Entertainment » Books

Rainbow Reads :: April 4

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday Apr 4, 2012

This month's Rainbow Reads offers a wide selection of gay murder mysteries, one set in Hawaii, one a near triple-murder set in Antarctica, and the other a collection of the early cases of a gay P.I. We entertain the young adult market with Madeleine George's new novel, and offer something for the ladies with Cleis Press' new adult butch/femme erotica. There's something for everyone in this month's Reading Rainbow!

"Zero Break" (Neil S. Plakcy)

In two-time Lambda Award finalist Plakcy’s sixth novel in his acclaimed Mahu series, gay detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and his detective partner Ray Donne investigate the murder of a young lesbian mother in an apparent home invasion. They follow up on all the "mokes and titas", aka the usual suspects, and uncover a tangled web leading to the real motive -- one that involves a secret marriage between the woman’s ex-partner and the husband of their twin daughters, an ex-con boyfriend, and an accounting cover-up. Plakcy writes candidly and without fuss about his character’s sexual orientation, noting in the first page, "Yeah, I’m a friend of Dorothy, and proud of it, though it hasn’t always been easy being the only openly gay detective in the Honolulu Police Department." And of the murder victim’s Asian ex-partner, Kimo wonders, "Among gay men, a haole who likes Asian men is called a rice queen. I wondered if her family history and the jewelry she possessed made ZoĆ« Greenfield the female equivalent of that term." He and his fireman partner Mike have a good life together, but worry throughout the novel whether or not it’s the right time for them to start a family. Plakcy also shows off his knowledge of both Hawaiian culture and cop lingo. His character talks about growing up schooled in the Hawaiian ways, where he learned to repair an outrigger canoe, speak some Hawaiian, play the ipu gourd, and "weave a decent lauhala mat to use when my dad dug an imu in the backyard to roast a pig." There’s lots of surfing, following leads, double-crosses, and boat chases before the case is finally cracked. "Zero Break" is a well-written, thrilling read, refreshing for its LGBT characters and tropical backdrop. Think of it as Hawaii 5-0 goes gay, a perfect read for while sunning yourself in The Pines. (MLR Press)

"Crimes on Latimer" (Joseph R.G. DeMarco)

Joseph R.G. DeMarco takes a look into the formative years of his gay detective character, Marco Fontana, in this teasing collection of short murder mysteries. In the first, "The Kronos Elect", Young Marco is a scholarship student at St. T’s Catholic School when school disciplinarian Patrick Bidding is murdered. Marco’s ally on the staff, closeted Mr. Sullivan, is a suspect for the murder, and this young P.I. rushes to his aid to discover that it was the disciplinarian’s son, Damian, and his pact of ne’er-do-well friends, who did the dastardly deed. In another, Marco helps the employee of a friend, who has been accused of stealing a valuable DaVinci sketch. The sketch’s owner, Mr. Haldane, is the father of Marco’s high school crush, Cullen, and the thief ends up being Haldane’s son-in-law to be. The story reads like Dashiell Hammett paperback noir, with a gay plot twist. In "The G-String Thief", one of the dancers at Marco’s business, StripGuyz, is being targeted. The dancer, Kyle, suspects his rich family has hired the thug who is harassing him, to force him to give up stripping. He’s partially right. Through the stories, readers learn about Marco’s teen years and ’20s, his growing collection of friends and allies, and his healthy attitude regarding his sexual orientation. This collection of mini-mysteries are compelling, even if at times, the pat way young Marco solves the case seems a little hard to believe. Overall, the collection is solid, and serves to spark interest in the escapades of this gay private dick, all grown up. (Lethe Press)

"The Survival Methods and Mating Rituals of Men and Marine Animals" (Chris Kenry)

In this engaging novel, children’s book author Davis Garner has hit rock bottom: he’s been diagnosed with HIV, been evicted from his almost-bare apartment, and his reputation as a writer has suffered at the fate of his last two, poorly-written books. When a friend helps him get a job as a technical writer on an Antarctic-bound research vessel, Davis at first suffers the insecurity of not knowing anything at all about the job he is supposed to be doing. He soon realizes that his shipmates are not all they’re cracked up to be, either, from the stern network administrator Maureen, to the electrical tech Worm, to the handsome scientist Artaud. Davis spends his days aimlessly wandering the ship, inventing a weekly list of his accomplishments, and playing game after game after game of solitaire on his computer. He balances the need to make the money for his HIV medication with his loathing for the job and for how it takes him away from writing his new children’s book. But when he is tapped as the marine tech investigating whether the seismic technology is causing marine animals to beach themselves, he finds himself in the middle of a very polarizing issue. Meanwhile, Maureen has stolen the superior scientific work of Artaud’s ex-wife for him to pass off as his own, Worm has had a surprisingly successful one-time hook-up with the object of his affection, Maureen, and the less said about Artaud’s hairy sidekick Jerry, the better. In the end, Davis, Maureen, and Worm team up to bring Artaud’s sinister plans to sell the scientific research to oil companies to light, barely escaping a triple-murder in the process. Kenry’s fourth novel shows his chops as a consummate weaver of stories, able to hook the reader early and reel him in with one whale of a tale. A perfect read for a leisurely week at a seaside resort. (Kensington Books)

"The Difference Between You and Me" (Madeleine George)

This charming YA fiction book looks at the confusing world of budding sexuality. Lesbian Jesse cuts her hair with a Swiss Army Knife, wears big green fishing boots to school, and is the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Popular Emily is the vice president of the student council who loves her longtime boyfriend, shortstop Mike McDade. Still, the two girls meet up on Tuesday afternoons in the library bathroom to make out. Jesse "has planned to say I don’t know how much longer I can do this. But Emily pulls Jesse close, slips her arms around her neck, and presses her sweet, soft mouth against Jesse’s." Emily thinks she can have it all: keep Jesse and her boyfriend, and avoid risking her the cache of her high school popularity. When the two girls face off on a heated school issue, their relationship is tested. Emily thinks getting corporate sponsorship from NorthStar for the prom and sports teams is the best thing Vander High will have ever seen. But Jesse knows that it’s all part of the company’s bid to build a sprawling StarMart big-box store on the edge of town that will destroy small business and perpetuate the cycle of employee poverty. When Jesse and her new friend Esther take on Emily and the student council, all bets are off. "The Difference Between You and Me" is a thoughtful, well-written story that deals with issues of sexual orientation and first relationships candidly and with both humor and pathos. By having the point of view shift from chapter to chapter, young readers can begin to learn tolerance by seeing the equally valid points different characters share about the same issue. It is a recommended read for both young adults, and adults still young enough to remember when the world of clandestine crushes held with them the weight of the world. (Viking Press)

"The Harder They Come: Butch/Femme Erotica" (Edited by D.L. King)

As editor D.L. King writes in her introduction, everything old is new again, including butch/femme relationships. "The Harder She Comes" looks at 20 assorted pairings of sexy daddies and their girls, bottom bois with femme tops, and butches galore. In the first entry, Evan Mora’s "Speakeasy", a butch daddy picks up her eager femme at a lesbian salon’s ’20s night and engages in a steamy, back-alley hook-up. In "Winner Take All", a dominant femme helps an ecology-minded butch win a new pickup truck (and pick up a trick), and in "It’s So Peaceful Out Here", a butch and her femme pitch a tent and inadvertently give their friends a show. Sinclair Sexsmith gives us the deliciously naughty "Sliding Doors" treatment of a night at home between a Daddy and his girl in "Good Girl, Bad Girl", and Rachel Kramer Bussel steams up a massage session in "Happy Ending." "The Bucket List" tackles a long-simmering relationship between friends that ends up with the women together and in love, despite their age difference. The holidays get their fair shake as a butch passes for a man in "Manchester, 2000"’s New Year’s Eve hook-up. In Kathleen Bradean’s "Tamales", two lovers celebrate Christmas by making tamales with friends, and in River Light’s "Valentine", a boi discovers that her present from Cupid is being handed off to her partner’s butch lover for an evening of bootlicking. And in "Birthday Butch", tough butch JT submits to a femme domme bartender after a birthday spanking. In Beth Wylde’s "Born To Ride", a femme goes out looking for a butch, "Tall and bulky with big muscles and close-cropped hair. Maybe even a tat or two, because ink done right on a macho chick is sooo sexy." Her prayers are answered when she meets Shane, the owner of the local lesbian bar, and climbs on the back of her Harley. And in Miel Rose’s "Farmhand", a hired hand gets down and dirty with both of her employers. King has assembled a wide variety of butch-femme pairings, seen from various power dynamics, and appealing to a wide cross-section of readers. Cleis Press wins again with another solid collection. (CLEIS Press)

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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