WmMalteseIn this issue, William Maltese reviews

• Damages by Bazhe • Person in a Position of Trust by Rick Chris • Sticky by Dale Lazarov and Steve MacIsaac

Also see William Maltese's review of The Gale Male Sleuth, page 16
by Bazhe
ISBN: 0595297145
iUniverse Star

Reviewed by William Maltese (http://www.williammaltese.com), author of the just- released sci-fi epic, BOND-SHATTERING.

Reading DAMAGES by Bazhe is very much like being on a train and looking out your window upon the devastation done to some other train recently having met catastrophic disaster on the tracks immediately parallel to yours. Although you may try to pull your morbidly riveted attention away from the utter horror of the spectacle played out before you, you’re, likewise, forced to keep looking by something deep inside of you that keeps, over and over, insisting, “Surely, somewhere, somehow, there has to be at least one person who survives this unbelievably horrible wreck!”

By the end of this dark autobiographical tale of an adopted young gay man struggling with desertion by his biological mother and father, and coping with his domineering stepfather, suddenly dead — his doting stepmother headed for a painful and long drawn-out death from cancer — in a country (Yugoslavia) falling apart around them, Bazhe seems to have survived his many ordeals. That said, readers are left decidedly unsure whether or not there’s been irreparable damage (thus the book’s title?) to his psyche.

While my Eastern-European based novel, SLOVAKIAN BOY, manages to find fun, humor, hope, and good times in the equally politically troubled and disruptive splintering of Czechosolvakia, Bazhe’s DAMAGES wanders a politically volatile and devastatingly fractured Yugoslavian landscape that’s seemingly totally devoid of anything except trial and tribulation reminiscent of those Russian novels of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and/or Solzhenitsyn. Even when he leaves his homeland for other shores (Turkey and America, to mention two), he encounters people, experiences, and dire circumstances that would likely knock all sense of optimism from most people.

So, if you’re in the mood for a decidedly different kind of gay autobiography that’s well-written, genuinely fascinating, if macabre, more-often-than-not depressing, with the minutely painful detailing of one attractive young man’s struggles merely to cope in a day-to-day world seemingly gone decidedly awry (proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that awful things do happen to beautiful people), DAMAGES — a definite change of pace from the usual gay coming-of-age story — is certainly the book for you.

(a Beef Matson Mystery)
an ongoing on-line book serialization (http://www.rickchris.com)
by Rick Chris

Reviewed by William Maltese
 author of the just-released plot-lead gay sci-fi epic, BOND-SHATTERING.

Okay, I originally headed for Rick Chris’s web-page because I heard he was one of the best artists in the business, as regards painting the nude male form, and I was in the process of commissioning artwork, based upon an early nude picture of me, for the ARTISTS “DO” author WILLIAM MALTESE section of my williammaltese.com web-page. It was only after I finished checking out Rick’s obviously wondrous eye-candy (I hadn’t been steered wrong), and had Rick’s signature on the dotted line by way of commitment to my artwork project, that I came to realize there were oodles of other stuff on his site, including his “Spotlight” section, highlighting the creativity of people in the gay community, AND his ongoing serialization of his Beef Matson Mystery novel, A PERSON IN A POSITION OF TRUST.

Since I’m one of these tactile-oriented people who actually prefer a hard-copy book-in-hand, as opposed to scrolling down e-book text on some computer screen or Palm™ reader, my initial curiosity, as a published author, as regards Rick’s book, didn’t immediately go beyond a cursory glance. However, as Rick and I corresponded, more and more, as a result of his working on my artwork project, and as I became more familiar with Rick, the person, I became more and more interested in what he might have to say in a written, as opposed to visual, format, especially since he’d provided his book with several great and interesting illustrations. Therefore, the day came when I printed out the first four chapters of his book and became hopelessly committed to reading on to the end.

Presently, A.P.I.A.P.O.T. is up to nine chapters, with a partial and synopsis of Chapter Ten. Think earlier novelists, like Dickens, who had their work serialized in the magazines of their time. While on the subject of Dickens, Chris provides a late-in-the-book segue that echoes the goings-on of “A Christmas Carol” — I kept expecting the ghost of Marley to come, clanking his chains, out of the Cozy Cup diner’s woodwork.

But, before the poltergeist activity… before the appearance of Paul Lynde’s shade (remember Paul from the central playing position of “Hollywood Squares”?) … before the metaphysical confrontation between the Devil ("a man, perhaps middle aged, well groomed and dressed snappily in a three piece pin striped suit"), and God (“a plump man with reddish hair and a goatee dressed in a heavy outer coat over a suit and vest”) … everything appears just a pretty straight-forward tale of gay detective Beef Matson and his terribly wronged assistant Randy Hartwicke. The latter’s involvement with dysfunctional family members, accusations of child molestation, and ongoing harassment by a cult-like matriarchal right-wing-save- all-homos-from-homosexuality- and-turn-them -into-productive-members-of-the- collective-heterosexual-gene-pool (conservative?!) religious group, brings Beef running to provide Randy much-needed and hoped-for rescue. Fascinating stuff, made more so, by the way Chris, probably as a result of his painter background, provides layer upon layer of character development even for his at-times seemingly “over-the-top” villains and villainesses. I say “at-times seemingly” over the top, because I’ve been assured by the author that several of this book’s really bad guys and gals are based upon actual people (names changed to protect the guilty).

Let me emphasize: heterosexual women do not come off (no pun intended) at all well in this book. They do come off downright dangerous and scary sexual predators who seem hell-bent upon the seduction of all gay men (especially one particularly good-looking blond one) and seem to feel only a bit of carefully delivered educational indoctrination (not to exclude aversion therapy) is all that’s necessary to turn “fags” from the Dark Side to the Light (AKA — onto the path for which God intended them in the first place).  Yikes!

I certainly don’t know where or how this story is going to end — Chris, however, assures me that he knows and has known from the get-go — my curiosity definitely piqued.

So, you just might want to give Rick Chris’s A PERSON IN A POSITION OF TRUST a look-see. And, if it’s not your cup of tea (like, say, you’re a White Anglo-Saxon conservative highly strung and highly sex-craved praise-the-Lord religious straight lady intend upon winning all queers over to men-on-women — figuratively and literally — relationships), you can always divert your eyes and devote your full and undivided attention to Chris’s delectable artistic renditions of naked male.

StickySTICKY #1, #2, and #3
US$4.95 each
By Dale Lazarov and Steve MacIsaac
Eros Comix

Reviewed by William Maltese (http://www.williammaltese.com),  author of the just- released sci-fi epic, BOND-SHATTERING.

There’s the ongoing theory that easy-to-rent videos caused the death of the pulp erotic hard-copy fiction industry that had its heyday in the sixties, seventies, and early eighties (think the sexually explicit 60,000-word novels from Greenleaf Classics). For the fast-satisfaction-needed quick-fix “now” generations, it’s simply easier to put a rented video in the have-in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home VCR, press “Play,” and sit back with a beer (or glass of wine), than it is to hold to an actual book, turn the pages, and actually read. Not to mention the way videos don’t even require the extra bother of imagining what characters look like. A picture worth a thousand words becoming more and more evident as more and more viewers actually completely turn off their video audios in order to excuse themselves completely from even the spoken word (the latter admittedly often banal and silly to point of distracting ha-ha laughter).

Over the last few years, there has been an attempt to bridge the gap ever widening between the faded-in-popularity full-length erotic novels and the still-popular video formats, filling in with something not video but certainly more visual than a non-picture 60,000-word novel. I refer here to the emergence of the erotic comic book, certainly evolved from those early-day comics wherein the only character running around without his pants was Donald Duck.

For the purposes of this particular review, I specifically refer to the STICKY series of comics (presently three in number), by Dale Lazrov and Steve MacIsaac, for Seattle’s Eros Comix (AKA Gary Groth and Kim Thompson). Billed as —“Are you MAN enough for STICKY?: A new gay comic series of erotica for men and the women who like gay men.” — this trio of comics goes even one step closer toward illustrative dominance by eliminating text and narrative altogether in no-frills basic story lines of boy meets boy, boy does boy — rather, boys do each other (sometimes more than once). What’s more, for those of us with a decidedly romantic bent, each plot comes across as decidedly more meaningful than merely a one-night stand. There’s actually — gasp! — kissing, with two out of three final scenes having characters asleep and tenderly cuddling (no wham-bam-thank-you-man, here!). All of the sex pretty straight-forward (no pun intended); S&M, B&D, and/or other kinkiness left to some other series.

Approximately 24 dual-tone pages each, not counting full front-and-back color graphics, each “book” comes across (at least to this reviewer) as erotically fun — an even more quick-fix than my bothering with a video — especially since the STICKY illustrations (graphically drawn and anatomically correct) are sufficiently real-life to avoid any (whatsoever) amateurish stick-figure comparisons.

So, for someone who doesn’t always want to read a long book, or want to bother with a video, erotic comics in general — STICKY comics in particular — seem, quite nicely, to fit their intended bill.

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