In Too Deep
By Ronica Black
Bold Stroke Books, $15.95
This is a challenging murder mysteryâ€”a lesbian serial killer is scattering the savagely mutilated bodies of men around town. Itâ€™s also a (somewhat cliched) coming-out storyâ€”the straight policewoman sent undercover to nab the prime suspect has â€śfeelingsâ€ť for another woman on the force, and is soon seduced by the presumed murderer. And itâ€™s certainly sizzling lesbian eroticaâ€”sections of this mixed-genre novel are hot, hot, hot. Black juggles the assorted elements of her first book with assured pacing and estimable panache, though on balance the sex is more interesting than the sleuthingâ€”despite the presence of a couple of red-herring dykes, the real killerâ€™s identity is apparent early on. That doesnâ€™t detract at all from the velocity of the story, however, or from the relative depthâ€”for genre fictionâ€”of the central characters: Erin, the married-but-separated detective who comes to her lesbian senses; loner Patricia, the policewoman-mentor who finds herself falling for Erin; and sultry club owner Elizabeth, the sexually predatory suspect who discards women like Kleenex...until she meets Erin.
The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family
By Dan Savage
Dutton Books, $24.95.
Spending thousands of dollars on an anniversary party is one way to mark a 10-year milestone. Sporting tattoos of each otherâ€™s names is another sign of commitment. And then thereâ€™s marriage. Sex-advice columnist Savage ponders that diverse arc of celebratory options with comic brioâ€”and with his usual sharp-eyed pragmatismâ€”in this sometimes bawdy, often emotional, and occasionally ambivalent memoir. On one hand, he notes, marriage would bestow no particular legal protections on a queer couple in Washington State. On the other hand, his 64-year-old practicing Catholic motherâ€”a wise woman who â€śbelieves marriage is about love and commitment, not genitalsâ€ťâ€”was urging Savage and his boyfriend to tie the knot. Thereâ€™s a political side to The Commitment: itâ€™s peppered with cogent summaries of recent gay marriage legislation, and it skewers the likes of right-wing Sen. Rick Santorum and Focus on the Family head James Dobson for how little they really know about gay families. But the soul of Savageâ€™s reflection on same-sex unions stems from how tenderly personal it turns out to be.
B Percival Everett
Graywolf Press, $23
The novel Wounded whispers of Matthew Shepard: it opens with news of the brutal murder of a young gay man in the rugged high desert of Wyoming. But the truly haunting voice of this sorrowful story is rancher and horse trainer John Hunt, a Berkeley-educated black man moving with self-assurance through an insular ruralâ€”and almost all whiteâ€”community. When gay activists arrive to protest the youthâ€™s crucifixion, Hunt befriends 20-year-old David, the emotionally adrift son of an old college friend. Itâ€™s an encounter that forces the thoroughly decent older man to assess how he feels about queers, particularly when David develops a crush on him. Thereâ€™s much more plot in Everettâ€™s astute exploration of aggressive racism, explosive homophobia, and shocking frontier justiceâ€”for one thing, thereâ€™s Huntâ€™s romance, six years after his wife was kicked to death by a horse, with a neighboring woman rancher. For gay readers, though, Everettâ€™s thoughtful depiction of how a tolerant straight man comes to care for a troubled gay man is the heart of the story.
The Rice Queen Diaries
By Daniel Gawthorp
Arsenal Pulp Press,$16.95
Obsession, insensitivity, confusion, shame, understanding, celebration, comfort: The Rice Queen Diaries cycles through several states of mind, starting with a young boyâ€™s admiration of Bruce Leeâ€™s muscles and ending with a mature manâ€™s monogamous contentment with a Burmese lover. This insightful memoir about the authorâ€™s near-exclusive attraction to Asian men covers a lot of sexual, emotional, and cultural groundâ€”and growth. The sexual component of the book is unbridled and almost boastful, as Gawthorp recallsâ€”with the help of a â€śtrickâ€ť diaryâ€”dozens of affairs detailed from among his hundreds of trysts with Asian â€śboysâ€ť (though many of them were, in fact, men in their 20s or older). The emotional component, where he gnaws articulately at why he came to be a â€śrice queen,â€ť is intelligently and bravely self-reflective. But the book comes into its strength when Gawthorp addresses disparate cultures of desireâ€”when he comes to understand, for example, that many of his sexual encounters in Thailand were more financial transactions than romantic interludes.
JAY QUINN, FOR SIX YEARS the executive editor of Harrington Park Pressâ€™ gay imprint, Southern Tier Editions, has resigned in order to devote more time to his own writingâ€”and there wonâ€™t be an immediate replacement, says Bill Palmer, publications director for the press. â€śWeâ€™ll be working with our existing book program editors in acquiring new projects,â€ť he said, â€śand we have a good year and a halfâ€™s worth of acquisitions as a legacy from Jay!â€ť Quinn edited two collections of gay fiction from Southern writers, Rebel Yell and Rebel Yell 2, and is the author of a memoir, The Mentor, and a novel, Metes & Bounds, all from Southern Tier, and of the novel Back Where He Started, published earlier this year by Alyson Books... BOOKS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Jeanette Wintersonâ€™s first novel for young readers, Tanglewreck, is due in July 2006 from Bloomsbury; itâ€™s about a girl named Silver, a house called Tanglewreck, and a 17th-century watch that controls mysterious and frightening changes in time... THE BEST POEMS and essays of Cheryl Clarke, plus 25 new pieces, are collected in The Days of Good Looks: Prose and Poetry 1980-2005, coming in December from Carroll & Graf.
Richard Labonte has been reading, editing, selling, and writing about queer literature since the mid-â€™70s.