Friday, December 28, 2012

Goodbye to Soho by Clayton Littlewood

Goodbye to SohoGoodbye to Soho by Clayton Littlewood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Be wary when someone tells you the sequel is better than the original, for this is almost never so.

In Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho, we see the wonder and magic of Soho and through the eyes of the skilled narrator, we can understand it's charm.

This follow-up is a tale of loss, as Littlewood says:
"And I seem to have lost the will to write. Nothing seems that funny to me anymore. The excitement of living here long since drained away."

I believe it, I noticed it as well in the writing.

The author seems to have not spent enough time in Soho to have written this follow-up, so he pads it with brief flickers of autobiography. These are generally welcome, as when he details meeting Quentin Crisp:
"how could you possibly meet Quentin and not want to ask, ‘What was it like then? How did you get through it? Are you an angel sent to guide us?’"
but it's just not really what I came for.

I was moved by the whimsy and wonder of the first book, and while I loved seeing the familiar characters again, this book had a very different tone and the struggles of the author I feel took their toll.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho by Clayton Littlewood

Dirty White Boy: Tales of SohoDirty White Boy: Tales of Soho by Clayton Littlewood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A charming, wonderful book about the residents of Soho.
I think what makes this book so great is the author's keen eye for detail and noticing others. It's something I couldn't do, and I doubt many people could. He makes the ordinary extraordinary and has an eye for getting the real stories under the surface. People on the fringes of society have their stories told with a grace and charm that the reader will find infectious.
I also really liked the diary entry style, perfect for the modern person on the go. You can read a few paragraphs and take a break for life without feeling like you're losing your place.
'"You write a diary for the whole world to see? Who do you think you are? Anne bleedin' Frank?"'
Littlewood's dry British wit had me laughing out loud:
'"Can I help you with a size at all, gentlemen?" ...they both look round in horror and stare at me as though the potted plant had just come to life.'
A fresh new perspective I've never read before, the shop assistant/owner, and a wonderful read. As soon as I finished it I started the sequel.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was debating for the longest time whether to give this four or five stars. The book itself I would say four stars, but when you include the story behind it, with the two films I've seen, the story as a whole adds up to five. As I was unable to separate the two in my mind, it gets five.

Capote writes of a rural area and an era long gone and hard to imagine in some respects.
"Kenyon was eleven when his father allowed him to buy, with money he had earned raising sheep, an old truck..."
"We were both twelve. My dad lent me the car, and I drove her to the dance."
"Which to his partner seemed a ploy so feeble that it couldn't possibly 'fool a day-old ni**er'".

I went into this with a little trepidation as somewhere in my recent past and with age, my interest shifted from caring about the criminals and learning what made them do what they did, to frankly seeing them caught and punished. I found myself shocked reading this that I actually supported the death penalty in this case. These people shot a family of four in the face for $40, and they continued to show little subsequent regard for human life afterward.
"They were waiting for some solitary traveler in a decent car and with money in his billfold—a stranger to rob, strangle, discard on the desert."

I appreciated Capote's humour and gay sensibility, as shown in this passage:
"But the queens on ship wouldn't leave me alone. A sixteen-year-old kid, and a small kid. I could handle myself, sure. But a lot of queens aren't effeminate, you know. Hell, I've known queens could toss a pool table out the window. And the piano after it."

Capote includes quotes from one of the boys' notebook:
"If called upon to make a speech: 'I can't remember what I was going to say for the life of me—I don't think that ever before in my life have so many people been so directly responsible for my being so very, very glad. It's a wonderful moment and a rare one and I'm certainly indebted. Thank you!"

Another example of Capote's humour:
"Well, I'm just a dizzy blonde. I believe you. But I wouldn't tell that tale to any brunettes."

It's these candid moments that really give the book it's power. Capote is also a master of voices, recounting many conversations and still giving the people their own unique voice. You always know who's talking, whether they say their name or not. A rare gift for writers. One of the reasons I considered taking a star off though was when I started the book 10 years ago, I remember being awed at the language and phraseology, but I've read many books since and was less awed now.

I think too I've already formulated some idea of what makes these kind of people tick, and it was reinforced in some parts. I think violence is a way of taking control when a man feels emasculated, as shown in:
"All that belonged to him, Dick, but he would never have it. Why should that sonofabitch have everything, while he had nothing? Why should that 'big-shot bastard' have all the luck? With a knife in his hand, he, Dick, had power. Big-shot bastards like that had better be careful or he might 'open them up and let a little of their luck spill on the floor.'"

Certain passages did bring some sympathy for the killers, after all, no one was a winner in this case. One of the boys' sister talks easily about forgiving and forgetting, but a friend says:
"It is easy to ignore the rain if you have a raincoat. But how would she feel if she were compelled to hustle her living on the streets? Would she still be all-forgiving about the people in her past?"

Still in many ways this seems distant enough to be a tale of the old west, the characters have a callousness that leaves them in many ways unrelatable.

Capote immersed himself so deeply in the events he became part of the story. But by keeping himself so determinedly out of the story, referring to himself in the third-person as an anonymous reporter, I don't know that he did the book a favour. Modern times favour more emotional involvement and created a slight disconnect with me and this book.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012


I may not answer the phone for a couple days.  I'll be... housecleaning.  Yes, that's it.  Housecleaning...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Convenient scapegoat
...there is literally no evidence linking exposure to violent media and acts of violence in young men. The head of psychology and criminal justice at Texas A&M said just this week that there isn't even the smallest evidence for any sort of causation. The US is in fact not the leading consumer of video games per capita, yet its level of gun violence is far beyond that of any other developed nation.

Video games are just another convenient scapegoat for people that don't want to deal with the real problems. John Hinckley attempted to assassinate a president explicitly because he saw Jodie Foster in a movie. Does that mean Jodie Foster causes violence?

The vast majority of young men have played violent video games. You can't take the fact that a small group of men happen to have also committed violent crimes and claim that their playing of video games is in any way related.

Posted by: OddBet
Dec 21, 2012 1:25:09 PM

Totally agree!  If you want to stop gun violence, get rid of the fucking guns.  Why is the US the only country that can't see this?
Maybe they should blame Marilyn Manson again.
My sympathy for Americans in this tragedy is running thin, much like the sympathy for Sept 11 was wiped out by invading Iraq.  If you want sympathy and compassion and assistance, you need to stop pointing the finger everywhere but at the problem.
The mentality that says armed guards is acceptable in every public school is to blame, not a video game.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In My Father's Arms: A True Story of Incest by Walter De Milly

In My Father's Arms: A True Story of IncestIn My Father's Arms: A True Story of Incest by Walter De Milly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An interesting story that is increasingly choppy in it's narrative until it dissolves into insanity.

I felt the author did a great job at presenting a realistic viewpoint of his father. He was molested by his father, but he still only had the one father, and he looked to understand him and I appreciated the humanizing of the situation. I feel like too often in our society these abusers are painted as evil in black and white, and by looking at his humanity and some shades of grey we get a deeper understanding of the situation and how to treat and prevent it in the future.

Not that the father was necessarily deserving of such compassionate treatment. After molesting his son for years, when the son says he's gay the father says "I'd rather blow my brains out than have a son who's a homosexual."

In fact there were several times the father's actions infuriated me and I was yelling at the author to walk away. When the father is caught molesting a neighborhood boy, he attends a group therapy session. When the son asks how it's going, the father says:
"There's only one reason I'm going to these sessions," he told me.
"What's that?"
"To bring each member of the group to salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ."

At that point, it's like, "Well, I tried. See you in the next life, I'm done with you in this one." But the author stuck around.

Perhaps it was the treatment from all the adults in his life that set him up to keep coming back for more. Like when he's sent to a psychiatrist to "cure" him of his homosexuality. The psychiatrist helpfully says:
"Once you're married, you don't even have to have sex that often," the doctor said. "All you have to do is find the right girl and get married. You'd be surprised at how undemanding she might be. It's not as bad as it seems."

Strangely, 10 to 15% before the end, the book gets into the 'lasting healing' section and descends into incomprehensible craziness. I don't know why, it wasn't like that for the first 90%. I don't know what happened.

Like when this random paragraph pops up:
Several weeks later I felt an incredible urge to go to the Pacific island of Bora Bora. Nowhere else. I didn't know why. But I had to do it. Four weeks later I arrived.

The book ventures into dream symbolism, the author has visions, he talks to people who aren't there, he cries as he murders panthers in his sleep. This is the healing?

At one point his father goes fishing with some boys and loses the son's fishing rod. The son relates it to the psychiatrist:
"I guess I felt like the rod was part of me... a phallic symbol? Anyway, it was like he used me so he could get his hands on the boys. The fishing rod represented my youth. That was me he had out there, that was me he was using to get other boys. And he lost us both into the deep."

The fishing rod represented my youth and was also a phallic symbol. Yep.

Then the author starts questioning how much the ocean really loves him:
"I decided to take my time riding home. I stopped by a dock on the Atlantic. There was a breeze, and a million fine waves slipping past. Did they have something to say? Did they love me? I will never know, I thought."

And finally he gives up all hope as:
"the prolonged stress of sexual abuse can cause such an abundance of certain hormones in the brain that they begin to—quite literally—excite neurons to death."

Yes, the author's brain cells had died after the ocean didn't love him and he lost his fishing pole penis. I don't mean to over-simplify a difficult situation or story, but in the world of reality, none of this makes sense. I don't see how this ending got published.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean

Revenge of the Vinyl CafeRevenge of the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good set of stories in the Dave and Morley cannon, but not the best in the series.

Part of the appeal is always picking up the new book and stepping into life with your old friends and catching up with these quintessential Canadian tales and that was here for me.

The stories however didn't seem to come together as much as earlier volumes I have read. Part of it may be the mood I'm in over the last day while I read the book, but part of it is definitely the writing. When an author starts talking about the difficulty of writing a story, the difficulty of ending a story, the difficulty in finding a plot, you know you're not in for the A-level material frankly.

Several of the stories seemed improbable, several of the stories seem to be collected short ideas and collections of paragraphs rather than a cohesive tale. And while I did smile, I don't think I laughed out loud.

I loved the stories of Cape Breton and the interesting concepts McLean works in, like how the native Canadians made maple syrup without a pot and without boiling it. I don't know that his heart was truly in this one though. For example, the first story, the Monster in the sewer. I loved it, I'm telling all my friends about it. But it just stretched my credulity a little too thin for my taste.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Our Mutual FriendOur Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was the first Dickens book I ever finished. I had started A Tale of Two Cities and had trouble, specifically the romance made me nauseous. I had tried Oliver Twist or something similar years ago and wasn’t ready, but I was determined to finish this.

This book has been called people’s favourite, the greatest book ever written, etc, and I can’t agree with these sentiments. It was good, but there were flaws.

The good was the scope of the story. The glances into Victorian life I loved. Jenny with her crooked back and her queer legs I loved. Sloppy was great, needed more of him.

Less good were the resolution between Bella and the Boffins, the motivation of the school teacher was never really explored, and some of the characters I had no idea who they were at all, such as Tremlow.

A little too heavy on the romance, a little implausible. Could have done with more villains. I thought they were setting the lawyer up to be a villain with his impertinence to the school teacher and the brother, then they switched that, not sure why.

Some notes I made while I was reading:

why did Jenny call the elderly Jewish man “godmother”. Was he gay and a screaming queen? I searched Google for other references to calling elderly men godmother, didn’t find any.

The female school teacher is pining for the male teacher. She’s watching his house and seems a former pupil go in, a male. Then we get:
'They must find it rather dull and dark, Miss Peecher, for the parlour blind's down, and neither of them pulls it up.'
'There is no accounting,' said good Miss Peecher with a little sad sigh which she repressed by laying her hand on her neat methodical boddice, 'there is no accounting for tastes, Mary Anne.'
Which I assume is a reference to homosexuality, which I thought interesting for a book from 1865.

Finally a quote from the book about someone tasting wine which shows Dickens wonderful way of expressing himself:

Making a stiff arm to the elbow, he poured the wine into his mouth, tilted it into his right cheek, as saying, 'What do you think of it?' tilted it into his left cheek, as saying, 'What do YOU think of it?' jerked it into his stomach, as saying, 'What do YOU think of it?' To conclude, smacked his lips, as if all three replied, 'We think well of it.'

So I liked the book. Was it a 3 out of 5? A 4? Something like that.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality by John R. Schwartz

Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His SexualityOddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality by John R. Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very emotional story that was well written. I was very moved by several sections of the book, on the point of choking back tears.

The positives are the love this father and mother have for their son and their ideas about letting him grow up to be who he is and proud of and happy with himself are fantastic. Several key issues were explored in ways I hadn't seen discussed before and with a depth and modernness that made this book very relevant and refreshing.

I was happy that not too much time was spent on the opposing viewpoints, which can fill and overwhelm this kind of story, just read a book by Dan Savage. The story here is not close-minded people but dealing with a gay teen in a modern concept, in a post-Matthew Sheppard world, what does that look like now?

Another thing that made this very special was that the father cared enough to write the book, it wasn't the son writing this 10 years from now. That the father cared enough to find out all this back story is very moving.

That being said, the book does derail a tiny bit in the second half. The statistics become overwhelming and the American-centric viewpoint can be tiring when you live in a country that has had gay marriage for 10 years. Also the medical jargon and diagnoses of the son seemed to be just perfect in the first half and I loved the factual interludes, but in the second half I lost the ability to follow along as the talk of the spectrum and the final diagnosis, whatever it was, were going on and on.

This is a book that was waiting to be written and it was done well. I had never heard of the minority stress ideas previously and it's a fantastic, well presented concept.

I had some quotes:

"’s natural for effeminate kids to butch up a bit as they become conscious of the ways and attitudes of those around them. But further research suggests that hiding that side of themselves can come at a high price."

""if they believe that [negative attitudes about gays] and thought, Well, this is what is in my future.”
These anguished feelings, he said, impinge upon our sense of what is known as the “possible self”—our imagined future, our mental construct of the possibilities ahead. “The possible self is not only important because of how it projects to the future and how it maybe helps a person think about the future,” he explained. “It is also related to what people feel right now” about themselves.""

"The parents [at PFLAG] referred to the moment of coming out as a statement of something fundamental, using phrases like, “He told me who he was.” Not that he told them what his sexual orientation was, or how to classify him in the taxonomy of sexual types. This was identity, something at the core."

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

“I feel like the school would rather he had autism than be gay,” she said. “They seem more comfortable with the concept of autism, which they understand how to deal with.”

"They [parents] don’t like to think about kids having sex... Even though people have a sexual orientation long before they have sex, he said, society tends to conflate the two."

"He was a young boy who was quite normal in many ways, but quite odd in other ways. Most people are, you will find."

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Best LGBT Books of 2012

One of the highlights of my year, and something I always look forward to, is BandofThebes annual list of the best LGBT books of the year, with authors picking their favourites.

This year I found some great choices, beginning with a book I'm currently reading and loving, Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality by John Schwartz. Other books I found, making my radar for the first time, include The German by Lee Thomas, The Survivors by John Eads, Birthday Pie by Arthur Wooten, Yield by Lee Houck, The Paternity Test by Michael Lowenthal and One By One by Penelope Gilliatt.

The list also pushed other books higher up on my "to read" list like Flagrant Conduct by Dale Carpenter, These Things Happen by Richard Kramer, Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay, edited by Paul Vitagliano, Twentysix by Jonathan Kemp, and both books by Clayton Littlewood.

Not being an author, I wasn't asked to contribute of course, but if I was I would have said:

"My favourite LGBT book published this year was Letters to One: Gay and Lesbian Voices from the 1950s and 1960s edited by Craig M. Lofton. It takes LGBT voices from the period and delivers them uncensored, something that has rarely survived to present day, in a way that blew my mind and connected me to the gay brotherhood. Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice by Peter A. Conway and Andrew E. Stoner was almost as good as the wait was long to get it. The Golden Age of Gay Fiction by Drewey Wayne Gunn is an expensive book and a history lesson worth every penny.  The best book every written on the gay pulp era.  Finally, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette is perhaps the best book I've ever read.  It taught me that it's okay to be flawed and less than perfect, and also that the gay brotherhood and sisterhood is the best gift gays could have been given."

Handsome Is... by Alexander Goodman

Handsome Is...Handsome Is... by Alexander Goodman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Download book here.

I believe this is Goodman's only full length book, the rest I think are all short story collections.

The story, with a narrative as choppy as the Pacific Ocean, concerns a young woman who sets out to find what her boyfriend Tony has been up to. She travels to New York and meets all sorts of shady characters from the gay underworld.

In part two we learn Tony has been a live-in hooker for Paul, a Rock Hudson type of movie star. From there things spill quickly into melodrama with murder, S & M whipping scenes and a world where young men are available to the wealthy playboys for the right price.

As usual in Goodman's work there are elements of the men thinking they're straight, playing gay for a laugh. The older men are all out for one thing and will stop at nothing to get it. I'm digitizing all his work for historical purposes and this one falls somewhere in the middle.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight?: Confessions of a Gay Dad by Dan Bucatinsky

Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight?: Confessions of a Gay DadDoes This Baby Make Me Look Straight?: Confessions of a Gay Dad by Dan Bucatinsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book, a lot.

This book takes the Dan Savage book concept and really takes it to the next level. There was a lot of analysis about having a child, how that changes your life, and all from a really gay perspective.

The best thing about this book is that it gets to the deeper issues. One example is having a straight boy for a child when you were picked on in high school by straight boys. The book really looks at all the aspects of being a gay male parent and there were several laugh out loud funny moments I would read to friends.

I took off one star as there's this thing parents do where they talk about kid's bodily functions and laugh it off like it's the joke of the year while everyone who is not a parent recoils in terror. I am not a parent. The book STARTS with one of these stories, on page one. I was recoiling in terror. Glad I stuck with it though.

EDIT: Oh, yes. Forgot to mention.  The book made me cry.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sex and the Single Gay by Victor J. Banis

Sex and the Single GaySex and the Single Gay by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To say that this is related to the C.A.M.P. series is spurious, at best. Other than the cover, expect nothing from Jackie Holmes. Instead this is one of, if not the, first gay self-help book for everything from fashion, to budget, and mostly how to get a man.

Banis, in the 2012 Introduction, comments on his doubts about re-issuing this volume. He mentions that the book is quite dated, which it is, and says the sections on finance and furnishing an apartment still apply. I would argue they kind of don't, but two things are still relevant. The first is this book as a historical artifact is relevant. The second, which took me more convincing, it that you need to make yourself available to meet a man.

This book plays heavily on the “be a doormat” theory, similar to that book “The Ring” that came out a while ago and similar systems that come out every few years telling women (and in this case men) the way to get forward is to go back.

“….you have to learn to listen. Never interrupt him, even if some jealous queen approaches from behind you and sets fire to your coiffure.”

Listen. Treat him like a man. Pretend to like sports.

“You do need ash trays—even if you don’t smoke, he may.”

Now do not go buy an ash tray. But with the internet and cell phones and our busy modern lives getting busier, making yourself available for a man is a very valid point in today’s world.

Along the way there’s several cryptic sixties style jokes that are camp and fabulous:

“I don’t know how you define cruising—to many, unfortunately, it just means running down the street after a handsome number, or leering like the Big Bad Wolf from under Grandma’s bonnet.”

“This, you tell yourself jubilantly as you move in for the kill, is the night. You can virtually see the love words forming on his lips. At that moment, the door bursts open, and your roommate sweeps into the room, followed by what appears to be, by virtue of numbers, the entire cast from a Cecil B. spectacular. Do you:
1.) Hide in a closet with your date;
2.) Persuade your date to entertain the group with his rendition of the mating call of the titmouse;
3.) Suggest a reenactment of the Little Big Horn massacre, with you playing all the Indian parts?”

Now I have no idea what #3 above means, but it’s funny.

Tucked in here are also timeless sage bits of wisdom:

“nothing makes a person look so old as working too hard to look young.”

“What do you consider middle age? Well, ask any twenty-year-old and he’ll tell you thirty. Ask a thirty-year-old and he’ll tell you forty. Never ask a forty-year-old.”

“Nor should you marry because you’re unhappy single—you’ll only be unhappy married.”

And some that no longer make sense, if they ever did.

“In other words, if you are the balding type, run, don’t walk, to the nearest salon and get yourself a toupee.”

And some very dated:

“For instance, let’s say the charge accounts stand at $200.00 and $150.00 respectively. That’s dreadful.”

Mostly though this book is full of stuff that sounds dated and old-fashioned, but that really we could all use a bit more of in our life.

“In the course of the conversations, you’ll learn what he thinks is wrong with his home life, the mistakes his wife (or lover) makes. Profit from them. If he likes boiled filet of motorcycle boot, which she won’t prepare, you’ll exclaim, “Heavens, I’ve been dying to fix some, but I don’t know anyone else who likes it, and it’s too much to fix for just one person.” I’ll bet my last boot he won’t turn down a dinner invitation.”

Will making boiled fillet of motorcycle boot get you a man? No. But it can’t hurt. Like this book.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Gay-Safe by Sam Dodson

Gay-SafeGay-Safe by Sam Dodson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This final volume of the CAMP series ends up being a fun, worthy addition.

Dodson is not as skilled at some aspects as Banis and there are a couple flaws. For one, Dodson, in an effort to hold close to the original series, lifts several passages directly from previous books, especially at the start. Details of Jackie's HQ and the Round Up I'm sure were lifted. This gets less as the book goes on.

Also while Dodson is a whiz at campy dialogue, he can sometimes struggle with the serious moments. For example, there's one scene where Jackie makes a retort, something like "You're not very smart!", which doesn't carry much panache.

This being said there is an interesting plot. The villain from the first book is back, Tiger Bey, along with several previous characters, along with Lady Agatha, who shines in this book. Dodson is well up on the Queen's Vernacular, and Agatha and her cohort Hedda keep the quips flying, adding humour to the book. Jackie himself gets in to a few of the quips and seems to let his hair down more than ever before.

The book ends with a great one-liner and is overall a fun seventies time. It's a shame this book hasn't been reprinted with the others in the series.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blow the Man Down by Victor J. Banis

Blow the Man DownBlow the Man Down by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The last of the CAMP books written by the original author.

As I've been reading these books, the action and settings are so vivid, it's like watching an old favourite TV show. I've read them so quickly as it's been like slipping back into the story of an old friend, and I can understand why this series is still alive 45 years after its printing.

The books themselves were growing with the times, and in this volume we actually get the word "erection" which I think is a first, no long is the male member referred to as "his throbbing ardor" or some such euphemism.

I was hesitant about this one from the start, with a visit to Atlantis seeming to stretch the credulity of the series to the breaking point. It is redeemed a little in the fact that Atlantis is an all gay city, with the straights as a slave class. There's the requisite comparisons to the lives of gays on land and the lives of straights in Atlantis, but this is very brief. Had it been drawn out more, there may have been some justification for the Atlantis setting. As it stands, there really isn't. I gather there may have been some fascination with Atlantis in the late 1960's, leading to this book, but there really isn't now.

The book starts off well, with a nude beach and the precursors of a gay cruise, I enjoyed that. Also the ruler of Atlantis is a bitchy old queen, which was great, and I could have used more of.

Over all, it stretches a little too thin. Still, always nice to read this series.

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The Gay Dogs by Victor J. Banis

The Gay Dogs: The Further Adventures of That Man from C.A.M.PThe Gay Dogs: The Further Adventures of That Man from C.A.M.P by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fun CAMP adventure.

This one has a few great things going for it, the introduction of Jackie's fey friend Lady Agatha is a big plus. Plus the villains in this book are great, very realistic, sexy, and led by a screeching dominatrix, loved them.

A fun ride, but no real insight in the 1960's scene is provided and I'm more or a cat person than a dog person. Still, I really enjoy this series and this was no exception.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

I Must Confess by Rupert Smith

I Must ConfessI Must Confess by Rupert Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

First complaint is poor formatting on the Kindle. A few words ran together, maybe 10 times in total, but the big problem is the 100 or so missing periods at the end of sentences. Also the quotation marks are all over the place, sometimes attached to the word before, sometimes appearing randomly. Guys, spell check is is not enough! "Tenor twelve" will pass spell check yet will not turn into "Ten or twelve" magically, it needs proofreading.

Secondly, the story itself. No likeable characters, no humour, no sex, no intrigue. It was okay, I'll forget it in a week.

If it was supposed to be satire, it wasn't over the top enough. If it was supposed to be humour, I didn't laugh. If it was supposed to be narrative, the guy did a ton of things I didn't like.

I really wanted to like this, I LOVED Man's World, but didn't.

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Kindle Paperwhite vs. Kindle 4

Decisions, decisions!

I wanted to get a Kindle for my mom so I bought the new Kindle Paperwhite with a light inside it and thought I'd give her my old one.  The Kindle Paperwhite is not available in Canada, I had to ship it to a friend of mine in the USA, then pay $40 for him to ship it here. The negative is with all this extra shipping time I've only got 4 days now to decide if I want to keep it or send it back for a refund.

I had expected it to be just like the Kindle 4, but it's not, this one has a touch screen.  I specifically didn't want a touch screen previously, and now I know why, I don't like it.  With the other version, my finger rested on the page turn button while holding the book.  With this new one, I have to move my thumb over and touch the page to turn it, sometimes I have to hit it more than once. This seems like a little complaint, but when holding the book with one hand, moving your thumb causes the book to fall out of your hand and on to your face, which is generally not what I'm going for.

I have carpal tunnel in my wrist, and the light Kindle had been great for reading.  This one is heavier than the previous version, and with the thumb movements, reading for an hour has my left wrist strained.  So I guess that's it right there, I have to send it back.

That being said, I was worried about the light, people calling it spotty or whatever online.  But the thing is I love the light, it's the best part.  If I had the light and a button to turn pages, I'd keep it.

The difference in price isn't much.  If I buy another Kindle 4 it would be $110 with all the extra Canadian charges (compare to $69 US, hah!).  I paid $128 for the Paperwhite, so only $18 more than a new version of my old one would cost.

There's also ads all over the Paperwhite, which I don't like.  Recommendations on the home screen, even in the "ad free" version, and an ad at the bottom and an ad as a screensaver.

Now when I go back to my old one, I like the buttons but it seems so dark.  I liked reading in bed with the lights off and the light feature on.  Argh!

I'm sure this will all be resolved in the next generation of Kindles.  Until then, do I keep this one?  Send it back?  Buy 2 of them?  Who knows.  I have this weekend to decide.  Be prepared for lots of reading.

UPDATE: I sent the Paperwhite back.  I had been concerned about the light from the reviews, but it turned out I loved the light, loved it. However the thing I liked BEST about the Kindle was that it disappeared, that it became all about the reading.  With the extra weight and having to move my thumb all the time, my wrist was cramping and it's hard to make the thing disappear when it's hurting you.  So I sent it back.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"This is an original UNIQUE book"/Selbee Publications, gay pulp collection

I have looked and read books on the subject and have never seen a write up on or a list of UNIQUE/Selbee books, particularly the gay ones.

Selbee Publications published for a year in 1965 and was then followed by UNIQUE in 1966, just before the law was changed allowing for explicit material in novels.  As such these books all ride the line of double-entendre and innuendo, never explaining too much.  Perhaps the changing name was one way to keep ahread of the law?

The books were all published in an over-sized 5" x 8" format and all have cover and interior illustrations by the amazing Eric Stanton.

Some of the line includes heterosexual material, mostly cross-dressing, light S & M kind of things, including Ship Master by Arnold Dixon, Showpiece by Woody Craft, and Wrong Jail by Monty Farrell which features a man sent to a women's prison and tortured by the domineering ladies.

This list includes I believe all the gay titles, but I have no way of confirming as I've never seen them listed anywhere.

  • Beach Boy by Donald Evans. Published 1966, Selbee
  • Bottoms Up by Ned Winslow. Published 1966, UNIQUE
  • The Gay Jungle by Donald Evans. Published 1965, Selbee
  • The Gay Lords by Robert Saunders. Published in 1966, UNIQUE
  • The Gay Rebels by Larry Price.  Published in 1966, UNIQUE 
  • Male Madame by Donald Evans. Published in 1966, Selbee
  • Mr. Muscle Boy by Donald Evans. Published in 1965, Selbee
  • Queen of the Road, no author, no date, no publisher
  • Young Danny by Peter Sinnot. Published in 1966, UNIQUE

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Gay Rebels by Larry Price

The Gay RebelsThe Gay Rebels by Larry Price
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is my favourite series of sixties camp books, the Unique series, I love them, every line is gold. From the guys who smoke pot and after one drag run crazy down the streets, to transvestite old aunties wearing makeup, living for a clutch of young flesh. It's such a trip, I love it.

This one concerns Fire Island and like many pulps of the time is part story, part travel guide. Including details like "exclusive, plush island retreat, reached only by means of a ferry from Bayshore, Long Island" is invaluable for gay men in 1966 to find the place.

Published in 1966, these were some of the first books with explicitly gay themes to be published, but they really ran the risk of legal prosecution just for being gay. As such there is no explicit stuff, lots of double entendres and metaphors, and the gay life doesn't come off that well.

"In the gay life, it was all temporary. Physical. Nothing more. Undying devotion lasted from one orgasm to the next."

In this world, the young guys are studs and the old men, like the 22 year old villain of the book, are tired has-beens looking for cheap thrills.

"The three boys tossed a medicine beach ball to one another, then they play-wrestled. Gary's tight and tiny trunks half-slipped, exposing the sharp curve of his buttocks. He knew that would draw the queens.
It did.
Two of them came over, chatted idly and then they both invited the trio to a locker room at the end of the beach. Here, they really went way out.
"Put on these leather boots."
There were at least a half dozen pair of knee-length black leather boots. The boys selected those that fit them. They were naked and horny as all get out. The giggling older aunties went wild over the spectacle of good-looking young boys, bronzed and clean-cut, naked in their big leather boots.
"Line up," was the effeminate command of one of the older queens.
The three boys looked bashfully at one another. Gary, like these two, were still self-conscious about a public exposure of perversia. Many of the beach boys wouldn't let their buddies watch them. Some hardly cared. These were the exhibitionists."

I love the line "a public exposure of perversia." You can't write that stuff any more.

There's always a line in these books between going with men and going gay or being used like a woman, which for some reason is the ultimate negative.

"His biceps were still too boyishly undeveloped, but he showed promise of being handsome and sweet. Just the sort the gay queens took advantage of; just as Bull had tried to do—using him like a girl!"

It's like a 1960's gay soap opera, so much melodrama! Love!

"Sharp knives slashed at his garments and soon, Gary was naked. They were cruel—as cruel as only gay rebels know how to be when turning against one of their own kind."

For some reason this series hasn't taken off like other pulps have. I have seen a couple of the cover images on lighters but that's about it. I don't understand why, the stories are gold and there's original art by the late great Eric Stanton throughout, yet they're still going for around $30 each, less than the new John Grisham! I think I have all the books in the series but I've never seen a list, I've never seen them mentioned in the books on the pulp era, nothing. Let's get this rectified!

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Rally Round The Fag by Victor J. Banis

Rally Round The FagRally Round The Fag by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's almost hard to believe the same person who wrote these later books in the Man From C.A.M.P. series is the one who wrote the first one. I'm so glad I kept reading, I'm LOVING these books, I can't wait for the next one.
Where the first one had lots of scenes of special agent Jackie Holmes proving his masculinity and going on about cars and such, loads of high speed car chases and shootings and explosions, these later books are all camp fun, sly 1960's sexual innuendos and drag, hot gay men, and light sex. It's like someone was reading my Christmas wish list!

This volume concerns a plot to start World War 3, the reason why is never explained fully, but Jackie has to dress as a woman to foil the baddies. While he's fending off the advances of straight men and ducking lesbians, we get a visit to Spain complete with a bull fight and loads of other fun stuff I don't want to give away.

I wish this was turned into a movie, I'm loving it.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gay Psycho by Michael Scott, ebook

Gay PsychoGay Psycho by Michael Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I think this is the first time I've ever read a "one-hander" book all the way through.

I read about this book in The Golden Age of Gay Fiction and all I knew was that it was a pulp novel written in 1976 and set in Toronto. I've been trying to read gay fiction set in Toronto, there's like five books in total to choose from, so I really wanted to get this one.

The book is not available on the internet for sale anywhere at any price. I did find two copies in two libraries in the world, one in San Francisco and the other in LA, so on a recent trip to San Fran I copied this book, digitized it and just finished reading it.

To sum it up, not really worth the bother.

The book is written to be set in any city, there are no mentions to Toronto landmarks or the city, and only one passing reference to Yonge Street. I was hoping it would mention bars or baths of the time, but no. It did get into the Vice squad and the police harassment of homosexuals at the time but nothing specifically Canadian.

The story concerns a murderer named "John" (not his real name), also known as "icepick" who is killing gays and the police hunt for the killer. The mystery has a twist, but I had kind of figured it out by the end, and there was no real reason given for the killer's actions, which sucked.

The book seemed to be too focused on sex to let the plot or setting get in the way. I believe the author had limitations, like he couldn't go more than 6 or 7 pages without a sex scene, which I imagine stifles creativity. One thing the author needs more of is an angle. The first sex scene is good as a couple is breaking up and having sex one last time before they move on. There's resentment and anger and hot moves. It was good. Then we get a series of couples having sex who we know nothing about, which is less good, and in the middle when the sex starts to get good again in the movie theatre, it has a bad habit of being interrupted by a bloody murder, which is kind of a mood killer.

In typical fashion for pulps of the time, the cover has nothing to do with the story.  There's no whips or S & M in the book.

Decent enough I guess, and a unique footnote to Toronto's gay history.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Holiday Gay by Victor J. Banis

Holiday GayHoliday Gay by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first five star review for a C.A.M.P. book, they just keep getting better and better.

This one concerns a holiday themed scam with some crooked Santas. I was worried it would get too cutsey poo with the Christmas theme but it didn't, the gay sixties camp humour carried it all the way to the end.

This book is set in Hollywood and we learn where to pick up hustlers and what to do with them, where to take them, etc, while visiting Hollywood in 1967. Then the Christmas theme kicks in and Jackie dresses up in all sorts of fabulous disguises, leading to a gay nursing home and a new arch villain. The gay nursing home in 1967 with all the "aunties", Maude and all her friends, is priceless, loved it.

Banis has a gift for this writing that is improving with time and is writing in the perfect age for these classic pulps.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Criminal Thoughts

Disappointed with the verdict. There's not much physical evidence being reported, I'm not sure if there is any in this case. If one can be prosecuted for sharing sexual fantasies online we are all in big trouble. As Prince said, "If a man is considered guilty for what goes on in his mind, then give me the electric chair for all my future crimes."

- posted in response to Malicious intent seen as dividing factor in Boone trial

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World by Hugh Brewster

Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their WorldGilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World by Hugh Brewster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a passing interest in the Titanic and was looking forward to reading this for a book club.

Well the book is good and very well researched, I would say it is for more of a Titanic buff than a casual reader, definately for people who have read Walter Lord's A Night to Remember first, which I have not.

The book started slow, picked up with the sinking, and ended rather slowly as well, with understandable attempts to include all relevant details slowing down the narrative.

This book focuses more on the passengers and goes through several name by name. It just wasn't really my thing, that being said I enjoyed it well enough.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jarvis St. bike lane advocates hold vigil on day of removal

About 15 people showed up at the corner of Jarvis St. and Wellesley St. E. in the pouring rain Monday evening to mark the loss of the Jarvis St. bike lanes.
They held cups and jars with tea light candles and waved yellow flags with phrases like “Jarvis Gravy Lane” written on them while marching down Jarvis.
“By removing the lanes, you’re making the street less safe not only for cyclists but for cars, for pedestrians as well. It makes no sense to put peoples’ lives in danger to increase traffic speed by the average of two minutes,” said Danny Brown, a co-organizer of the Jarvis Emergency Task Force.
The group stopped at Charles St. E. to lock a green bike to metal rails on a median in the middle of the street.
The bike, which has a fake letter from Mayor Rob Ford hidden under the seat, is meant to be a time capsule. It’s supposed to serve as “a reminder of what Jarvis St. should and could have been” when people find the bike and the letter in the future, organizers say.
Adam Dunn, who lives on Jarvis, saw the vigil as a way to move forward the idea of bike lanes in the city.
“I really believe (the city) should listen to the people who live in this community who are here tonight.”
Earlier in the day, several protesters staged a sit-in as crews tried to remove the Jarvis bike lanes. Eventually, crews called off work for the day, giving the lanes a one-day reprieve.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Candlelight Vigil for Jarvis Bike Lanes

Went out tonight in the slight rain monsoon to protest the closing of the bike lanes on Jarvis Street.
 We gathered for a candlelight vigil. I was interviewed by the Toronto Star, I said I don't understand why the city is ignoring the people who live on Jarvis, like me, and removing the bike lanes. The reported asked if I thought this lane removal could be stopped but I said this is about a bigger picture, a Toronto where we share the roads and explore alternate forms of transportation, and this idea is not going away.
 Afterward the group chained a green bicycle to the street with messages on it in protest and to keep our city green.  I may have suggested the bicycle's location.
 Some flags.
 For more information, you can follow the group on Facebook or Twitter.

Gothic Gaye by Victor J. Banis

Gothic GayeGothic Gaye by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in this series really took itself too seriously, and now I feel the series may be swinging to the other side and not taking itself seriously enough. Still, we're in no immediate danger in this, the fifth volume of The Man From C.A.M.P.

Super agent Jackie decides to settle down and give up the spy life with the perfect man, Baron Max, at the lush and mysterious Castle Gaye.

The book plays out like a Scooby Doo mystery but with enough light-hearted fun to carry you through to the end. Censorship laws were getting more relaxed in this period and the books themselves are letting more and more of their hair down as the 1960`s progress.

Not the strongest entry in the canon, but a fun romp and it`s nice to see Jackie reunited with the agents from the previous books. The series of misunderstandings in the bedroom is worth the price of admission alone.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

The Son Goes Down by Victor J. Banis

The Son Goes DownThe Son Goes Down by Victor J. Banis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun addition to the Jackie Holmes franchise.
As with most pulp books, they explore an area of gay life and shed light on it for the reader. It's not like you could consult the internet at that time and look for "male whore houses in Istanbul" or "where to cruise for sailors in Europe and Mexico", so these books gave guys a clue what to look for, as well as providing an interesting story.

This volume seemed slimmer than the others and the story raced by. Someone is kidnapping American boys and putting them in a porn/prostitution ring and C.A.M.P. is called to come to the rescue.

A good pace, the right amount of action, and a fun light story.

I think the end is set in Istanbul? I want to go to 1967 Istanbul.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cruise, Day Seven

Last day. Sad but it went fast and I’m ready to be in Canada.
Woke up and watched pool games about Lindsay Lohan, packed, went to the disco t-dance with AWESOME music.  Loved it.
Went to dinner, last night with Milos.  Couldn’t find my friends but I sat with some other new friends which turned out to be fun.
Then ran over to the Miss Richfield show, always the highlight of the cruise.  Bitches were saving all the good seats. I still got a few good pics.
Down to Brian Nash piano show until he played a few too many cheesy songs.  Why do people keep requesting crap? "Man of Lamancha"???
Got to sleep, getting up early tomorrow and going home.  Ciao!