Sunday, August 29, 2010

What We Remember and The Road Home by Michael Thomas Ford

I first met Michael Thomas Ford soon after the publication of his very popular book of essays called Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Love Me.(Alyson, 1997). I found him to be witty and charming, as well as a damn good writer. Little did I know at the time that he was at beginning of what has become an extraordinary career?

Ford has published over fifty works for Young Adult and Adults, and seems to spawn new ideas for books rather quickly. Not only does he excel in the gay romance genre, but writes horror books and mysteries as well. He has also added his take on the Jane Austen craze, with the publication of  Jane Bites Back (Ballantine Books, 2009), and has a soon to be published work about zombies called Z (Harper Teen, 2010).

What We Remember (Kensington, 2009) was recently awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery, and it is a book that is wonderfully told and cleverly plotted. What starts out feeling like yet another domestic drama quickly turns into a mystery that keeps us guessing until the very end.

In the other work I am going to talk about, The Road Home, there is a mystery as well, and one of the characters says “mysteries need to be solved”, and another answers, “not always…isn’t it enough that we’ve figured it out?”

It is with the figuring out, as well as finding out what drives the characters to do the things they do, that makes this book as enjoyable as it is. Of course the mystery is fun to solve, but what we get in addition makes it an even more compelling read.

What We Remember tells the story of two families, the McClouds and the Derrys. They have been brought together through marriage and friendship, and the interweaving of lives is a significant theme here.

When the story begins, we learn that Dan McCloud, who was a police officer in Cold Falls, NY, has been missing for 7 years, and is presumed dead. He sent his wife a letter indicating that he was sick and was going to commit suicide. Although no one really knows for sure, the family and others have moved on, with various degrees of success.

With the sudden discovery of his body, all evidence indicates that he was murdered, and his oldest son James becomes the prime suspect. The arresting officer is the son of Dan’s best friend, and is James’ brother in law. Of course this creates tremendous tension within the families. Did James do it? Who else could it have been?

We discover, as we read on, that the key to unlocking the mystery is less about the how than it is about the why. What We Remember is told by alternating the past and the present, a device that reveals a great deal about the why.

Perhaps the most interesting character in the book is Dan’s youngest son Billy. He is the gay brother, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and is clearly the black sheep of the family. That being said, he is the one whose memory is the most reliable. He is the one that brings this story to its stunning conclusion. To say any more would spoil the mystery.

This book is an engaging and fun to read page turner. You get a lot more than you might expect, and that is a good thing. I recommend it highly.

The Road Home (Kensington, 2010) tells an entirely different story, containing the familiar elements of Ford’s very popular Last Summer and Full Circle. Yes, this has all the ingredients of a gay romance, but it is much more. This is a book about an inner journey of self-discovery and the life changing decisions that occur as a result .

Photographer Burke Crenshaw is forced to return to his family home in Vermont as a result of a serious car accident, which happens on his 40th birthday. As a result, Burke is not only confronted with his past, but is given the opportunity to reflect on his future. Just what is he going to do with his life?

While there, Burke meets Will, who is the son of a man Burke had a crush on in high school. Will becomes Burke's companion, and eventually they have sex. Burke is conflicted, not only by the age difference, but with the realization that Will is at odds with confronting his sexuality, considering the societal price he feels he would have to pay. After all, Burke is comfortable with himself..or is he?

Ford adds  a wonderful cast of characters to the story. There is a deliciously dandified gentleman named Gaither Lucas, a woman named Lucy, who is Burke's father's companion, and a librarian named Sam. All of them add a rich texture to the plot, making it fun and exciting. There is also a delightful segment devoted to the Radical Faeries, which is enchanting and magical.

Burke rediscovers his passion for photography and happens upon a curious mystery as a result of some old Civil War prints. There is a bit of a ghost story here as well, which is one of the things which made this book even more of a page turner for me. So you see, this book has a lot of things to offer, all the while giving you the opportunity to think about your own life. What a bargain!

I so loved this book, that it made me want to go back and fill myself full of Michael’s previous works, and I think you will too. So, which ever one you start with, you won't be disappointed.

I spoke with Michael on the MyQmunity Gay and Lesbian Book Talk show, and, as I mentioned above, he is preparing to launch yet another offering, a young adult book called Z. Call it a book about zombies, and like the others, you'll find out it's about a lot more.

Listen to my chat with Michael by following the link from the MyQmunity Arts Facebook page, or going directly to

Next week I will be reviewing Karin Kallmaker's Above Temptation (Bella Books, 2010

Until then, happy reading.

Robert Jaquay,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Photographs of Claudia by KG MacGregor

"There are always two people in every picture; the photographer and the viewer."
Ansel Adams

KG  MacGregor has been writing for several years now, and her books have garnered many awards along the way. She won the Lambda Literary Award for Women's Romance with her book, Out of Love, and has received several Golden Crown Literary Society awards as well. Her most recent work,  Photographs of Claudia (Bella Books, 2009) is her 13th novel, and one that carries on her tradition of finely crafted story telling.

 Photographs of Claudia  is first and foremost a love story, one that will move you, excite you, and have you eager to find out what will happen next. It has wonderfully drawn characters and caricatures (notably the future mother-in-law) populating its pages. In a section about the book on her web page, KG MacGregor indicates that some of the characters in this book are drawn from real life, and although it is not necessary to know this as you read, it is evident that her characters mean a lot to her.

This novel's central character is Leonora or Leo Westcott. She is an accomplished photographer who has learned her trade from her father. Although he is dead, it is clear that Leo honors him ever time she works behind the camera. One of her points of pride is that she learned the techniques of creating masterful pictures well before the age of digital photography.

Don’t be mistaken, she has developed her own skills admirably, and has plenty of work to do, but she does not have the recognition she deserves. One of the challenges she is given by her friends is to advance herself by applying to a special workshop for studio photographers. They feel she needs to put herself out there. This is a competitive process which  requires a complete portfolio of her work, and she will need to find a suitable subject.

Leo is so committed to her craft that she seemingly has no time for a relationship. She resides quite comfortably with her cat Madeline, and her days are filled with assignments.. She does have wonderful friends, who, like friends are wont to do, would like to see her happily involved with someone. However nice this might seem, the time never seems to be right for her.

Leo first encounters Claudia Galloway quite by chance, while she is on a job photographing school children. Claudia is doing an internship with Leo’s friend Sandy, and exhibits this remarkable ability to have the children under her care behave while other children don't.  This impresses Leo, but what impresses her more is Claudia herself. It is evident, as her friend Sandy is quick to point out, that  Leo has been smitten by this woman.

What follows is the story of a relationship that is cautiously and lovingly developed. Claudia appears to have  no issues with Leo’s sexuality, and, in fact seems to feel most comfortable with her and her friends, even more than her own. Their friendship/relationship develops, and soon Claudia  becomes the model Leo uses to develop her portfolio. Mind you, it is Claudia that suggest this!

One of the things that keeps Leo from pursuing Claudia is that Claudia is engaged to be married. Her fiance is particularly hateful, and obviously wants Claudia to follow him wherever he goes. However, as she and Leo become closer, it is quite evident that Claudia is struggling, not only with her pending marriage, but also with her desire to be able to be her own woman.. The good news is that it is quite evident that a major shift in self awareness is taking place within her, and rather than anguish over it, she follows her heart to find out what it is she really wants out of life.

One of the nicer qualities this book possesses is its pacing. Although our wish to have something happen between the two women accelerates as they get to know each other better, nothing really happens until the time is right. This is a love story that wants to have a happy ending, but, to the author’s credit, we’re given a few twists and turns to keep us guessing. As with any good romance, are hearts are always wanting the best to happen.

The book also deals with the photographer’s craft, emphasizing the relationship between the subject and those who will view the work once completed. It is certain that the author researched this aspect thoroughly, and you are bound to learn something new from Leo's sessions with Claudia. I know I did.

Since this is the first KG MacGregor book I’ve read, I am going to recommend you start with this one. If you find her writing and her storytelling as fine as I did, then you’re in for a treat. There are twelve books before this one, and a new one on the way. She is best know for her romances, but she has also delved into the area of suspense. No doubt they are exciting reads as well.

To learn more about this engaging author, you can go to her website

To listen to my conversation with KG
Listen to internet radio with myQmunity-Book Talk on Blog Talk Radio

Next week I will be discussing a delightful book by author Michael Thomas Ford, What We Remember (Kensington, 2009). This book won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery.

Until then, happy reading

Robert Jaquay,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Blue Moon Cafe and Tales from the Sexual Underground by Rick R. Reed

In 1764 a novel was written by Horace Walpole called The Castle of Otranto. With the publication of this work a new genre was born; the Gothic novel. The book was also written in the literary and artistic period known as the Age of Romanticism. This was a time when artistic sensibilities were often primal, and authors, as well as other artists, wore their hearts on their sleeve Many times these works included characters that showed fear and apprehension towards life and their surroundings. In short, they were exquisitely sensitive individuals, and were often out of place in the world they lived in. These works were often highly romantic as well.

Over the years this genre has taken on many hues, and one of them is that of the paranormal romance. One has only to watch an episode of True Blood or read any of the “Twilight" books, and you know that this type of thing is extremely popular.

Now, although we as GLBT folks can find a certain sense of fulfillment by imagining ourselves in these predominantly straight situations, we no longer have to do so. Fortunately for us, there are authors among us who have taken up these themes and situations and infused them with decidedly gay colors, usually with exciting results.

One such author is Rick R. Reed, who has written a wonderfully chilling horror tale called  The Blue Moon  Cafe (Amber Quill Press, 2009). Not only will this little gem chill your heart, but it will make it beat a bit faster due to its highly romantic elements. And it doesn’t stop there. This is not the romance of unfulfilled desire, where lovers just seem to miss the opportunity to connect over and over, but it does have a sexual tension that will keep you wanting to intercede. It is a highly erotic tale as well. That being said, the sexual elements serve to enhance the work, and never overshadow the super story that is being told.

The place is Seattle, the time is the present, and something horrific is happening to gay men. It is August, and the moon is full. The first character we meet has no name, but it doesn’t take us long to find out that it is not a man. We experience a stalking and a brutal murder through the eyes of a killer on the prowl. This is decidedly creepy. As the scene ends, we are psyched for what will follow. What is it? Could it be a werewolf?

The next character we meet is Thad Matthews, an unemployed gay man, who after a day of mundane chores, decides to get out and try a new restaurant, a place called the Blue Moon Cafe. This handsome, ginger haired guy is also unattached, so going out also means being every ready for that elusive chance encounter with another man. I guess we all know what that's like.

Soon after entering the restaurant, he meets Sam, an intriguingly seductive man who is  dark, hairy, and, exceedingly handsome. They meet, they flirt, and they have sex (all in good time by the way). Nothing is hurried here, as this is where a wonderful romance takes hold.

Everything should be perfect, but it’s not. Sam is reluctant to commit. Thad is hurt but determined to give Sam his space. We meet another character named Jared, and now we have the makings of a interesting love triangle. Yummy stuff, right?

As the mystery develops, the brutal  murders continue to happen. The beast has been seen, and one of the people who sees him is Jared! It doesn’t take long for us to start to wonder, along with Thad, if there is some connection between Sam and the murders? Sam and his family disappear during the full moon, and that is when the killings take place. Even though we sense what is happening, we are really never sure.

As with any good horror story, we are carefully lead along, and we become detectives trying to solve the mystery. The plot twists and turns in such a way as to keep us off guard After all, isn't that what we love about horror stories? The added bonus here is the love story. It is a wonderful one, as well as hot. No wonder Thad has a hard time trying to let Sam go.

What Reed possesses is a true gift for writing a good story that keeps you fully involved. He writes very well, and it is obvious that his way with words and images has not only made him successful in this medium, but will keep you coming back for more. If this is your first Rick Reed book, or one that you've been waiting for, don't miss it.

Moving now to his Tales from the Sexual Underground (mlspress, 2010), we really have an opportunity to experience Rick Reed at his literary best. His prose is smooth, his images precise, and his sense of humor, even when the topic is hardly funny, is refreshing and well placed.

These “tales” come from a weekly column which appeared in a weekly entertainment magazine in Chicago called Nightspots. As he says in his intro to the collection, “I wanted to write about people who were not just out, but out there, people who lived their sexual lives in ways most of us could only imagine…” He is true to his word.

Most of the sections are short, and cover things like: Cyber Infidelity, Craigslist,  The Truths and Myths about being a Slut, and several segments about the dynamics of being HIV positive. Depending on your bent, as well as your sense of humor, this collection will keep you reading just to see what’s going to happen next. There are serious moments, but mostly everything is told in a witty gay style that will have you laughing more than not. Although this is a departure from his usual fare, these stories give a terrific insight into the world of an author, and to the gay world in general., especially in Chicago.  I recommend it highly.

Listen to my conversation with the author, Rick R Reed, called "the Stephen King of Gay Horror". Just click the link below.

Listen to internet radio with myQmunity-Book Talk on Blog Talk Radio

Next week I will be talking about best-selling Lambda Literary and Golden Crown award-winner KG MacGregor and her new book, Photograph's of Claudia.

Until next time, happy reading.

Robert Jaquay,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Children of Mother Glory by C.M. Harris

"People shouldn't commit suicide because this is all there is; we should commit life because it may be all we get. This is heaven and hell. And it does kinda have its moments of grandeur, doesn't it?"-Suzy Gilmore

 I am so grateful to Amy Dawson Robertson for leading me to this absolutely wonderful author and her equally wonderful book. She told me it deserved more attention, and, by golly, she is absolutely right. C.M Harris's The Children of Mother Glory (Spinster Ink, 2009) is yet another great first novel and deserves the distinction of being called a Great Read/Must Read.

When we first meet Glory Potter she and her friend Emma gaze fondly at the new church being built. This is the church her father will preside over, and quite unexpectedly, it will become hers to watch over after his death. The church represents the heartbeat of a community called Gulliver. This town is small and remote, and is a place where everyone knows each other (or at least they think they do).  Most of the town's residents are adamant in their desire to keep a healthy distance between themselves and the world at large, and they do a darned good job at it. They share their lives with each other (unless they can’t), struggle with the “sins” aligned with being human, and have true inspiration to guide them, that being their church and their minister, “Mother” Glory.

Now, don’t let this scare you off. Fundamentalism and being “different” don’t usually mix well, but C.M. Harris craftily plays off these people and their rules of conduct, quickly showing us that regardless of the rules, differences will always emerge. As always, these differences create conflict, and it is their resolution we are most interested in. This congregation, known as Potterites, becomes the reference point for all that follows. We are introduced to quite a few characters throughout this delightful work, but it is the queer ones who become the novel’s true focus. That being said, I am convinced this book will resonate within us all.

Covering a hundred year span, this work is told in four sections, each focusing on the lives of four diverse individuals and the people they know. Everyone is connected in some way, especially to the past.  As we might expect, Glory Potter, even in death, has become a significant component in how they live their lives. They are never far away from her influence, and it is for us to determine how good or bad that is.

The novel begins in the early years of the twentieth century, and as I said above, introduces us to our title character. She is strong willed and capable of almost anything, but, she also has a secret. She is drawn to her friend Emma, and eventually falls in love with her. Of course, regardless of her true feelings, because of her role in the community,  she must suppress them.  As we get to know her we experience her inner conflict, and we also witness her determination and need to set her desires aside and be the true leader of her flock. Given the time depicted, we understand, but we desperately want her and Emma to be able to brave it out and declare their love for one another. Alas, we know better. The heartbreaking resolution they must choose sends a ripple through time. As we finish the beginnings of her story, we are now ready to meet her “children”.

Jumping ahead in time (1942) , we are introduced to Sebastian or Seb Brickman, who is on his way to an interment camp for Conscientious Objectors. Here is a young man who listens while Mother Glory declares from the pulpit that the devil is waiting for the “tick in his wires” to scoop up those who covet. She continues by saying, “And no, we cannot ever truly cast off our desires while we remain on earth. But we must silence our appetites.”

Seb, however,  is possessed by an “itchy appetite’, and although he hears these words, when it comes to his desire for another man, he becomes willing to create that tick, and ultimately pay the consequences. He eventually returns to Gulliver and hides his secret until it is no longer possible to do so. Is there acceptance in this strict community, or merely tolerance? Seb's story is yet another important layer in this intricately woven tale.

Moving to 1983, we are introduced to Danielle Clancy, who is the granddaughter of Emma. Although she also experiences the same internal struggle as Mother Glory and her grandmother, she isn’t beyond sending anonymous crush notes to Angela Klinshoffer.  Angela, to her, is the “impossible lovechild of Greta Garbo and Boy George”! And she is not the only girl who Danielle desires. At one point, she makes it her business to seek counsel from Seb Brickman, as she feels she is like him. As her character develops, we understand her need to break away from the judgement of others and leave her family, her friends, and of course, the church. In this segment we witness the bravery of not only following your dream, but following your heart as well.

The book finishes with the remarkable story of Diana Bower. Diana started her life as Darrell, and makes the penultimate societal sacrifice in her need to bravely celebrate her difference. Diana is also a black woman, so this adds a visible difference to her already remarkable aura. She is a lovely, understanding person, someone we'd surely like to know. It is by being true to herself that she frees herself from the fearful bondage of self that could make her feel "less than".  By bringing the book toward its conclusion by introducing this character, C.M. Harris beautifully closes the circle first drawn by Mother Glory in the beginning. As we witness intolerance softened by time, and as the real world totally penetrates this once closed society,  we look back to this tale's beginnings, and see that love, however manifested, will always prevail.

In the end, The Children of Mother Glory accomplishes what it set out to do, and more.  Somewhere, (and I dare say everywhere), in this grand book, we as GLBT folk can find ourselves and bear witness to our own struggle for peace within. Once again, I found a treasure for you to enjoy and savor. It will carry you forward like the wind, and even though the ending is extremely satisfying, I bet you’ll be hungry for more. I'm also certain you'll be eager for her next book, I know I am.

Listen to my BlogTalkRadio interview with C.M. Harris,  Go to  , or go to the MyQmunity Tampa Bay Arts page on Facebook!/pages/myQmunity-Tampa-Bay-Arts/106938482675160?ref=ts after tonight.

Next week I will be talking about Rick R. Reed's  The Blue Moon Cafe, and Tales from the Sexual Underground. This extremely popular author has been dubbed  "the Stephen King of gay horror"-need I say more?

Until next time, happy reading.
Robert Jaquay,