The Unwanted, Jeffrey Ricker’s second novel, is an extremely well written, action-packed gay young adult fantasy set against the backdrop of the ancient Greek mythological world. In it, the author unfolds the story of Jamie Thomas a sixteen-year-old high school junior whose life is turned upside down by the return of a mother he thought was dead, and who is now seeking his help to save her tribe – The Amazons. Mixing action, danger and romance, Mr. Ricker chronicles Jamie’s more personal journey of coming to terms with the relationships in his life to write a page-turning young adult adventure story that has depth and underlying meaning, and one that I could not put down.
As a lover of short fiction, I’ve read my share of short story compilations over the years, some more memorable than others. But there is one anthology that always stands out and remains one of my favourites – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, released by Cleis Press in 2009.
In January 2014, Lambert and Cochrane released their second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love. Once again, they have brought together an exceptional collection of seventeen short stories featuring contributions from well-established authors and newer writers of gay fiction, including from several alumni of their first anthology.
Foolish Hearts offers a diverse mix of stories and themes, including: the thrill of young love; the bitter sweetness of unfulfilled love; second chances at love; and how through love we often find ourselves. Much has happened in the United States in the advance of LGBTQ rights over the last five years. And as art often reflects real life another prominent theme for a number of the stories is same-sex marriage. But, there is also a distinct international flavour to the anthology as the stories and their characters come from all parts of the globe in celebration of gay romance, love and life.
I’ve been a fan of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s short fiction since reading his first published story “Heart” in the critically acclaimed anthology Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction. To say that I eagerly awaited the release of Light, the author’s first novel, is a bit of an understatement. As it turns out my anticipation and excitement were well founded. In Light, Mr. Burgoine brings together elements of several sub-genres including action/adventure, fantasy/urban fantasy, horror, the paranormal, suspense and romance to write an incredibly charming, funny, action-packed and by degrees sexy page-turning superhero adventure that I could not read fast enough and devoured in one sitting.
Taking Chances is John Goode’s fifth instalment in the Foster High books. It is an extremely moving and at times funny story of Matt Wallace and Tyler Parker, who despite having lived down the street from one another while growing up in Foster, Texas, only discover each other as adults. The character of Tyler was first introduced in Book 2 of the series, The End of The Beginning, when he befriends main characters Brad Greymark and his boyfriend Kyle Stilleno and tries to support them in dealing with the fallout of their coming out. Matt’s tale was initially written as a short story, The Boy Behind The Red Door, and previously published as part of a Dreamspinner holiday anthology. Taking Chances is the full-length novel of that short story, in which the author continues to grow the Foster world through Tyler and Matt’s story.
The Elephant of Surprise is the fourth book in the Lambda Literary Award winning Russel Middlebrook Series that was kicked off by the groundbreaking book Geography Club, and which has been adapted into a feature film slated for released sometime in 2013. Mr. Hartinger continues the tale of Russel and his best friends Min and Gunnar in this fourth volume by mixing humour, danger and romance to unfold an extremely well written story chalk full of life lessons for the threesome. In the process, the author also touches upon important social issues while at the same time not sacrificing the story’s subtleties.
No Deadly Thing by Tiger Gray is the author’s debut novel and the second book in the Twisted Tree series published by Hard Limits Press. The story is set in the American Pacific Northwest and the author fuses the tenets of good and evil of the ancient Zoroastrian religion and philosophy with the theme of environmental contamination to write an elaborate urban fantasy tale that also interweaves strong elements of action/adventure and mystery. The writing is refined and textured and well serves the plot, world building and characterisation.
Ashrinn Pinecroft has spent a lifetime trying to forget his Anglo-Persian family’s expulsion from his native Iran. He’s a career soldier serving in Iraq as the leader of the elite American anti-terrorist unit, Delta Force. When a sniper’s bullet cuts Ashrinn’s career short, he wakes up in an infirmary tent not sure of his reality or whether he’s hallucinating the silver-haired man standing at the foot of his bed. The man is named Randolph and he is the leader of the Order of the White Eagle, a group of magicals on a mission to rid the evil that is infecting the Pacific Northwest. Randolph enlists Ashrinn to lead a group of paladins (warriors) in the fight against this evil force.
The Zoroastrian myths Ashrinn’s mother entertained him with as a child have found new, twisted life in the streets of Seattle, and he has a central role to play in the fight against destruction, whether he likes it or not. Ashrinn must use his newfound divine powers to save the Pacific Northwest from an evil snake-handling cult that is contaminating the waters with its magic, killing both magicals and humans. The cult is also hell bent on sacrificing Ashrinn to their demon god. With a ragtag group of warriors that call themselves The Storm, that includes a half crazy werewolf, a psychic sniper, and his equally blessed best friend and former Delta team mate Malkai (Mal) Tielhart at his side, Ashrinn will do everything in his power to combat the corruption. But sometimes the greatest horror imaginable and the things held most dear are one and the same, and corruption is not so easily spotted when it hits close to home.
“Cody Pinnt’s sense of himself came early; valued the carousal of pubescence as an affirmation of his nature: Queer. No doubt about it. Didn’t linger on the implications. Took to wrestling as a worthy sport, befitting the use of his body strengthened and sculpted by the demands of a lifetime of work that began before sunrise and ended after sunset. The leveraging of that strength against others, the feel of sweat-soaked skin and nylon singlets, the smell of the battle, the more often than not sublime joy of the win, all of it barely satisfying a voraciousness to get on with it; life just moved too damn slowly in Big Spring for Cody Pinnt’s liking. Cody Pintt knew who he was early on. Knew where he wanted to go. Knew, too, the worth of Skylar Hand to his life.”
I readily admit that George Seaton is a favoured author in gay fiction and it is always a pleasure to read one of his stories. In his recently released novella, Saving Skylar Hand, Mr. Seaton gifts the reader with a beautifully written and tender holiday tale of lifelong friendship between two boys that are separated by the life choices they make as young adults, only to realize that their love for one another is immutable and that they cannot spend their lives apart.
Blain Harrington and his husband Manny Madeira have travelled from Massachusetts to Culver Pines, Alabama to attend Blain’s twentieth high school reunion. During the banquette and slightly before midnight Blain realises that he’s lost track of Manny. While sitting at an empty table he finds paper cocktail napkins with homophobic and derogatory drawings of him and Manny. Now panicked, Blain begins to search for Manny, last seen talking with Patrick McMann an old classmate, but can’t find him anywhere. What he does find is Manny’s cell phone tossed in a tree planter at the hotel. By 1:00 a.m., Blain is at the police station trying to file a missing person’s report with a very uncooperative Culver Pines duty officer. On the advice of his best friend Michael, Blain enlists the help of Rich, a gay-friendly private investigator from Atlanta and the local gay organization to help find Manny. One week later with no news on Manny’s whereabouts, Blain returns home to wait. The dreaded news that he’s feared all along arrives – Manny was found dead in a ravine.
The Wicked Instead by debut author Vivien Weaver is the first book in the Twisted Tree series and the flagship publication for the recently launched Hard Limits Press. It is an urban fantasy that combines Ozark redneck “haint” culture with ancient Hungarian mythology and folklore to tell the uncommon coming of age story of brothers Cary and Lindsay Delaney.