Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellEverything good I can say of ZAM is true, but I raise my hands and I admit that I'm biased: ZAM is the first author who wrote me a dedica in one of her books (Notturno), plus she was my unwilling partner during the Yaoi Con (we met and I didn't let her go until the end of the convention) in 2008. Said that, the number of successful novels she wrote in the last two years are proofs enough that she is an author you have to check out. In the meantime, enjoy her "original" (in structure and choices) list.
Z.A. Maxfield's Inside Reader List
I’ve been putting off writing this for two reasons. The first is I’m really not that widely read. There I said it, let the chips fall where they may…It’s true, I’m not a literary writer, and I’m not really that well read. I can blame this -- partially anyway -- on the fact that I took Theater Arts in high school and it fulfilled an English literature requirement or something, because I don’t remember having to read all those books everyone says they read in school.
1) But back in the day, I read a LOT of plays. So while everyone else might have been reading “A Separate Peace” in school, like my daughter, and discovering that they had questions about relationships that seemed to blur the lines between friendship and something more between two men or two women, I was reading “The Children’s Hour” and “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” and wondering about the same thing.
Paperback: 204 pages
Publisher: Scribner (October 7, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Separate-Peace/John-Knowles/9780743253970
Amazon: A Separate Peace
Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world. A bestseller for more than thirty years, A Separate Peace is John Knowles's crowning achievement and an undisputed American classic.
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation (September 30, 2004)
Amazon: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
The definitive text of this American classic—reissued with an introduction by Edward Albee (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance) and Williams' essay "Person-to-Person." Cat on a Hot Tin Roof first heated up Broadway in 1955 with its gothic American story of brothers vying for their dying father's inheritance amid a whirlwind of sexuality, untethered in the person of Maggie the Cat. The play also daringly showcased the burden of sexuality repressed in the agony of her husband, Brick Pollitt. In spite of the public controversy Cat stirred up, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics Circle Award for that year. Williams, as he so often did with his plays, rewrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for many years—the present version was originally produced at the American Shakespeare Festival in 1974 with all the changes that made Williams finally declare the text to be definitive, and was most recently produced on Broadway in the 2003-04 season. This definitive edition also includes Williams' essay "Person-to-Person," Williams' notes on the various endings, and a short chronology of the author's life. One of America's greatest living playwrights, as well as a friend and colleague of Williams, Edward Albee has written a concise introduction to the play from a playwright's perspective, examining the candor, sensuality, power, and impact of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof then and now.
2) That said, I think the GLBT novel that sticks in my mind is “Clicking Beat On The Brink Of Nada”, by Keith Hale. Because oh, my gosh that book just took my breath away. I read that, probably, before I was published. Maybe even before I decided to write. It does show up prominently in that first chapter of my first book, “Crossing Borders”, where the character Tristan is trying to get picked up at a bookstore. It may even be the reason I write.
I guess I had a simple desire to eradicate the literary presumption that being GLBT means you end up miserable in the end, alone, or insane or eaten by cannibals or something. Jeez.
I kept thinking about my kids, and how I’d want them represented in books if they were gay. (Jury’s still out on that BTW, because they’re young) There are all those young adult books about falling in love and being asked to prom and living happily ever after. I thought, “BLEEP this”. I need to write a romance for kids who are feeling same gender attraction where the boy gets the boy or the girl gets the girl at the end and it’s a GOOD THING.
Paperback: 190 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (February 19, 2007)
Amazon: Clicking Beat On The Brink Of Nada
By turns funny, romantic, erotic, and sad, this evocative novel brilliantly recreates the landscape of late adolescence, when friendships seem eternal and loves reincarnate. Set in Arkansas but first published in The Netherlands, Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada quickly won praise from reviewers and readers across Europe and North America. The back cover blurb written by the late William S. Burroughs reads: "A haunting vision of young friendship shattered by an outrageously cruel world. Keith Hale's novel aches with adolescent first loves. It is tender, funny, and true." The book was published in the U.S. as Cody and remained on the amazon.com bestseller list for gay titles a year after it went out of print. Now Clicking Beat on the Brink of Nada is back in print with its original European front cover and title.
3) That said, I love Steve Kluger’s books. “Almost Like Being In Love” is such a great, positive, tremendously fun read. So is “My Most Excellent Year”. I love both those books very, very much.
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; First Edition edition (May 11, 2004)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780060595838/Almost_Like_Being_in_Love/index.aspx
Amazon: Almost Like Being In Love
A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. Flash forward twenty years. Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing .... Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who's wondered what ever happened to that first great love.
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Speak; Reprint edition (February 19, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780142413432,00.html?strSrchSql=0142413437/My_Most_Excellent_Year_Steve_Kluger
Amazon: My Most Excellent Year
Best friends and unofficial brothers since they were six, ninth-graders T.C. and Augie have got the world figured out. But that all changes when both friends fall in love for the first time. Enter Alé. She’s pretty, sassy, and on her way to Harvard. T.C. falls hard, but Alé is playing hard to get. Meanwhile, Augie realizes that he’s got a crush on a boy. It’s not so clear to him, but to his family and friends, it’s totally obvious! Told in alternating perspectives, this is the hilarious and touching story of their most excellent year, where these three friends discover love, themselves, and how a little magic and Mary Poppins can go a long way.
4) I think that “The Charioteer” has to be on my list. Mary Renault was a wise and compassionate writer. In that book she asked a lot of questions I ask. I couldn’t put that book down. It was such a wonderful well-written novel.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Vintage (May 13, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375714184
Amazon: The Charioteer
After enduring an injury at Dunkirk during World War II, Laurie Odell is sent to a rural veterans’ hospital in England to convalesce. There he befriends the young, bright Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly. As they find solace and companionship together in the idyllic surroundings of the hospital, their friendship blooms into a discreet, chaste romance. Then one day, Ralph Lanyon, a mentor from Laurie’s schoolboy days, suddenly reappears in Laurie’s life, and draws him into a tight-knit social circle of world-weary gay men. Laurie is forced to choose between the sweet ideals of innocence and the distinct pleasures of experience. Originally published in the United States in 1959, The Charioteer is a bold, unapologetic portrayal of male homosexuality during World War II that stands with Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar and Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories as a monumental work in gay literature.
5) One of my Internet friends introduced me to the work of Michael Nava. I love the Henry Rios series. Not only are they set in my hometown of Los Angeles, they just feel so familiar to me. Henry Rios is deeply flawed. The series starts with “The Little Death”. While I appreciate that Mr. Nava has both a successful career as an attorney and political aspirations I kind of wish he could still find time to write.
Paperback: 168 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (October 1, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://www.alyson.com/9781555838300.html
Amazon: The Little Death
Introduced by Alyson, in 1996 the seven-book Henry Rios mystery series ends with the publication of Rag & Bone. Nava's brilliant story-telling has earned comparisons to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and has won four Lambda Literary Awards. As the New York Times Book Review put it, "Nava is one of the best." Alyson is proud to have been part of the Henry Rios series, and congratulates Michael Nava on his success. Michael Nava is the author of The Little Death, Goldenboy, Howtown, The Hidden Law, The Death of Friends, The Burning Plain, and the soon to be released Rag and Bone. He is, as he puts it "a writer who practices law," with a private practice in San Francisco.
6) I also love the David Brandsetter series by Joseph Hansen. This series feels to me as if someone took my name and number, asked me what I like to read in a book, went home, and wrote it just for me. I can’t describe it any better. Hansen’s “flavor” is very similar to one of my all-time favorite writers, Joan Didion. Something about the way they perceive things, I think, the types of observations that they make speak to me.
I read a lot of Didion’s essays and in one that I think of often she describes the feeling of shock that permeated Los Angeles around the time of the Manson Family murders. There are a lot of things about living in Los Angeles in the sixities and seventies that color your perceptions and I think it’s a zeitgeist or something with writers like Isherwood, Didion and Hansen. The first in the Brandsetter series was “Fadeout”.
Paperback: 190 pages
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (November 4, 2004)
Publisher Link: http://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/3790.htm
"Hansen is the most exciting and effective writer of the classic private-eye novel working today."—Los Angeles Times. The first of Joseph Hansen's classic mysteries featuring rugged gay sleuth Dave Brandstetter. The "thinking man's tough guy" and a gay insurance claims investigator, Brandstetter investigates the death of a pop star, Fox Olson.
7) I’ve had a LiveJournal account since the day I read “Fatal Shadows” by Josh Lanyon. I came here as an author stalker. I simply don’t have words to describe how much I love the Adrien English series. Something about Jake and Adrien, the constant conflict and the very human and dreadfully unwise choices, really worked for me. I always say I’d read Josh if he wrote drug prescription inserts and it’s as true today as it was that day. I just finished “The Dark Farewell” last night. I still like the mysteries best because they were my first, but looking at this list, it’s possible I just like mysteries. :D
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: MLR Press; 2nd edition (May 9, 2007)
Publisher Link: http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=FATL0001
Amazon: Fatal Shadows
Someone's out to get Los Angeles bookseller Adrien English. His best friend has been viciously murdered, now he's getting weird phone calls and sinister gifts from a mysterious "admirer." The cops think he's trying to divert suspicion from himself-with the exception of sexy and homophobic homicide detective Jake Riordan. Is Riordan really such a great detective--or does he have a few secrets of his own? Is his offer to help Adrien on the level or is he out to nail his favorite suspect -- to the wall?
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/the-dark-farewell
Amazon: The Dark Farewell
Don’t talk to strangers, young man—especially the dead ones.It’s the Roaring Twenties. Skirts are short, crime is rampant and booze is in short supply. Prohibition has hit Little Egypt, where newspaperman David Flynn has come to do a follow-up story on the Herren Massacre. The massacre isn’t the only news in town though. Spiritualist medium Julian Devereux claims to speak to the dead—and he charges a pretty penny for it. Flynn knows a phoney when he sees one, and he’s convinced Devereux is as fake as a cigar store Indian. But the reluctant attraction he feels for the deceptively soft, not-his-type Julian is as real as it gets.Suddenly Julian begins to have authentic, bloodstained visions of a serial killer, and the cynical Mr. Flynn finds himself willing to defend Julian with not only his life, but his body.
8) On the love story front, I’d have to say “Regularly Scheduled Life” by K.A. Mitchell is one of my all time favorites. K.A. Mitchell is one of the writers I go to time and again for a soul refresher, and she just never puts a foot wrong. LOVE her, and love that book.
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (June 1, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/print/regularly-scheduled-life-print
Amazon: Regularly Scheduled Life
It’s a long way back to happily ever after. Sean and Kyle have enjoyed six perfect years of what their friends called a “disgustingly happy” relationship. But what happens one sunny Tuesday morning in October might be more than even the most loving couple can survive. When the bell rings that morning in chemistry teacher Sean Farnham’s first-period class, a terrifying sound fills the halls—gunshots. Without considering the consequences, Sean runs to tackle the shooter, sustaining a bullet wound to his leg. Despite his actions, he is unable to save the lives of the principal and two students. Architect Kyle DeRusso hears about the shooting on the radio, and in the flash of an instant finds his life irrevocably altered. Everything—especially his heart—hangs suspended in a nightmare until he finds out Sean is alive. It doesn’t matter that Sean will be left with a permanent limp. Kyle’s just relieved the worst is over. Or is it? Putting that day behind them isn’t as simple as it sounds. As Sean struggles to make something positive out of the tragedy, Kyle fights to save their relationship from the dangers of publicity—and Sean’s unwillingness to face how the crisis has changed him.
9) There is also the gay gothic “The Master of Seacliff”, by Max Pierce. I don’t know why I love this book so much. It’s simply classic. It’s a true gothic mystery starring a same sex couple. I thought, “GO YOU, MAX!” when I read it. Not because it’s perfect, but because it isn’t. I dunno. Part of me read it with my tongue in my cheek, and yet, why not? I wish I could write a gay gothic novel.
Paperback: 201 pages
Publisher: Harrington Park Press (December 31, 2006)
Amazon: The Master of Seacliff
A gothic mystery with a decidedly masculine point of view. The year is 1899, and Andrew Wyndham is twenty years old--no longer a boy, but not yet the man he longs to become. Brought up by a harsh and stingy aunt and uncle in New York City after the death of his parents, young Andrew dreams of life as an artist in Paris. He has talent enough but lacks the resources to bring his dream to fruition. When a friend arranges for him to work as tutor to the son of a wealthy patron of the arts, Andrew sees a chance to make his dream come true and boards a train heading up the Atlantic coast. His destination is the estate called Seacliff, where he'll tutor his new charge and save his pay to make the life he dreams of possible. But danger lurks everywhere and nothing is quite as easy as it seems. I pulled some paper out of my makeshift sketchbook and started a study of the mighty train that brought me here. Lost in thought, I had completed one drawing when a slurred voice came from my left. "Want some advice? Get back on that train. There's nothin' but death and despair at Seacliff." A grizzled man stood at the west edge of the platform. He was short, tanned like oilpaper and wearing dried out, wrinkled clothing. Staring ahead as he limped towards me, the lenses of his glasses made his eyes look larger than normal. Without waiting for me to respond or acknowledge him, he continued, rasping. "Take it from one who's seen the devil's wrath. They'll all join Satan in hell. You too, unless you leave. Run." "Seacliff is my home," I answered with false confidence. But as I turned, the stranger had evaporated. Seacliff: A dark and brooding cliff-top mansion enshrouded in near-eternal fog, dark mystery, and suspicion--perhaps a reflection of the house's master. An imposing Blackbeard of a man, Duncan Stewart is both feared and admired by his business associates as well as the people he calls friends. And his home, in which young Andrew must now reside, holds terrible secrets, secrets that could destroy everyone within its walls.
10) And here I’d like to mention my Speak Its Name pals in alphabetical order, Alex Beecroft, Charlie Cochrane, Erastes, Donald L. Hardy, and Lee Rowan. Their historical novels are simply impossible to quantify. They’re un-putdownable. They make me glad my mother taught me to read. There are too many fine books by these authors to name one from each but I’ll try.
Alex Beecroft’s “Captain’s Surrender”. Charlie Cochrane’s “Lessons in Love”. Erastes’s “Standish” (that was my first gay historical romance and I loved it.), Donald L. Hardy’s “Lover’s Knot”, and Lee Rowan’s “Ransom”.
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/captain-s-surrender
Amazon: Captain’s Surrender
Love? Might as well ask for the moon. But a man can dream… Despite his looks and ambition, Midshipman Joshua Andrews hides urges that, in his world, make him an abomination. Living in fear of exposure, unnecessary risk is something he studiously avoids. Once he sets eyes on the elegant picture of perfection that is Peter Kenyon, though, temptation lures him like the siren call of the sea. Soon to be promoted to captain, Peter is the darling of the Bermuda garrison, with a string of successes behind him and a suitable bride lined up to share his future. He seems completely out of Joshua’s reach. Then the two men are forced to serve on a long voyage under a sadistic commander with a mutinous crew. As the tension aboard the vessel heats up, their unexpected friendship intensifies into a passion neither man can rein in. Intimacy like theirs can only exist in the shadow of the gallows. Both men are determined their “youthful curiosity” must die before it brings disaster down on them. Yet neither man can root it from his heart. Warriors both, they think nothing of risking their lives for their country. In the end they must decide whether love, too, is worth dying for.
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (June 1, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/lessons-in-love-rr
Amazon: Lessons in Love
He didn’t think he had a heart. Until he lost it. Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, Book 1. St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, England, 1905. Jonty Stewart is handsome and outgoing, with blood as blue as his eyes. When he takes up a teaching post at the college where he studied, his dynamic style acts as an agent for change within the archaic institution. He also has a catalytic effect on Orlando Coppersmith. Orlando is a brilliant, introverted mathematician with very little experience of life outside the university walls. He strikes up an alliance with Jonty and soon finds himself heart-deep in feelings he’s never experienced. Before long their friendship blossoms into more than either man had hoped. Then a student is murdered within St. Bride’s. Then another…and another. All the victims have one thing in common: a penchant for men. Asked by the police to serve as their eyes and ears within the college, Jonty and Orlando risk exposing a love affair that could make them the killer’s next target.
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: P.D. Publishing, Inc. (November 6, 2006)
Publisher Link: http://www.pdpublishing.com/standishendpage.html
A great house, a family dispossessed. A sensitive young man, a powerful landowner, and the epic love that springs up between them. Ambrose Standish is a studious and fragile young man with dreams of regaining the great house his grandfather lost in a card game, but when Rafe Goshawk returns from the continent to claim the estate, their meeting sets them on a path of desire and betrayal which threatens to tear both of their worlds apart. Set in the post-Napoleonic years of the 1820’s, Standish is a tale of these two men, and how the relationships they make affect their journey through Europe and through life. Painting a picture of homosexuality in Georgian England, illegal as it was and punishable by death, at heart it is a simple love story and the tale of one man’s discoveries of his sexuality and his true feelings for the man who released it.
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Running Press (December 22, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/perseus/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0762436859
Amazon: Lover’s Knot
Jonathan Williams has inherited Trevaglan Farm from a distant relative. With his best friend, Alayne, in tow, Jonathan returns to the estate to take possession, meet the current staff, and generally learn what it’s like to live as the landed gentry now. He’d only been there once before, fourteen years earlier. But that was a different time, he’s a different person now, determined to put that experience out of his mind and his heart.... The locals agree that Jonathan is indeed different from the lost young man he was that long ago summer, when he arrived at the farm for a stay after his mother died. Back then the hot summer days were filled with sunshine, the nearby ocean, and a new friend, Nat. Jonathan and the farmhand had quickly grown close, Jonathan needing comfort in the wake of his grief, and Nat basking in the peace and love he didn’t have at home. But that was also a summer of rumors and strange happenings in the surrounding countryside, romantic triangles and wronged lovers. Tempers would flare like a summer lightning storm, and ebb just as quickly. By the summer’s end, one young man was dead, and another haunted for life. Now Jonathan is determined to start anew. Until he starts seeing the ghost of his former friend everywhere he looks. Until mementos of that summer idyll reappear. Until Alayne’s life is in danger. Until the town’s resident witch tells Jonathan that ghosts are real. And this one is tied to Jonathan unto death...
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing (August 1, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.cheyennepublishing.com/books/ransom.html
An officer, a gentleman... and a sodomite. The first two earn honor and respect. The third, a noose. Even as he finds himself falling in love with his shipmate, William Marshall, David Archer realizes it is a hopeless passion. Not only is Will the son of a minister, his first act aboard ship was to take pistol in hand and dispatch an older midshipman who made offensive advances. Davy realizes that Will would probably not shoot him if he expressed his feelings, but their affectionate friendship would surely end, once Marshall learned of Archer’s “unnatural” yearnings. William Marshall has never given much thought to any feelings beyond duty, loyalty, and honor. For a young Englishman in 1796, the Navy is a way to move beyond his humble origins and seek a chance at greatness. While others spend shore leave carousing with willing wenches, Marshall is more likely to be curled up with a navigation text. Captured by accident when their Captain is abducted, Archer and Marshall become pawns in a renegade pirate’s sadistic game. To protect the man he loves, David Archer compromises himself—trading his honor and his body for Marshall’s safety. When Will learns of his friend’s sacrifice, he also discovers that what he feels for Davy is stronger and deeper than friendship. The first challenge: escape their prison. The second: find a way to preserve their love without losing their lives. Ransom, the first book in the Royal Navy Series by Lee Rowan, introduces readers to the appealing characters of Lieutenants Marshall and Archer. Become part of the story as they discover their shared love against a backdrop of intrigue, mystery, and danger.
I suppose I could just keep writing until I run out of books. I mean…the world is full of great reads. I haven’t gotten to all of them yet. And if you were to ask me on a different day, there would probably be a different list. Maybe even an hour from now I’d change it.
Anyway, thanks, Elisa, for asking. Thank you so much for bringing all these wonderful posts together. Thank you for reviewing, cataloging, exploring the cover art, and promoting the books I love to read. I probably found out about most of these from your LiveJournal blog. You really are a scholar of the genre and from the bottom of my heart I want to say Brava!
About Z.A. Maxfield: How It Happened…
I have no excuses. I started reading Yaoi when my kids decided they had to read every manga ever published and I got tired of little ninja boys and magical girls. I sat in the corner with Descendants of Darkness and my world was officially rocked.
I started to read love stories between men, and my official position is that if one hot guy in a book is good, then two is arguably better. If you add to that the fact that I believe everyone should have a happy ending? Well, this is the end result.
I hope you enjoy reading these stories. Each one is carefully hand crafted with love, humor, and just the right touch of… er… touching.
Drawn Together by Z.A. Maxfield
Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: Loose Id, LLC (February 9, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://www.loose-id.com/Drawn-Together.aspx
Amazon: Drawn Together
Rory might just be a simple southern boy from St. Antoine’s Parish Louisiana, but he knows what he wants. He’s been in love with the girl of his dreams, reclusive and mysterious artist Ran Yamane, since junior high school. And now he has the chance to meet her. He’s going to chuck everything and travel 1,500 miles to Anime Expo in Long Beach to tell her, and no one and nothing is going to stand in his way.
Ran Yamane is not a girl, but he gets that a lot. People come to him with teddy bears and chocolates and disappointment by the truckload. He’s trusted fans in the past and been tragically wrong. So when he meets Rory he’s understandably wary, but resigned. What he’s not prepared for is his magnetic attraction to the young man, Rory’s apparent willingness to overlook his gender, and the fact that their lives are both thrown into chaos when his number one fan (and psycho stalker) shows up to get revenge.