by Richard Labonte
“Got ‘Til It’s Gone,” by Larry Duplechan. Arsenal Pulp Press, 212 pages, $17.95 paper.
Fifteen years is a long time to wait for a sequel – but patience is rewarded with publication of this novel, a rare blend of sexy plotting and intelligent writing. Duplechan last wrote about exuberantly black and comfortably gay Johnnie Ray Rousseau, born of Louisiana Creole parents, in 1992’s “Captain Swing.” Rousseau was 35 then, mourning the loss of his longtime lover. Now he’s 48, still alone, fretting about nearing 50, sexing it up with one-night stands and occasional couplings with sexual buddies, lonely but not doing much about it – until he finds himself playing Daddy to a reformed hustler and porn star young enough to be his son (except he’s white). Meanwhile, his mother is dying of cancer, his best straight friend has had a midlife-crisis affair, and he’s blind to the fact that his best gay friend is hopelessly, helplessly, in love with him. That barebones plot description has a melodramatic ring to it, but Duplechan fleshes out his warm story with prose that alternates laugh-out-loud scenes with moments of profound introspection.
“I Dare You,” by Larkin Rose. Bold Stroke Books, 192 pages, $14.95 paper.
Ball-busting, power-suit-wearing corporate raider by day, sensuous pole dancer and stripper by night: Kelsey Billings is one conflicted gal, determined to keep her disparate lives from overlapping. Complications are compounded when she falls hard for hot-blooded lesbian karate champion Jordan Porter – and it turns out that Jordan’s mother lost her job, and her home, when Kelsey’s company bought out the Porter family’s struggling business. Toss in the mercurial stripper-bar boss who lusts after her, and the malevolent stalker who is leaving her death threats, and Kelsey is having some seriously uneasy days. What to do? Reveal the secret of her day job and lose the love she’s wanted for so long? This being an erotic romance, there can be no doubt that Kelsey and Jordan navigate assorted emotional minefields on their way to a happy-ever-after togetherness. But Rose’s well-crafted debut novel is erotica with benefits – plausible plotting, a fast pace, and well-defined secondary characters, including an engaging gay drag queen whose sturdy shoulder is always there when Kelsey needs grounded queer advice.
“Nothing Pink,” by Mark Hardy. Front Street Books, 112 pages, $16.95 hardcover.
Young Vincent is a queer kid who’s never kissed another boy, never even held hands with another boy. But he sure does dream of spending his life with another boy. His father is a fire-and-brimstone preacher, though, and he’s been raised with the “truth” that homosexuality is one sin God can never forgive pounded into his psyche. Then Vincent meets handsome Robert at an after-church potluck – and his paralyzing spiritual crisis slams into something blissfully physical. At first the two lads pass off their attraction as boyish friendship – they hike together, groom and ride a neighbor’s horse together, listen to forbidden music together. But when Vincent’s mother finds a copy of “First Hand” hidden under his mattress – every teen boy’s reliable masturbatory treasure – religious belief confronts the need for self-honesty. Hardy’s young adult novel focuses on the stifling role that hardhearted religion plays in the coming-out process with a minimalist intensity that makes it a breeze to read, and with a poetic maturity that makes it as accessible to adults as to teens.
“Manly,” by Dale Lazarov and Amy Colburn. Bruno Gmunder, 80 pages, $28.99 hardcover.
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So when the pictures are as sexy as those in this erotic graphic collection, who needs words? Not Lazarov, the gifted storyteller who crafted the dialogue-free scripts for “Manly”‘s three sizzling short stories, illustrated with exuberant, hyper-masculine inventiveness by Colburn (with color inking by Dominic Cordoba). In “Busted,” a civilian who helps a beefy policeman catch a fleeing fugitive connects with his fantasy man in uniform. In “Clinch,” two fiercely competitive muscled boxers get it on outside the ring. In “Hot Librarian,” a melancholy leatherman finds his object of desire behind a library reference desk. The trio of tales – featuring a multiracial cast of white, black, and Latino studs – all end with the kind of over-the-top orgasmic fulfillment that brings to mind the art-porn work of Tom of Finland or The Hun. But Lazarov’s evocative storylines also depict an underlying tenderness that adds lovely grace notes – and a certain amount of soul – to the torrid man-on-man action.
Robert leans in and meets me eye to eye. I try to avoid his stare by looking off to the right, but when I turn back he’s still staring. “I’m gay, Vincent,” he says. “And I think you’re gay too.” I’ve never looked anyone so squarely in the eye. Not even myself in the mirror. Tears well up in his eyes and in mine. I don’t know where the power comes from, but it rushes like a mighty wind, and I tell Robert Ingle what I’ve never told another living soul, not even God.
-from “Nothing Pink,” by Mark Hardy
ROCK LEGEND BOB MOULD, founder of the pioneering punk bank Husker Du in 1979, has signed to pen a memoir – in collaboration with rock writer Michael Azerrad – in which he’ll discuss his struggle with coming out as a queer rocker. “For many years, people have asked if and when I would write my autobiography. I have always looked forward to this point in time, where I could tell my stories, to answer the many questions about the music and my lifestyle, and how they inform the creative process,” said Mould about his book, coming from Little, Brown in 2010. Mould, who led the ’90s indie rock band Sugar and has produced music by Soul Asylum and Magnapop, will also write about his foray into the weird world of pro wrestling as a creative consultant, though the focus will be his rock career… THREE OF THE FIVE nominees for the National Book Award for poetry are gay: Frank Bidart, whose first collection was published in 1973, for “Watching the Spring Festival”; Mark Doty, also author of a series of memoirs, for “Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems”; and Richard Howard, author of more than 20 books – including 17 poetry collections, starting with “Quantities” in 1962 – for “Without Saying.” Patricia Smith and Reginald Gibbons are the other nominees; the winner will be announced Nov. 19.