An Opinion Piece
These days it seems anybody can hang a sign on their web address door and proclaim themselves to be reviewers of books.
Many are book lovers who shell out the bucks and are inclined to express their likes/dislikes, regardless of their abilities to coherently analyze reasons for their likes/dislikes.
Others have signed up at review sites so they can get free books to read, their purchase price being their agreeing to review the books, again regardless of their abilities to coherently… (see above).
Still more have a hidden agenda, either to purposely promote authors in their little clique, or purposely denigrate authors not in their little clique. Some of these reviews are written by authors themselves with an agenda impossible to hide: trashing books written by their competition.
What are the poor readers to do? How do they determine which review sites are truly giving them honest opinions, so they can decide where to shell out their hard-earned money for books they will enjoy? It’s a crap shoot, no doubt, but I can honestly vouch for one specializing in male on male erotic romance.
Not only is this classy lady from Padua, Italy a reader of manlove romance titles, her appetite for them is voracious. Ms. Rolle devours an incredible number of books weekly, and not only does she gain keen insight from what she’s read, she shares her thoughts via her self-written book reviews. Elisa favors no particular publishers or authors. She has no rating systems for books she reads. Her reviews are detailed, well-organized, and invaluable to not only her fellow-readers, but the authors as well. I’ve lost count of the comments I’ve seen on her site from authors who tell her she found personality traits in their characters even they didn’t recognize existed. I am no exception. Ms. Rolle’s review of my Danube Divide taught me much about the men in my own story.
So, any manlove fiction lovers out there looking for ideas on what next to read, Elisa Rolle’s site is a must-visit-daily for you, and as if reviews weren’t already enough, lately Elisa started what she calls The Inside Reader where authors and readers list their all-time favorite LGBT books.
That’s where one of our own comes in. Just check out the names on this list which includes William Maltese.
Yes, we claim him. William is ours. One of our MLR Press authors, and we intend to never let him go.
|Release Date||May 2009|
|Cover Artist||Deana C. Jamroz|
|Available At:||AllRomanceEbooks (ebook)|
|Barnes & Noble (paperback)|
The Battle of Hadrianopolis, 378 AD, Roman legions versus Gothic warriors — ancient historian Ammianus called it the worst defeat in Roman history since Cannae. Theologian Rufinus said it was the beginning of evils for the Roman Empire then and thereafter.
Fifteen thousand Romans, two-thirds of the Eastern Empire Legionary forces, lay dead or dying on a Thracian plain, but for four men on opposite sides of the battlefied, no conflicts of cultures, religions or territorial boundaries could keep them apart. Nor could the mighty river that separated their homelands — The Danube. Despite all obstacles, these men will find their way to conquer the Danube Divide.
It is a stench like no other: the foul odors of the battlefield, the end of it, the dead and the dying. Sights and sounds are equally gut-wrenching, but unlike the smells, they don’t stay with a man. It is the stench that permeates his being forever, constantly returning to haunt him, rekindled by the most common of unrelated aromas-meats raw or cooked, fruits fresh or rotten, flowering plants pleasant or pungent-all are channeled from his nose to his brain, reminding him of what he saw, what he heard, and what he did.
The scope of this battlefield is unimaginable. Fifteen thousand Romans lay dead or dying. Had the sun not set, another five thousand would have joined them. Only darkness prevented their Goth combatants from slaughtering those few who did escape.
Under a twilight sky shrouded in fire smoke, the aftermath and its smells and sounds create nightmares. Some of the cavalry horses continue their struggle to stand, with hooves and legs severed, with arrows imbedded in their flanks, gashes from swords and spears penetrating deep into their breasts. And in their struggles they mercilessly, and mercifully, kick and crush the men laying all around them, the dying. Screeches of animals are equaled in volume by the gasping groans and pitiful pleadings of humans begging for medical assistance or death, but powerless to bring about either. It is the Germanics, the victors, who will end their misery, if and when they choose to do so. (continue reading…)
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.