Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Conversation with Hilary Sloin

Hilary Sloin, essayist, playwright, and novelist, has a great deal to say—and says a lot with her recent Bywater Books release, Art on Fire, a faux biography of fictional painter Francesca deSilva. We recently reviewed this terrific book and thought our readers might also enjoy hearing a bit from the author herself, so we sent Hilary some questions and received some great responses. 

Out in Print: The back of Art on Fire indicates the book was “mistakenly awarded
the non-fiction prize at the Amherst Book and Plow Competition.” There must be
a story there. Please tell it. 
Hilary Sloin: Indeed, it is quite a story. I entered the Book and Plow festival, a fairly
Big deal locally, with an excerpt from the book where Isabella has her book celebration
party, gets drunk on champagne at age 13, and swallows her tooth, winds up in the
emergency room. It is a fairly over-the-top scene, comical, not one I would expect to find
in a biography. At the time the book was called The Unfinished Life of Francesca deSilva
(a pseudo-biography), but I had clearly marked Fiction Submission on the manila
envelope. Apparently, no one on the committee bothered to do any research, which of
course would have let them know that Francesca and her sister did not exist. Instead, they
awarded me the non-fiction prize! Well, authors love prizes… we live for them, really.
But I had to call them up and tell them that it was a mistake. So what they decided to do,
quite abashedly, was to have me submit some of my essays—thank goodness, I write
essays—and they gave the prize to those essays. I was scheduled to be in France during
the reading of the award winning pieces, so my dear friend Meredith Rose read the
“winning” essays for me at the Lord Jeffrey Inn. 
OiP: For those who haven’t read the book, the descriptions and criticisms of the
paintings between the chapters are a marvel. How did you come up with the
idea for that structure?
 
HS: I wish I had some brilliant answer for this question, but the truth is it just came to
me. I was writing about Francesca and Isabella and their screwed up family, and all at
once it came to me that Francesca was an artist and that I would write these satirical
analyses of her paintings in order to form a sort of “metatext” for the narrative. I wrote
drafts of “Woman With Stool” and “Rake” in the same afternoon… and I was hooked. I
had never had so much fun writing anything. It just seemed an interesting way to tell the
story of a reticent artist—through interpretations and misinterpretations of her work.
After all, for any artist who manages to succeed in the public eye, all that will be left
when she is gone is her work and what people have to say about it. I studied literature in
college and I always hated literary criticism. Yet it amused me. What did Yeats mean
when he used the image of a rose? Why did Nabokov, a married, presumably
heterosexual non-pedophile, write about such incorrigible perverts? We can never know
the answer to these questions. So I really enjoyed making them up and having some fun
with the people who make them up. 
OiP: What inspired these fictional paintings? Do you see them or have them
sketched out somewhere? 
HS: I’ve twice gone through periods where I’ve painted almost fanatically. I’m not really
any good, and I’ve had no training, but I really enjoy it when I do it, mainly because it
doesn’t involve words. So I had a bit of a handle on what it felt like to paint, to try to tell
a story through images. And then I put that together with the character of Francesca and I
tried to imagine what she would paint, the stories she would tell. And then those stories
helped me to shape the narrative structure of the book. They added information that she
wouldn’t supply; they filled out the story and, at the same time, confused it. I guess I
found it very playful and I definitely consider myself a playful writer. 
OiP: Are you more like Francesca or Isabella? 
HS: Both and neither. I am pretty much an introvert, like Francesca. I have a lifelong
cigarette habit (though not as bad as Francesca’s). I was pretty much ignored by my
family in favor of a very talented sister (she is a singer), and I love tiny, grungy cabins
where I can be alone. But I am a far cry from a butch. But I love, love, love butch women
and I feel I understand them. And then, as far as Isabella goes, there are many similarities
between us. I am volatile and tormented and have been a writer for as long as I can
remember. When I was in sixth grade I wrote a book called Maybe Tomorrow Will Be a
Better Day. It never was, which was the whole point of the book. It was a sad little
coming-of-age tale about a boy hitting puberty. Of course, it never got published as
Isabella’s much more scholarly work did, but the writing bug bit me young. It is the one
pursuit I have stayed with my whole life. So I can honestly say I am like and unlike both
of them. Also, Lisa Sinsong. She has a lot of me in her as well. 
OiP: Your bio indicates you’re also a playwright. Are you more partial to
dramaturgy than fiction, or do you have a preference? 
HS: I loved writing plays but I found the lifestyle prohibitive. All that socializing and
schmoozing and having to be in the right place at the right time, having to be cool and
stay out until three in the morning every night. But I think I was a better playwright than I
will ever be a fiction writer. I love telling a story through dialogue and action, having the
truth revealed through what characters are unwilling or unable to say. I love the stage and
seeing my work come to life. I am quite the critic of theatre, film, and TV, actually,
hypocritical as that may be. And I love actors. I adored the actors I worked with. They are
such a fun, wacky lot, so devoted to their craft. And actors always want to please the
playwright which, of course, was very flattering and fun. But I do love writing fiction and I’ve been at it a while now. I find the quietness of it manageable and meditative, and I love working a story until I finally feel it says what I am trying to say in the most competent and interesting way possible. 
OiP: What’s your creative process like? 
HS: I drink a lot of coffee. I usually start out writing either long-hand with a fountain pen (I have three, two antiques and one new one, and they never leave the house because I am so attached to them, I fear losing them). Sometimes I write on my manual typewriter, a very sexy Olivetti Lettera 35. This is hard work, writing on a typewriter, but sometimes I have so much trouble reading my writing that writing on a typewriter is more practical. I am a very fast writer. I get it all out as quickly as I can and then I go in and perform major surgery over and over again. 
OiP: You also run a business restoring and selling antiques—does this inform your
writing at all or is it an escape from it
HS: Great question. I love antiques. They fascinate me. And I love the physical aspect of
restoring, carrying, buying, moving, arranging, and selling antiques. At this point I am
struggling to find a way to do both since a girl’s got to make a living and working with
antiques is the first job I’ve ever loved that brings me any money. I worked as an editor
for years and I finally just completely burned out on it. My next manuscript, still
unwritten though beginning to leak out in dribs and drabs, is called Pimpin’ the Frontier.
it is, I think, about a woman who lives in a camper and travels from antique show to
antique show and all the bizarre and totally unusual characters she meets. It’s so-named
because I drive a Nissan Frontier pickup which is like my newest and favorite girlfriend,
and the word pimpin’ just seems to suit the idea of looking for things that already exist
and trying to make money off of them. Plus, I just think it’s a fun title. 
OiP: Art on Fire works, in part, because it’s satirical biography. Was there a
particular biographer or biography you were aiming at, or was your shot more
general? 
HS: Definitely, I was not aiming at anyone. I was really processing all the biographies
I’ve read about complex women artists of one sort or another: Diane Arbus, Virginia
Woolf, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Flannery O’Connor, and so forth. But it was really
borne out of fiction. I just wanted to write about a painter because I think painting is the
most exciting art form. And this format was the best way for me to accomplish that. 
OiP: Who are your literary influences? 
HS: So many… Raymond Carver has had a huge influence on my short fiction, which is
much less verbose than Art on Fire. In fact, I’ve become something of a minimalist,
which makes sense because I began as a poet and in theatre I was always concerned with
economizing language. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News, was the last book I read before
I began Art on Fire. She had a huge influence on me. I thought that book was simply
brilliant: stirring, gentle, grotesque, cruel, linguistically supreme, and her description of
place was stunning. Art on Fire sounded an awful lot like a bad Annie Proulx imitation
when I first started it. Then my own voice stepped in and it began to take shape. I am also
a huge appreciator of Tolstoy (sublime angst and tragedy). And Nabokov, perversion,
misogyny and all, is probably my all-time favorite writer. I think he is an unrivaled
genius. The Color Purple is also one of my favorite books. 
OiP: What are you currently working on? 
HS: I am in the process of completing a collection of stories entitled The Cure for
Unhappiness. And, as I said earlier, I am dabbling in Pimpin’ the Frontier. In July I will
be doing a residency at the Cottages at Hedgebrook, so who knows? Something entirely
unexpected could rear its head. 
OiP: What do you want readers to take away from Art on Fire? 
HS: I set out to write a funny, compelling, dark book about art, family, love, and death. I
hope that people who read it—and please do read it, I need all the readers I can get—will
identify with some aspects of the characters and that they will gain insight into what it
means to be highly, sometimes destructively creative. Also, I really wanted to poke fun at
criticism. I think it’s so ridiculous so much of the time and that it perverts the artist’s
intention. I also really like to make people laugh.

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Only Make Believe – Elliott Mackle (Lethe Press)

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Buy it direct from Lethe Press

I’m a bit late on this release, as it’s been out since
August of last year, but I’m a fan of both Mackle’s Captain Harding books, so
I’d been looking forward to diving into this one for some time, especially as
it reprises the main characters of It Takes Two, Dan Ewing and Bud
Wright. And Mackle proves to be as solidly dependable as ever.

Dan Ewing runs the Caloosa Hotel, an adventurous
establishment for those looking for carousing, cards and camaderie of the
alternative sort. Along with his closeted boyfriend, Bud Wright, Lee County
detective and former Marine, they provide northern Florida the finest in
debauchery 1951 has to offer. Their cozy routine, however, is interrupted by
the brutal murder of an amateur drag queen named Diva Capri in the hotel. They
must solve the case or risk scrutiny and possible shutdown by the local
government.

Mackle has a knack for characters in the military (and
ex-military) world, and Ewing and Wright are no exception. Furtive encounters,
secrecy, deception and the constant fear of being found out suffuse the
atmosphere of his books, and he’s a master of this type of tension. Add to that
the tension inherent in his tightly-wound plots, and you have a winning
combination.

Mackle’s prose—as well as his dialogue—is very purposeful.
There’s not much window dressing in it, but that’s not to say that it’s spare
or thin. Rather, it’s very lean and muscular. What’s there serves the plot or
the character, which is as it should be. Despite this, I always had a firm
sense of place. I could smell the warm Florida breeze as well as I could the
Diva’s Joy perfume.

But even above all these things, I got the same sense of
history from this book as I did in It Takes Two. Needless to say, being
gay in 1951 is entirely different from being gay today, and Mackle never misses
a step of authenticity. Not one anachronistic thought or movement. It’s total
immersion, and it’s marvelous.

That said, I’d also like to see Mackle step out of that time
and apply his considerable skills to something a bit more contemporary.
However, that’s minor carping on my part. These characters and books are
engaging in their own right, and if Mackle spends the rest of his career on
them, we’re all the richer for it.

And, hopefully, so is he. 

©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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Art on Fire – Hilary Sloin (Bywater Books)

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By it now direct from Bywater Books

I know nothing about art criticism except that it appears
almost as pretentious as literary criticism. Moreover, I know nothing
(formalistically, anyway) about art except how an individual piece makes me
feel. That did not, however, alter my thorough and utter enjoyment of Hilary
Sloin’s Art on Fire, an incredible faux biography of the
fictional Francesca deSilva.

Francesca deSilva is a subversive lesbian artist whose life
was shaped by her restrained childhood under her parents, Alphonse and Vivian,
who considered Francesca’s sister Isabella to be the genius of the family.
Chapters about her home life, including an incident where she’s discovered in
bed with Lisa Sinsong, a chess master, her flight to Cape Cod and her rise to
fame as a painter are interspersed with detailed descriptions and analyses of
her thirteen extant paintings.

Far from dull, these essays are hilarious, pointed
mini-satires on art criticism (complete with fake footnotes) that illuminate the
chapters of deSilva’s life at the same time they bring her fictional body of
work to life. Sloin clearly sees these paintings in her head, and her ability
to convey that to the reader is astounding.

But mini-satires, as wonderful as they are, does not a novel
make. You need characters and plot and tension to drive the reader through the
pages. And Art on Fire has these things in spades. Francesca is
marvelously detailed, as resentful of her sudden fame as she is dependent on
it—the very epitome of genius, creating work worth thousands of dollars yet
living in a cabin with no toilet or running water. Complicated and tortured by
longing for the one love she cannot have, her ache haunts her art.

But even more interesting than Francesca—if that’s possible—is
her sister Isabella, a doomed alcoholic writer whose early bloom of literary
genius was the only fruition of her talent. Her suicide attempts seem as
natural as her odd obsession with Anne Frank. Francesca has the talent Isabella
seeks as well as the courage she needs and, strangely enough, Francesca seems
to have derived that strength from being overlooked by her parents in favor of
her sister.

In addition to the sisters, Sloin draws some detailed
portraits of two other characters worth mentioning: the aforementioned Lisa
Sinsong and Francesca’s paternal grandmother Evelyn. Lisa is Francesca’s first
and only love, a brilliant Asian American chess master with an overbearing
father and a mother who committed suicide. Evelyn is a brilliantly constructed
character who we see falling apart from Alzheimer’s. Both of these women
influence Francesca’s work as well as her life.

But a description of the book really can’t do it justice.
Let this one seep into your mind and work its magic on you. It’s the superb craftmanship
of a master storyteller at work. 

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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A Conversation with Walter Thomas Beck III and Bryan Herkless (aka Neon Signs)

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Although Neon Signs is a musical group, its roots are in the
poetry of Walter Thomas Beck III, who has been mentioned many times before at
Out in Print. Their initial release, No Stone Left Unspoken, is an
interesting combination of Beck’s Lou Reed-ish spoken vocals and Bryan
Herkless’ bubbling, roiling synth lines. Out in Print got a chance to talk to
Neon Signs regarding their collaboration.

 

Out in Print: How did the project come about?

Walter
Thomas Beck:
For me, this project is a long time coming. I’ve had the
idea of mixing my poetry with noise music for several years. The first time I
did anything like it was last year with the Terre Haute compilation album 2012:
47807: “Serving the Community.” It was put together by a guy named Myke, a
local artist, and he wanted to include a poem of mine, so we recorded my poem
“City Life Through Neon Lights” at this local bar, the Speak Easy. I thought it
would just be a standard recording, but after he recorded the raw audio, he put
a lot of noise and industrial behind my voice and I thought “I want to do a
whole album like this.” Bryan and I have known each other for a long time; we
went to high school together and I knew his work as Miearth, I reviewed his
debut album Moments After Moments for The Front Row Report when it came out, so
I knew what he did musically. I asked him if he’d be interested in doing a
collaborative project and he jumped on it. We talked one night, I sent him the
pieces later that night, he started writing the music and then we went to the
studio. It went from conception to release in five days.

Bryan Herkless: The
project arose from Walter. He approached me with the idea of combining some of
his favorite works with an industrial/ambient soundscape. I’m all for exploring
the edges of music and seeing what lies outside of them, so this project struck
a chord so to speak with me. Being a fan of his work and free form experimental
music, saying yes was one of those “bound to happen” instances in the
universe.

 

OiP:
Were there pieces you didn’t use?

WTB:
There are no b-sides or outtakes with No Stone Left Unspoken. The pieces
I brought to the studio were the ones that we recorded.

BH:
Walter had picked his pieces nearly off the bat. As far as composition went,
his work was finished before we even began the project. I had a few songs that
I started for this that just didn’t meet the cut. We were really trying to
match all the poetry to a good emotional groove in the music. So realistically,
some songs just didn’t jive, so they got thrown in the what I call “tons
of poop” folder (a place for rejected material to live out its unfinished
days).

 

OiP:
Who are your musical influences and how do you think those artists and
their visions show up in your work?

WTB:
My three biggest musical influences with this record were early Throbbing
Gristle, the blues of Son House and experimental-era Tom Waits. The dirty blues
influence comes out the strongest in “Plastic Neon Signs” and “The Wise Old
Man,” and the industrial influence sings out the loudest in “Revolution Summer”
and particularly in the closer “Life Loop #1.” As far as the Tom Waits
influence goes, I think that’s strung throughout the whole album as there was
no sound off limits. If it fit the piece, we used it.

BH:
Wow, that is a huge question for me. almost entirely focusing my spare time on
music, the list of influences could go on for days. For this project though, my
biggest influences would have to be Four Tet, The Books, Lacunae, Nine Inch
Nails, and cornelious. While none of the tracks really resemble any of these
artists styles, they certainly contributed to the muse I summoned for them. I
really would have to pay respects to every single song that I have ever heard if
I was going to be honest. As a multi-genre musician, I am always taking away
something from what I hear. There is always a moment in a song where I think,
wow I could do something like that this way or wow that would fit in there just
right. I am the summed value of all my favorite musicians either through
inspiration or dedication.

 

OiP:
Was this a true collaboration? That is, were you both in the same studio at the
same time or was it a trading of tapes?

WTB:
No, this was a true collaboration, I went over to Bryan’s home studio and we
did the record together. I think we’d still do it that way on future records.
It enabled us to bounce ideas right off each other and see what worked. I don’t
think the album would have gone as smoothly if we had traded tapes.

BH:
I would say this was more of a fifty fifty true collaboration. After the idea
was proposed, I began working on material on my own almost immediately. The
idea was to finish up as much of the music as possible so Walter could just
come over and do his vocal takes, and we could spend the rest of the time
mixing and mastering. So I finished them up and he came out to do his takes.
Keep in mind that at this point in time, my “studio” was less than
subpar. It was more like a cluttered bedroom with gear spread all over, hooked
up like a jungle of cords. We nailed his vocals in a few hours and began the
mixing process. We approached this project with the idea of doing it gonzo
style—quickly and roughly. It took five days from start to finish, ending in a
great record. I think we nailed it.

 

OiP:
How did you select the pieces you performed?

WTB:
The pieces were selected based on their strength; some pieces just had to be
recorded. For example, I knew we had to do “Hopes of a Young American Poet”
because it’s been published twice this year, in my debut chapbook Life
Through Broken Pens
and it was also in Issue 8 of Assaracus, plus it
was the piece that was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Being one of my most
celebrated pieces of the year, it had to be on the record. Another piece that
had to be on the album was “The Wise Old Man.” It’s the most celebrated and
widely known of my camp poetry. If you asked the staff at Krietenstein to pick
just one poem of mine that would probably be the one. One piece “Life Loop #1”
was just made for a record like this. If you listen to the track, in the early
part of it, there’s a weird, warbling sound. That was Bryan taking the second
stanza and flipping the vocals so they would be backwards; it sort of fit with
the idea of fast forwarding and rewinding the tape. It was also about balance,
I wanted to have the heavy pieces like “Revolution Summer,” “Plastic Neon
Signs,” and “Suicide Option,” but I didn’t want to do just an album of angry
poetry. There needed to be some spots of beauty on there, hence pieces like
“The Wise Old Man.”

BH:
Walter was in charge of picking the pieces for all the songs. I’m not sure what
criteria he used for it, but I think he picked a great handful of poems.

 

OiP:
Have you thought about performing these live? What problems would a live
performance present, and how would it be different from your work in the
studio?

WTB:
I would love to take Neon Signs on the stage, we were actually talking about
how to do it live when we were recording the album. The big problem I see would
be Bryan fitting his gear on stage, but he’s got enough equipment that maybe we
could pull it off. The biggest difference would be the absence of voice
distortion on my end, although I’m sure Bryan has a way to do that live, plus we
couldn’t do multiple takes, we’d just have to roll with it. I think a live set
would be a lot rowdier than what the studio session was. Bryan and I are both
serious artists, so the sessions were pretty controlled, but you know, get us
on a stage in front of an audience and things could get pretty crazy. I already
have a rep for being an animal on stage, with the stage blood, the braids and
dye, the outrageous clothing—you add music to that and it’s a volatile mix. I
don’t think any poet alive could follow our set.

BH:
A live performance would not be out of the question. It would probably be
easier than the recording process. A little tweaking here and there, and the
songs would be ready to go. I think the hardest part of playing live would
honestly be just setting up and tearing down. The performance would be a
breeze.

 

OiP:
What’s the reaction been? Have you had a lot of downloads?

WTB:
I haven’t heard any bad feedback yet. Everyone who’s gotten the album from me
has loved it. It’s been pretty cool to see how quickly this album has caught on
with people, and it’s been out less than a month. When we were mastering the
album, I was sending individual tracks to some friends of mine, just to see
what they thought, see if we had anything with this record and their reaction
was immediate. They wanted to know when the album would be finished. As far as
the downloads go, I don’t know how many have downloaded it through the Miearth
Bandcamp page, but with the link I’ve been sending, it’s the biggest download
I’ve had, beating out my solo live record Mental Cage Menstruation: Life
Cycles & Blood Loss at the Sycamore Lounge
by a mile.

BH:
The reaction so far has been great. Smaller than what I am used to, but all
positive. Quality over quantity! I think our reach is around one hundred copies
at this point. Freshman releases are always a little slow though. The biggest
response seems to be that people love how deep the tracks take them. The words
are deep, the music is deep, and the adventure it allows you to make for yourself
just takes the cake.

 

OiP:
Are there more projects in the works for Neon Signs?

WTB:
I think we got at least another album up our sleeve. I’d like to do another
studio album and a live record.

BH:
Most definitely. I couldn’t say when, but a follow up album is sure to happen.
We are both artists at a buffet of projects; plates always full of something. I
would say that 2013 definitely holds another album for Neon Signs though.

 

No
Stone Left Unspoken
can be downloaded at: http://3sdmusic.bandcamp.com/album/no-stone-left-unspoken


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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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Candy from Strangers: A Gay Erotic Thriller – Joey Jameson (Chances Press)

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Buy it now at Amazon.com

Okay, this review will be mean. If you’re a delicate
creature unused to critical battery, you might want to tuck your head under
your wing and wait for the next Indigo Author to come along. Because—despite
its unaccountable four and five star Amazon reviews—Candy from Strangers
is not sweet. It’s barely palatable.

Dylan leads a sedate life, working at his restaurant and
going out with his best girlfriend, Flynn, but that all changes when handsome,
charming Darien moves in across the street. One afternoon of margaritas leads
to a few dates, then a few dinners, then before you know it, Dylan and Darien
have a relationship. That’s when the cracks start to show, and Dylan realizes
Darien might not be so perfect after all.

Everything about Candy from Strangers is thin and
threadbare, starting with the length. Jameson attempts to pull off this
thriller in less than 90 pages; an ambitious task even for a professional let
alone someone who repeatedly spells laid “layed.” The characters are
insubstantial and nothing more than names on a page. If it weren’t for
merciless dialogue tags, I’d be hard pressed to keep track of who’s speaking.

Even when Candy from Strangers managed to gather some
momentum, the syntax, grammar, and punctuation problems jerked me out of the
narrative again. And if I’d been able to overlook the messy sentence structure
and continual comma errors, the problem of Jameson’s clunky, cluttered prose
remains—too many adverbs, too many pronouns without referents,
and…way…too…many…ellipses…especially…in…the…dialogue…

This needs editing with a chainsaw, but then it’d be down to
42 pages.

The sex scenes are more run-on sentence orgies than erotica.
I counted one paragraph of thirty-six breathless lines strung together with a
gaggle of pronouns so repetitive, I lost track of whose cock was whose halfway
in. On the page as well as in real life, fucking works better if you breathe
now and then.

Even the big plot twist (which I won’t reveal—I’m not a total
asshole) is less a twist than a cheat. Such a twist needs to be subtly
foreshadowed, so that when the big reveal comes, the reader thinks back and
smacks his forehead, wondering how he could have missed the clue. Plus,
thrillers work on tension and detail, two items quite beyond Candy from
Strangers
.

Read this, if you must, as a cautionary tale. A primer on
how not to edit. A workbook with exercises that sacrifice attention to detail
for broad strokes leading to a “shock” ending. Or better yet, read something
else.

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

 

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The Jesus Injection – Eric Andrews-Katz (Bold Strokes Books)

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Buy it now from Bold Strokes Books

Spy fiction is dangerous territory. Not only has it been
strip mined for satire since Bond was a pup, but even the straight ahead stuff
is rife with clichés and shallow, narrow characters and tons of gimmicks.
Happily, Eric Andrews-Katz’s The Jesus Injection manages to avoid most
of these pitfalls and turns out to be a quick, entertaining read with a quirky
climax.

Buck Miller (Agent 98) has his vacation interrupted by a
dead drag queen murdered by a statue come to life. The dying drag queen’s last
words spark a caper that encompasses a gay-bar-bomber-for-Jesus, a right-wing
Christian organization and its head (Raven Evangelista), some congressman, a
caterer, and his fellow agent Noxia Van Tussell (Agent 46). There’s laser
tripwires, a band of roving skeletons, and all the loose ends get tied up by
the finish.

Andrews-Katz hits the ground running with his plot, stepping
off a fast pace that he maintains through the climax. And if his Christian right-wing
targets are a bit obvious, he comes at them obliquely rather than dead-on,
which is a refreshing change up from most who take on those topics.

Buck and Noxia are an interesting pair—former best friends
who are now at odds with each other. They are both as complex as need be for
this type of book where deep characterizations gets in the way of the action.
And there is lots of action. Andrews-Katz certainly knows his way around a
fight scene, and the climax is nicely tense and well done. There is a tad too
much clever banter between Buck and Noxia for my tastes, but this is highly
subjective and other readers might feel differently about it.

Either way, that shouldn’t detract or distract you from
enjoying this finely wrought piece of spy fiction that is as suspenseful as it
is tongue-in-cheek.

©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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Velvet – Xavier Axelson (Seventh Window Publications)

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Buy it now at All Romance Books

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Xavier Axelson’s
first novel, simply titled Velvet. I have followed Xavier’s writing ever since
his short story, Christmas Eve at the Powers that be Café several years ago, and
ever since, I have been a fan of his work.

As an author of historical fiction, I was intrigued by
promises of what Velvet would be, but also curious to see if he would be able
to do in this larger work what he has done in his shorter works – that is giving
the reader a solid, tight-knit, well written story that keeps his fans turning
the pages and wanting more. I am pleased to announce that Xavier has once again
made good on his promises.

Velvet is the story of Virago who serves in court as the
royal tailor, a position he inherited from his father. His relationship with
Prince Duir has built over the course of his childhood, but when a new fabric
called Velvet comes to the attention of Virago his loyalty to Duir, who has
just inherited the kingdom begins to fray. As Virago becomes obsessed with the
sultry, seductive fabric his unfulfilled secret desires begin to surface. Now
enters Seton a talented flute player who captures the heart of Prince Duir, but
also that of Virago.

Velvet is an intricate story, with even the secondary
characters being intriguing and essential to the story. Velvet is a well-written
romance novel that only Xavier could pull off. His wonderful talent of the
written word flows from the pages much like the notes of a well-played flute. One
of the aspects of Xavier’s writing that I have always admired is the way he can
place ordinary (meaning believable) characters into unique and sometimes unbelievable
situations, and do it so well. 

For anyone who has enjoyed Xavier’s past works, they will
love this one.

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©, 2013, William Holden

 

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