Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellIn this time where I continuosly read around about the lack of originality in Gay Romance, Hal Bodner is a name that is well above the average, and not only since he pushes on the Horror button that not so often works so perfectly with a Romance plot. Hal Bodner is also able to be very explicit in his sex scene, bordering my level of comfort, but never going beyond it. Finally, I'd like you to read carefully the "about Hal Bodner" part of this post, who himself wrote for us, since it's probably one of the most romantic piece I have ever read.
When Elisa asked me to provide a list of my Top Ten LGBT novels, I thought it would be an easy task. Wrong! As a gay man of a “certain age”, there just weren?t very many LGBT novels around when I was younger and, I find, most of the books that influenced my life and my work were those I read way back then. What I came up with is certainly an eclectic list!
Hal Bodner’s Ten Top LBGT Novels:
1) Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault. Though Renault’s The Persian Boy is the one that everyone talks about, Fire From Heaven is, to my mind, her masterpiece. Possibly one of the greatest male/male love stories of all time Alexander’s lifelong relationship with his lover Hephaestion -- is woven through a riveting story of the young Greek’s early years from birth until he assumes the throne of Macedon. The author’s prose is like poetry and I defy any young gay man not to fall hopelessly in love with Renault’s Alexander by the end of the book. Other notable male/male themed novels from Renault are The Last of the Wine (also set in Classical Greece) and the heart-wrenching and brilliantly sub-textual The Charioteer (a relatively unknown work set in England during World War One).
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Vintage (June 11, 2002)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375726828
Amazon: Fire from Heaven
“Written with her usual vigor and imagination...Mary Renault has a great talent.”–The New York Times Book Review. Alexander’s beauty, strength, and defiance were apparent from birth, but his boyhood honed those gifts into the makings of a king. His mother, Olympias, and his father, King Philip of Macedon, fought each other for their son’s loyalty, teaching Alexander politics and vengeance from the cradle. His love for the youth Hephaistion taught him trust, while Aristotle’s tutoring provoked his mind and Homer’s Iliad fueled his aspirations. Killing his first man in battle at the age of twelve, he became regent at sixteen and commander of Macedon’s cavalry at eighteen, so that by the time his father was murdered, Alexander’s skills had grown to match his fiery ambition.
2) The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley. The emotionally devastating story of a young gay boy adopted into a family of trapeze artists who falls in love with the angst-ridden and repressed family star. An unbelievably accurate depiction of the pain of young gay love and the battle some of us go through to come out yet, this is far from a standard coming out story; the novel borders on the epic.
Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 12, 1984)
Amazon: Catch Trap
A magnificent, colorful novel of the circus world of the 1940s and 1950s, rich in detail, bursting with power and emotion. Mario Santelli, a member of the famous flying Santelli family, is a great trapeze artist. Tommy Zane is his protege.As naturally and gracefully as they soar through the air, the two flyers find themselves falling in love. Mario and Tommy share sweet stolen moments of passion, but the real intensity of their relationship comes from their total devotion to one another and to their art. As public figures in a conservative era, they cannot reveal their love. But they will never renounce it. A tremendously moving tale, a rich family saga, a wise and compassionate portrait of a special love in a special world.
3) The Lord Won’t Mind by Gordon Merrick. All right. It’s fluff. But what marvelous fluff it is! Merrick’s idyllic romance between the beautiful Charlie and his equally stunning lover Peter is fondly remembered as one of the only available series of gay romantic novels when we were younger men. There’s very little pain or angst here, just an unending tale of over-the-top romantic gay love. Merrick’s books are a bit dated now but, if you can get past the idealized charm of an earlier and more innocent age, they are a true delight to read. The Lord Won’t Mind is the first of the series.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (July 1, 1995)
Amazon: The Lord Won't Mind (Peter & Charlie Trilogy) (Peter & Charlie series)
Prior to the publication of this beloved novel, nearly every gay novel and play seemed to end in suicide--or at least deep despair. Merrick was one of the first writers to insist that a gay relationship could in fact be a happy one. The Lord Won't Mind tells the story of Peter and Charlie, who begin a love affair at their Ivy League college in the '60s.
4) Tory’s by William Snyder. Long out of print, this is perhaps my absolute favorite gay book from my youth. The story of Tory, a designer-label obsessed gay boy, and his best friend, a fag-hag named Mona, is one hilarious romp through popular gay culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s. A complete camp-fest, Tory’s is so damned witty, it will bring a smile to your face from beginning to end. Sadly, these kinds of books went out of fashion once the AIDS epidemic forced a new seriousness to the GLBT community but, if you ever have the urge to hearken back to a more carefree age, Tory’s will instantly and magically transport you back thirty years.
Publisher: Avon Books (Mm) (January 1981)
5) Steam by Jay B. Laws. Laws died tragically early, having only two or three published works to his credit. Steam ranks among the most brilliant horror novels of all time and, certainly wins the blue ribbon as the finest gay horror novel ever written. Eerie and disturbing, Laws’ haunted bath house serves as a personification of the early AIDS epidemic and, even today, is practically guaranteed to send chills up and down your spine.
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books; 1st edition (March 1991)
6) Six of One by Rita Mae Brown. Long known as a lesbian author, Brown’s novel is a charming and heartfelt tale which follows three generations of an incredibly eccentric family who live in an even more incredibly eccentric town astride the Mason-Dixon line. The antics of these loveable kooks still resound in my memory even twenty years after having read the book. Brown built a comic novel of Southern Gothic insanity on a solid foundation of deep love and friendship.
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Bantam; 1st Edition edition (July 6, 1999)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553380378
Amazon: Six of One
Perched right on the Mason-Dixon line, tiny Runnymede, Maryland, is ripe with a history almost as colorful as the women who live there—from Celeste Chalfonte, headstrong and aristocratic, who murders for principle and steals her brother’s wife, to Fannie Jump Creighton, who runs a speakeasy right in her own home when hard times come knocking. Then of course, there’re Louise and Julia, the boldly eccentric Hunsenmeir sisters. Wheezie and Juts spend their whole lives in Runnymede, cheerfully quibbling about everything from men to child-rearing to how to drive a car. But they never let small-town life keep them from chasing their biggest dreams—or from being true to who they really are. Sparkling with a perfect combination of sisterhood and sass, Six of One is a richly textured Southern canvas—Rita Mae Brown “at her winning, fondest best”(Kirkus Reviews).
7) Death in Venice by Thomas Mann / The City and The Pillar by Gore Vidal. I have only one word to describe these two short novels which always seemed to me to be oddly paired: classics. Whether you enjoy them or not, they are must reads for every gay man.
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 31, 2005)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780060576172/Death_in_Venice/index.aspx
Amazon: Death in Venice
The world-famous masterpiece by Nobel laureate Thomas Mann -- here in a new translation by Michael Henry Heim. Published on the eve of World War I, a decade after Buddenbrooks had established Thomas Mann as a literary celebrity, Death in Venice tells the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, a successful but aging writer who follows his wanderlust to Venice in search of spiritual fulfillment that instead leads to his erotic doom. In the decaying city, besieged by an unnamed epidemic, he becomes obsessed with an exquisite Polish boy, Tadzio. "It is a story of the voluptuousness of doom," Mann wrote. "But the problem I had especially in mind was that of the artist's dignity."
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Vintage (December 2, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400030378
Amazon: The City and the Pillar: A Novel
A literary cause célèbre when first published more than fifty years ago, Gore Vidal’s now-classic The City and the Pillar stands as a landmark novel of the gay experience. Jim, a handsome, all-American athlete, has always been shy around girls. But when he and his best friend, Bob, partake in “awful kid stuff,” the experience forms Jim’s ideal of spiritual completion. Defying his parents’ expectations, Jim strikes out on his own, hoping to find Bob and rekindle their amorous friendship. Along the way he struggles with what he feels is his unique bond with Bob and with his persistent attraction to other men. Upon finally encountering Bob years later, the force of his hopes for a life together leads to a devastating climax. The first novel of its kind to appear on the American literary landscape, The City and the Pillar remains a forthright and uncompromising portrayal of sexual relationships between men.
8) Twins by Bari Wood. Not really a gay novel per se, but the homosexual relationship between the drug-addicted twin doctors, David and Michael, casts a pervading and depressing aura over the entire novel. Yes, you read correctly: depressing. The film, Dead Ringers was loosely based on this book and, frankly, came no where near evoking the creepiness of the novel. It will fascinate you, repel you, draw you inexorably in; this is not an easy book to deal with. Though, it will depress you for days after you put it down, it is a brilliant piece of literature and worthy of a read.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: IUniverse (May 10, 2001)
Publisher Link: http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000074904
Amazon: Twins: Dead Ringers
12 Weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List. Basis for the motion picture Dead Ringers directed by David Cronenberg. A spellbinding novel of the bizarre lives and shocking deaths of twin doctors—bound together by more-than-brotherly love, damned together to a private hell of unspeakable obsessions. “An authentic shocker…a novel of eerie power… suspenseful and tough.” —Cosmopolitan
9) A Queer Kind of Death by George Baxt. The first book in Baxt’s Pharaoh Love detective series is really the only one to bother reading and it is certainly worth the read! Though some may be put off by the 1960's casual racist tone of some of the language, the reader must try to remember that when it was written, the notion of political correctness did not exist. If you can put the offensively racial language into the context of the period, you’ll find an enjoyable detective novel with the ultimate surprise ending of all time.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (July 1, 2000)
Amazon: A Queer Kind of Death (Alyson Classics Library)
New York detective Pharoah Love believes the death of a young, handsome actor-model-hustler was no accident. But who killed him in his bathtub? His ex-lover? His agent? His reclusive sister? Pharoah Love thinks it might be one of these, but how do you outsmart an ingenious killer? This novel has been optioned for a film to star Lawrence Fishburne.
10) Hero by Perry Moore. One of the few modern gay books that captured my heart, Hero is a humorous take on a classic coming out story: except the protagonist must come out not only as a gay youth, but as a super hero as well! Rarely in recent years have a read a book where, the more I read, the more I was regretting what I’d already read as it meant I was closer to finishing: and I did not want the book to end. A sheer delight which also deals, in a sweet and charming way, with the coming out process.
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://hyperionbooksforchildren.com/board/displayBook.asp?id=2103
The last thing in the world Thom Creed wants is to add to his father’s pain, so he keeps secrets. Like that he has special powers. And that he’s been asked to join the League – the very organization of superheroes that spurned his dad. But the most painful secret of all is one Thom can barely face himself: he’s gay. But becoming a member of the League opens up a new world to Thom. There, he connects with a misfit group of aspiring heroes, including Scarlett, who can control fire but not her anger; Typhoid Larry, who can make anyone sick with his touch; and Ruth, a wise old broad who can see the future. Like Thom, these heroes have things to hide; but they will have to learn to trust one another when they uncover a deadly conspiracy within the League. To survive, Thom will face challenges he never imagined. To find happiness, he’ll have to come to terms with his father’s past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be.
About Hal Bodner: Hal Bodner is the author of the best selling gay vampire novel, Bite Club. He tells people he was born in East Philadelphia because so few people know where Cherry Hill, New Jersey is located. The first person he saw in his life was C. Everet Coop, future US Surgeon General, who delivered him. Thus, Hal was ironically destined to become a heavy smoker.
He moved to West Hollywood in the 1980s and will probably never leave. Hal has been an entertainment lawyer, a scheduler for a 976 sex telephone line, a theater reviewer and the personal assistant to a television star. For awhile, he owned Heavy Petting, a pet boutique where all the movie stars shopped for their Pomeranians. Currently, he owns an exotic bird shop.
He has never been a waiter.
He lives in a fabulous century-old Craftsman house with dogs, macaws, a lovebird and with a special nod to his eighty yearold irritable, flesh-eating military macaw named after his icon: Tallulah. He often quips he is a slave to fur and feathers and regrets only that he isn’t referring to mink and marabou. He does not have cats because he tends to sneeze on them.
Rapidly approaching middle-age, he remembers Nixon.
He got married very late in life to an incredible man. Sadly, after five amazing, if turbulent, years he was widowed and can sometimes be found sunbathing at his husband’s grave while trying to avoid cemetery caretakers screaming at him to put his shirt back on.
In Flesh and Stone is Hal’s first crack at paranormal erotic romance and he enjoyed writing it immensely. For Love of the Dead is his second Ravenous Romance title and it may very well be the first guy-on-guy paranormal erotic zombie romance novel ever written! He will be following up with Generations in the spring of 2010 and, like his other romance work, it is a truly unique book.
He is currently seeking incredibly hot guys in their thirties with amazing bodies as volunteers to help him do the...er...research for his next foray into erotic romance
For the Love of the Dead: Gay Zombie Erotica by Hal Bodner
Paperback: 230 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (June 1, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/for-love-of-the-dead.php
Amazon: For the Love of the Dead: Gay Zombie Erotica
Leave all your preconceptions about zombies on page one! Hal Bodner's For Love of the Dead brings an entirely new twist to the Risen Dead in a sultry, steaming hot novel of paranormal erotic romance that will rock your very soul in a story of lost hope, missed opportunities and sensual ecstasy. Hunky mortician Jake Marshall is seeking true love - and a funeral home is definitely the wrong place to look. Or is it...? Emotionally paralyzed by the untimely death of his first lover, Jake finally meets young Mario - the answer to Jake's prayers and the key to his finding love once again. But a specter of indescribable beauty and horrifying evil rises inexplicably from a mortuary table. Mark Hartner has the face of an angel, the body of a young god... and the soul of a demon from Hell. And Mark would like nothing more than to drag Jake back down to Hell with him. The fiend wastes no time in squandering his chance to redeem himself in an orgy of violence, sex and blood. And the only one who can stop him is Jake. How far will Jake go to thwart Mark's terrifying attacks on innocent young men? What sacrifices is the handsome mortician willing to make? Will Mario, the man with whom Jake can finally find happiness, be one of them? From an island paradise hiding terrible secrets to the hushed and sterile halls of a small mortuary, For Love of the Dead will take you on a darkly erotic journey like you've never known, bringing a shiver to your spine and a tingle to your body. Bodner combines heart-breaking emotional impact with the forbidden allure of dark sex in a truly riveting tale of lust and revenge. Fighting against almost insurmountable obstacles from beyond the grave, his characters struggle against the odds to reach their ultimate reward - a pure and perfect love. Find out how far one man will go, what risks he will take and what dangers he will face... For Love of the Dead.