Review by Vincent Diamond
Cleis Press continues their series of erotica anthologies based on male archetypes with this installment on construction workers: Hard Hats. (Cowboys, Truckers, Cops—are they running through the Village People? Will we be seeing Native American Hotties someday soon?)
Editor Neil Plakcy worked on construction sites himself, and, as he says in his Introduction, "From the shirtless carpenters to the beefy laborers, there was plenty of guy candy." Some of the stories here are just that: guy candy with a little scenery stuck in to make it work for this theme. Twenty-one stories are in this collection, and they generate a lot of heat and sweat—for the characters and for the reader. Better though, several of the stories really delve into the concept, and authors have come up with some interesting takes on the building trades.
Rob Rosen's "Hammered and Nailed" is a fun start to the collection. When a new condo owner takes possession of his place, he christens his home with a jerk-off session that includes a tradesman's hammer. When the hammer's owner shows up to finish some carpentry, smut ensues. Raw and rocket fast, the story zips right along.
"Fantasy Man" by Aaron Michaels is one of the longer stories in the book; it has a set-up that shows a character looking for action then finding it at the construction site across from his office building. Smoothly written, with some fun language, this story is one of the stand-outs in the collection.
Plakcy contributes his own "Daniel in the Lyons Den." When site foreman Joe Lyons takes an unexpected fall in a thunderstorm, the assistant building manager (hired only because he knew Microsoft Project- a nice, humorous touch) saves him from drowning. From there, it's only a few short steps to Lyons' site trailer, a hot shower, and some even hotter sex. With his astonishingly foul mouth, Lyons is probably based on a real foreman—somewhere. Construction sites aren't know for having especially erudite and articulate men so this touch of realism from Plakcy is humorous and real.
"Vertigo" from A. Steele is another stand-out. Conrad Wilcox is afraid of heights, and when his new office is under construction, he's forced (kind of) to face his fears. Steele has a deft touch with dialogue, and the action is both realistic and tense. Conrad's lover literally fucks him into the air; it's un-nerving and sexy to read about it.
The end story, "Sandhogs" gives readers a nice glimpse into the life of a miner. Set in the claustrophic world of the underground, a classic older man/younger man scenario plays out from beneath tons of rock and earth and steel. Author Kiernan Kelly has a nice touch with acknowledging the real fear and unease that must be a genuine part of the working world.
If you're looking for an evening's read that will give you a happy ending, this book is for you. If you're looking for a glimpse into the variety of trades that make up much of the blue-collar world, Hard Hats does that, too. But mostly, if you want some vivid description of man-on-man sex, hard bodies, and hunky construction workers, this is the book to choose.