Thursday, November 24, 2011

CAREGIVER by Rick R. Reed

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 205

Dan and Mark have their difficulties. Neither are working and Mark seems not to be sexually interested in Dan. The honeymoon is definitely over for this couple. The problem? Cocaine. They had recently moved from Chicago to South Florida in a failed attempt to pull Mark away from his drug addiction.

While Dan beats the bushes for a job, he also finds plenty of time on his hands, so being a giving person, he volunteers at the Tampa AIDS Alliance to be a buddy to people suffering from AIDS. This story takes place in 1991, before the cocktails that prolonged AIDS-suffer’s lives, so there are plenty of buddies to choose from.

Dan’s HIV buddy, Adam, turns out to be light years beyond all expectations. Adam is flamboyant, witty, wise, giving and charming. He is the type of friend one finds only once or twice in a lifetime. The two quickly bond (non-sexually) and become friends for life. In their short time together, Adam teaches Dan several life lessons, including how to be strong and stand up for himself, something at Adam is a pro at.

Dan also befriends Adam’s lover, Sullivan, who is easy on the eyes but a bit standoffish. Dan is attracted to Sullivan, but is too much the gentleman to go after Adam’s man.

All seems well for Dan until Mark falls off the wagon and plunges the couple into an unknown landscape, while at the same time Adam lands himself in prison. The problems (as often happens in Rick Reed’s novels) seem insurmountable. But while this author leads his characters into hell, he always leaves them a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back. But will they?

Having lived my young adult life in an epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, and having lost my share of friends and loved ones to the disease, it is clear to me that the author draws from personal experience in writing this gripping story. I found that, although this story is set in the height of the AIDS epidemic, it is a story about friendship, love and finding courage. It is a sad, often humorous, and inspirational journey.

This is a story that resonates with me. I enjoyed the characters and their undertaking, and I can recommend it to all who enjoy a dark and complicated tale.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Deadly Kind of Love by Victor J. Banis

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 215

When Chris Rafferty returns to his room at a posh Palm Springs resort, he finds a naked man in his bed. This is not so unusual considering this gay resort is known for satisfying their clientele’s needs with young hustlers, but this hustler is a little too stiff for Chris’s liking. This hustler is dead. Even before calling the police, Chris calls his good friends, Stanley Korski and Tom Danzel, a gay couple who are San Francisco private detectives.

Once Tom and Stanley take the case, they drive to Palm Springs and meet with PS homicide detective Dick Hammond. The three men confirm that the deceased was a hustler who worked the resort, and that he was murdered and dumped in Chris’s room.

Tom and Stanley check into the resort, and are given the royal treatment while they investigate clues. They have a hunch that the killer was one of the well-to-do gay clients, and that he is watching their every move. The closer they get to identifying the killer, the more bodies pile up until the killer decides to target the detectives. The boys soon find themselves in a deadly game and in over their heads.

Deadly Kind of Love is the fifth novel in the Deadly Series, and the third one I’ve read. It is told with the same delightful voice and quick pacing that Mr. Banis captures with each of these Deadly books. Fans of this series will no doubt enjoy this latest offering, as I did, to follow these sexy investigators through plot twists and turns.

Banis has created something special with this detective duo, and the mystery and motives fall second to the interplay between these characters. Still, I felt something lacking in their chemistry in this 5th book. The magic that I’ve seen in other Deadly books was there, but not with the same wit and intensity. I also felt the author rushed to reveal the killer and wrap up the ending, which I must say was, none the less, exciting.

Followers of the Deadly Series as well as mystery lovers in general will no doubt enjoy this latest outing from master author Victor Banis.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

True Stories – Portraits from My Past by Felice Picano

This charming collection of memoirs by author Felice Picano is written in fifteen vignettes. The author recounts tales of his childhood, his experiences as a GLBT publisher, his co-founding the now-famous Violet Quill Club, his early years as a journalist, and his encounters with the rich and famous—including Bette Midler, Tennessee Williams, W.H. Auden, Charles Henri Ford, and the queen of Twentieth-Century fashion, Diana Vreeland. For the most part, the author tells his story via his relationships with an array of fascinating people that helped guide his destiny.

I found this read to be compelling and deliciously entertaining. Many of these stories span the gulf between the post-stonewall flowering of gay culture to the harsh years of AIDS. Picano writes with wit, sensitivity and vivid detail. It is still hard for me to imagine that one person could cross paths with so many interesting people in only one lifetime, but the truly remarkable aspect is that he was able to capture those experiences in such a delightful collection of anecdotes and portraits.

Each vignette is equally entertaining as the others. Whether he’s talking about partying down with Bette Midler at the Continental Baths, or a not-so-simple road trip with his father, or caring for a dying business partner, or lunching with the dragon-lady of New York high fashion, I could not put it down. This is a book I will read over and over.