This has been an exceptional year, in my not-so-humble-opinion, for gay fiction. I’ve gravitated toward male authors, either the real deal guys or authors clever enough to mask their identity and fool me… which ain’t easy. I can pin female sensibilities from a mile away.
Not a complaint, just a thing I’ve got. Doesn’t make it good, bad or indifferent. And no, not getting into that tar pit of authenticity and legitimacy again. Had my say, my thoughts on the subject haven’t changed, and it’s way past time to move on to enjoy the splendor of the written word and characters who are larger than life.
As 2015 draws to a close, here’s a hit list of authors you really need to be reading and why—some I’ve already mentioned in other blog posts and/or reviewed, some who might be new-to-you. In any case, prepare to one-click your way to spectacularly good writing and stories I guarantee will stay with you long after you get to The End.
In no particular order…
Better the Devil You Know might not be your best intro to this—dare I say it?—brilliant author because it’s horror, it’s a mite transgressive, it’s a humongous trigger-fest for those with delicate sensibilities, and it will make you laugh out loud in the most inappropriate places because… damn good writing.
The Baal’s Heart Trilogy is an alternate history feast of epic proportions, featuring characters who range from a fascinating sociopath to a hard-used and abused everyman and finally the innocent ripe for corruption whose conscription into their sensual world proves a game changer for all of them. It’s a jaw-droppingly lush, mind-bending series of adventures, above and below decks, and no one comes away unsullied, not even the reader.
Holy mother of pearl! Scott Burkett messaged me about this author, insisting I needed to read this book. Scott never, ever steers me wrong, so I jumped in and didn’t surface until I’d read Sutphin Boulevard (Five Boroughs) cover-to-cover. I don’t recall breathing during that thrill ride of perfectly portrayed characters who can’t seem to get out of their own way, who screw up, fall, get up and fall again. They exist in a perfectly imperfect world of dysfunction and self-fulfilling prophesies, and the main character through whose lens we view the disintegration of the self cuts so close to reality that he, and his downward spiral, became incised onto my psyche. The landscape is gritty and raw, the language authentic to my ear, the rhythms of an urban salsa spot on. I loved, loved, loved this book.
The back of Sutphin Boulevard promised release of book 2. I went in search of it, found Sunset Park and went full immersion once more. I was not disappointed, though this time the characters were Millennials, a ne’er-do-well floating through life rootless and a chronic over-achiever buying into a promise that never seems to be fulfilled. Raymond and David are as unlike as two young men can be, but circumstances bring them together in ways neither might have imagined. Where Sutphin Boulevard was as hard-hitting as a wrecking ball to the heart, Sunset Park allowed us ingress into a world of voyeuristic possibilities, where boys have yet to become the men they might be… like clay not yet formed into a shape with substance. The tenor of Sunset Park is softer, gentler, less a sucker punch to the heart, yet the writing is stellar and the promise of more stories set in the Five Boroughs makes me wiggle with joy.
Islands is a historical novel of survival, friendship and sexual awakening. On the metric of authenticity—from historical details to dialog—Islands will immerse you in the social, cultural and nautical landscape of the 18th century with breath-taking ease. The author gifts the reader with time and patience… to learn about who and what forms the essence—the character—of the men shipwrecked on a deserted island, to explore how they bridge the social and psychological gaps between them, and how the ephemeral nature of trust is nurtured when a man’s moral compass is tested. The writing is intelligent, elegant and thought-provoking.
Memorizing You. I can’t get this book out of my head. I ugly cried. For a whole damn week. The Art of the Heart takes you into the heartland, into the blossoming of youth into adulthood and the magic that can happen when the heart awakens to its full potential. Elegantly simple, engaging and sensual, this story never fails to rock my world. Bible Boys is a coming-of-age, cautionary tale of indoctrination and discovery that will leave you with much to think on.
This author has the ability to put me on the floor, laughing so hard my face hurts. From the tongue-set-firmly-in-cheek new series Boys of Perfection to his harder hitting Drive Shaft duo, this author will surely put a smile on your face and a blush on your cheeks.
Joseph Lance Tonlet and Louis Stevens
I’ve banged the drum for Mr. Tonlet in the past, Grif’s Toy having captured my special attention and near reverence. This time he’s teamed up with Louis Stevens to bring us Quillon’s Covert, a transgressive tale of taboo love that simply blew me away. The writing is honest, the treatment respectful, and the characters will be etched forever in your heart. See my review HERE.
So there you have it, Dear Readers.
I look forward to 2016 with bated breath, my Kindle ready and willing to add yet more killer stories told with panache and style.