Rosen, Rob (editor). “Best Gay Erotica 2015”, Cleis Press, 2015.
Literary Erotica and That’s a Good Thing
Every year I look forward to Cleis Press’s “best books” especially the best of gay erotica. This year we have a new editor, one of my favorite gay writers, Rob Rosen and I can just imagine the job he had selecting these very hot stories. In fact, this year’s anthology is so good that I am going to break one of my own rules—instead of just looking at the book as a whole I am going to tell about the stories as well.
The first thing I noticed about the collection this year that aside from having a new editor is that the stories are not only erotic—they are literary and fit into the category of “literary smut”, a term I coined when I first began reviewing several years ago. As you read this review and the stories you will understand what I mean. Something else that I noticed in this anthology is the diversity—they all share erotica in common but who knew that there are so many different kinds? First I want to share the blurb for the book because it is such a good summary of what we find once we begin to start reading.
On a more personal note, I have been reviewing Rob Rosen for a long time. In fact, his novel “Sparkle” so resonated with me that I read it over and over and even thought I have never met Rosen I feel as if I know him and if we ever do meet, I am sure we will be friends. His sarcasm and his irony so match mine that a conversation between the two of his will undoubtedly end up with his laughing so hard that we cannot speak. I love a man who can laugh at himself and at his community—read “Sparkle” and you will quickly see what I mean.
One of the difficulties of writing erotica is making it ring true. Writing dirty stories does not take a lot of talent but writing erotica does—the author has to know when to stop and let the reader’s mind take over. This anthology includes a bit of every kind of literature and hence the term anthology really fits here.
Richard Michaels brings us “Different Strokes” which is very funny and to give away any of the plot would not be fair because you have to read and experience this story yourself. What I can say is that I cannot recall have laughed so hard over erotica before. It’s a real treat and I am not saying any more than that.
When I was a young kid there was an unmarried male member of my synagogue that the woman referred as a “feygele”, a Yiddish word for little bird, it came to be slang for a gay man (“because everyone knows that gay men flit around like little birds or fairies”). I have never flitted but I hated that word until I made it my own when I bought a t-shirt that has the word emblazoned on the front in rainbow colors. That was how I was going to prove my mother wrong—she would call her own son a fairy but alas she did but in an endearing way. This takes us to the story “Feygele” by Alex Stitt. This feygele is a travel writer as well as an epicure of men. He sees men as birds (go figure) and since there are so many different kinds of birds, it naturally follows that there are different kinds of men. Our Feygele remembers all of the men he has been with but thinking about the birds he equated them to. Then there was that one night with the firebird and he continues to search for him for a rematch or several. Aside from the bird references, the story is sexy in the way it is set. It is a lyrical story that a smile on the face and an erection in the pants.
Two contractors manage to get a priest to join in a threesome in “Choice” by Rhidian Brenig Jones and this is story that is so realistically written that you feel as if it is happening right before your eyes. The way the two drifters get the priest to come along is through their charms and this is not the kind of story we get to read everyday—I actually felt it as I read it and in fact, I am still not over it.
What happens when three different repairman come to the same place; the home of a Mr. March who did not call for even one. Nonetheless, March invited each of them in and for him it was a fantasy that came to life. What happens however is left for the reader to dream up and I imagine that each of us who has a fantasy involving a repairman or two or three will understand the story in relation to how he wants it to play out. This is “Super Service” by Michael Richards.
Another fantasy that is popular in our community is about bikes. In “Hot Man Boulevard” by Jacqueline Brocker, we meet Chris, an Aussie who has been in Paris for six months. He finds Paris to be much more formal than Australia or so he thought until a Harley found its way into a café where Chris was eating. On the bike was one gorgeous hunk of masculinity and Chris is taken in by him immediately. When the biker offers him a ride, Chris quickly accepts and we find ourselves in the middle of a very hot story.
Salome Wilde’s “Like Magic” is set at a carnival where we meet David now an adult who is looking back at his youth when he had lusted after a magician. As he revisits the magician now, the look in his eyes was caught by the man he yearned for and this got him an invitation backstage. Backstage is where real magic happens…for both men.
Gregory Norris’s “The Man in Black” is science fiction story about abduction in space. There is an alien who has the ability to be every man’s lust object… so we learn from our abductee. In other words, the alien was able to change at will and thereby enhance any fantasy. I love the way the reader moves back and forth between fear and joy and the eroticism is of the finest kind.
I have often wondered what ever happened to Xavier Axelson who would contact me regularly when he had a new book out and it has been about two or three years since I have heard from him. I was really glad to see him included here with his short story,
“From Here to There”. I remember that Axelson had written some really fine erotica and he once again comes through with this story about a road racer. While on his way to a friend’s wedding, Duncan sees a guy on a motorcycle with the most perfect and beautiful pair of legs he has ever seen. When the cyclist sees him looking at his legs so intently, Duncan becomes embarrassed and focuses on the road ahead. He was on his way to a winery where the wedding was to take place and suddenly the cycle pulled out from behind him and the two men begin to play a game which totally fires Duncan up. But then he lost city of the bike and pulling off the road to compose himself and get a bite to eat, he finds the cycler who suggests something better than food and I am sure you can guess what that is.
Pride takes center stage in “Rookie Glitch” by Martha Davis. Mike comes from a family of policeman; in fact, he is a fourth generation cop. He is proud of his profession and wants to make really good at it so when he sees mistakes, he overlooks them. He also lusts after his superior office, Jason. As we all know, it is against all rules on the police force to fall for someone else on the job but he cannot help himself and even when Jason makes the first move, Mike stands back. Here is a story about knowing how far you can go even when the feeling is mutual and this makes it all the more exciting.
From Kenzie Matthews we get something of a paranormal study in “Outlaws and Bad Men”. Hoping to get a ride and a good meal, Lochlan tries hitchhiking. He figures his body is the key to financial success and he has a plan. Chase stops and offers him a ride and even though he is not the kind of guy that Lochlan is interested in, he is hungry so he gets in the car. The conversation between the two is very sexually arousing and before he realizes Lochlan is totally in tune with Chase. He realizes that, this time, he is not the hustler and when Chase goes off on his own, Lochlan decides to catch up with him and show him who is really calling the shots. However, it doesn’t work out that way and he understands that Chase could be a great mate as the two men try to catch each other.
Editor Rosen also has a story here, “No Ifs, Ands or Butts” about what happens when what was a fantasy really happens. It is all about staring at a guy in the shower in the next stall. Todd cannot help but admire Dan’s beautiful behind and deliberately makes sure that his visits to the gym coincide with when Dan is there. He also makes sure that they both hit the showers at the same time and as they shower Todd shares, drops his soap and does whatever it takes to get a better look at Dan’s fabulous ass cheeks. This usually ends with Todd running into the stalls in the bathroom and finishing himself off but then, one day, Dan follows him… I love the way Rosen evoke the smell of a locker room and the testosterone that is contained within.
”Nothing to Lose” by Dale Chase brings us Alex who is on a downward spiral after his partner dumps him and moves on. Chase deals with the feelings we have when things do not go right for us and writes about bravado, anger and sadness. As we read we share these emotions along with Alex. As he argues with himself and faces his life head-on, we cannot help but commiserate with him. He is determined to prove to everyone and himself that he is wanted and that he really is not letting the breakup ruin his life. The wedding is to be his arena and he uses it well. He is able to have sex with the groom, with a married man and with one of the waiters. However, he cannot keep the fact that he is hurting because of the doomed relationship and he begins to drink heavily and ultimately finds himself in bed with an older man at which point he realizes that being good looking on the outside has nothing to do with what one is on the inside.
I did not expect this review to be this long so I my looks at the other stories will be shorter than those about the other stories. Please understand that this is just because of time constraints and has nothing to do with the quality of the stories.
Spencer is the main character in “Payment in Full” by T. R. Verten. He is a single parent and he is well aware of the problems of getting a sitter and having time to find romance. He learns about a service that provides both. This is a really funny that is erotic at the same time. You probably will never forget what happens in the kitchen.
Off to the rodeo we go with Logan Zachary and the story, “Bullheaded”. For many gay men the rodeo hold great allure. However at this rodeo the characters awkward and you may look at rodeos in the same way again.
Nordus is a dwarf and the main character in “Freyr’s Toothache” by Mark Wildyr. He is getting older and Freyr, a god grants him both good looks and makes him mortal. Now he can flirt with those who shunned him as a dwarf and he is being lusted after by another god. This, of course, causes Nordus to try to find a way to get rid of the pain and his tooth. All he really knows about his toothache is that it can be transferred. He hopes that the son of the blacksmith might be the one to help him.
This is quite a fun read so try to treat yourself to a copy.