Deadly Dreams 400 x 255 2nd VersionVictor J. Banis is a prolific writer as well as one of the most versatile and entertaining writers today. In recent years he has given us such gems as Longhorns, Angel Land, as well as the recent Deadly Series of mysteries. Deadly Dreams is the third installment in the series of mystery novels featuring the duo of Stanley Korski and Tom Danzel. In many ways it is the most satisfying book yet of the series. For those who may not be familiar with the series, the two met in the first book, Deadly Nightshade, when the openly gay San Francisco police officer Stanley Korski was teamed with the ‘straight’ Tom Danzel to solve a series of crimes involving gays.

In Deadly Dreams we find Tom has retired as a San Francisco Police Department detective and he and Stanley have become partners in a private investigation agency. They have also become partners in another way as they are now living together even though Tom is still loathe to openly admit the relationship. Following a prologue that ties the whole book together, Deadly Dreams begins with the death of Stanley’s father. Stanley is forced to take a closer look at his past only to discover that things he had always considered to be fact, were not fact at all. His discovery of a family member Stanley never knew existed, takes him on a dark and twisted journey through his childhood in order to unravel not only a past mystery but also a present day mystery. Stanley discovers that little, if anything, from his past was as he had thought it was when growing up. And through this labyrinth of discovery, Tom is right there beside Stanley, protecting him.

Deadly Dreams however should be classified more as a thriller than a mystery as the reader is aware from the first of the book just who the killer is. This does not detract in any way from the book however as there are plenty of tense moments. Banis masterfully keeps the reader on the edge of the seat in this page-turner and even though we may know ‘whodunnit’ from the start, there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns along the way. But as good as the mysteries are in this series of books, the ever changing relationship between Tom and Stanley is what especially keeps readers coming back for more. Reading Deadly Dreams, one is reminded not only what a wicked wit Banis possesses, as well as what a master of wordplay Banis can be, but one is also reminded just what an urbane writer Victor Banis is in his cultural references, such as the references to the 16th century Italian painter Agnolo Bronzino. Without giving away too many secrets, romance lovers will be highly satisfied with Deadly Dreams, though the destination is not arrived at without some scrapes and bruises to the relationship.

The Deadly series of mysteries started off really good, and each subsequent book has gotten better, so if you like edge-or-the-seat psychological thrillers, or you are a fan of romance, this book should not be missed. And if you are a fan of both you will find Deadly Dreams to be doubly good.

deadly_nightshadeVictor J. Banis is not only one of the more prolific writers today, he is also one of the more talented and versatile writers. So it was exciting news to me to learn awhile back that Mr. Banis was going to be doing a series of books in the mystery genre – which happens to be my favorite genre fiction.

The first book in the series, titled Deadly Nightshade, introduces us to two San Francisco policemen, Tom Danzel who is a very experienced, straight and masculine homicide detective, and Stanley Korski who is a slightly built, gay, and very much a rookie cop. The only reason Stanley is teamed up with Tom is that there is what appears to be a drag queen, killing men in San Francisco, and Stanley, being openly gay, was chosen to assist Tom in an area where Tom has no expertise.

One small caveat should be given here however. If a reader is looking for a crime driven police procedural this might not be the book the reader is seeking. While there are some very interesting twists that take place as the pair go about solving the crime, by far the strength of the book is about inter-personal relationships – not only between Tom and Stanely, but also between Stanley and his estranged father, and between other characters as well. The reader is almost certain to be drawn instantly to Stanley but it might take a little time for the reader to warm up to Tom, though it is almost certain the reader eventually will. 

If a reader is looking for a well-crafted, quickly paced romantic novel by a master writer, this is definitely the right book. Among Banis’ many talents is that he is a master of witty dialogue and wicked humor and that is never more evident in his writing than in Deadly Nightshade (The Man From C.A.M.P. Notwithstanding). For those old enough to remember some of the old movies, the banter between  Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn comes to mind.

I highly recommend Deadly Nightshade and have only one minor quibble with it. I would have preferred if Stanley and Tom had taken just a bit longer to reach the boiling point. However, I understand the reason for that is that this was projected to be a three book series. I surely hope, however, that reader’s can prevail on Mr. Banis to keep the Stanley and Tom series going past the initial three books as he has a winning combination here.

vglmale4Rick Reed has been making quite a name for himself in recent years as a writer of horror and of suspense thrillers. Though Reed’s name would not readily come to mind if one were asked to name some of the better known writers in the field of gay romance, if his latest story for Amber Quill Press, VGL Male Seeks Same, is an indication of things to come from him, readers will soon be recognizing him as one of the premier writers of gay romance. 

Ethan Schwartz is a very average, middle-aged Chicagoan who is tired of being alone. Neither his job as a theater publicist nor even the fact that he lives in the Boystown district of Chicago bring him in contact with other men who are looking for the same things in life. Briefly considering and discarding the idea of getting a pet, he decides to give romance one last try when he hears a co-worker praising a local online introduction service. Initially Ethan was honest in his portrayal of himself and he got no responses, causing him to create what he thought was a more desirable persona by submitting a false photograph.

Not only was Ethan deluged with replies from those merely looking for sex, but he received one reply from a man named Brian that seemed genuine and that interested him very much. Ethan soon found himself falling for Brian, but since Ethan’s profile was based on a lie what would happen when the two decided to meet? What does indeed happen is well worth finding out as Reed takes us through the budding romance, at the same time drawing a vivid picture of the life of gay men in Chicago.

With VGL Male Seeks Same, Rick Reed has proven he is not only a master of horror and suspense, he is also a master of the light romance – I use the term light romance in no way disparagingly, but to differentiate it from an angst driven romantic drama. The writing is light and breezy and witty and one does indeed quickly come to care for both Ethan and Brian. There are surprises along the way, especially the ending which will be vastly satisfying to any lover of the happily-ever-after romance. I very strongly recommend VGL Male Seeks Same by one of the bright lights of the GLBT literary world. More info can be found at http://www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/VGLMale.html .

dc3851c88da0f4fd0bc6d110_aa240_l3It takes a very talented author to pen over 150 diverse and very entertaining books over the course of a career spanning a little less than 50 years, but it takes an exceptionally talented writer to write a sci-fi adventure book that both keeps the reader on the edge of the seat and at the same time is very unsettling and dark and is a tale that one day could be closer to fact than fiction. With his latest novel, Angel Land, this is exactly what the prolific Victor Banis has done.

Angel Land is a dark and cautionary tale of what can happen when a state sponsored religion is wielded as a cudgel of power and retribution over the populace. Set in the late 21st Century, much of the United States has been cordoned off, by the state sponsored church, into the Fundamental Christian Territories such as the area called Angel Land – nothing more than a ghetto for gays, who are blamed for bringing the Sept virus into the world – the latest strain of the HIV virus. It is a land where Jews, Catholics and even Baptists are branded heretics and are kept in line through terror applied under the guise of religion. Inevitably parallels must be drawn to such travesties of a recent century as Hitler’s Warsaw ghetto as Banis weaves a plausible and chilling tale of what can happen when the true Church and other good people turn their backs and allow those who wield power for evil to take charge. Banis draws the line between religion and spirituality sharply and distinctly.

The story follows one Harvey Milk Walton, who is one of the most likable and interesting protagonists I have encountered in some time, as he enters Angel Land and through his actions and interactions with the residents of an section of Angel Land called the Casa, completely and irrevocably brings changes to the Zone of Perversion. Along the way Harvey meets many well fleshed out and memorable characters and even finds love, for the first time in his life, with someone who would seem to be the last person he would ever choose. In the broadest scope, Harvey Milk Walton represents mans indomitable spirit to overcome all adversity.

The book also contains quite interesting exploration of 20th Century San Francisco and many of it’s icons, including the Casto district and the Golden Gate Bridge as well as other points of interest. Though the subject matter is on one hand dark and disturbing and is a warning of what might come to be if we allow our civil liberties to slip away, on the other hand the author has always demonstrated his rare gift of being able to leaven even the darkest story with humor and with eternal hope. More than once I found myself chuckling out loud upon encountering one of Banis’ witticisms, such as the reference to one of Henry David Thoreau’s famous works.

It can scarcely be said of most writers that their work over an extended period of time just keeps getting better and better, but it is certainly true of Victor Banis in the opinion of this reviewer. I recommend Angel Land as highly as I have ever recommended a book. Angel Land is a crackling good, edge-of-the-seat adventure that is also an object lesson of what can happen if we as people don’t vigilantly guard our civil liberties, and should not be missed.

I have, since childhood, been a big fan of the western novel. As a matter of fact Zane Grey’s Rider’s of the Purple Sage was one of my first ‘favorite’ books when I was around twelve years of age. In later years I graduated to reading the western novels of such wonderful writers as Louis L’Amour, Elmer Kelton and Larry McMurtry to name just three.

So of course when a publisher expressed an interest in seeing a western novel from me, I didn’t hesitate to start coming up with plot ideas. I was born and raised on the Texas panhandle where once upon a time the Comanches and Kiowas reigned supreme.  After the Native Amercians were mostly cleared out of the panhandle came Charley Goodnight and Oliver Loving blazing their cattle trail to New Mexico and beyond. Then later Goodnight started the JA Ranch (named for John Adair who financed it) and grew it to over a million acres, and he is largely responsible for improving the quality of the cattle in Texas. Then there were such things as Palo Duro Canyon which had once been a permanent camp for the Quahadi Comanches, the battle of Adobe Walls where Kit Carson led the US Cavalry against the Comanches and their allies the Kiowas, and old Tascosa – a real-life, hell-raising cowtown that was attributed to have one of the first two cemetaries to be called Boot Hill (the other being Dodge City). Tascosa is now a Ghost Town. I realized there could be no better setting for the novel than the High Plains of Texas. (By the way Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter was obviously in error if that was supposed to be the High Plains or Staked Plains as, with the exception of Palo Duro Canyon which is the second largest hole in the ground in the US in area after the Grand Canyon, the land in the panhandle is perfectly flat. )

At any rate, while having been a voracious reader of history, with an emphasis on the American Civil War and the Old West, I recall many of the historical facts from the Texas panhandle region, I still needed to do research to refresh my memory. Years ago research would take the form of a trip to the library just hoping the particular books one needed were not loaned out at the time. However,  it is so much easier doing research on the world-wide web. So I spent a day yesterday reacquainting myself with the history of the Texas panhandle, a not at all unejoyable endeavor. And in fact I learned things I had not remembered ever learning before, such as the fact that Charles Goodnight smoked about 50 cigars a day or that Henry McCarty, aka William Bonney, aka Kid Antrim, aka BIlly the Kid spent a good deal of time in the Texas panhandle as well as in Tascosa. So much of what most of us learned about Billy the Kid when we were growing up is wrong. For example for years he was thought to be lefthanded because in the famous photo of him his revolver was strapped on the left side …. that is until someone figured out the photo was reversed! (The way this was figured out was interesting of itself – the loading port on the 1873 Winchester rifle was on the left side in the photo whereas in reality the bullets are loaded on the right side.) Also Billy is said to have killed twenty to thirty men by various accounts (a lot of it taken from the writings of Pat Garrett the man who killed Billy). In reality however only about four killings can be attributed to Billy and moreover Billy’s contemporaries seemed to speak more highly of his character than Pat Garrett’s character was spoken of by many of the peers. For certain Henry McCarty was a cattle rustler and an outlaw but even there it can be argued somewhat that he mainly stole from those he perceived had wronged him in the Lincoln County Wars, or other time. So the novel will present a somehwat more sympathetic Billy the Kid, albeit as a minor character. 

At any rate I am excited about beginning to write the as yet unnamed novel. I am leaning toward Palo Duro, which is Spanish for ‘hard stick’ which gives a nice double entendre for a western that happens to have a couple of gay characters. (A very wise writer friend of mine, Jon Michaelsen, stated that he doesn’t write gay stories – just stories that happen to have some gay characters. And I agree totally with that sentiment.) And while one part of the book will be a gay romance (not erotica by the way), I also want it to be a crackling good yarn in the classic western novel tradition. I plan to include historical characters such as Charles Goodnight, Billy the Kid, and Kit Carson to name a few, and hopefully make history come alive for the readers.

Voyeur by Jon Michaelsen

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines a voyeur as 1. A person who derives sexual gratification from observing the naked bodies or sexual acts of others, especially from a secret vantage point.

Voyeur is also a very hot and stylish story of romance and obsession by Jon Michaelsen, a wonderful new author. The story can be found in the MEN anthology on the Loveyoudivine His and His Kisses imprint from loveyoudivine Alterotica. 

The story follows Kevin, a gay accountant, who lives a rather mundane life before discovering a man in an adjacent high-rise that could well be his dream man. But what begins as an entertaining diversion, and a rather harmless fantasy soon spirals out of control to become a full-blown obsession. Along the way there is romance and steamy love to be found and enough Hitchcockian twists to make the master proud. (For fear of spoiling some of the suspense I am keeping the details rather vague). 

Voyeur is set in modern day Atlanta and Jon does a splendid job of evoking one of the most wonderful cities in America. Jon’s descriptive pictures make one feel as if they are truly there, cruising down Peachtree Street on a warm spring afternoon, the peach blossoms turning everything pink. (Having lived there for several years in the 1990s I was reminded of such diverse things as kudzu vines, the Allman Brothers Band at the Fox Theater, the Underground, MARTA, and going up to Seeger’s in Buckhead for one of the best meals ever!)

Jon Michaelsen is one of the exciting new voices in the all male romance genre, and will next year have his first gay detective novel published by loveyoudivine. I am predicting that Jon is poised to break out as one of the premier romance writers in the field of gay fiction, as well as the author of suspense novels that will not only keep readers in suspense, but will keep them anxiously awaiting his next book. I can highly recommend Voyeur along with the rest of the MEN anthology that I have read (which is admitedly only two other stories).

It is certainly hard for me to believe that The Angel Singers is the twelfth book in the Dick Hardesty mystery series. It doesn’t seem that long ago that The Butcher’s Son kicked off this wonderful series with a tale of arson and mayhem, and introduced us to one of the most endearing, not to mention enduring gay investigators, Dick Hardesty.

The Angel Singers takes us into the world of a gay men’s chorus (and by the way gives quite good information and insight into that particularly fascinating world) and introduces us to a particulary nasty man named Grant Jefferson who happens to be sponsored by one of the choral group’s benefactors. It is not long however until Grant is scattered far and wide by a car bomb which lets the reader know there was some serious dislike for Mister Jefferson. Due to his nastiness there is no shortage of suspects for Dick to sift through on the way to revealing the somewhat surprising solution of this murder. 

However as entertaining as the solving of the crime is, it is in making the characters come to life that Grey really shines. Just like an elegant merlot chablais, this series has gotten better with time and age, each novel seeming to improve on the last to create a rich tapestry of not only Hardesty’s professional life, but also his home life.  Dick, Jonathan and the adorable Joshua are characters we have come to love and to really care about, and I find the home and family life is every bit as entertaining as the mystery. Grey is a master at writing tongue-in-cheek wit, and there is plenty of that to be found in The Angel Singers.

If you already love the Dick Hardesty series, as I do, you will love this one too, and if you have never read a Dick Hardesty book (and shame on you if you have not) this is as good as any of them as a place to start.

After the Ploughing ….

As Robbie Burns wrote in his poem regarding the mouse turned up by the plough (To A Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest, With The Plough), “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men aft gang agley”. Many years ago (i.e. the mid 1970s) as a very young writer, armed with a B.A. in Journalism, I began what I hoped would be a career in writing.  And while there were early successes such as a volume of short stories published and two volumes of poetry published in addition to short-stories placed in various publications, the writing career was diverted by the intervention of life. The particular “plough” that disturbed my sod was a chance at careers in both music, and in the corporate business world, neither of which I can honestly say I regret.  However a devastating and debilitating illness intervened to put an end to the music career as the hands upon the instrument would no longer cooperate with what the brain was coaxing them to do,  and through a set of circumstances the Multiple Schlerosis also put an end to the business career.

There followed many years of searching for direction, and the feeling that somehow my particular muse had taken permanent flight, before somehow arriving at the place where I made the decision that it is (past) time to jumpstart the writing career again.

It came to me that after the ploughing comes the planting. So applying the seed of ideas to the fertile soil of the imagination, I found the ideas were indeed still there. To that end, I have at least three projects in various stages of completion  which I will talk about soon, two being novels and one a short-story I am working on for an anthology. Now if the hands will only cooperate to tell the story my imagination is growing.

At any rate this blog will be a place where I will not only discuss my own writing projects, but it will serve as a place to discuss the works of some of my writer friends and maybe do a fun interview or two of some of the writers I truly admire. (The B.A. in Journalism needs to be used occasionally afterall,)

I also want to hear from you good folks that take time out of your busy day and kindly come by to peruse my words. If there is something you think should be here that is not please feel free to let me know, and if you like what you see here let me know that too.