Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell
Xavier Axelson is a new author to me, but from his choices of reading and the bio he sent me, I bet he will become so a name among the LGBT readers. I like my serial The Inside Reader since it gives to readers the chance to know better "notorious" authors, but also new authors, both among who is compiling the list than who is listed as a favorite author. So please welcome Xavier and his list.
Xavier Axelson's Inside Reader List
1. Richard Adams - Watership Down. I first became aware of Watership Down as a very young boy. It came on television once a year as a “special” and I cannot tell you how many times I ran home from a friend’s house to not miss a minute of it. It wasn’t until I was 10 or so that I was able to locate the book. When I did, I felt as if a great treasure had been handed to me. I found it at an old bookstore while on summer vacation, went immediately into my room, and started reading. Never mind the beach; I had this incredible book to immerse myself in. Richard Adams changed my life as a reader and writer.
Watership Down is an epic battle between good and evil, loss and redemption, about home and the battle to protect it. It is wise, frightening, and lovely. He created a complete language, a world, and a mythology; a feat not many writers can do. Never mind that the book is about rabbits. He also painted nature as cruel and kind, forgiving and despondent and how man will indeed not stop until he has spoiled it.
The dialogue is sharp, insightful, and utterly delicious. I hang on his every word and must admit right now that I have read Watership Down at least 7 times and will probably read it 10 more. His research into the world of rabbits was obviously a painstaking process and I am grateful for his efforts. This book made me believe in the power of fiction and inspired me to write, better still, it continues to inspire me to write.
Paperback: 476 pages
Publisher: Scribner (November 1, 2005)
Amazon: Watership Down: A Novel
A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over thirty years, Richard Adams's Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
2. Peter S. Beagle - The Last Unicorn. I could cry every time I mention this book. It touches me in such a profound way that it’s almost mystical. This book was out of print for the longest time, and again I must admit I came across it as a cartoon in the early 80’s and didn’t get a copy until I stole and ancient edition from the high school library.
Peter Beagle is a master storyteller. He infuses a sense of dread and pending doom with beauty and innocence here, that is almost uncanny. His deft skill at witty and luscious dialogue, his creation of a world where butterflies talk, and wizards can conjure Robin Hood is a delight. The Unicorn becomes something all together real and tragic; you ache for her and fear for her. I get chills just thinking about how great this story is. Don’t believe me? Just ask any one of the million of zealous fans that also lay claim to the power and beauty of this book.
Hardcover: 152 pages
Publisher: Idea & Design Works Llc (January 25, 2011)
Amazon: The Last Unicorn
Whimsical. Lyrical. Poignant. Adapted for the first time from the acclaimed and beloved novel by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn is a tale for any age about the wonders of magic, the power of love, and the tragedy of loss. The unicorn, alone in her enchanted wood, discovers that she may be the last of her kind. Reluctant at first, she sets out on a journey to find her fellow unicorns, even if it means facing the terrifying anger of the Red Bull and malignant evil of the king who wields his power. Adapted by Peter B. Gillis and lushly illustrated by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon.
3. Tennessee Williams - A Streetcar Named Desire. Again, powerful, utterly heartbreaking, and dark, it took me several times to get through this. If Blanche du Bois is not the most tragic figure in modern literature, I have no idea who is. Never mind the epic movie with my favorite actress Vivien Leigh, the play on which this is based takes things to a whole other level.
Williams, who I am a devoted fan, has a gritty, passionate way about expressing the anguish that lives within the broken human heart and has no qualms about breaking his readers as well. Never more so, than in Streetcar, this is the real deal folks, human emotion stripped down to the barest, most fragile linings. This is a writer who had seen the dark side, indulged in it and returned from Hell to tell us all about it. William’s writing, especially Streetcar makes me think of the phrase, “if you stare long enough into the void, the void might stare back,” and if you’ve read this piece you know what I am talking about. His deft hand makes easy, if not uncomfortable work of topics such as homosexuality, suicide, mental illness, and family strife. Not to mention rape, the fear of aging, and the all out callousness that we all possess as humans, this is an emotionally charged work, not for the faint of heart. I love it.
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: New Directions (September 2004)
Amazon: A Streetcar Named Desire
The Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Circle Award winning play—reissued with an introduction by Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman and The Crucible), and Williams' essay "The World I Live In." It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared—57 years after its Broadway premiere, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed over the edge by her sexy and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage director of the '40s and '50s. Who better than America's elder statesman of the theater, Williams' contemporary Arthur Miller, to write as a witness to the lightning that struck American culture in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire? Miller's rich perspective on Williams' singular style of poetic dialogue, sensitive characters, and dramatic violence makes this a unique and valuable new edition of A Streetcar Named Desire. This definitive new edition will also include Williams' essay "The World I Live In," and a brief chronology of the author's life.
4. Margaret Mitchell - Gone with the Wind. Wonderful, epic, romantic, wise, witty…I could go on but you get the idea, Scarlett and Rhett have been a huge part of my existence since a very young age. I first read Gone with the Wind in High School and loved every word. Who does not love Scarlett? To be able to create such a wonderful, naughty, and utterly selfish vixen that you end up rooting for is no small feat.
Then there is Rhett Butler, the rogue of rogues. Dashing, arrogant and 100% Scarlett’s equal in every way. The book is brilliant on so many levels, but certainly, the turn for turn love game between these two is really the crux of the novel. Mammy, Melanie, Tara, Twelve Oaks, and Aunt Pittypat are all memorable, all engaging and authentic there is not one character out of place or any detail left uncovered. The civil war itself is a huge character in this epic melodrama and again, Mitchell somehow manages to keep all the plots and subplots bounding away at some points, a break neck speed. Suspense, passion, deception, redemption, and tragedy are all whipped together in what has been called The Great American Novel, and I agree.
Paperback: 960 pages
Publisher: Scribner; 1st Scribner Trade Pbk. Ed edition (July 10, 2007)
Amazon: Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell's epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to give rise to two authorized sequels and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time. Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives. In the two main characters, the white-shouldered, irresistible Scarlett and the flashy, contemptuous Rhett, Margaret Mitchell not only conveyed a timeless story of survival under the harshest of circumstances, she also created two of the most famous lovers in the English-speaking world since Romeo and Juliet.
5. Laura Ingalls Wilder - The Little House Books. I am not at all ashamed to say that I am a devotee of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She is a magnificent writer who, in the guise of a series of children’s books, may just have written the perfect epic depicting the pioneers struggle in America. I started reading her books in High School and did not finish the series until way into college. I got two distinct things from Laura’s books a true sense of how important detail is and how important it is to have a hero or heroine who is worth fighting for. Laura Ingalls Wilder is such a person; in fact, her entire family is heroic. They face famine, destruction, cruel natural disasters, death, and plague; these people are tough! Yet somehow, they survive.
The series really took off for me in last two books when Laura marries Almonzo Wilder. Their first years together are full of trials, tribulations that would break a modern couple in seconds but these two persevere, and I left her books feeling inspired and in awe of her abilities as a writer and as a person. You root for Almonzo and Laura even when they fail or beaten down, you know they will get back up.
Laura Ingalls Wilder mixes American history with her own family history, fiction, suspense, romance and on top of that, she bundles it all up into a children’s series that has stood the test of time. Wonderful, cozy, creative charm, dialogue that puts you right there and vivid description are all weapons this heroine wields with a skillful hand.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (May 30, 1994)
Amazon: The Complete Little House
The set includes: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years.
6. Maud Hart Lovelace - Betsy in Spite of Herself. All of Maud Hart Lovelace’s books are incredible. I have read almost all of them and again here is a writer who like Laura, wrote a fictional, autobiographical series aimed at children and managed to accomplish so much more. The books take place in the 1900’s and have somehow managed to stay fresh and current as if they were written in modern times. Lovelace drew from her own childhood in Minnesota and from the experiences of her classmates, friends, and families. Sure, her world may have been innocent, less erratic then today’s hustle and bustle but she accomplishes what we all would like to accomplish as writers…longevity and continued relevance.
The characters are real; they struggle, face disappointment, and joy. Betsy Ray has proven to be one of the most enduring heroine’s in fiction and why not? She is a struggling writer, as was Laura above; she is spunky, stubborn, and not afraid to admit defeat. She also is completely self-aware and the first to honor herself when she loses and succeeds. I devoured all these books because even though I mainly write horror, and the occasional romance, I find it pleasant to retreat into a world that is a little kinder, a little more patient and charming. As a writer, my main objective is always to transport a reader, to make them believe in what I’ve created. Lovelace does this with characters you care about, a world you want to live in with people you want to know; you want Betsy and her friends to do well, even with their flaws you never give up on them. Lovelace’s work is about the human spirit, living and loving with compassion and elegance. It’s no wonder her work is so beloved.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: HarperTrophy (April 2, 1980)
Amazon: Betsy in Spite of Herself (Betsy-Tacy)
Good-by Betsy... Hello, Betsye. Betsy Ray is now a sophomore, and she and her Crowd are in the thick of things at Deep Valley High. Between parties, exams, and her duties as class secretary, Betsy's got her hands full. But she's not too busy to notice the new boy in town -- the oh-so-cosmopolitan Phil Brandish. If only she could make him notice her! Then Betsy's old friend Tib Muller invites her to spend Christmas in Milwaukee. It's there that plain old Betsy begins her, transformation into the dramatic and mysterious Betsye. With her new identity, she's sure she'll be able to charm Phil. The question is, can Betsye help being Betsy -- in spite of herself?
7. Isabelle Allende - The House of the Spirits. When I finished this book, I think I might have thrown it across the room. I did not want it to end. This book has everything and more. If I could call one writer’s style to mind who I would hope to emulate it would be Allende’s. I have considered learning Spanish if only to read her words as they truly were meant to be read. They are delicious enough in English and can only imagine how yummy they would be in Spanish.
This is an unforgettable family epic. Clara is one of my favorite characters that I have encountered in my literary life. She is magical, fragile and yet manages to possess the ability to remain elusive and that gives her the power. Allende is the grand mistress of magical realism, a wizard of the exotic and erotic. There is humor, tears, epic betrayals and loyalties, war, magic, and family mythology all woven together in spellbinding mastery. I read this while in College and devoured it. The words, the exotic settings, the mystery of this family, its passions and disappointments, there is so much to gain as a reader and writer from this book that I can’t say enough about it. It is a feast for the senses, Allende leaves no sensual stone unturned, as an amateur sensualist, I appreciate her thorough investigation in the realm of the senses.
Paperback: 433 pages
Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Later Printing edition (August 30, 2005)
Amazon: The House of the Spirits
Here, in an astonishing debut by a gifted storyteller, is the magnificent saga of proud and passionate men and women and the turbulent times through which they suffer and triumph. They are the Truebas. And theirs is a world you will not want to leave, and one you will not forget. Esteban -- The patriarch, a volatile and proud man whose lust for land is legendary and who is haunted by his tyrannical passion for the wife he can never completely possess. Clara -- The matriarch, elusive and mysterious, who foretells family tragedy and shapes the fortunes of the house of the Truebas. Blanca -- Their daughter, soft-spoken yet rebellious, whose shocking love for the son of her father's foreman fuels Esteban's everlasting contempt... even as it produces the grandchild he adores. Alba -- The fruit of Blanca's forbidden love, a luminous bearty, a fiery and willful woman... the family's break with the past and link to the future.
8. Shel Silverstein - The Giving Tree. I buy The Giving Tree and give it to anyone who has just given birth to a baby. I cannot think of a perfect first book. I recently was given an anniversary edition of this wonderful book and I have not even unwrapped it from it’s plastic. It is simply too wonderful to expose to fingerprints. If you don’t get teary eyed by the end of this children’s book, check your pulse. Any writer who can make you feel such intense love for a tree is a winner in my book. Shel Silverstein may just be one of, if not the best children’s writer ever. I love all of his works and his mystique as a writer is just as fascinating. Have you seen a picture of this man? Not exactly, what you think of when you think of a kids writer and that’s what is so damn awesome about him.
The Giving Tree taught me and continues to teach me as a writer what really is at the center of the art of writing; use as few words as possible to make the most impact. This is not an epic, this is not complicated, the lesson I believe Silverstein taught me, and why I love this piece so much is that you can do great things with very little fan fare. He knows how to make words sing, he knows how to turn a phrase to make you laugh, cry, and most importantly, think. I’m one of those weirdoes who believe inanimate objects have feelings, especially plants and trees so this remains a heart wrencher for me and one of my favorite books of all time. In fact, this isn’t just a book, it’s a treasure.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; 35th anniversary edition (October 20, 1999)
Amazon: The Giving Tree
"Once there was a tree ... and she loved a little boy." So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein. Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk ... and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave. This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return. This miniature full-cloth, gold-stamped edition will be treasured by all ages.
9. Bram Stoker - Dracula. Even invoking the name gives me chills. I love horror stories that get under your skin and as a horror writer; I delight in doing just that to my readers. I want them up late at night and jumping at every noise. I did not read Dracula until recently. I should say I have already read the Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, etc and while definitely frightening there is something altogether different going inside the pages of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This book is not just frightening; it is completely unnerving in its ability to get under the blankets with you. Stoker sets the scene with a dilapidated castle, a depraved Count who can scale walls, summon wolves, mist, and turn even the most flirtatious virgins into child eating undead. I adore that about this book. Stoker is a master at menace. He is at times subtle; a gypsy handing a cross to the unknowing Jonathan Harker, this may be possibly the most frightening part of the book, to eliciting a heartfelt sympathy for a man searching time for his lost love.
Dracula is a love story at it’s core. I believe most horror stories are. I want Mina and Dracula together, how could you not? I love Lucy Westenra and the mad Mr. Renfield who eats flies, then spiders, then birds; they are a ghastly crew of the macabre and how lovely they all get along. As a writer, it is a unique gift, a particular muse that allows for each character you create to turn into an icon. Bram Stoker does this with an ease that I for one am envious of. Read Dracula and the rest will be history.
Paperback: 364 pages
Publisher: SoHo Books (January 7, 2011)
Beautiful designed edition of Bram Stoker's original classic DRACULA. Since its publication in 1897, Dracula continues to terrify readers with its depiction of a vampire with an insatiable thirst for blood.
10. Peter Straub - Ghost Story. Definitely not for the faint of heart, this supernatural chiller sent me outside more then once, as I couldn’t bear sitting alone inside while reading it. There’s some serious haunting going on in this one and I loved every minute of it. This is one of those books I had to get out of the house as soon as I was done reading it, for fear even having it around would elicit some evil doings, how fun! Straub knows what he’s doing and plucks the nerves like a violin. I confess I haven’t read any of his other books, possibly because I am to much of a wimp and after reading Ghost Story you might agree. He is a master of suspense, of chills and thrills and boy oh boy do I hope to someday reach his level of expert horror manipulation. There is a callous disregard once you are strapped into this ride that I simply adore. He gives you just what you came for and you aint getting off until the ride is over.
I had to put this down a couple of times for the sheer anxiety it caused was often enough to keep me awake at night, and that is what writing scary stuff is all about. The dialogue, the depth of the characters, the suspense and break neck tension is wonderful and completely nerve crushing. Read it and tell me you don’t look at hat pins the same way again…dynamite!
Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Pocket (October 2, 2001)
Amazon: Ghost Story
In life, not every sin goes unpunished. GHOST STORY. For four aging men in the terror-stricken town of Milburn, New York, an act inadvertently carried out in their youth has come back to haunt them. Now they are about to learn what happens to those who believe they can bury the past -- and get away with murder. Peter Straub's classic bestseller is a work of "superb horror" (The Washington Post Book World) that, like any good ghost story, stands the test of time -- and conjures our darkest fears and nightmares.
About Xavier Axelson: Xavier Axelson is a writer of erotica who has worked in the adult industry for over 15 years. During this time, he has assisted countless people with exploring their healthy sexual needs, questions, and lifestyles. He first lectured at a college regarding sexual health at the age of 19.
He has trained as a dungeon master, worked for a notorious Hollywood Madame as a consultant and as a talent agent for the adult film industry.
Presently he works for a leader in the sexual technology industry where he helps people daily with tips, advice, and guidance on how to have a more satisfying sexual life, no matter what the preference, kink, or interest.
He has several degrees in fields such as communications, library technology, and literature.
Christmas Eve at The Powers That Be Cafe by Xavier Axelson
Publisher: Silver Publishing (December 12, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://silverpublishing.info/product_book_info/new-release-c-1/christmas-eve-at-the-powers-that-be-cafe-p-148
Amazon Kindle: Christmas Eve at The Powers That Be Cafe
It is Christmas Eve 1943 at The Powers That Be Café and Nat, the lonely café owner, does what he can to offer some warmth and comfort for families and lovers to say goodbye to soldiers who heading into battle. When he finds Kent, a G.I. far from home, outside his back door, he offers him a hot meal, a place to rest and some much-needed comfort. In return, the two men find themselves passionately entangled in taboo lusts and something deeper that neither of them expected...love.