Let’s talk about the Lammies. First, congratulations and best wishes to Josh Lanyon and Laura Baumbach for their book, Mexican Heat, a Lammie finalist for best gay romance.
Now, let’s talk about J.P. Bowie, William Maltese, Victor Banis, and me. Our book about working-class tough guys, Hard Working Men, is a Lammie finalist for best gay erotica. Publicly, I’ve tried to stay low-key about this, but emails keep showing up to wish me well and remind me how fortunate I am to have received such recognition. Some go on to add that I’m damn lucky to be part of a book which includes J.P. Bowie, and especially, William Maltese and Victor Banis, and that this probably is the main reason our book is on the list of finalists. Hmm… maybe, but I hope not.
There’s no question those two names brought attention to the book, which has also translated into good sales, but as for the award, I hope there’s more to it than that. Surely the Lambda Literary Foundation’s board didn’t simply say, “Oh, look, here’s William Maltese and Victor Banis together in one book. Throw those two icons a bone and put it on the list.” In other words, what they wrote is unimportant, only their names.
I’m certain the Lambda folks made their decision because they read the book. When I read it I see four distinct stories with characters diverse, each one having his own method for functioning as a gay man in the tough world of blue-collar laborers. These are occupations where first impressions can make or break a man, and it has nothing to do with sexual preference or geographical location. Having been there and done that, I can tell you I’ve seen numerous incidents of men (and women) being driven from the work site because they couldn’t take the razzing. Didn’t know how to deal with it. Couldn’t distinguish between which men were truly assholes (a few) and which were simply teasing (most), hoping the newbie would give it right back to them. For those who don’t, the work place becomes a living hell for them, because it only gets worse day after day until they leave the job thinking it’ll be different somewhere else. It won’t be. Not until they learn how to handle it as the men in our book have done.
Each of our men deals with the macho business at their work place just fine. As for their private lives, our characters are talented here as well. One fellow likes it, knows how to get it, and takes it time and again until he runs across something permanent. Another is on the rebound, pulls up his boot straps and finds a man who’s worth fighting for. One likes to do it, but isn’t ready to commit, or even face the fact he is what he is. Another had a taste of it with his buddy in high school, but his pal wasn’t ready, and so with patience he waits until years later when circumstances allow his buddy to see who it was that truly loved him all along.
These four stories certainly fit the criteria for the Lammie Award — quality literature representing a diverse range of gay men, and yes, I admit it, I am damn lucky. Fortunate the call went out for a blue-collar anthology and my story made the book. Everything from there fell into place in ways better than could have been planned. The publisher, Laura Baumback of MLR Press recognized the potential impression these four stories inside one cover could have on the reader. The editor, Kris Jacen, helped the authors, well, at least this one named Jardonn, whip his story into the best read it could possibly be. Even the cover artist, Deanna Jamroz, came up with not one but two tantalizing covers, the first model having to be replaced after the book’s release for reasons not of my concern.
End result, whether we take the Lammie top prize or not, I will for the rest of my days know I am part of something very special — a book titled Hard Working Men.