A Place Called Winter Review

A Place Called Winter
by Patrick Gale

A Place Called Winter is a rather romantic gay love story – though you wouldn’t know that from reading the back cover, or even from reading the first chapter of the book, unless you automatically assume that anyone undergoing immersion bath treatment in an asylum in the early 1900’s is doing so because they’re gay – which may be a safe enough assumption. Continue reading

Green Carnation Prize Short List



The Green Carnation prize short list is out.

Having to choose between the only two I’ve read, A Place Called Winter and Mrs Engels, my vote would go to Gavin McCrea for Mrs Engels.

There are a lot of similarities between the books as both are based on real life historical people and both books are told in the first person. In both cases the author fills in an interior personal life where the historical record is sketchy. The writing in each is a pleasure to read. Continue reading

The Big Lie – Book review

The Big Lie
Julie Mayhew

Reviewed by A L Brooks

Set in a modern-day England that was successfully invaded by the Nazis in 1940, this book explores that what-if scenario through the eyes of a naive sixteen year old, Jessika. She is the model young mädchen of the Greater German Reich and believes utterly in the ‘perfect’ life presented to the people by the propaganda fed to them from on high. All that is shattered, slowly and surely, as she befriends and falls in love with the new girl next door, Clementine. Daughter of political parents who dare to defy the authorities, Clementine is everything Jessika is not – outspoken, questioning, rebellious.

This novel is brilliant and disturbing, and left me pondering it and its message for some days after finishing it. Julie Mayhew (who also wrote Red Ink, short-listed for the 2014 Branford Boase Award) has delivered up a fascinating and terrifying tale of an England we wouldn’t recognise, and yet which seems utterly believable. The gradual stripping away of Jessika’s innocence, and its repercussions, are sometimes very painful to witness, but always page-turningly gripping. Through Jessika’s story we get to explore and question what loyalty means, and how far any of us would go for someone we cared about. It’s a tale that is upsetting, thought-provoking and very, very clever.

The book is aimed at the Young Adult market, and when I first learnt this, I have to say I was perturbed. The subject matter, the language used, the imagery conjured up – all of it made me squirm at the thought of a kid aged maybe twelve to fourteen reading it. And then I stopped, and considered that for a long moment. Actually, why wouldn’t you let someone that young read this? What better age to introduce someone to the horrors of Nazism, to educate them early on to ensure another generation doesn’t let the world ever be taken over by such evil again? Let them ask the myriad of questions this book will undoubtedly raise in their minds because in the long run, that can only be a good thing.

Interview with Hanya Yanagihara

Randon and Hanya

Randon Burns and Hanya Yanagihara

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Hanya Yanagihara the day of the Man Booker readings – which was the night before the award.  Sadly, she did not become the first American to win it. But in the interview she addresses some of my questions about the choices she made regarding her writing process and why she thinks a gay audience would relate to A Little Life – even though only one of the four main characters identifies as gay in the “traditional” sense of the word.

The interview was broadcast on Out in South London, a terrific program that covers gay art, theatre, books, film etc. hosted by Rosie Wilby on Resonance 104.4 FM.  It will be re-broadcast on Friday at 11am and you can listen to it online here.  The interview starts about 14:30 minutes in.


And the Award Goes to…

The Rental Heart
Kirsty Logan

Salt Publishing

Congratulations to Kirsty Logan on her short story collection The Rental Heart which last night received the 2015 Polari First Book Prize. You can see what she had to say about it in her own words here.

I hope to hear more from all of this years short list nominees.  Polari Second Book Prize anyone?


Everything Must Go – Polari First Book Prize Nominee

Everything Must Go
La JohnJoseph

We take a look at the final nomination in La JohnJoseph’s words.

“Everything Must Go” is best summarized as an abstract howl of pain, disguised as a quest novel. It’s a transfeminist statement of intent, a black humoured, vitriolic, experimental piece of work, largely autobiographical, which I wrote to voice the indescribable horrors I saw inflicted on the people I love the most. Through a non-linear narrative (which is almost entirely self-defeating)  our pregnant, teenage, transgender heroine, Diana, leaves home to fulfil a mission given to her by a grotesque plant which has swallowed her home. Yes, really. From there it gets very messy very quickly as a parade of iconic figures from cinema, history, the Bible and downtown reality appear and disappear, constantly diverting our heroine from the task at hand. It’s a sprawling, slim volume, the dense product of the internet age, giving no fixed weight to time or place, instead flipping from epoch and locale as one might skip between browser tabs. As such it offers a definite challenge to any reader bold enough to pick up a copy, but honors their commitment with a shower of richly woven imagery, violently funny set pieces, and an immensely original approach to language. If you’re a fan of Cathy Acker, Jean Genet, David Wojnarowicz, William Burroughs, Ronald Firbanks, Edith Sitwell, Karen Finley, or Angela Carter, this book will probably appeal to you. If you’re not, then may the Lord have mercy on your soul.



The Polari First Book Prize Winner will be announced this evening, 5 Oct, at the Royal Festival Hall.  Everyone Must Go.

The Rental Heart – Polari First Book Prize Nominee

The Rental Heart
Kirsty Logan

“I wrote the title story of The Rental Heart after a breakup. I was 24, just out of a long-term relationship, and dating around in that frantic, gleeful, half-insane way that sometimes happens when you’re single again after a long time. I started seeing this woman I met in a bar – let’s call her Grace, like the woman in the story, which isn’t far off her actual name. She had seven facial piercings, four of those in her mouth. She collected fruit stickers in a little notebook because her uncle and grandpa did. She was an apologetic smoker. She didn’t have a passport or a driving licence or any form of ID at all. She teased me for being a lightweight drunk, for being obsessed about time, for drinking black coffee and red wine, for being terrible at pool. Her hands were so small and always fidgeting: picking at the edges of the menu, twisting her rings, untying and retying her shoelaces. I think the name she told me wasn’t her real name. Continue reading