Monthly Archives: March 2017

“B&B”— A Weekend of Mischief

“B&B”

A Weekend of Mischief

Amos Lassen

Gay married Londoners Mike (Tom Bateman) and Fred (Sean Teale) plan on having a weekend of mischief by returning to bait the prosecuted owner of a remote Christian B&B. The previous year, they had sued the owner for not allowing them to share a bed and won the case. They have no reason for going to the B&B aside from taunting the homophobic owner Josh (Paul McGann).

Things do not go as planned and what the guys thought would be a lot of fun turned out to be something else altogether. Events take a deadly turn when another guest arrives, who they think might have something sinister in mind and their weekend of fun turns into a bloody battle for survival in this smart, brutally comedy and dark thriller.

It all started with dinner at the B&B when the only other guest was a mysterious Russian (James Tratas), a very hunky man who could not speak a word of English. Yet that did not stop him from hitting on Josh’s 16-year-old closeted gay son Paul (Callum Woodhouse). Fred and Marc learned of their plans were to go to a local park that is a notorious gay cruising area, they became jealous. Fred and Marc nosed around and found out that the Russian had a jammer that blocked all the cell-phone signals and therefore had cut them off from the outside world. They began to worry for the Paul’s safety.

Fred set out after the Russian and Paul and located them at tracked them at the park but it did not take long before he regretted his actions when he became part of a drama that was soon out of control. He managed to get a scared Paul back to the B&B and now he has to deal with his father knowing that he is gay and that he was to blame for a serious crime for which he was now trying hard to push the blame for onto Fred.  It was soon a situation as to who could outwit who and whether Josh could finally get his own revenge on the gay couple for almost ruining his income by getting them to take the rap for this and clear Paul at the same time.

We do not get many LGBT thrillers and when we get a good one, we must appreciate it. Director and screenplay writer, Joe Ahearne, based this on a partially true story. There had been gay people who sued guesthouse owners. The horror part, however, is invented and keeps us on the edge of our seats as we watch. The cast is excellent all around, especially Paul McGann who plays Josh, a man we love to hate.

“Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir of Institutionalization and Southern Hospitality” by Samuel Peterson— A Modern Tragi-Comedy

Peterson, Samuel. “Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir of Institutionalization and Southern Hospitality”, Transgress Press, 2016.

A Modern Tragi-comedy

Amos Lassen

After being sober and spending a good deal of time preparing to become a writer, Trunky is on the threshold of success. However, fate enters his life and he is soon spiraling downward into a state of depression and begins again to use heroin. He ends up in an institution in the South with a very diverse group of “thugs, criminals, white supremacists, professional athletes and business men”. All of then are looking for something they’re afraid of finding. As Trunky journeys from addition to recovery and female to manhood, he finds himself on an unexpected trip into the depths of the human soul and this is where he discovers its fundamental flaws and the redemption that we experience from honest vulnerability that comes when we have the courage to take the deal with it.

Writer Samuel Paterson wonderfully captures the anguish and turmoil that comes with addiction and he gives wise insight into his struggle for redemption and visibility as a man among men. To really understand the devastation of addiction, the struggle for gender authenticity and the culture fostered within a Federal Bureau of Prisons Residential Drug Abuse Program, this is a must-read.

“Nights in Berlin” by Janice Law— Love in Weimar Berlin

Law, Janice. “Nights in Berlin”, (The Francis Bacon Mysteries), Mysterious Press, 2016.

Love in Weimar Berlin

Amos Lassen

When Francis Bacon’s father sends him to Berlin because of his flirting with other boys at his school, he is very happy. Going to school in the country had been a bore for him and in Berlin there are many opportunities to enjoy. Francis begins enjoying them all. He loves the cabarets that are outrageous and he fits right into his uncle Lasting’s bed. After the First World War, Berlin enjoyed a good deal of growth and openness even as Hitler began his rise to power.

As the atmosphere becomes more and more tense, Francis’s uncle welcomes all kinds of men to share his bed. Some of these men are there just for sexual pleasure while others have been invited to help fight the rising tide of Bolshevism. Then when the Nazis send Lastings running for his life, Francis remains in Berlin alone with only his sense of hedonism to distract him from a city that becomes more dangerous every night.

We meet Francis Bacon when he is aiding his uncle in a political shooting, after which he is forced into hiding as a hatcheck “girl” in a Berlin drag bar under the auspices of the British embassy.

There’s intrigue, peril, politics, history, humor and romance in the story. Having been repressed by his father, Francis finds Weimar-era Berlin to be a wonderland of fun. There is a snag, however, and that is that his uncle is not what he seems, and seems and appears to be involved in either spying or some criminal intrigue with the right-wing. Francis has a series of dangerous encounters as he works in a gay nightclub while dodging his uncle’s creditors and enemies. He finds help from unexpected friends.

Francis uses his natural resources to survive in a place that is filled with danger, especially for gay men. Even though Bacon is a flamboyantly and sexually active, there is no explicit sex.

Based on British artist Francis Bacon, author Janice Law—like many current authors—has recreated a real person into a fictional amateur sleuth with her Francis Bacon Mysteries. “Nights In Berlin” is the fourth in the series, yet is a prequel to the others as it deals with the 17-year-old Bacon’s adventures in gay Berlin.

This is writer Janice Law’s fourth book in the Francis Bacon series and while it is not necessary to have read the others, it might help to understand Bacon. We do know that while still a teen, he was thrown out of his home when he was found admiring himself while wearing his mother’s underwear. Bacon said that his father sent him to a friend who was known for his “manliness” with the idea that this friend would make a man out of him. This friend was his Bacon’s so-called “uncle” who bedded him in Berlin.

 

“Adulting 101” by Lisa Henry— A Real Struggle

Henry, Lisa. “Adulting 101”, Riptide Publishing, 2016.

A Very Real Struggle

Amos Lassen

Set in Franklin Ohio, we meet Nick Stahlnecker, an eighteen-year-old guy who he is not yet ready to grow up. At his summer job, he works with Jai Hazenbrook and has quite a crush on him. Jai is twenty-five and has come home just long enough to make enough money so that he can leave. back in his hometown of Franklin, Ohio, just long enough to earn the money to get the hell out again. He figures it will be worth being home and living in his mother’s basement so that he can see the rest of the world. Nick, however, is not a part of his plans yet he discovers that it is not necessary to travel to have adventure when someone like Nick is in his sights. Yes, readers, this is a romance.

Jai tries to convince himself that Nick is only a temporary attraction and that he has no feelings for him. However, that is not true. This is the story of Nick’s summer before he goes to college. Nick is impulsive and very honest but he also lacks direction regarding what he wants to do in life. His parents have pushed him to go to college and have chosen his major for him— criminology.

Jai loves to travel. His plan was to work the three summer months and then travel the rest of the year. When he met Nick, he was immediately drawn to him and they slowly get to know each other and have great sex. He has really never had so much fun before and this was so unexpected. At first, each saw the other as a friend with benefits and even when they became “boyfriends” neither would admit that this was the case. It is fun to read how their lust became love but it happened very slowly. In the beginning each thought of what they were doing as a hookups but as they spent more and more time together and got to know each other, they realized that it was so much more than just sex.

It is not easy becoming an adult and we see both guys struggling with it. Jai is much more of an adult than Nick and he does not want to live a life without adventure. He seems not to believe in relationships, especially since there is so much to see and do. A relationship could hold him back. Basically Jai is an introvert and really functions well alone even though he has had affairs for years. However, he really likes Nick and his unbounded energy.

This is a very funny story yet it has a deep message about becoming an adult. Nick learns that becoming an adult does not follow ten easy steps while Jai sees that sometimes the greatest adventure you can have requires no travel and could be standing right next to you.

 

 

“Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory” by Qwo-Li Driskill— Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous Traditions

Driskill, Qwo-Li. “Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory”, University of Arizona Press, 2016.

Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous Traditions

Amos Lassen

In the Cherokee language “Asegi udanto” refers to people who do not fit into men’s and women’s roles or who mix men’s and women’s roles. The word “Asegi” is translated as “strange” and is also used by some Cherokees as a term similar to “queer.”

In “Asegi Stories”, author Qwo-Li Driskill give us a way to reread Cherokee history in order to listen for those stories that was considered “strange” by the colonial heterosexual patriarchy.

I understand that this is first full-length that develops a tribally specific indigenous queer or Two-Spirit critique. It examines gender and sexuality in Cherokee cultural memory and shows how they shape the present, and how they can influence the future.

Looking at activist, artistic, and intellectual genealogies (referred to as “dissent lines” by Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith), Driskill enmeshes Cherokee and other indigenous traditions including “women of color feminisms, grassroots activisms, queer and trans studies and politics, rhetoric, Native studies, and decolonial politics”. These are the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the stories that are derived from drawings, oral histories and archival documents and are used to articulate Cherokee-centered Two-Spirit critiques. In doing so Driskill is able to contribute to the larger intertribal movements for social justice.

This is both corrective and selective history as well as a memoir and a critique. Driskill argues that existing categories and genre divisions do not serve Native/Aboriginal/Two Spirit Studies.

“Bitter Legacy” by Dal Maclean— No Ordinary Policeman

Maclean, Dal. “Bitter Legacy”, Blind Eye Books, 2016.

No Ordinary Policeman

Amos Lassen

Detective Sergeant James Henderson (Jamie) of London’s Metropolitan Police Murder Investigation Team is no ordinary cop. He has amazing gut instincts and is a non-stop detective and this what got him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector.

When he was assigned to the murder case of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, Henderson is taken back into world of London’s privileged elite. This is the world he came out of. His father was wonderfully wealthy and had so much power that he was able to hold the law in contempt. As James moves among the promiscuous, secretive and corrupt spheres of the rich, the murderer strikes once again. James fears that these crimes lead very close to his own home and he risks losing everything he’s made of his life unless he can expose the truths that have brought about this “bitter legacy”.

Jamie knows that he is gay even though he has never been with a man. That changes when he meets Ben who is extremely handsome and very flirtatious. It seems that other men are incredibly drawn to him and once he’s entrapped them they are powerless to resist. Jamie is like the others in this regard. Jamie’s investigation takes him to the apartments Ben lives in and there Jamie is instantly captivated by Ben. He learns that Ben is looking for a flatmate and since Jamie is looking for a new apartment so they soon find themselves living together. However, Ben is very promiscuous and is very open about it. The more Jamie is around Ben his common sense leaves him and he is lost to resist Ben. When they become an item Jamie expects monogamy even though he knows exactly what Ben is like.

Ben was totally upfront about his sexuality and never made any promises about being exclusive, but when he cheated on Jamie, my heart went out to him. This is not just a mystery but also a look at the two men’s relationship.

I am really not much of a mystery reader but I must say that I found myself deeply involved in the story here; so much so that I read the book in one sitting. The plot is complex and involves a series of murders in London investigated by Jamie whose personal life takes place alongside the investigation. He deals with his first relationship as a gay male as well as the first time he has sex with another guy. As for the investigation, I can’t tell you more about it except to say that it leaves the reader feeling positive that you know what is transpiring at times and then stunned that you don’t know at other times.

The mystery is solid and the investigation drags on, through false leads and twists, and maybe another linked death. But while his professional life is frustrating and murky, James thinks he finally has a shot at a real personal life with Ben. Unfortunately, Ben has different ideas about what is going on between them, and what a gay man’s life should look like. Thus forces Janie’s dreams to collide and when he finally understands how it all comes together, he realizes that not everything is as it appears to be.

 As we watch Jamie as the lead investigator on the case, we see  who he is and that is more than just a bright young detective on the fast-track to promotion. We see that he is a man whose uncompromising instincts on the job run at complete odds with the compromises he is willing to make in his personal life (keeping Ben Morgan in his bed—even if it means sharing Ben with other men). We see Jamie operate and as he does, he is grappling with a lifeline that begins to drag him under. His relationship with Ben is in opposition to his professional life. He suffers a conflict of lust and principles when his investigation when he meets Ben. The reality of Jamie’s losing his heart is somewhat depressing especially when he realizes that he is just a convenient sex object. Ben is both possessive and contemptuous of James’s feelings. Both Jamie and the reader have to figure out who this enigma named Ben really is.

“Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery” by J. Aaron Sanders— Walt Whitman, Detective

Sanders, J. Aaron. “Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery”, Plume, 2016.

Walt Whitman, Detective

Amos Lassen

“Speakers of the Dead” is a mystery novel about the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman who explores the seedy underbelly of New York City’s body-snatching industry in order to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge. Set in New York in 1843, young Whitman goes to the Tombs prison to visit Lena Stowe, a friend, who is to hang for the murder of Abraham Stowe, her husband. It is Walt’s plan to present evidence for Lena’s good but he is turned away by the sheriff. Lena hangs and Walt promises that he will exonerate her posthumously.

 

Walt’s boyfriend, Henry Saunders, from whom he has been estranged, returns to New York, and the two men discover a link between body-snatching and Abraham’s murder: a man named Samuel Clement. To get to Clement, Walt and Henry must go into the dangerous underworld where resurrection men steal the bodies of the recently deceased and sell them to medical colleges. Since there are no legal means to acquire cadavers, medical students rely on these criminals, and Abraham’s involvement with the Bone Bill (legislation that would put the resurrection men out of business) is what seems to have led to his and Lena’s deaths.

Reporter Whitman became involved in the case because the victims were close friends of his. Abraham and Lena Stowe are doctors who have dedicated their careers to furthering science and the role that women have in it by running a medical school for women to train to become doctors. When Abraham is killed for the murder of his supposed lover, his wife Lena is his supposed killer and she dies for it. However, the facts do not add up and Whitman decides to dig deeper into the mystery surrounding their deaths. He finds a link between his friends’ deaths and the graveyard body snatching in Samuel Clement.

The narrative is an interesting take on a young Walt Whitman as he develops and finds his voice. As he becomes involved with crime bosses who run the government and do not let the common people find justice, the story begins to move forward at a rapid pace. The plot follows some decent and some indecent surprising developments in the case.

This is a more than a mystery in which a young Walt Whitman helps to solve the case; it is also a historical novel. During the 19th century there was a lot said about medical schools using cadavers for dissection and education. Christians were against dissection as they felt that the bodies needed to be intact for “resurrection” to take place “at the end of time”. There were already medical schools and anatomy labs which had been burned in other states. Since there were no legal means of acquiring cadavers, medical students and their instructors had to rely on the illegal body trade which were controlled by those known as “resurrection men”. These businessmen would follow the obituaries and then dig up the recently deceased and sell them to medical schools. One of the characters here is Elizabeth Blackwell who is fighting to keep her medical school open and to further the cause for anatomical dissection as a value to furthering science. She later becomes the first woman to receive a medical license in the United States. The

mystery tries to uncover the actual public figures who are behind the “executions”. Whitman reveals clues as he continues to write special articles for the newspaper and he even manages to raise money to offer a reward to those who know who is behind the executions. More than that I cannot say.

The novel is written in polished prose that provides a great read. Author J. Aaron Sanders is great with detail and he balances history and murder wonderfully. I love his imagination and it is great fun to see so many literary characters together at one time. The portrait that we get of the young Walt Whitman is brilliant (and obviously well researched). Not only do we read about the young poet but also about his familial and romantic relationships and his ideas about life, religion, and the role of science. We see Whitman as a complex character that struggled with many of the same themes and ideas present in our society today. Here is a Walt Whitman who is young and ambitious, a reporter who risks his life for truth.

“Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display” by Jennifer Tycurczy— The Role of Museums in Sexuality”

Tyburczy, Jennifer. “Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display”, University of Chicago Press, 2016.

The Role of Museums in Sexuality

Amos Lassen

Writer Jennifer Tyburczy tells us that “all museums are sex museums” and she explores the formation of Western sexuality—particularly how categories of sexual normalcy and perversity are formed—and asks what role museums have played in using display as a technique for disciplining sexuality. She argues that most museum exhibits assume that white, patriarchal heterosexuality and traditional structures of intimacy, gender, and race represent national sexual culture for their visitors. In “Sex Museums, we see the history of such heteronormativity at most museums and she proposes alternative approaches for the future of public display projects, while also offering the reader curatorial tactics—what she calls queer curatorship—for exhibiting diverse sexualities in the twenty-first century. If we indeed live in a world of diversity, we must also be able to see diversity in our museums.

Tyburczy shows that museums are sites of culture-war theatrics. Dramatic civic struggles over how sex relates to public space, genealogies of taste and beauty, and performances of sexual identity are staged in the hope that these will provide better understanding. As we look deeply into the history of erotic artifacts, we see how museums have historically approached the collection and display of the material culture of sex, which poses complex moral, political, and logistical dilemmas for the Western museum. The author unpacks the history of the museum and its intersections with the history of sexuality and argues that the Western museum context (from its inception to the present) marks a pivotal site in the construction of modern sexual subjectivity. We get new interpretations of what we see in museums along with case histories that are compelling in every aspect. Tyburczy’s selections are “a diverse array of incidents that beautifully index period ideas about sex and its structures of visibility and invisibility. Ultimately, in weighing these discreet histories within a new category of displaying sex, Sex Museums manages to make them speak to one another.” This is an original, and timely account of the rhetoric and material practices of the display of erotic materials. Tyburczy uses her own experience as a curator and interviews, observation, and archival research to give us deep looks at these often-precarious institutions. She brings together queer studies and museum studies to show what works in terns of exhibiting and archiving sex.

She urges museums and museumgoers to think more carefully, creatively, and queerly about how diverse sex and sexualities are displayed and navigated in the museum. This is a very smart analysis of the politics of the erotic in the public sphere. Representation has the power to change how we understand the world, and care about sexual and gender minorities in “civic space.”

Tyburczy brings us a genealogy of the recent culture wars as she examines transnational circuits of capital, sex, and tourism. She reorients the history of exhibition in new ways and I am quite sure that whoever reads this will never look at an exhibition in the same way again.

Here we are reminded of how important performative display of images and objects are to the world outside the museum walls. We become immediately aware of Tyburczy’s consistent attention to the complex interplay between race, sex, gender, and the politics of display. We see how history and theory come together and how museums studies can come together with sexuality studies as well as how performance can join the archive thus producing thought and innovation in method. Tyburczy creates her own museum that is “a rich transnational-transdisciplinary space” and she leads us in an exploration of it. She also suggests that museums might be more open to sexual displays than we might have thought.

“Rented Heart” by Leigh Garrett— Finding Love

Leigh, Garrett. “Rented Heart”, Riptide Publishing, 2016.

Finding Love

Amos Lassen

Liam Mallaney moved back to Holkham, Norfolk, to mourn the loss of his husband. His grief and loneliness has kept him as a solitary figure, and he seems to like it that way.

Rentboy Zac Payne left London and only knows one way to make a living. When he sees Liam in a club one night, he feels that he has found what he is looking for. However, Liam is so nice and the two soon have a connection more than either man had planned on having. However, things become too complicated for Zac since he is also dealing with Jamie, his best friend and flatmate, Jamie. Zac owes Jamie everything, and even as Jamie’s drug addiction destroys all they have, Zac won’t leave him behind.

Liam knows nothing of Zac’s home life but when Zac’s life is suddenly put in danger, Liam understands that he must push his own feelings of grief to the side and help him. Liam is no kid; he is thirty-four-years-old and is really having a hard time dealing with the death of his lover, Cory, and business partner a little over a year ago. He is simply existing, going through life a day at a time. He has kept the business afloat and it is doing very well and he is proud of that. Yet, his loneliness convinces Liam to get out and have some fun. By snap decision, he goes home with Zac thinking that it would be nothing more than a hook up and not knowing that Zac is a rent boy.

Zac is only 23 and has never had a day that was some kind of struggle. He survived a heroin overdose six months before, thanks to being saved by his best friend and fellow rent boy Jamie and he took that second chance at life and moved away from the people and temptations of London to Norfolk and King’s Lynn.

Jamie and Zac are best friends who have taken comfort in each other. Jamie came with Zac to King’s Lynn but still loves and desires the oblivion and numbness the drugs give him. He will not give them up and he is quite a sad character.

Liam is good man who really cares about the people in his life and wants the best for them. The age gap between Liam and Zac is no problem because Zac is fierce and strong and has had to be to survive. He is vulnerable, however.

The chemistry between Liam and Zac is great right from the start, and it bothers both of them for different reasons. Zac has been hooking for a long time and he’s never felt any attraction to any of his other johns but Liam becomes important to him and rather quickly. Because of Cory, the only man he had ever had sex with, Liam feels a sense of guilt when he is with Zac and he begins to really enjoy his life once again. It is hard for him to deal with the fact that what the two share is a “business transaction”. Since both men have so much baggage from their pasts, they have a hard time seeing themselves as they see each other.

This is “a second chance” novel and the writing is excellent. The characters are wonderfully drawn. I wasn’t prepared to read the entire book in one sitting but I became so involved with the characters that I could not stop reading. I believe many will feel the same way.

 

 

“Ghost Faces: Hollywood and Post-Millennial Masculinity” by David Greven— Contemporary Manhood on Film

Greven, David. “Ghost Faces: Hollywood and Post-Millennial Masculinity”, (SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema), SUNY Press, 2017.

Contemporary Manhood on Film

Amos Lassen

 David Greven brings together psychoanalysis, queer theory, masculinity studies, and cultural studies to explore contemporary manhood in film in “Ghost Faces”. We see clearly the terrible nature of homophobia even in contemporary Hollywood films that promote their own homo-tolerance and appear to destabilize hegemonic masculinity. Focusing on several key films, Greven frames his study on key films made in the 1990s David Greven examines several key films from the late 1990s forward. These include slasher film like “Scream” to bromances and beta male comedies such as “I Love You, Man” and dramas such as “Donnie Darko”. Greven also traces the disturbing connections between torture porn found in such films as Hostel and gay male Internet pornography. Below is the Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Disrecognitions

 

  1. Ghost Faces, Genre Bodies

 

  1. The Murderous Origins of Bromance: Genre, Queer Killers, and Scream

 

  1. “I Love You, Brom Bones”: Beta Male Comedies, Bromances, and American Culture

 

  1. Apparitional Men: Masculinity and the Psychoanalytic Scene

 

  1. Trick-or-Treating Alone: Rob Zombie’s Halloween

 

  1. Torture/Porn: Hostel, Homophobia, and Gay Male Internet

 

Coda

Notes

Bibliography

Index Pornography