Wilde, Vincent. “The Combat Zone (Cody Harper)”, Cleis Press, 2017.
Meet Cody Harper
With “The Combat Zone”, Cleis Press seems to be trying to make some kind of comeback after the last two disastrous years after the press was sold, reviewers were insulted and many in its writers stable bolted for greener pastures. For me it is especially hard to deal with Cleis after having reviewed for them for so many years. I literally had to beg and argue with them to send me review copies. Requests would go unanswered and the new staff had a lot to learn about dealing with people. I could not help but notice that for this book, they contacted reviewers with a plea to review this.
The Combat Zone was once Boston’s officially sanctioned red-light district and while the name has stuck, it is not what it was. When gay, cross-dressing detective Cody Harper learns of a sadistic murderer who is stalking haunting the steamy streets of the Combat Zone, he takes it upon himself to find a way to put a stop to it. However, Cody’s unrequited love interest, Stephen Cross, learns more and more about the killer and finds himself in the center of killer’s targets thus forcing Cody to use all the tricks he has including his drag persona, Desdemona, in order to stop whoever is behind the terrible murders. Cody “is a man who enjoys wielding a whip as much as slipping into a silk chemise”. But when Stephen Cross tells Cody about the death threats he’s received, Cody is willing to do whatever it takes to stop the murders and protect Stephen.
It also happens to be election time and a self-righteous and corrupt presidential candidate is becoming powerful and with a secretly homophobic detective barely cracking the murder cases along with Stephen’s life at stake, Cody realizes that we will have to go from the “underbelly of Boston” to a neo-Nazi compound in the mountains of New Hampshire to put a stop to the killer.
The first book in the Cody Harper Novel series and while great literature it is not and it does not pretend to be. It is a fun read for those who like dark novels and it is filled with sex, betrayal, and danger. As to whether this new series will save Cleis Press, we will have to wait and see. Personally, I think they would be a lot better off if they unloaded their staff and got some real people to work for them. I really never thought I would ever review for them again and that was because I was so rudely dealt with. However, I firmly believe in keeping our literature alive and vibrant and I firmly believe that Cleis is ready to rejoin us and the press was always a step above the dishonesty of another major LGBT press that very conveniently and dishonestly hides the gender of their authors. It sees that their name fits their “dreams”. And yes, I enjoyed reading “The Combat Zone”.