Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellLast night I was talking with an LGBT Italian publisher; in Italy the only LGBT titles you can find are some known by everyone Young Adult, or some mainstream title like Jamie O'Neill or Andre Aciman or David Leavitt. So our conversation was me asking: "do you know?" and him saying "no" until we arrived to Anthony Bidulka... "Oh yes! the Canadian mystery writer!". Anthony Bidulka has managed what very few did, to have his name famous abroad even if his books are not yet translated (at least not in Italy). Anthony Bidulka is also a name readers of sophisticated mystery novels always have in their list. Anthony Bidulka has also granted me the great honor to have his latest novel submitted to the Rainbow Awards, not only, he also agreed to compile an Inside Reader List. So it's with great pleasure that I welcome him today on my LiveJournal.
10 Fave Books
I can’t remember the last time I reviewed my favourite gay books. So this was a treat. I deliberately skipped over some usual suspects, and some of my contemporary faves, in favour of some oldies but goodies, and a couple secret finds. I also lean heavily on mystery series – as that is my genre – but I do love these books. Just don’t ask me to rank them from most to least favourite – couldn’t do it.
1) The Burning Plain – Michael Nava. Without doubt, Michael Nava's entire Henry Rios series was a powerful motivator to me. It began my understanding that a mystery series with a gay protagonist could be about more than sex and snarky one-liners (not that there is anything wrong with that). It could be smart, serious, the hero could be flawed in many ways, and still draw in readers. Before I began writing my own series, I'd read all of the Rios books and thought: yeah, this is the kind of writing I want to do. As it turns out, I was wrong. My character, Russell Quant, is no where even close to being a Henry Rios wannabe. My voice on the page turned out to be something entirely different. Thinking about it now, I think I was attracted to the fact that there could be so many different perspectives on how to tell a story within the gay genre. That still excites me today.
Paperback: 305 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (April 1, 2004)
Publisher Link: http://www.alyson.com/9781555838133.html
Amazon: The Burning Plain
Still devastated by the death of Josh, Henry nonetheless falls for a young actor he successfully defended against burglary charges. When the young man is murdered after leaving Henry's house, Henry finds himself the target of a murder investigation. But the murders don't stop, and with his life in desperate danger, Henry follows the trail of evidence, ever upward to the top levels of Los Angeles politics and Hollywood power. Michael Nava is the author of seven Henry Rios novels, five of which (Goldenboy, Howtown, The Hidden Law, The Death of Friends, and Rag and Bone) have been Lambda Literary Award winners. He is an attorney in private practice in San Francisco.
2) 1st Impressions – Kate Calloway. The Cassidy James books were one of the first mystery series I’d read with a lesbian protagonist. I can't even remember how I came upon it, but it likely was because it was one of the few books of its kind on the shelves at my local bookstore at the time. Calloway has a way of creating this very lovely world for her characters to live in. I really felt like I was part of a family reunion or homecoming with each successive book. I looked forward to spending time with these characters and finding out what had happened to them since I'd last read about them, the adventures they'd have, the loves and losses, the friends, the pets. My attempt to create the same kind of familial-like environment in my books most certainly came, in part, from my time spent with Cassidy James.
Paperback: 198 pages
Publisher: Naiad Pr; 1st edition (March 1996)
Amazon: 1st Impressions
Rookie PI Cassidy James is hired to find a murdered man's killer in a quiet Oregon lakeside resort -- but the town's sexist police sergeant doesn't care to have an uppity lesbian gumshoe on the case. He's keen to arrest the victim's beautiful niece, who has Cassidy head over heels in love -- and in danger. This series, with its tough, tender, appealing heroine and realistic love scenes, is a fresh and welcome alternative to "straight" mystery fiction.
3) My Best Man – Andy Schell. This book was a bit of a surprise for me. I didn't have any expectation of it, other than as an enjoyable, easy, beach read (which I love, by the way). But this book contained one of the best drawn, unique characters in Amity Stone, and one of the most interesting, unusual relationships, that I had seen to that point in my reading life. Amity was someone I wanted to love—she was a glorious, big-haired, beautiful fag hag (for lack of a better term) after all—and I did from her first appearance on page. But when I least expected it, the author pulled the rug right out from under my feet. Suddenly Amity wasn’t who I’d thought she was. At first I called foul. The author had obviously made a character-switcheroo at the last minute to suit his story needs. But then I went back, re-read some of the scenes, recalled some of the actions by my beloved Amity, and realized, this is who she’d been all along. I hated it, but loved it. Maybe if I re-read the book now I wouldn't think the same thing. Or maybe I would. But I love that book because it gave me the unexpected, without being contrived or faked.
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Kensington (June 1, 2001)
Publisher Link: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/finditem.cfm?itemid=4228
Amazon: My Best Man
In this effervescent and hilarious debut, Andy Schell delivers a fresh, laugh-out-loud romantic tale of a betrothed couple's mutual search for happiness, wealth…and Mr. Right! Meet Harry Ford... One of the esteemed Kansas Fords, he's traded a BMW and Ivy League education for a beat-up Volkswagen and a flight attendant's wings. The disinherited blue-blood is determined to land a red-blooded man who can make him forget about the millions he'd inherit if he brought home a bride before his next birthday... Enter Amity Stone... Harry never expected his soulmate to come packaged as a sassy, irreverent, ravishing blonde...woman! With a bravado bigger than her beauty queen hair and a Texas drawl as thick as her mascara, Harry's new roommate has him captivated...if not converted. Why not marry the willing, wonderful Amity and collect his fortune? Say Hello To A Sexy Complication. Now that Harry's about to march down the aisle, his worries are over, right? Wrong! Temptation arrives in the tall, dark, and handsome Nicolo Feragamo, and lust quickly turns to love. Now, as the Big Day—and Big Bucks—loom before him, Harry discovers that the road to happily-ever-after is anything but straight and narrow!
4) Vie de France – James Haller. This has got to be one of my favorite books of all time. And, it holds the distinction of being one of the only books I have read more than twice. The story is simple. It's about a group of old friends, led by the author and his partner, who decide to rent a house and spend a summer together in France, cooking, eating, laughing, shopping, drinking, being together, making memories. First off, I love the concept. I love the French countryside. I love eating and drinking and laughing. And I love the idea of deliberately choosing to do something important and memorable with the people who are most important to you in life. Thrown into these lovely pages are these marvelous and simple recipes for the meals, cooked by the author (a real life famed chef) and shared by these friends during their time together. I have packed and traveled with Vie de France a number of times, and tried out the recipes on my husband, and our own group of friends. I even made the pear tart for friends who happened to be staying at the same Italian country house as us. So I feel as if this book is like an old, familiar friend, a member of the family. The other bit of trivia about this book and I, is that I was so entranced by it, that I (while perhaps under the influence of too much pastis in a French café on a hot day in Grimaud) wrote the author to tell him so. He quickly responded, and we began a regular correspondence which eventually culminated with him and his partner attending one of my readings while I was on a northeastern US book tour. Lovely.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (June 3, 2003)
Amazon: Vie de France
When award-winning chef James Haller and his closest friends toasted his sixtieth birthday, he thought that their dream of spending time together in a beautiful house in Europe would remain just a dream. But a year and a half later, they arrived at a charming 17th-century chateau in the Loire Valley that would be their home for the next month. Haller swore not to cook, but the local abundance of fresh foods, herbs, and wines soon had him preparing all the group's meals-and loving it. They breakfasted on oven-fresh croissants slathered with French butter, strolled endless fields of glorious sunflowers, feasted at delightful cafes, made day trips to Tours for antiques-and relished the spectacular dishes that Haller created from the simplest ingredients. Best of all, they made many new friends-while sharing priceless moments with old ones... Featuring dozens of delicious recipes, Vie de France is a delightful testament to the joy of good friends, good food, and reaching for your wildest, most wonderful dreams.
5) Moth and Flame – John Morgan Wilson. John’s series about the grandly unfortunate Benjamin Justice was another powerful example to me of a blindingly true human portrayal of a fictional character. Benjamin Justice, despite all his ups and downs and sideway forays into horrible darkness, was always a very real person to me. A sign of a great writer. Maybe we didn’t actually feel his pain—there was so darn much of it—but we certainly sympathized with it, as if Benjamin was our very own ill-fated acquaintance. You could imagine being at brunch with friends and saying “Did you hear what happened to Ben?” Fictional character? Real? The line was wonderfully blurred.
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (November 25, 2004)
Amazon: Moth and Flame
Benjamin Justice used to be one of Los Angeles's most respected journalists, but a scandal over invented sources cost him the Pulitzer, his job and his reputation. With his life in ruins, he's spent much of the past decade slowly piecing it back together. Now he's under contract to write his biography, but the writing is going slowly and he's in need of a job to tide him over financially. So when Bruce Bibby, a freelance writer, is murdered during an apparent burglary, Bibby's uncompleted assignment for the city of West Hollywood is a much needed opportunity for Justice. Hired to complete the dead man's assignment-researching and writing a booklet on the city's historically relevant buildings - Justice resists becoming involved in the murder investigation, wanting only to maintain his quiet, stable life. But it's not going to be that easy. There's a fight brewing over the fate of a set of rundown cottages - some believe them historically significant and wish to preserve them, others want them torn down to make way for a new condo project and both sides see Justice's pamphlet as the key to winning the fight. As Justice tries to go about his business, he finds himself intrigued by the complexities of the murder case - the young Russian immigrant tied to the Bibby murder scene may be damned by his father's notorious crimes; the detective leading the murder investigation is quietly searching for her own long missing father; the owner of the houses in question, the would-be developer, and their main opposition all share a secret connection that dates back nearly three decades. When the leader of the local preservation group is found murdered on the grounds of the controversial cottages, Justice must unravel the secrets that surround the murders or let an innocent suffer for another's crimes.
6) Last Summer – Michael Thomas Ford. This was the first in a line of books from Ford that at first glance were guilty pleasures but ended up being meaningful reading experiences. Starting with the readily identifiable covers that define the series of books, each one delivered the same thing: an immersion in the lives of gay characters who we wanted to spend time with, going through life, battling troubles we could relate to, finding and losing love and loved ones. Last Summer is a particular favourite because the memories it evokes of Provincetown. I’ve only been there once in person. But with this book I can visit any time I want. I love when a book can do that.
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Kensington (July 1, 2004)
Publisher Link: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/finditem.cfm?itemid=8012
Amazon: Last Summer
Michael Thomas Ford delivers a triumphant first novel about a group of gay men looking for love, losing the past, and finding themselves in the bars and on the beaches of Provincetown. Josh Felling has always been a romantic—up until the moment his lover Doug announced that he’d had an affair with a guy from their gym. Now, with his life playing out like a very bad movie of the week, Josh impulsively heads to the Cape for a few days—long enough to figure out where his relationship—what’s left of it—might be going. But the summer has other plans for Josh, and his trip to P-town will bring bigger changes than he ever imagined. With its windswept dunes, lazy summer days, and starry nights filled with possibilities, Provincetown holds special appeal for those who call it home…and for those who come seeking its open welcome. People like Reilly Brennan, son of an old P-town family, whose days are caught up in wedding plans, even as his nights are increasingly taken over by heated fantasies about other men…Wide-eyed, blond-haired, All-American Toby Evans, an escapee from the Midwest ready to spend the summer in the equivalent of gay boot camp for anyone who will tutor him…Elegant Emmeline, age unknown, a southern belle straight out of Faulkner, with a mean drag act and almost enough money for her permanent gender transformation…Ty Rusk, one of Hollywood’s hottest new stars hiding an ages-old secrets about to explode. Weaving in and out of these and other lives like the concierge of a Grand Hotel, Josh is in for the summer of his life, a time of turning points and bridges burned, of second chances and new beginnings, of renewal and hope that will bring him closer to becoming the man he needs to be. “This is a cut above more mainstream gay fiction offerings, thanks to Ford’s crisp prose and snappy, contemporary dialogue….the sandy, barefoot-friendly setting morphs all the melodrama into a satisfying beach book—and a pleasant fiction debut for Ford.”—Publishers Weekly
7) Tomcat – Thom Racina. This is an old one, from the early eighties, that perhaps not many have heard of or read. In truth I have to say that today, probably 25 years since I last read the book, I can’t quite remember the plot. But I do remember how it made me feel. And even when I came across the book the other day, finding things for a garage sale, I made a point of putting it aside as a definite keeper. The cover says something Jackie Collins-y like “A Love Story – about a man, two women he cared for, and the other man he loved” Ugh, right? But I remember feeling the main character, a guy named Tom, was someone who I, well, I’ll say it, I think I fell in love with. I recall being very sad when the book was done, and how I wanted to spend more time with Tom. It didn’t move from my keeper pile of books the other day, and I don’t see it moving any time soon, if ever. My only problem now is whether to read it again? Do I risk losing the love? Or fall in love all over again?
Publisher: Ace (November 1, 1981)
8) Looking for Brothers – Michael Rowe. This is a collection of essays by an award-winning journalist, who brings to bear all his talents in unveiling truisms and truths, lies and stereotypes, what we believe, what we wish we believed, and what we can’t believe about gay men. He covers themes from marriage to chosen family to pornography. I have never—and still don’t—read a lot of essays or collection of shorts, but I’m ever so glad I found this book and ate it up. It made me look at things differently and questions things I always thought I knew to be true. If you read it, make time to think about it afterwards.
Paperback: 196 pages
Publisher: Mosaic Press (NY); illustrated edition edition (September 1999)
Amazon: Looking for Brothers
In this engaging collection of essays and articles, Michael Rowe presents a multifaceted perspective on 'the common threads that run through 'gay mens' lives. Ultimately, Rowe makes it clear that the gay man's story is the story of his extended family in the largest human community. In the book, fellow writer Michael Riordon helps Rowe to understand 'gay lifestyle' when he comments, "What does that mean? There is a desire to have a meaningful life, to love, to be loved. I experience the world differently from a heterosexual, but that doesn't mean that I necessarily want different things." Rowe's subjects range from those as celebrated as gay Olympian Mark Leduc to the less well-known but no less interesting: the closing piece, 'Twenty-Five Yards from Shore', is both a striking glimpse of Rowe's own quest for fulfilment and a particularly fine example of his poetic facility with the essay. Academic and public libraries will want this for their gay/lesbian studies collections as well as for collections devoted to social history and to writing.
9) Posted to Death – Dean James. Come on! Not just a gay detective. Not just a gay detective in an English cozy. But a gay detective in an English cozy who is a vampire! Are you kidding me? Brilliant. Simply brilliant. It’s the idea I wished I’d come up with first.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Kensington (March 1, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/finditem.cfm?itemid=5682
Amazon: Posted to Death
He's Poirot without a pulse. Holmes without a heartbeat. England has found itself a new sleuth to call its own, but Simon Kirby-Jones is not only a vampire, he's an American to boot. He's pulled up stakes in the States to settle in the quaint English village of Snupperton Mumsley, where his southern charm will be put to work uncovering the deadly secrets of his new neighbors... Luckily for Simon, a dandy new drug has made bloodsucking and sun damage passé. Which makes it possible for him to work himself into the daily life of Snupperton Mumsley. While attending a meeting of SMADS (the Snupperton Mumsley Amateur Dramatic Society), a fierce contretemps brews between Lady Prunella Blitherington, the pompous matriarch of the village's "first family" and Abigail Winterton, the mean-spirited postmistress, over which play to perform. A day later, Abigail is found strangled; her play—detailing the sordid lives of the residents of a small English village—nowhere to be found. With his preternatural senses tuned for trouble, Simon makes his rounds among the village regulars, including Lady Blitherington's snooty son Giles; Trevor Chase, a charming bookseller with a dark secret; and Colonel Athelstan Clitheroe, who could easily have been plucked from the pages of an Agatha Christie novel. No one is above suspicion as Simon gathers enough dishy gossip to bring a blush to his unearthly pallor, while looking for the play and the person who brought the curtain down on its author's life... Unceasingly charming and wonderfully witty, Posted to Death introduces a vampire whose bark is worse than his bite—and whose unique way of unlife makes him well-suited to delving into the mysteries of death. Dean James lives in Houston, Texas, where he is Manager of Murder by the Book, one of the nation's oldest and largest mystery bookstores. In addition to the Simon Kirby-Jones series, he is the author of two previous Southern mysteries, Cruel as the Grave and Closer Than the Bones. He travels frequently to England, where he has yet to encounter a vampire.
10) The Kiss Murder – Mehmet Murat Somer. How can you resist a book that features a main character of which London’s Daily Telegraph said: “It’s Istanbul’s Miss Marple—although he prefers leather catsuits to tweed skirts.” Indeed this is a Turkish mystery novel, and our hero is a fabulous drag queen who looks like Audrey Hepburn and chats away to herself like Katherine Hepburn. It took me a while to get into the speech patterns and the very unusual world the characters live in, but faced with mystery novel after mystery novel of samesies, reading this was like a breath of fresh air. And, I learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes life of Turkish drag queens. Go figure.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (December 30, 2008)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780143114727,00.html?The_Kiss_Murder_Mehmet_Murat_Somer
Amazon: The Kiss Murder
The Number One Ladies' Detective Agencymeets Pedro Almodovar in this outrageous new series featuring an ultraglamorous sleuth. Bestsellers in Mehmet Murat Somer's home country of Turkey and set to take the world by storm, the arrival of the Hop-Çiki-Yaya mysteries is cause for excitement (and lip gloss!) here in the United States. A male computer technician by day and a transvestite hostess of Istanbul's most notorious nightclub by night, the unnamed heroine of The Kiss Murder is the most charming and hilarious sleuth to debut in recent memory. When Buse, one of the "girls"at her club, fears someone is after private letters from a former lover, she comes to her boss for help. The next day Buse is dead and our girl must find the murderers before they find her. Fortunately, she is well armed with beauty, wit, the wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, and expert Thai kickboxing skills. With a page-turning plot and an irresistibly charming protagonist, The Kiss Murder is sure to attract mystery lovers and nightlife mavens alike.
About Anthony Bidulka: Anthony Bidulka has enjoyed time well-spent and misspent in the worlds of academia, accounting, footwear, food services and farming. In 1999 Anthony Bidulka, BA, BEd, BComm, CA left a decade long career as a Chartered Accountant to pursue writing.
In 2003, Quill & Quire described Amuse Bouche: A Russell Quant Mystery, as “…an effervescent first novel that is much like the tasty French hors d’oeuvres from which it takes its name”, earning Bidulka a nomination for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award.
With sharp writing, descriptive flair and wry humour, Bidulka’s mystery series tells the story of the first, and perhaps only, half-Ukrainian, half-Irish, gay, ex-farmboy, ex-cop, Canadian, Saskatchewan, prairie, world-travelling private detective being written about today anywhere.
The Russell Quant series has been nominated for a Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award, Saskatchewan Book Awards, a ReLit award and Flight of Aquavit was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men’s Mystery, making Bidulka the first Canadian to win in that category.
New York’s Mystery Scene Magazine proclaimed: “Quant makes for a riveting hero…the kind of friend you want to have—unless you’re a killer.” From the StarPhoenix: "Truly amazing is Bidulka’s sense of sights, sounds and smells. Like a good journalist, he gives exquisitely detailed descriptions of the settings and provides history lessons...” And Sherbrooke Record said: “...Bidulka brings a fresh voice to Canadian crime fiction, with a sense of humour that is often outrageous and always original; he provides his readers with a cleverly-crafted tale full of twists and turns, and challenges readers to broaden their perspectives.”
Like his protagonist, Anthony lives a big life in a small city on the Canadian prairie. He also loves to travel the world—meeting people, sampling food and wine, walking sun-drenched streets, making good use of swim-up bars, and being awed.
Anthony has toured extensively in both Canada and the United States. A great believer in community involvement, he has sat on many boards and committees including those of Persephone Theatre, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, AIDS Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, the International Association of Crime Writers, Ubuntu Purse, Camp fYrefly Saskatchewan, and Crime Writers of Canada.
He lives in Saskatoon where he is at work on his next novel.
Date with a Sheesha: A Russell Quant Mystery by Anthony Bidulka
Paperback: 262 pages
Publisher: Insomniac Press (May 27, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://www.insomniacpress.com/title.php?id=978-1-897178-90-4
Amazon: Date with a Sheesha
Neil Gupta went to the Middle East looking for antique carpets. He found something equally timeless: murder.
When Neil is found stabbed to death in Dubai's spice souk, his distraught father wants revenge. He hires private investigator Russell Quant to catch the killer. In his greatest case to date, Quant goes undercover to match wits with a wily museum curator, shifty souk merchants, corrupt carpet experts, and the denizens of an underground club for "fabulous" men. From the flamboyant glitz of Dubai to the scorching sand dunes of Saudi Arabia, Quant risks his life as he wades further and further into the shadows cast by the desert sun.
As Russell's spicy international adventure heats up, he learns a valuable lesson about love, life, and learning to seize the moment ... before it's gone. On the verge of making the biggest personal decision of his life, Russell discovers that endings sometimes come before beginnings.