a country which did not want him to be. However, three years earlier, Dan Wolman released “Hide and Seek” which not only had a gay theme but also dealt with Israeli/Arab relations when an Israeli gay and an Arab gay find each other.

Twelve year old Uri believed that Balaban, his tutor, was a spy. He sees him meeting with a young Arab male. It was only later that he learned that Balaban was interested in the Arab for romantic and not political and security reasons. The story unfolds slowly as Wolman spends time building up the story, image by image. The main story here is of a boy discovering the complexities of life. The movie highlighted several of Israel’s stars—Gila Almagor, Efrat Levi and Doron Tavori, all of whom went onto wonderful careers in film but I believe that the only one we still see on the screen is Almagor, Israel’s prize actor.

The film is set in 1946 in Jerusalem during the British mandate of Palestine and it is beautifully recreated here. This was two years before the creation of the state and it is important to remember that both Jews and the Arabs lived in Palestine under the British rule from 1917 to 1948.

I understand now that the film is somewhat a biography of Wolman and Uri is a look at the director as a young boy. Uri lives with his grandfather, a nice guy, while his father is in America raising money with a Jewish agency to buy weapons for the Zionist cause. His mother works for a European Jewish agency that helps orphans from the death camps find homes in Palestine. Though bright, Uri is unable to sit still long enough to study for his school exams and runs wildly around with a pack of spoiled children playing childish games and participating in petty mischief in his neighborhood. A young private tutor named Balaban is hired and at first Uri is rude to him. But the sensitive Balaban, who is scheduled to be a regular teacher in the school for the next year, bonds with the troubled youngster and gets him to concentrate on his studies. One day while the children are running around in the park, they spot Balaban talking with a young Arab. They immediately suspect he’s a collaborator with the British rulers, as the underground has put out the word there’s an informer amongst them. When they catch the two together again, they report Balaban to the underground. The underground finds the two in bed making love and administers a severe beating to both, which Uri observes and realizes he made a mistake.

Here is a story about morality and shows that jumping to conclusions and not be tolerant and accepting can cause terrible harm. When released, the film was controversial not only because of the gay content but also because it showed an Arab having an affair with an Israeli. It also deals with the question of war being the only solution.

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“THE PUNK SINGER”–in theaters and iTunes, November 29

punk
 

 

THE PUNK SINGER

 

  Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, rose to national attention as the reluctant but never shy voice of the riot grrrl movement. She became one of the most famously outspoken feminist icons, a cultural lightning rod. Her critics wished she would just shut-up, and her fans hoped she never would. So in 2005, when Hanna stopped shouting, many wondered why. Through 20 years of archival footage and intimate interviews with Hanna, THE PUNK SINGER takes viewers on a fascinating tour of contemporary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fearless leader.

 

“PIT STOP”— “One of the very best narrative features at Sundance this year.”

“One of the very best narrative features at Sundance this year.”

Coming from Wolfe Video

Pit Stop

 

 

In this perfectly crafted American drama, openly gay Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) and closeted Gabe (Bill Heck) grapple with the sad tribulations of being gay in a small, working-class Texas town. This Sundance smash is an uplifting love story about male intimacy, the heartache of unsuccessful relationships and the transformative power of love.

Reminiscent of such classic rural gay love stories as Big Eden and Brokeback Mountain — and showcasing equally accomplished performances from its handsome leads — Pit Stop achieves an understated tone of authenticity rarely seen on screen as it shows us a tender, beautiful slice of gay American life.

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QUOTES AND AWARDS:
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INDIEWIRE’s Top Films and Performances of Sundance 2013 poll:
Best Narrative Feature #8, Best Director #9, Best Ensemble #15
 
SUNDANCE CHANNEL’S Top 10 Must-See Films from SXSW 2013
 
INDIEWIRE’s 10 LGBT Films You Should See on this Summer’s Queer Fest Circuit
“… recalls the groundbreaking 2010 film The Kids Are All Right.” CHRISTOPHER KELLY, THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Echoing Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, the movie views homoerotic yearning in a refreshingly non-sensationalistic context…”— ERIC KOHN, INDIEWIRE
“The best American queer film of the year.” — DANIEL WALBER, FILM.COM
“… a poignantly observed look at two lonely, small-town Texas gay men and the people of significance in their lives.” — PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY
“… one of the best movies I have seen all year… the cast here is so stupendous…”
— RALPH GRECO, SHORTANDSWEETLA
“… a film of quiet dignity and grace… it comes into focus as gradually as it wins you over.”
— CHRIS VOGNAR, DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Yen Tan’s gift for long takes and his comfort with silences makes demands on the audience that films ought to make — and pays them back with a surprising happy ending.” — B. RUBY RICH, FILM QUARTERLY
“Emotionally raw, unrelentingly honest, and dramatically feasible, here’s a terrifically acted romp that deserves a lengthy art house run.” BRANDON JUDELL, CULTURECATCH
“… offers a nuanced take on the interstitial nature of his characters’ relationships to one another…”
MATTHEW CONNOLLY, FILM COMMENT
“It’s a movie of considered silences and deliberate pacing, superbly acted and surprising in its cumulative power.” SCOTT FOUNDAS, VILLAGE VOICE
“Highly recommended. If you wished Brokeback Mountain had ended happier, here’s your movie.”
JIM RIDLEY, NASHVILLE SCENE
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