Monthly Archives: December 2017

Out in Print’s Best of 2017

After taking a short hiatus, I brought Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews back in reaction to the installation of the Tr–p Reich by Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Boris Badenov, doing my best to amplify as many queer voices as I can in my little corner of the blogosphere. And 2017 has provided many fine voices to share with you. Hopefully, we can drown the bastards out in 2018. We’ll see. Before the year ends, however, it’s time to take a second look at some of those voices, so here is OiP’s ten best list in no particular order:

 

The Liberators of Willow Run – Marianne K. Martin

Buy from Bywater Books  (Review here)

In this absorbing WWII homefront story, one of my favorite authors tells the story of these queer and disenfranchised women with such attention to detail and care for her characters that their struggle becomes real. The war effort becomes secondary to their goals, but more than one battle is being fought here. Timeless and beautiful, this book (especially the nursing home scene) sticks with me nearly a year later.

If You Can Hear This: Poems in Protest of an American Inauguration – Bryan Borland, ed.

Buy from Sibling Rivalry Press (Review here)

Art reacts to life, and political strife provides the perfect catalyst, especially the shocks we’ve experienced since the Russians forced their puppet into our Punch and Judy show. Those were but a glimmer on the horizon when this volume came out. Borland and the voices he brings us may be preaching to the choir, but let’s hope someone else is listening as well.

The Great Man – Dale Chase

Buy from Lethe Press (Review here)

Every m/m author working today should take a lesson from Chase on how to do gay male romance with verisimilitude. Her characters are anti-heteronormative, healthy, well-adjusted (in terms of their sexuality) gay men who have a lot of sex. And aren’t ashamed of it. Or anything else, truth be told. Billed as erotica, it’s more romantic than anything you’ll read from anyone else on the subject. Period.

Eros and Dust: Stories – Trebor Healey

Buy from Lethe Press (Review here)

Two-time Ferro-Grumley Award winner Trebor Healey shows what he can do with short fiction in this diverse collection. His stories are less romantic than they realistic and gritty. Suffused with heat and horniness, this collection provides some terrific twists and turns as Healey takes us on a tour through his head as well as his heart. And…uh…other regions.

Scarborough – Catherine Hernandez

Buy from Arsenal Pulp (Review here)

From the little gay boy, Bing, to the battles Ms Hina must fight daily with her administration, this portrait of a teacher and her students in an “urban” environment is heartfelt and sincere. It never sounds false or preaches, yet its lessons are legion. Hernandez has a marvelous eye for detail and an even better sense of the absurd, both requirements for success in the profession of education. This is a stunning book, well worth your time.

The Girl on the Edge of Summer – J.M. Redmann

Buy from Bold Strokes (Review here)

Redmann’s Micky Knight series is one of my favorites, and this entry is absolutely top-notch. The mystery is tight and well-plotted, and Micky continues to founder in her post-Cordelia state, but she is starting to feel her way back to what passes for normal. This is one of the few detective series I’ve read whose sleuth is as interesting as her cases. Maybe even more.

His Seed: An Arboretum of Erotica – Steve Berman, ed.

Buy from Lethe Press (Review here)

This compendium of man/plant erotica apparently grew out of a bet as to whether or not Berman could make the concept work. He succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, perhaps even his own. Featuring some of Lethe’s stalwart writers as well as some newcomers, this volume is creepy and weirdly hot. Just start reading, and, trust me, it will grow on you (see what I did there?).

A Pornographer: A Memoir – Arch Brown

Buy from Chelsea Station (Review here)

Arch Brown’s film work of the 1970’s may not have been shown in mainstream theatres, but it was as influential as Spielberg or Friedkin or Kubrick – just not in the same arenas. Brown’s memoir also leaves little to the imagination as we meet his players and stars. It’s a fascinating book that puts both the films and their time into an artful context.

 

A Quiet Death – Cari Hunter

Buy from Bold Strokes (Review here)

And speaking of series, Cari Hunter comes up aces with this entry in the Dark Peak saga. Well-plotted and perfectly executed, this look into the Pakistani neighborhood and culture is both informative and harrowing. Hunter hits the ground running and never stops. You’ll not be able to put it down.

 

Insatiable – Jeff Mann

Buy from Lethe Press (Review here)

Jeff Mann’s Scottish wampyr Derek MacLaine finally gets a full-length book all his own, and what a delight it is. He and his coterie take on the mining industry in a novel as environmentally friendly as it is erotic. Mann is clearly comfortable slipping into his well-worn MacLaine leathers, and we’re all the better for it. Sexually charged and anti-establishment, this is Mann at his best.

 

So, there we have it. Hopefully, we’re in time for you to peruse the list and pick some stocking stuffers. Books make wonderful gifts for readers and great rewards for authors and publishers and their hard work. And in these desperate political times when most everything this audience holds dear is threatened, we need to shout and spread the word as loudly as we can. And Out in Print will be around to help as long as necessary. Thanks, and have a happy holiday!!

JW

© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler

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Unspeakable Horror 2: Abominations of Desire – Vince A. Liaguno, ed (Evil Jester Press)

Buy from Evil Jester Press

When I was a young queerling reading any and all science fiction and/or horror tales voraciously, I always looked for any collection with “omnibus” in the title because I knew I’d get an immense volume stuffed with all kinds of goodies. Vince Liaguno’s Unspeakable Horror 2 reminded me very much of those books. At twenty stories, you can sink your teeth into this book and either gnash your way through like a starving man at a banquet or savor each one. And there’s much to savor here.

Liaguno’s introduction is well-written and concise, giving a nod to the first volume while putting this one into context. He also gives some history of the project, a move I never really understood until I edited a few anthologies of my own (it’s such a wonderful yet frustrating process, someone ought to hear about the struggle) and follows that up with some interesting information about each story.

I was most happy to see some reliable tale-tellers in the Table of Contents such as Marshall Moore, whose “Underground” brings the minotaur to life again. Stalwart Lee Thomas also makes an appearance with “The Grief Season,” an exquisitely wrought story about a foreboding physical manifestation of that emotion. And I don’t think any modern queer horror anthology would be complete without a selection from Tom Cardamone, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of times. His NYC-centric “Bent on Midnight Frolic” takes us deep into Central Park’s Ramble to follow the exploits of one Golden Boy, a trick who’s not exactly a treat. Historical and romantic fiction author Erastes is also on hand to delight us with the short but punchy “Fugitive Colors,” and Evan J. Peterson takes us inside the business world to find out who’s really underneath those suits and ties in “Investment Opportunity.”

As my duties at Out in Print send me far and wide over more than a few genres, I haven’t had the time or resources to delve as far into queer horror fiction as the little queerling referenced above would like, so I have missed or am just reading for the first time some authors Liaguno has had some experience with. So Lisa Morton’s chilling “Ofrenda,” about a meth addict in a graveyard on Dia de los Muertos, Michael Hacker’s twisty-ending “Clearing Clutter,” and R.B. Payne’s atmospheric “The Sisterhood” were total surprises, as was Gemma Files’s shiver-inducing “Lagan.”

But one of the most powerful stories here is Stephen Graham Jones’s “Kissyface,” an absolutely kick-ass story about a high-school mass murderer and the prank which warped him. I read this in school as I supervised a student teacher (I was subbing that day), and every time I glanced up, all I could wonder was which of the students were enduring similar trauma and might be just as badly  warped. Jones’s descriptions were horrific–in a good way–and what I loved most was the way he restored some humanity to the titular murderer. Worth the price of admission alone.

A very large thanks goes out to Vince Liaguno for his patience and persistence in collecting these stories. I can hardly wait for number three.

JW

© 2017 Jerry L. Wheeler

 

 

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Green – Tom Baker (Lethe Press)

Buy from Lethe Press

Coming out in the late Sixties and early Seventies was a trickier proposition than it is these days. The atmosphere was certainly more charged then, changes coming for everyone with lightning speed. Support groups and organizations are a lot more common today, and the consequences for many are considerably lessened. Gay stories from that period are woefully underrepresented in the literature. I was pleased to present the Jonathan Lerner memoir a few weeks back, and now comes Tom Baker’s Green, a short but punchy military novel whose main character is a terrific contradiction.

A fresh graduate of the William & Mary class of 1967, Tim Halladay plans on studying drama at Yale when he is drafted into the U.S. Army. Nicknamed “College Boy” in basic training, he’s dogged by his superior officers for not using his education to take special OCS training. But Halladay has to be careful with Charlie Company and then at his cushy job as admin for Captain Oliver, or his secret will come out, resulting in imprisonment and a court martial.

As someone with a healthy distaste for the military mindset and life, I’m perversely fascinated with books about life in the service. And Green is no exception. Despite the fact that it could have been twice as long, it’s a well-told story with an ending that rather surprised me, even though I was warned and saw it coming. Tim Halladay is a great character, complex and nuanced. He wants to do his part, including combat, otherwise he would have either come out or “checked the box,” admitting his homosexuality so he didn’t have to go in.

Sex is not a part of this novel. Okay, there’s a group jerk scene, but it’s not told erotically or even meant to be. Instead, the threat of sex and sexual compromise looms large in the background, giving a spin to even the book’s most mundane moments. When, indeed, Halladay does face accusations of sexual impropriety, it has little to do with the military and provided me with a sort of shock ending. I won’t spoil it, but I kept waiting for a different ending. This one certainly makes sense, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to go. Bad author–or should I say, great author.

Green is a terrific read, full of absurdity, humor, drama and an ending that sneaks up on you even though you know it’s headed there from the first page. A wonderful achievement, and an absorbing book.

JW

© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler

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