Category Archives: Good Gay Read

Books that have received the Good Gay Read seal of approval

No Ugly Cignets Here

A Wild Swan and Other Tales
Michael Cunningham

Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

I’ve long been a fan of Cunningham and will happily read anything he writes – fairy tales included; these ones were a pleasure.

When I say writing, I mean literally the way individual sentences are crafted.

Ex.  It’s his lucky night. … Finally, cherries have appeared in all three of his slot machine windows. 

In classic show don’t tell style he didn’t just tell us “it was his lucky night,” or even that “he’d hit the jackpot”, instead, Cunningham gives us the momentary thrill of hitting it ourselves. “Finally, cherries have appeared in all three of his slot machine windows.”

He seems to be on a bit of a fairy tale kick at the moment. The title of his last book, The Snow Queen, was based on a Hans Christian Andersen story. (See my review of it here.)

And like the Polari first book prize winner of 2014 Fairy Tales for Lost Children Cunningham’s fairy tales are not meant for children  – at least not young children. They’re written for an adult audience. It’s kind of the reverse of going to a Pixar movie which is, ostensibly, aimed at children but with lots of hidden adult humour thrown in. These fairy tales are clearly aimed at adults but maintain the structure and fantasy elements typically at children.

He consistently takes the reader behind the scenes into the internal lives, hopes and desires of the main characters which I found gave added poignancy to the traditional morals these tales were originally designed to showcase.

Several of your favourites are here; Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk. Cunningham has renamed them; Her Hair, Beasts, Jacked. There were a few others that I’d forgotten and enjoyed being reintroduced to and one or two that I’d never heard of, which did not inhibit my pleasure in reading them.

Overall, an enjoyable and recommended collection by one of our foremost writers.

Cleopatra’s Wedding Present Unwrapped

Cleopatra’s Wedding Present
Travels through Syria
Robert Tewdwr Moss

Cleopatra’s Wedding Present was published in 1997 the year after its author’s death. He was murdered on the day he finished it.

The title refers to the fact that in antiquity Syria was given as part of Cleopatra’s dowry and thereby became an Egyptian possession.

I originally read it in the late 90’s. It’s stuck with me and comes to mind every now and then particularly with Syria so much in the news these days. The sub-title, Travels through Syria, is what Moss did back when that was still something one could do. It’s also where he met and had an affair with a Palestinian commando which he chronicled in this slim volume.

The original hardback (pictured) is hard to find these days, and apparently valuable if the resale value on Amazon is anything to go by (and I left mine…?), but it’s been reprinted and is available in a less attractively designed paperback edition. It’s well worth finding and reading.

Robert Tewdwr Moss was, needless to say with a name like that, not a Muslim writer, but if you’re interested in gay characters by Muslim writers check out this post on Five Muslims Who Wrote Gay Charters. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t personally read any of these books, at least not yet.

Give Rescued Heart a Forever Home

Rescued Heart 
Georgia Beers

Reviewed by A. L. Brooks

Set in a no-kill rescue shelter for animals, this book is introduced as part one of a series entitled the “Puppy Love” series. Whilst the title of the series sounds slightly frivolous, part one is not so. Georgia Beers, author of the Lambda award-winning “Fresh Tracks”, continues to present us with romances that have all the lovely, squishy stuff we want, but with characters who have flaws that make them less than perfect. And this latest offering is no exception. In fact, I found I enjoyed this one even more than some of her previous novels because one of the main characters, Lisa, is carrying some fairly weighty emotional baggage that means she often says or does things that literally make you wince. I like that. I like that it took me a while to warm to her. I like that in at least two scenes in the book, I was literally saying ‘What the f***?!’ out loud to myself because she’d been so heartless!

Lisa works full-time at the shelter, Ashley volunteers around her day job at a bakery. Lisa is cold, distant, and definitely keen to keep herself to herself. Ashley is sweet, but annoyingly passive, comfortable in her life without feeling the need to push herself to do anything more challenging. As the story unfolds you can’t quite imagine how these two will spark, but Georgia Beers is very good at slowly revealing the depth of her characters, and before you know it, who they are makes a lot of sense, and explains their behaviour up to that point pretty clearly. Which means that when the spark does ignite (because, of course, you know it will), it does so at just the right time and in a very believable way.

Interestingly, although the book then follows the fairly tried-and-tested formula of a bumpy road to happiness (misunderstandings, long silences, kiss-and-make-up scenes), it does so whilst revealing even more just how cold and thoughtless Lisa can inadvertently be, making you really want to reach into the pages and shake her! At some points you’re not even sure if you want them to get together, and I actually found that a truly enjoyable experience. It was nice not to feel totally loved-up about them both all the way through, and it kept me guessing a lot longer than a lot of stock romances do.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of the work done by the shelter, and it’s clear this is a subject matter close to Georgia’s heart. It came across as very well researched, and for me she struck just the right balance between telling us the reality of what the animals had been through before they were brought to the shelter versus standing on a soapbox shouting about the mistreatment of domestic pets. I was left in no doubt that there are some very evil people out there, but I wasn’t left thinking I’d purely read an advert for the admirable work such shelters do.

The book ends on a note that hints at what more there is to come from the series, either from Lisa and Ashley’s story, or perhaps from some of the other lesbian characters that have been introduced in this first instalment. I will certainly be eagerly awaiting that next chapter.

The Tea Machine

The Tea Machine
Gill McKnight

Reviewed by A. L. Brooks

Fancy a romp through space and time, visiting alternate realities (or are they parallel universes?) inhabited by Colossal space squid, a Roman Empire gone slightly out of whack, and lots of time for tea? Then this is the book for you. Continue reading

Mrs Engels

mrsengelsMrs Engels
by Gavin McCrea
Scribe Press

“No one understands men better than the women they don’t marry…” is what Lizzie Burns (no relation) is thinking on the train to London at the beginning of Mrs Engels as she’s escaping the life and hardships of an Irish mill worker in 1870 Manchester.

Lizzie is a strong celtic woman primarily defined by her relationship to a powerful foreign man, in this case Frederick Engels.  Think Ygritte from Game of Thrones.  “You know nothing Jon Snow.”

Continue reading

The Other Oldest Profession – Male Sex Work

Male Sex Work resized

Published by Harrington Park Press
Edited by Victor Minichiello and John Scott.

While male sex work is as old as the female variety, relatively little is known about it. Everything that is known appears to have been collected in this subtly-covered volume, which is bound to become the definitive academic resource on male sex work.

The problem – repeated by all the contributors – with being the definitive resource is the lack of research in the field upon which to base accurate conclusions.  Sample sizes are typically too small to be statistically significant, so while thousands of papers are cited, most findings are delivered with the caveat that further research is needed in order to confirm conclusions and trends.

Even so, this compendium – spread over 17 chapters – covers everything you’d expect (sociohistoric context, social and cultural issues) and more (marketing etc). It finishes with a section devoted to sex work in its global context, where you’ll find chapters on male sex work in Africa, China, Latin America, Russia, Germany and Ireland. Continue reading

Handsome Men…

…are Slighty Sunburnt.  I know, it’s an odd title.

Handsome Men are Slightly Sunburnt
Frank Ronan

I was more than happy to find this collection of shorts by Ronan in which he applies his gift with language in the service of telling stories.  The writing is lyrical in the way the Irish make look natural and Ronan uses it to lend dignity, empathy and humor to characters that might otherwise strike a reader as difficult to relate to; shut-ins, closeted gay men, widows. Continue reading