For once there is no mystery, at least not a mystery unknown to the reader and for which he has to gather proofs. Audrey, nickname Bat, is an English Air Force officer during the WWI; he was in love with Gene, one of his fellow pilots, but this is not their story. Gene is dead, shot down during a flight, and Bat has not even the time to mourn him, his mechanic is blackmailing him, treating to reveal the clandestine and illegal relationship, and Bat can’t allow it. Not only Bat is the son of an earl, and so to preserve the name of his family is essential, he is also worried for the memory of Gene, that can’t be soiled. He probably didn’t plan to kill the blackmailer, but it happens and Cowboy, an American pilot who is fighting side by side with Bat, witnesses the event. Now it’s Cowboy who has a proposition, more than a blackmailing, for Bat: they will be lovers and he will help Bat to hide what happened. Bat is both attracted then repulsed but the offer: attracted since with Gene he has never had a real sexual relationship, and what he feels and does with Cowboy is enticing and addictive; repulsed since it’s against everything he was taught to believe, even the old texts he read with Gene to justify their love: sex was not something that was considered or promoted. In the end, probably Bat thinks that he has nothing to loose, he doesn’t believe that he will see the end of the war and so there is nothing to preserve. This is also the attitude of the author for this novella, it’s all open to possibilities; Bat and Cowboy have two different perspective, Bat refuses to think at the future since he doesn’t believe that he will see it, so he doesn’t even think to what will be, he doesn’t worry of the consequences of what they are doing since he doesn’t believe there will be a consequence; Cowboy instead is resolute to be alive at the end of the war, to go back home, and well, why not?, maybe to bring back Bat with him; what will be is not essential now, to consider the consequences it’s not their main issue. There is quite a clash of culture in here, Bat all old England conventions, reserved and sharp with words, Cowboy all new world America open and friendly, even a bit opportunist, but never false.
Amazon Kindle: Out of the Blue
Islands by Samantha Kane
During the WWII two men that probably wouldn’t have had any chance otherwise meet: René is a Frenchman and adventurer living in a Polynesian island almost like a small king, and Gabriel is a Navy officer and engineer who comes to ask René’s access to the island for military purpose. Even before Gabriel’s arrival, René was keener of America and Australia than Japan, and he would have probably given his consensus anyway, but when he sees the handsome American officer he decides to play a bit. René, openly gay and quite wanton, at first seduces Gabriel more for fulfil a physical abstinence than for any real love interest, but he ends up in love for the man. Gabe is reserved and cautious, but not against the idea to be seduced; he already knows to have a preferences for men, but till that moment he satisfied his needs with anonymous encounters in dark alleys, he has never had a relationship in the open. True, it’s not that suddenly René and Gabe can have a fairy tale love, even if in an isolated island in the Pacific, there are still some conventions to be respected, but all in all, this is more a nice and simple love story than an historic drama. In the relaxed atmosphere of the island, Gabe will learn to loose a bit his strict behaviour. Among patriotic words and declaration of love, both men manage to retain their masculinity, mixing the French carelessness with the American stoicism and creating a safe haven years before the exotic gay resorts will become so popular.
Amazon Kindle: Islands
Coming Home by Victor J. Banis
Just before the war in Vietnam, another revolution was happening in California, the hippies movement, the new flowers sons, the sex freedom. A lot of Marines from the nearby base came to Los Angeles and the Sunset Strip for sex, drugs and rock and roll, but mostly for sex, and Mike considered them his personal hunting reserve. Gays in the closet or curious Straight guys, all of them were good for a one night stand without strings attached. And it was not a decision of the Marines; it was Mike’s decision, probably the output of one more heartbroken. But even if feigning disinterest, Mike is a good guy in the end. One Sunday afternoon he picks up Doug, a very marine of few words but intensive eyes. At first Mike doesn’t understand him, Doug seems willing, even eager, but he is totally inexperienced, and even if he is ready to learn, he has always that detached behaviour, like he was not really interested. Mike is fascinated, and maybe for this reason allows to Doug to come back again the week after, but to his surprise, Doug comes along with a buddy friend, Ryan. They are grown together, in the same little town, and it’s clear that Doug is in love with Ryan; and Ryan maybe is interested, but I don’t think he really loves Doug, at least not as much as Doug loves him back. From lover Mike becomes a best friend and paramour, allowing the two to have a place to stay before being sent in Vietnam. They are happy, at least for a brief moment, but what remains to Mike? As usual Victor J. Banis’ characters are deep and involving, with a layer of fragility over a strong core that allows them to always survive, maybe with a crack, but not totally broken. And it’s not only Mike that has that fragility, also Doug, with his deep brown spaniel’s eyes that supplies the lack of words of a man who is not used to talk of feeling, also Doug is someone who needs a safe shelter; Ryan is the first love, probably the passion, but Mike is that safe shelter.
Amazon Kindle: Coming Home
Big Diehl by George Seaton
Big Diehl is probably the story of many soldiers who searched a family in the Army since they didn’t feel to have one at home. They are so focused in their search that sometime they don’t realize that there could be a family even out of the Army. The problem with Diehl is that he is not at peace with himself and so he is not able to find only a place, and only a man, to love. Diehl loves them all, he is able to find the lonely souls like himself, and for a little bit, they share the loneliness, but the loneliness never leaves them. Joe, Tony, Denman, Michael, all of them are soul mates, all of the could have been the right man, but there is always something, when Diehl is there in the moment when he has to grab the life at full hand, he goes away, always thinking that it’s not time, always having the previous man in mind, and believing that the present one is not the right one. Diehl has to loose all of them to understand that he has beforehand to forgive himself and the man who made him like that to maybe have a chance at happiness. Big Diehl is not a love story, it’s a self-discovery journey, but the love story, and the end of the journey, can be in the future of Diehl, only now it’s not yet the moment.
Amazon Kindle: Big Diehl
http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=ANTHESPR (print book)
Amazon: Esprit de Corps
Cover Art by Anne Cain