Bashed: A Love Story – Rick R. Reed (MLR Press)

Buy it Now at Giovanni’s Room or at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.

My favorite books are ones in which the authors force contradictions to live with each other in peaceful co-existence. So when I came upon the above title attempting to reconcile homophobic violence and love, I was intrigued. When I saw that it was by one of my favorite writers, I figured if anyone could do it, Rick R. Reed could. I wasn’t disappointed.

Bashed is the story of a hate crime and its aftermath. Donald and Mark are assaulted one evening coming out of a Chicago leather bar, and Mark is killed with the swing of an aluminum baseball bat. Donald is left to pick up the pieces of his life, but that’s not an easy task when Mark’s ghost won’t leave the apartment. Enter upstairs neighbor, Walter, who has his eye on Donald. But Walter’s nephew, Justin, was one of the three kids who committed the murder and even though he didn’t swing the bat, he knows who did.

Reed tells a fine story, full of well thought out twists and turns. His characters are interesting and complex – especially Justin, who is caught between his murderously homophobic best friend and his gay uncle. The writing is top notch as well, full of terrific imagery and delicious suspense. The bashing scene that kicks off the book will have you looking over your shoulder the next time you leave a bar.

My only minor complaint is that Reed spends time setting up an essential confrontation (between who I won’t say – that would be spoiling things) that the reader isn’t allowed to see. We are in on the build-up and the follow-through, but we don’t get to be involved in the action. It’s a missed opportunity to relieve some suspense and really get inside the characters involved, but that’s just my take. You might not even notice.

That little caveat aside, Bashed: A Love Story, is a great read packed with suspense, revenge, violence, ghosts, horror and – yes – love, mixed together as only Rick R. Reed can stir the pot. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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