Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier – Emanuel Xavier (Queer Mojo/Rebel Satori Press)

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It’s been my privilege and my curse to read on the same program at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival with Emanuel Xavier–my privilege because of his incredible talent and my curse because I had to follow him. Shakespeare himself would have sounded dull after hearing Xavier tear through “Americano” with his full Nuyorican Poets Cafe slam creds on display. I didn’t have a chance. But now you have a chance to own his greatest hits, and you should take it even if poetry isn’t your usual jam.

Xavier begins with a foreword in which he encapsulates his childhood sexual abuse, his coming out, and his time as a “pier queen,” hustler and drug user along with his eventual success. But even if he had left those boxes blank, the bare, unvarnished plain truth is all in the work that follows. And this collection is especially well-selected, cherry picking the angriest and most poignant fruit from Xavier’s previous books: Pier Queen, Americano, If Jesus Were Gay, Nefarious, and Radiance.

One of the reasons I like this collection so much is that it’s chronological, allowing the reader to absorb Xavier’s background firsthand and upfront, especially in the selections from Pier Queen and Americano. Pieces like “Bushwick Bohemia” and “Nueva York” stake out his territory and provide a backdrop for the anger of “Americano” and especially “Deliverance,” addressed to the local priest:

Padre, perdóname/but where were you when I was three/getting fucked up the ass by my oldest cousin/Palabras reminding me/“IF YOUR MAMI FINDS OUT/SHE’LL LEAVE YOU/LIKE YOUR DADDY DID!”… Padre, perdóname/for trying to kill off Mamí & her boyfriend/pouring bleach into their soup/thinking maybe he won’t beat her no more/maybe she won’t beat me no more

But even the earliest of his work strays from this anger into more uplifting themes, such as “Children of Magdalene,” or “To My Mother On The Occasion of Her Sixtieth Birthday,” which sees him tempering his bitterness with love and respect. He also demonstrates his unwillingness to sink back into the patterns of his elders in “Tradiciones.” One of my favorites of his early poems is the beautiful “Legendary,” where he finds some hope by simply looking at his fellow man:

There are Gods amongst us in these ghettos/so black, so fierce,/so brown, so beautiful,/Their time on earth may be as oppressive as ignorance/limited to the demons flowing in their blood/but after safely passing over back to the clouds/
the wind will still carry their auras and prophecies/their bones will still beat drums/for their children to dance

The pieces from If Jesus Were Gay seem to be transitional, with some familiar devices, like dealing with authority figures such as the police officer in “Waiting for God” and the ultimate authority figure in the title poem, “If Jesus Were Gay”. But Xavier extends his reach here, extrapolating his background to society in general, as in “Urban Affection,” a poem dedicated to Walt Whitman, or the AIDS epidemic in “Walking With Angels”. He even disclaims his own worth and status as a poet in the sometimes hilarious “The Death of Art,” again one of my favorites.

All of this gels in the selections from Nefarious and Radiance, in which Xavier truly comes into his own and becomes confident with his voice and talent, assured of his vision. Nowhere is this growth better reflected than in “Step Father,” in which he revists one of the objects of his boyhood hatred, now old and infirm, and he finds within his hatred a measure of pity and even understanding. This also comes through, although to a lesser extent, in “Men Like My Father”. He hasn’t lost his sense of humor, though, as “The Thing About My Pussy” proves. Xavier also tweaks history, pairing news events with the real deaths of queer men and women in “Sometimes We’re Invisible,” a powerful piece he synthesizes at its finish:

mariposas/brown lives/queer lives/trans lives/we fly in our dreams/brighten skies/still know the sun for flight/the wind for guidance/yet sometimes we’re invisible/may our souls linger over fields/prayers/our names/stories remind them/we are worth love/know god

This is an amazing collection that perfectly encapsulates Emanuel Xavier’s growth as a man and as a poet. As I said at the outset, even if poetry isn’t your usual cuppa, you’ll find much of value here. Highly recommended.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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Not the Real Jupiter: A Cassandra Reilly Mystery – Barbara Wilson (Cedar Street Editions)

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One of the perks of this gig is that books just come to my door. Sometimes that’s not a good thing, but many times I find out about authors who may have been around but haven’t come to my attention before, and that’s the case with Barbara Wilson. She’s a Lammy winning author, but since the Lambda Literary Awards started merging categories years ago, they’ve fallen off my radar. Unless the winner is a friend of mine, the names generally go in one ear and out the other, so I’ve missed Barbara Wilson until now. Luckily, however, I’ve discovered her lesbian literary translator/amateur detective, Cassandra Reilly, in the low-key yet suspenseful Not the Real Jupiter.

Itinerant translator Cassandra Reilly is working on a manuscript for her tempermental friend, author Luisa Monteflores, in Monteflores’s apartment in Uruguay. Monteflores is incensed, however, by the proposed cover. Reilly agrees to travel to Oregon to meet the publisher, Giselle Richard, and try to negotiate a solution. But the publisher winds up dead at the bottom of a bluff near her house, and Reilly finds herself under suspicion and unable to travel until she’s cleared. She begins her own investigation, encountering a children’s author, a surly business/life partner, and an amorous librarian seeking a one night stand, all of whom helping her in her effort to solve the mystery so she can go home. Wherever that is.

I found this interesting for a few reasons, not the least of which was that it contained lots of information about literary translators. Although I know a couple, I never really stopped to think of the precision and talent involved in what they do. You’d think as a writer myself, I’d have more of an appreciation in choosing le mot juste, but somehow I never thought of it as an art. But it is. And Wilson portrays Reilly as a woman who’s passionately committed to that art. I also loved the fact that Reilly is past retirement age, yet has never slowed or settled down. Her restless nature informs her sleuthing ability.

But Reilly isn’t the only interesting character here. I also enjoyed the time spent with Nora, a children’s author instrumental in solving the mystery as she was not only friends with Giselle but with Giselle’s mother, Pauline. Very much like Cassandra, Nora is fiercely independent and perfectly content to live out her “golden years” pursuing her career–as is Arlene, the librarian who desperately wants to shag Cassandra. It’s probably not much of a spoiler to say she accomplishes her goal, and both women go their separate ways, happy for the contact but neither willing to take it further. Now, that’s empowering.

The mystery itself takes quite a few turns before finally unraveling, with no help at all from the police. But this is Reilly’s show, and Wilson runs with it, taking full advantage of her gift for plotting and pacing as she leads the reader down one or another garden path before gently guiding you back on track. This is a fine whodunit with sturdy, interesting characters and is well worth your time.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction – Rebecca Rowland, ed. (Dark Ink)

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As someone who cut his literary teeth on Poe, The Pan Book of Horror Stories and Weird Tales magazine, the phrase “dark fiction” seems tame. Once you’ve read about rats gnawing their way through a man’s back to reach the spiced meat in the bowl tied to his stomach (“The Copper Bowl” by George Fielding Eliot in the Pan Book), there’s no going back. Not that Unburied, the most recent anthology from Dark Ink, is less than, but it didn’t connect with me as often as I would have liked it to. That said, it contains some fine stories well worth your time, and you may find its batting average higher than I did.

Unburied has a good mix of new and established authors, and both have some interesting entries. Queer stalwart Felice Picano does an excellent job with the mirror trope in “Flawed,” the story of a man who finds paradise in the looking glass. I also enjoyed Sarah Lyn Eaton’s “When the Dust Settles,” an interesting SF/horror story about an asteroid miner’s accident and the replacement limb she receives as a result. Laramie Dean also turns in a twisted tale, “The Other Boy” about a father, his son, and a strange boy who leaves his mark on both of them.

For my money, however, the hands down winner of the bunch is Daniel M. Jaffe’s “The Procedure.” It’s also the first Covid pandemic story I’ve read since this whole thing started last March, and takes place in the near future after the virus has mutated several times. Each mutation has decimated a specific population—men, women, Anglos, Latinos. They’re now dealing with Covid-35, which seems to be targeting gay men. Enter Harry, the only gay man to have survived the mutation. What follows is both Orwellian and surreal as Jaffe leads us to a twisty ending that makes perfect sense but will have you cringing.

Indeed, there are a few medical science fiction stories here. J. Askew’s “Cut Off Your Nose To Spite Your Race” is another, this one taking place on a Martian breeding colony where women are required to have three children. Once that number is reached, they’re free to lead their lives. If they are unable to bear children, they get sold into slavery. But the real outlier is “1,000 Tiny Cuts” by Veronica Zora Kirin, and its difference is that it’s neither horror nor science fiction. Rather, it’s a simple story of domestic abuse, but its simplicity is its strength. Kirin does a terrific job of building up the tension, and the climax is very satisfying.

Unburied has some excellent reading for you, and again, if dark fiction is your thing, you might find a wealth of goods here. As it is, several stories deserve your attention.  

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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Robinson, IL and Other Flash Fiction Stories – Dennis Milam Bensie (Independently Published)

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Yes, yes – I know I just reviewed Bensie’s Shorn: Toys to Men, but that was a reissue and this is a brand new collection of stories. The only thing more interesting than Bensie’s non-fiction is his fiction, and although I’m not usually a fan of flash fiction, the short hits in Robinson, IL are both entertaining and insightful.

By turns playful and provocative, many of these stories turn on O. Henry surprise, and that’s not a bad thing. It does, however, make reviewing them without spoilers a bit more difficult. The premises for the more outrageous stories are unique but Bensie makes them work. It’s a testament to his talent that he can draw you into a story about a Nazi-themed gay bar complete with tattoos and gassing (“VOTE”) or a neighborhood carnival whose purpose is to raise money to send a boy to a Christian anti-gay school (“Save Dave”) without the weirdness seeming self-conscious.

But it’s not all weird. Some of the pieces seem to come directly from Bensie’s childhood and provide moments of clarity in his relationships with his parents and others, such as the opener, “Denny,” which sees his mother killing a snake for him, or “Swimmer’s Ear,” the retelling of a tender, all too rare father and son moment. These, especially the latter, are done with taste and a heartfelt honesty.

Indeed, honesty is the mainstay of Bensie’s work, be it flash fiction or memoir. “Sunday Drive,” about a father’s reaction when he learns of his son’s molestation, falls in this category, as do “Him Outside the Camp,” which relates a particularly ugly episode between parents, and “Eric in Your Bed,” which revisits and fictionalizes the haircutting fetish Bensie speaks of in his memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men.

But Bensie always changes it up, alternating poignancy with the aforementioned weirdness–“Patsy Cline Airlines,” “The Vest,” about a bombing of sorts, and “The Truck,” which features a mobile disco and bar that travels to RV retirement communities and other neighborhoods.

Robinson, IL is truly a mixed bag, and I mean that in the nicest way possible, packing twenty-seven stories in just over a hundred pages. Many will stick with you longer than you think they will considering their brevity. All in all, this is a highly successful package you won’t regret purchasing.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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The Vermilion Pursuit: A Marco Fontana Mystery – Joseph R.G. DeMarco (Jade Mountain Books)

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It’s been seven years since we last saw Marco Fontana, and it’s good to have him and Olga and the boys from StripGuyz back. This time, Fontana is taking on the not-so-stuffy world of fine art as he races against the lead detective on the case to prove his uncle Luciano did not murder a colleague. As usual, DeMarco pulls out all the stops in this solid, well thought out entry to the Fontana mystery series.

Fontana’s uncle, Luciano Sforza, is in town with a panel of art critics and restoration experts tasked with authenticating a previously unknown Botticelli. It might be real, or it could be a fake perpetuated by the infamous forger Vermilion. Before the committee can make their decision, however, one of its more contentious members is found dead, with Sforza standing over the body. Detective Baldwin is certain the case is open and shut, but Fontana has other ideas. He has to prove his uncle’s innocence before Baldwin makes an arrest.

Among DeMarco’s many strengths is his ability to juggle a large number of characters without losing the thread of the mystery or confusing the reader. There are at least six on the committee alone, plus various assistants and gallery owners–and that’s just the main plot. We also have secretary Olga, Fontana’s mother (Luciano’s sister), StripGuyz drama, the policemen, security guards, and Fontana’s on again/off again open relationship with boyfriend Sean. Yet the plot never bogs down or feels crowded. There’s a lot going on, to be sure, but DeMarco never drops the balls. And though the book is longish, it’s so well-paced you don’t notice.

But what DeMarco does best here is crack the veneers of the effete and oh-so-proper art experts, exposing the real motivations behind their high-minded ethics. To no one’s particular surprise, they are as base as the rest of us–greed, ambition, and sex often taking priority over their profession. This isn’t news, of course, but DeMarco seems to take great delight in laying these predelictions bare. And it’s most fun to watch.

The ending is also quite satisfactory. You see about three quarters of the way through how a couple of the plot pieces will fit together, but the identity of the murderer remains a mystery until just before the reveal. The process of elimination is artfully accomplished, and DeMarco leaves no loose ends.

So, The Vermilion Pursuit is entirely successful. It’s a great standalone, as are the others in this series, but if you read this, I can just about guarantee you’ll want them as well. Let’s hope it’s not another seven years before the next.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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The Violence Almanac – Miah Jeffra (Black Lawrence Press)

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I first ran across Miah Jeffra’s work in Sibling Rivalry Press’s collection of his essays, The Fabulous Ekphrastic Fantastic!, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I was looking forward to reading this bunch of his short stories, and I must say he’s just as witty, incisive, and entertaining in the realm of fiction. The Violence Almanac glitters like a dark diamond.

The shine is evident from the first short piece, “Growl,” but this is minor compared to the next two stories. “Babies” is a recounting of the tale of Andrea Yeats who, you may remember, is the Texas mother who drowned her five children in their bathtub twenty years ago. The incident is told from several points of view: one of the children, Noah, Andrea herself, her husband, Rusty, and a fictional biographer. It’s difficult to tell which of these viewpoints is the most poignant, but just as we begin to wonder whose eyes we’ll see this incident through next, Jeffra changes the form up to a screenplay of the book the biographer is writing. That should be jarring, but the format works, providing some distance as Andrea and Rusty discuss having the last of the children she kills. He then switches back to the biographer and, finally, Andrea after the crimes have been committed. Far from being fractured despite the changes in viewpoint, “Babies” hangs together both as a piece of realistic fiction and a cautionary tale.

The second story in this one-two combo punch is “Jingle-Jingle-Pop,” the story of “pre-op T” Lalo and her friends working the mean streets of L.A. Here, Jeffra goes all first person and brings us a singularly unique voice. Lalo and the girls are reeling from the death of their friend, Champagne, at the hands of a Carlos–they call all the tough johns they work Carlos. Learning the lesson, Lalo concentrates on saving money for her bottom surgery and finding a good man to take her out of this life. Deep down, however, she knows no one escapes. So, when the brown El Dorado that Champagne was last seen getting into shows up…well, this chola don’t print no spoilers. Wholly engaging and as tough as it is compulsive to read, this is storytelling at its finest.

If these two stories were the only ones in the book, it’d still be worth your time and money, but there’s so much more to discover, such as “Gethsemane,” the history of a house and its previous occupants as seen through the eyes of a realtor trying to sell it, a boy anxious to win the respect of his abusive father by bringing in a fugitive in “Footfall,” and the examination of a relationship as a man tries to rescue a sick pigeon in “Saving a Bird” for starters. But really, you can land anywhere among these tales and find a great story.

So, if you missed The Fabulous Ekphrastic Fantastic!, go back and pick it up, but the stories comprising The Violence Almanac are the shouts of a new, richly talented voice. You won’t regret it.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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Lies With Man – Michael Nava (Amble Press)

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There’s nothing like the ease and assuredness of a master at work, and Michael Nava’s Henry Rios series just gets better and better. This is Nava’s second book after an eighteen year gap, but the rest must have done him a world of good. Now on Bywater Books’ new imprint, Amble Press, Nava once again puts Rios through his paces as the out and proud criminal defense lawyer takes on his most involved case yet.

Newly sober, Rios finds himself in Los Angeles during the height of the AIDS epidemic in a community petrified about a Christian-sponsored ballot initiative that would force HIV positive people into quarantine camps. He takes on the job of counsel for an ostensibly peaceful activist group called QUEER (Queers United to End Erasure and Repression). That position becomes critical when Theo Latour, one of the group members, is accused of bombing an evangelical church that supported the quarantine, killing the pastor in the process.

Nava’s skill at plotting is as evident as his way with a character, and Daniel Herron, the pastor killed in the bombing, is a particularly perfect example. Herron is an old hippie, straight from Haight, who begins as an atheist and falls sideways into the evangelical life. In one of the more intriguing subplots, he also has a child with an old girlfriend who, unbeknownst to him, was pregnant when they lost track of each other. Many years on, when Herron is entrenched in the church hierarchy, he finds out about the boy, who is in the hospital with AIDS complications. Herron is such an interesting character, it’s almost a shame he dies in the accident. However, the remainder of the book is suffused with his presence.

Rios, too, is as complicated as always. Committed to staying sober, he’s also beginning to seek out a relationship with a guy named Josh. The fact that the accused, Theo, is Josh’s roommate doesn’t dissuade him a bit. Even the minor characters, such as Marc Unger, a sleazy fellow gay lawyer who bombards Rios with smarmy sexual remarks, and the bail bondsman/private investigator are interesting and well-drawn. Mention also needs to be made of Herron’s wife, an alcoholic who has a small but pivotal role to play in the ending.

Lies With Man is a perfect addition to the Henry Rios series, as sure and confident as you’d want. It’s great as a standalone and a good place to start if you’ve never read any of the others. Open it up and prepare yourself for quite the ride.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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The Tender Grave – Sheri Reynolds (Bywater Books)

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Since my review blog is for independently published queer books, I rarely get a chance to look at mainstream literature or even the bestseller lists. I know that’s anathema to someone in my profession, but you only have time to read so many books, and I prefer stories in my own LGBTQ wheelhouse. It’s who I am and what I’m comfortable with. So, I had no idea who New York Times bestselling author Sheri Reynolds was. All I knew is The Tender Grave came in over the transom, so to speak, with some other Bywater Books. And it happened to be next on the list. I wasn’t prepared to be swept up in such a complex story whose back cover blurb totally belies its intensity.

Seventeen-year-old Dori has to leave town in a hurry. She and her boyfriend and some others have assaulted a gay classmate and left him for dead, so Dori’s mother gives her all the ready cash in the house and hustles her out on the first bus. Dori’s destination is the home of a long-lost older half-sister she’s never met. She doesn’t know that her sister, Teresa, is not only a lesbian but in a committed relationship with wife, Jen. Or that Teresa and Jen have been trying to get Teresa pregnant. All Dori knows is that the address she’s been carrying around is no good. After some false leads, she finally arrives on Teresa and Jen’s doorstep only to find that she and Teresa don’t like each other. In spite of her sister’s generosity, Dori runs away again. But her options are limited. Or are they?

In many ways, Dori and Teresa are opposites. Dori has taken a life; Teresa is trying to create one. Dori is headstrong and prone to impulsive decisions; Teresa is plodding and overthinks things. But once committed to a course of action, they are both determined to follow through. They both need family but have some very different ideas about what that looks like and what their roles are supposed to be. However, they know instinctively that their mother is a poor example.

Their mother, Hilda, only appears in a couple of scenes, but her presence is all over the place. Why did she abandon Teresa but stick around to raise Dori? Teresa desperately needs the answer to that question, especially since motherhood is her overriding ambition, but in the one scene they have together, Hilda doesn’t really provide one. Perhaps she can’t. She readily admits her shortcomings, but can’t explain her reasoning. She can never give Teresa what she needs, and as tough as being abandoned was, that realization may be even tougher.

Is the ending happy? Let’s just say Reynolds ends this the only way she can, with the essential question being how Dori and Teresa will shape their relationship moving forward. Reynolds does an admirable job of weaving character and plot. Dori’s scenes in particular will keep you on edge. She’s so volatile and has so many paths to destruction, you wonder which one she’ll take.

The Tender Grave is a splendid study of sibling relationships, full of rich, deep characters working their way through a totally believable and very unpredictable plot. It’s well worth your time and emotional investment.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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Shorn: Toys to Men, A Memoir – Dennis Milam Bensie (Indepedently Published)

This was originally published ten years ago, but I didn’t encounter Bensie’s work until his next two books, One Gay American and Thirty Years a Dresser, both of which I enjoyed a great deal. As my TBR stack nearly reaches the ceiling now—and that’s not including ebooks—I had no hope of reading this until he reissued it with a new epilogue and provided me with an excuse. And I’m very glad he did.

Approaching sixty-five years old, I’ve seen just about every sexual kink imaginable, including the guy who only got turned on by the way my armpit skin wrinkled when my arms were at my side, so a haircutting fetish doesn’t seem too odd to me. But if Shorn was just about that, it wouldn’t be as interesting as it is. The actual fetish is less important than its origin, its practice, and its aftermath.

And, as always, its roots are in Bensie’s childhood, which he describes with alarming honesty, including his rape at the hands of a neighbor. Bensie details his experiences with cutting Barbie hair and fashioning his own “head” out of a wire hanger and yarn, all against the disapproval of his parents–especially his father. But there’s usually that one family member who gets it, and in Bensie’s case, his grandmother encourages his rich fantasy life. As Bensie graduates and gets married, however, his obsession grows. The marriage forces him to make choices, and ultimately he divorces and begins a backstage career in the theatre, freeing him to indulge as he never has before.

His worst impulses now given free rein, he obsesses over friends, acquaintances, and people he works with at the theatre. This works for a while, but eventually that circle grows smaller until he finds himself picking up strangers and hustlers, paying to give them haircuts. This part of the memoir is sheer Degradation Porn, relating how much time and money and bother he invests in feeding his addiction. He’s even included before, during, and after pictures of the trade he shears. Those snapshots are absolutely fascinating and provide an unsettling look at the dangerous reality of the situation.

Of course, this can’t last. As those of us who have followed our sexual obsessions know, and I know many, there comes a point of diminishing returns. You either stop, get help, or fall beyond reach into the abyss. Thankfully, Bensie got the help he needed through therapy and chemical balancing and managed to rid himself of many demons–or at least safely shut them away.

I’d be untruthful if I said I hadn’t read books like this before. But Bensie is so honest and unpretentious about his failings, never making excuses or blaming others, the matter-of-factness lifts this far above other books about personal downward spirals I’ve read. And his prose is entertaining. Bensie has a way with a story, as evidenced by his other two books. Shorn is all of a piece with those works, yet stands alone. If you have the others, you need this. If you haven’t, this is a perfect place to start.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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Blood Moon: A Wolves of Wolf’s Point Novel – Catherine Lundoff (Queen of Swords Press)

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I’ve always said sequels are tricky and successful series are few and far between, but the ladies seem to have it down. I always enjoy Cari Hunter (Dark Peak), J.M. Redmann (Micky Knight), and Cheryl Head (Charlie Mack), and I can now add to that Catherine Lundoff’s Wolves of Wolf’s Point. The second book, Blood Moon, is a total winner. If you’re not familiar with the menopausal werewolves who guard the valley of Wolf’s Point, you should be. Everything about this series is a hoot and a holler.

The newest Pack members, Becca and Erin, have settled into a tentative relationship with each other in the aftermath of the Pack’s encounter with werewolf hunters who offered a “cure” for their lycanthropy. But they’re not out of danger. Waking up from a blackout, Erin finds a body in her car. Assuming she’s responsible because she fell off the wagon, she turns herself in to the local constabulary, but the full moon is close. The Pack has to get to her before the change comes. But before they can break her out, Erin is kidnapped from jail by a straight couple new to Wolf’s Point, bent on filming her change for fame and fortune. Becca, Alpha Shelly, and the rest of the Pack have their plates full trying to rescue Erin while solving a murder.

I loved everything about the first book, Silver Moon, and this installment is all of a piece with that. The very concept of female werewolves who begin their lycanthropic careers at menopause is a wonderful, empowering twist on the shifter genre, and Lundoff absolutely runs with it, even giving us a wolf cave with ancient magical paintings—world-building at its finest.

And Lundoff hits the ground running from the very first scene where Erin comes to grips with a blackout and a body in the trunk. That’s storytelling. The pace of this is such that you feel like she and the others barely have time for their wounds to heal from the last set-to before they take off on this adventure. That doesn’t mean, however, that this is all action. Lundoff does a fantastic job of creating peaks and valleys, populating those valleys with lots of characterization of Erin, Becca, Shelly, and Lizzie. Lizzie, the investigating officer and local authority figure, is especially interesting because she is on the cusp of menopause herself. She knows all about the Pack and is desperate to be a part of it. But not all are called. Lundoff also keeps Becca and Erin apart for most of the book, creating some delicious tension about whether or not they will actually get back together again should they both survive.  

Obstacles? Oh, there are many. Werebears, werejaguars, blind greed, and Annie, a curious holdover from Silver Moon. Annie killed the previous Alpha, but had also taken the aforementioned “cure,” which prevented her from fully changing and left her part human and part wolf. She roams the forests of Wolf’s Point in this hybrid state, assisting the Pack in their fight with the straight couple. She becomes the focal point of the last quarter of the book as the Pack has to decide what to do with her when all is said and done.

Blood Moon is a terrific read and a worthy successor to Silver Moon. Is it too early to start wishing for number three? I think not. Highly recommended.

JW

© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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