Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellI have only "met" Kate McMurray recently, her first book, In Hot Pursuit, came out with Loose Id and I almost missed it. Then one night I decided to "test" a new author, and Kate's book was there in my reading list... it was love at first read, Kate had it all, good characters, strong plot, hot sex. I highly recommend her book, and I'm really glad to host her today.
Kate McMurray's Inside Reader List
I have a confession to make up front: I am a book hoarder. I own more than can probably reasonably fit in my New York City apartment. Then I got an e-reader last year, which at least means I don’t have to find spaces to put new books, but I just buy even more. Which is all to say that I have read a lot of books, and own a lot of books, and it’s really, really hard to distill my favorites into a list of ten. What follows is a list, mostly of LGBT novels with some romance thrown in for good measure, that is a strange hodgepodge of books I think are important, books that influenced me as a writer, and books I just like a whole lot. In no particular order.
1) Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon. Aside from the Adrien English mysteries just being a really fantastic series (I bought The Dark Tide the day it came out and then let it sit for a month because I was so sad to see the series end), Fatal Shadows has the dubious distinction of being the first ebook I ever bought, and it served as my gateway drug to the greater world of e-publishers and m/m romance. Plus, I could easily populate half this list with Lanyon’s books. I think his special gift is the novella; I continue to be impressed by how he can give you everything you need to understand the characters and situations in so few words.
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?
2) Hot Target by Suzanne Brockmann. I love the Troubleshooter series. I come from a big military family, so I think there’s just something about soldier stories that I find appealing, plus Brockmann’s books suspense, mystery, romance, and witty dialogue. This series was also the first place I’d seen a full-on gay romance in what I’d consider to be the mainstream. Gay characters pop up in fiction all the time, though mostly as sidekicks, and I thought that was what Brockmann was doing with Jules Cassidy—without a doubt my favorite character in the whole series—until Hot Target, when Jules meets Robin. One thing I also appreciate about the series is that, even after the HEA (in All Through the Night, which I’ve read, like, three times), Brockmann never gives short shrift to Robin’s alcoholism, never just sweeps it under the carpet. It’s still a problem he’s dealing with later in the series.
Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1St Edition edition (November 29, 2005)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780345456953
Amazon: Hot Target
New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann knows exactly what makes hearts race and pulses pound: peril and passion. No one succeeds more brilliantly at blending these exhilarating elements in breathtaking novels of men and women forced to grapple with the deepest emotions and the highest risks. And there’s no better proof than her new novel of suspense: Hot Target aims to thrill on every level. Like most men of action, Navy SEAL Chief Cosmo Richter never learned how to take a vacation. So when he finds himself facing a month’s leave, he offers his services to Troubleshooters Incorporated. Founded by a former SEAL, the private-sector security firm is a major player in the ongoing war against terrorism, known for carrying out covert missions too volatile for official U.S. military action. But the first case Richter takes on is anything but under the radar. High-profile maverick movie producer Jane Mercedes Chadwick hasn’t quite completed her newest film, but she’s already courting controversy. The World War II epic frankly portrays the homosexuality of a real-life hero–and the storm of advance media buzz surrounding it has drawn the fury of extremist groups. But despite a relentless campaign of angry E-mails, phone calls, and smear tactics, Chadwick won’t be pressured into abandoning the project. Then the harassment turns to death threats. While the FBI appears on the scene, nervous Hollywood associates call in Troubleshooters, and now Chadwick has an army of round-the-clock bodyguards, whether she likes it or not. And she definitely doesn’t. But her stubbornness doesn’t make FBI agent Jules Cassidy’s job any easier. The fiercely independent filmmaker presents yet another emotional obstacle that Cassidy doesn’t need–he’s already in the midst of a personal tug-of-war with his ex-lover, while fighting a growing attraction to Chadwick’s brother. Determined to succeed–and survive–on her own terms, Chadwick will face off with enemies and allies alike. But she doesn’t count on the bond she forms with the quiet, capable Cosmo Richter. Yet even as their feelings bring them closer, the noose of deadly terror all around them draws tighter. And when all hell erupts, desire and desperate choices will collide on a killing ground that may trap them both in the crossfire.
3) Murder on the Rue Dauphine by Greg Herren. I’m still working my way through the Chanse MacLeod series, but what I really like about Herren is that he excels at setting. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but the way he draws the city in his books makes me think sometimes that I have been. His love for the city shines right through his prose.
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books; 1 edition (January 1, 2002)
Publisher Link: http://www.alyson.com/9781555835859.html
Amazon: Murder on the Rue Dauphine
For gay New Orleans private eye Chanse MacLeod, it seemed like a simple case: find out who was blackmailing his pretty-boy client's rich, closeted boyfriend, collect a nice check, and take some time off. But then the pretty boy turns up dead in what looks like a hate crime and the gay community of New Orleans is up in arms, demanding justice. In the stifling heat of a New Orleans summer, Chanse searches for an extremely clever killer on a trail leading to a gay rights organization, boys for hire, and New Orleans society, knowing he has to find the killer before the entire city explodes.
4) Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville. I just read this recently, and had a severe case of writer envy when I put the book down. That doesn’t happen to me very often, but this book has so many elements in it that I like, and it’s so well done, that I wished I had written the book. You’ve got a hit man with a traumatic past who falls for a hit, then has to assume a bodyguard position as he squirrels said hit away to safety, and it seems in parts of the book that everyone from the mob to the government is after them. And it’s great!
Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (April 6, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=1528
Amazon: Zero at the Bone
After witnessing a mob hit, surgeon Jack Francisco is put into protective custody to keep him safe until he can testify. A hitman known only as D is blackmailed into killing Jack, but when he tracks him down, his weary conscience won't allow him to murder an innocent man. Finding in each other an unlikely ally, Jack and D are soon on the run from shadowy enemies. Forced to work together to survive, the two men forge a bond that ripens into unexpected passion. Jack sees the wounded soul beneath D's cold, detached exterior, and D finds in Jack the person who can help him reclaim the man he once was. As the day of Jack's testimony approaches, he and D find themselves not only fighting for their lives... but also fighting for their future. A future together.
5) St. Nacho’s by Z.A. Maxfield. Not long after I discovered m/m romance, I was browsing the Loose Id website and saw that this novel was about a violinist (which I am also) and I bought it entirely for that reason. It helped that said violinist also played in bars and rode a motorcycle; almost every classical musician I have ever met (myself included) has secret rock star fantasies. Throw in a deaf love interest and, well, it turned out to be a wonderful book with lots of surprises, certainly not the standard romance fare.
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Loose Id, LLC (April 1, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.loose-id.com/St-Nachos.aspx
Amazon: St. Nacho’s
Cooper has spent the last three years running from a painful past. He's currently moving from town to town, working in restaurant kitchens, and playing his violin for tips. As soon as he starts to feel comfortable anywhere—with anyone—he moves on. He's aware that music may be the only human language he still knows. Ironically, the one man he's wanted to communicate with in all that time is deaf. Shawn is part of a deaf theater group at the nearby college. Shawn wants Cooper as soon as they meet and he begins a determined flirtation. Cooper is comfortable with down and dirty sex, just not people. As far as Shawn is concerned, dirty sex is win-win, but he wants Cooper to let him into the rest of his life as well. Cooper needs time to heal and put his past away for good. Shawn needs to help Cooper forgive himself and accept that he can be loved. Both men find out that when it comes to the kind of healing love can bring, the sleepy beachside town of Santo Ignacio, “St. Nacho's” as the locals call it, may just be the very best place to start.
6) Butterfly Tattoo by Deidre Knight. This is an m/f romance, but I think it fits on the list because, at the beginning of the novel, Michael is recovering from the sudden death of his husband, and the novel has a nice “you love who you love, gender doesn’t matter,” message. And Michael’s grief in this novel is palpable, almost another presence in the novel, and it’s so clearly wrought. It was influential also because I read this right after I finished the first draft of In Hot Pursuit, also about a man who suddenly loses his partner, and I knew I’d fallen way short of what Knight had accomplished. (I did a lot of revisions after that. Hopefully my being intimidated by Knight’s beautiful novel made my own book better!)
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (February 2, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/print/butterfly-tattoo-print
Amazon: Butterfly Tattoo
Just when the darkness seems permanent, fate flips a switch. Michael Warner has been drifting in a numb haze since his lover was killed by a drunk driver. As the anniversary of the wreck approaches, Michael’s grief grows more suffocating. Yet he must find a way through the maze of pain and secrets to live for their troubled young daughter who struggles with guilt that she survived the crash. Out of the darkness comes a voice, a lifeline he never expected to find—Rebecca O’Neill, a development executive in the studio where Michael works as an electrician. Rebecca, a former sitcom celebrity left scarred from a crazed fan’s attack, has retreated from the limelight and from life in general, certain no man can ever get past her disfigurement. The instant sparks between her and Michael, who arrives to help her during a power outage, come as a complete surprise—and so does her uncanny bond with his daughter. For the first time, all three feel compelled to examine their inner and outer scars in the light of love. But trust is hard to come by, especially when you’re not sure what to believe when you look in the mirror. The scars? Or the truth?
7) Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy. This book is on here mostly just because I like it a whole lot. I’ve always been a fan of the trope of the famous person falling in love with some regular girl or guy. I’m sure that’s a pretty popular fantasy, not just to meet someone extraordinary but to catch their eye and be considered extraordinary yourself. I’m also a huge baseball nerd, so I liked all the Australian football ephemera in the book, and can appreciate it from a sports fan point of view.
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (March 9, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=1487
Amazon: Tigers and Devils
Football, friends, and film are the most important parts of Simon Murray's life, likely in that order. Despite being lonely, Simon is cautious about looking for more, and his best friends despair of him ever finding that special someone to share his life. Against his will, they drag him to a party, where Simon barges into a football conversation and ends up defending the honour of star forward Declan Tyler -- unaware that the athlete is present and listening. Like his entire family, Simon revels in living in Melbourne, Victoria, the home of Australian Rules football and mecca for serious fans. There, players are deemed gods and treated as such – until they do something to cause them to fall out of public favour. Declan is suffering a horrendous year of injuries, and the public is taking him to task for it, so Simon's support is a bright spot in his struggles. In that first awkward meeting, neither man has any idea they will change each other's lives forever. As Simon and Declan fumble toward building a relationship together, there is yet another obstacle in their way: keeping Declan's homosexuality a secret amidst the intrusion of well-meaning friends and an increasingly suspicious media. They realise that nothing remains hidden forever… and they know the situation will only become more complicated when Declan's private life is revealed. Declan will be forced to make some tough choices that may result in losing either the career he loves or the man he wants. And Simon has never been known to make things easy – for himself or for others.
8) Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. I was pretty young when I read this, maybe 20, and it was one of the first books I read that really challenged the way I thought about gender and identity. The novel is a book about just getting through life, too, about facing challenges and fighting to make the world a better place.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (April 1, 2004)
Publisher Link: http://www.alyson.com/9781555838539.html
Amazon: Stone Butch Blues
Published in 1993, this brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence. Woman or man? That’s the question that rages like a storm around Jess Goldberg, clouding her life and her identity. Growing up differently gendered in a blue--collar town in the 1950’s, coming out as a butch in the bars and factories of the prefeminist ’60s, deciding to pass as a man in order to survive when she is left without work or a community in the early ’70s. This powerful, provocative and deeply moving novel sees Jess coming full circle, she learns to accept the complexities of being a transgendered person in a world demanding simple explanations: a he-she emerging whole, weathering the turbulence.
9) Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. In 2003-ish, there was a BBC miniseries based on this book. A good friend of mine called and invited herself over to watch it with me. I’d never even heard of Sarah Waters, but I genuinely enjoyed the miniseries, enough so that I went out and bought the book. I love a good Victorian epic, and I still think this is one of the best I’ve ever read. I think I also really identified with Nan, and it’s fun to watch her blossom over the course of the book.
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade (May 1, 2000)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781101069615,00.html?Tipping_the_Velvet_Sarah_Waters
Amazon: Tipping the Velvet
"Lavishly crammed with the songs, smells, and costumes of late Victorian England" (The Daily Telegraph), this delicious, steamy debut novel chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on "Grease Paint Avenue, " Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover, and, soon after, dons trousers herself and joins the act. In time, Kitty breaks her heart, and Nan assumes the guise of butch roue to commence her own thrilling and varied sexual education—a sort of Moll Flanders in drag—finally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places. Drawing comparison to the work of Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters's novel is a feast for the senses—an erotic, lushly detailed historical novel that bursts with life and dazzlingly casts the turn of the century in a different light.
10) Paradise by Toni Morrison. I wrote my thesis on Toni Morrison, so I’d feel remiss if I didn’t include her on any list of books. Paradise is my favorite of her novels, maybe one of my favorite books ever, and I really think it’s a work of art. I read it for the first time when I was in college, still working out how I wanted to live my life, and this is a novel about women not behaving the way society thinks they’re supposed to. I based my thesis on this idea, that there are these wild women who exist outside of the normal order of society, and they’re all over Morrison’s fiction.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Plume (April 1, 1999)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780452280397,00.html?strSrchSql=0452280397/Paradise_Toni_Morrison
"They shoot the white girl first. With the others they can take their time." Toni Morrison's first novel since she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature opens with a horrifying scene of mob violence then chronicles its genesis in a small all-black town in rural Oklahoma. Founded by descendants of free slaves as intent on isolating themselves from the outside world as it once was on rejecting them, the patriarchal community of Ruby is built on righteousness, rigidly enforced moral law, and fear. But seventeen miles away, another group of exiles has gathered in a promised land of their own. And it is upon these women in flight from death and despair that nine male citizens of Ruby will lay their pain, their terror, and their murderous rage... Paradise is a tour de force of storytelling power, richly imagined and elegantly composed. Morrison challenges our most fiercely held beliefs as she weaves folklore and history, memory and myth, into an unforgettable meditation on race, religion, gender, and the way a society can turn on itself until it is forced to explode.
11) Bonus: The Rest of Our Lives by Dan Stone. I read this just as I was finishing compiling this list, which is why I’m tacking it on. I seriously loved this book. I don’t read a lot of fantasy—as you may have guessed from this list!—but I like the idea of reincarnation through the ages, and this is such a beautiful love story. I like especially the message that these two can only get their happily ever after when Colm finds the way to make his own choices.
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Lethe Press (May 25, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://lethepressbooks.com/gay.htm#stone-the-rest-of-our-lives
Amazon: The Rest of Our Lives
Colm McKenna has led a guarded life. Gifted with a wintry soul and a photographer’s eye, he can stop time as easily as he freezes water, or call down cold north winds. He thinks he is alone and unique in the world. Then, seemingly by accident, he meets writer Aidan Gallagher, his opposite, a young man who quickens Colm’s heart as magically as heats the air. In this lighthearted, gay romantic fantasy, can two male witches whose passion reincarnates century after century, find a way to express their love for each other again? Can this enchanting pair finally succeed after so many lifetimes?
About Kate McMurray: Kate has been writing since she could hold a pen. She has a degree in English literature from a big school in New England. By day, she is a nonfiction editor. She also plays the violin, has a lot of unfinished craft projects, and reads a lot of books. She’s maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with a presumptuous cat.
In Hot Pursuit by Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id LLC (February 16, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://www.loose-id.com/In-Hot-Pursuit.aspx
Amazon: In Hot Pursuit
Hard-working NYPD cop Noah Tobin didn’t even want to go on vacation. But it’s been a tough eighteen months since the death of his lover, so he’s determined to make the most of it. On his first night in sunny Florida, a chance encounter with a handsome man in a bar bathroom jumpstarts something in Noah that’s been dormant for all those months. Then the man disappears.
Noah’s vacation is thrown into upheaval because he can’t just let it go when he learns that the mysterious man who turned his life upside down went missing. He volunteers to help with the manhunt for his mystery man, a wealthy restaurateur named Harrison Knowles. But finding Harry is only the beginning of Noah's hot pursuit.