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The Inside Reader: Rob Rosen

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell
When I read Rob Rosen's last book, Divas Las Vegas, I really loved the joy of life that transpired from the book, so much that it made me change my idea for my next USA travel (in summer 2011, I'm planning in advance ;-)), now I really want to visit Las Vegas! See the power of a good book? And Rob Rosen was so kind to share with us his list, that again, as often happens when there is a very good author behind, it's full of interesting points for your next book hunt. So welcome Rob!

Greetings everyone! What a rare honor to get to list one´s top ten gay books. As an author, all ten of these had a profound impact on me. The first seven, all published before I started my writing career, inspired me to want to write in the first place, and to want to write the kind of fiction I´ve been putting out there these last ten years. The final three on the list inspired me to want to write even better. So, as a background, I have always been a reader of gay fiction, a lover of really great gay books. Oh, and I love to laugh, too. The ten books listed below aren´t just well-written, well-crafted novels, but also comic gems, offering up humor mixed with pathos and a touch of irreverence. To these authors, I owe my entire writing career, and for that I´m thrilled to be able to pass their genius along to you.

1) Tim and Pete by James Robert Baker. Equally funny as it is subversive, Tim and Pete was the first gay book I ever read that pointed the middle finger at straight conservative society and shouted out a big old Fuck You! This novel is set in a 24-hour time period and is literally crammed full of action and adventure and laugh out loud humor, while dealing with the plight of AIDS. This is the buddy book taken to the extreme, with black humor so dark there should be a new color named after it.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2001)
ISBN-10: 155583566X
ISBN-13: 978-1555835668
Amazon: Tim and Pete: A Novel

James Robert Baker's groundbreaking novel of simmering rage and justifiable violence is follows combative ex-lovers Tim and Pete as they are thrown together on a bizarre trek from Laguna Beach, Calif., to Los Angeles. But it is when they find themselves on the trail of an anarchist gang of queers that Baker's novel takes off with a roar. Sarcastic, satiric, violent, and exhilarating, Tim & Pete is a fantastically imagined, boldly realized vision of the cultural war that continues to rage in the hearts of the disenfranchised and in the streets of America.

2) Ambidextrous by Felice Picano. Felice Picano pretty much tops every writer´s (and reader´s) list of favorite gay authors, myself included. Ambidextrous, the first of five of Picano´s noted memoirs, was also the first coming out book I read that was as unapologetic as it was zany and sexy. It offers a slice of life completely different from my own, yet one I could wholly relate to. But it´s Picano´s style and flair that really stand out here, making this the one book I read in my twenties that grabbed me and shook me and made me want to become a writer myself. Fortunately, I´ve been able to tell that face-to-face with the author himself - numerous times now.

Paperback: 233 pages
Publisher: Southern Tier Editions; 1 edition (June 2003)
ISBN-10: 1560234385
ISBN-13: 978-1560234388
Amazon: Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

Picano's bold, funny and outrageously honest memoir of suburban 1950s childhood forever altered how we remember childhod and how we think of it today. So scandalous at the time that the book's first shipment to Great Britain was seized and burned on the London docks, AMBIDEXTROUS has since become a much-prized classic, and is now re-released as Volume One in this completely repackaged series of Picano's classic complete memoirs.

3) Whores of Lost Atlantis by Charles Busch. Two word: Drag Queens! And, yes, Busch does write about what he knows, and, man, does he write it like nobody else. This book takes you headlong into the life of the theater and the advant garde, into a group of mostly gay men who are as fierce as they are fabulous, bitchy as they are brilliant. Mixing both fiction and autobiography, this book is just as funny as it is poignant. A truly bizarre comic masterpiece.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Carroll & Graf (April 10, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0786715219
ISBN-13: 978-0786715213
Amazon: Whores of Lost Atlantis

In this madcap novel, Drama Desk Award winner Charles Busch brings to the page the plot twists and flamboyant, appealing characters that made his Vampire Lesbians of Sodom one of the longest-running plays in Off-Broadway history. Set in downtown New York City, Whores of Lost Atlantis features Julian Young, a performer and playwright who tells the story of his acting troupe’s hilarious struggle to assemble an Off-Broadway production of Julian’s play, Whores of Lost Atlantis, in which Julian acts in drag. The novel’s unforgettable cast of characters includes Joel, a perfect English gentleman from Indiana; Roxie, an actress - librarian with moxie; Buster, a voluptuous young alcoholic; Camille, the fiery wig designer Julian considers having an affair with; Perry, Julian’s best friend, with a weakness for plastic surgery and peroxide; and Kiko, the wonderfully wicked performance artist who tries to sabotage Julian’s career. Getting his play produced proves to be a picaresque adventure with plenty of surprises, leaving the reader feverishly turning pages to see if the show can go on.

4) Misadventures in the (213) by Dennis Hensley. What Joe Keenan and Robert Rodi were for the 80´s, Hensley was for the 90´s - but an updated and modern version. Bitchy dialogue, outrageous schemes, L.A. life, and, of course, lots of misadventure. This is a laugh a minute page turner - and an insider´s guide of what not to do in Hollywood. Oh, and it´s full of celebrity cameos to boot. Pure kitschy genius that practically jumps off the page.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (June 23, 1999)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780688171285/Misadventures_in_the_213/index.aspx  
ISBN-10: 0688171281
ISBN-13: 978-0688171285
Amazon: Misadventures in the (213)

What Tales of the City did for San Francisco, Misadventures in the (213) does double for L.A. in this audacious, satirical tale of a struggling screenwriter, his media-whore best friend, and their circle of celebrity-seeking pals. "(213)?" you'll likely ask. Well, the area code, of course. "Misadventures?" Just the high jinks underemployed Tinseltown wannabes are usually up to. Like making off with fish from Tina Louise's koi pond. Or harassing Alicia Silverstone with tales of watermelon-loving porn stars. Or auctioning off Andrew Shue's chicken wing and Heather Locklear's lip print for charity. You know. Packed with Hollywood life lessons and more B-level celebs than you can shake a casting sheet at, Misadventures in the (213) is a brilliantly witty dagger straight through the heart of the L.A. entertainment machine.

5) The Best Little Boy in the World by John Reid. This was the very first gay book I ever read, the one that started it all for me, and set me on my journey of reading and ultimately writing gay fiction. And it´s still the best coming of age, coming out book I´ve ever read. Full of humor and honesty, it´s one of those books that you start and read all the way through to the very end. Poignant and touching and witty, there´s a good reason it´s still a gay classic more than 30 years after it was published!

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 11, 1993)
ISBN-10: 0345381769
ISBN-13: 978-0345381767
Amazon: The Best Little Boy in the World

The classic account of growing up gay in America. "The best little boy in the world never had wet dreams or masturbated; he always topped his class, honored mom and dad, deferred to elders and excelled in sports . . . . The best little boy in the world was . . . the model IBM exec . . . The best little boy in the world was a closet case who 'never read anything about homosexuality.' . . . John Reid comes out slowly, hilariously, brilliantly. One reads this utterly honest account with the shock of recognition." The New York Times. "The quality of this book is fantastic because it comes of equal parts honesty and logic and humor. It is far from being the story of a Gay crusader, nor is it the story of a closet queen. It is the story of a normal boy growing into maturity without managing to get raped into, or taunted because of, his homosexuality. . . . He is bright enough to be aware of his hangups and the reasons for them. And he writes well enough that he doesn't resort to sensationalism . . . ." San Francisco Bay Area Reporter.

6) Buddies by Ethan Mordden. Part of the legendary Buddies series, Mordden can tie touching and telling and hilarious vignettes together like no one else. It´s often said that gay men make their own families, friends they keep for life, ones that help mold them as individuals - and that´s what this series is about, your buddies. A Tales of the City set in New York in the 80´s, the dialogue is fun and fresh, the situations truly real-to-life, and the writing superlative. My ultimate dream is to have my own Buddies-esque series for this millennium. Fingers crossed!

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (June 15, 1987)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/buddies  
ISBN-10: 0312010052
ISBN-13: 978-0312010058
Amazon: Buddies

"What unites us, all of us, surely is brotherhood, a sense that our friendships are historic, designed to hold Stonewall together," muses on character in Ethan Mordden's Buddies. This need for friendship, for nonerotic affection, for buddies, shines forth as an American obsession from Moby-Dick through Of Mice and Men to The Sting. And American gay life has built upon and cherished these relationships, even as it has dared-perhaps its most startling iconoclasm-to break new ground by combining romance and friendship: one's lover is one's buddy. This book is about those relationships-mostly gay but some straight and even a few between gays and straights. Here also are fathers and brothers and stories of men in their youth, when rivalry often develops more naturally than alliance. In Buddies Mordden continues to map the unstoried wilderness of gay life today.

7) Dead on Your Feet by Grant Michaels. Part of the Stan Kraychik murder/mystery/mayhem series, this is the reason I became I murder/mystery/mayhem writer myself. Michaels´ books are campy and sexy, the dialogue quick and witty, the murders outrageous. I mean, really, how can you not have fun with a Boston hairdresser turned amateur detective? Any fan of these timeless classics will surely find something to like in my two novels.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 4th edition (October 15, 1994)
ISBN-10: 0312114575
ISBN-13: 978-0312114572
Amazon: Dead on Your Feet: A Mystery (Stan Kraychik Mysteries)

The founder of a ballet company is discovered murdered and the conductor is the prime suspect. Seduced by the choreographer, a hairdresser sets out to prove the conductor's innocence. Among many suspects, including the lover, the hairdresser discovers life is more complex--and deadly--than art.

8) Gossip by Christopher Bram. Bram is one of few gay all-star authors who have managed to get even better with age, each book better than the last. Gossip, however, stands out amongst the rest. A page-turner from beginning to end, this is one of the most enjoyable political thrillers I´ve ever read. Gay pulp fiction with twists and turns galore, and ample doses of humor and edge-of-your seat suspense. A perfect roller-coaster of a book!

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Plume (April 1, 1998)
ISBN-10: 0452273382
ISBN-13: 978-0452273382
Amazon: Gossip

Ralph is a breezy East Villager, politically aware but only half committed, who is swept up in an affair with Bill, a young Republican journalist who "just happens" to be gay. Ralph's qualms about dating a man whose values clash with his own turn to disgust when Bill publishes a scathing tell-all book that attacks several prominent women in Washington. Illuminating the fine line between the personal and the public, Gossip brings wry insights and provocative questions to current political and social controversies. Bram's deft humor and subtle grasp of human character enrich a novel that is at once entertaining, surprising, and wholly original. Bram is one of America's most accomplished gay novelists. He has been featured in cover stories in Lambda Book Report and Christopher Street. The film of Father of Frankenstein starring Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser is about to go into production and should raise Bram's profile considerably.

9) Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger. A laugh-out-loud, flash back, flash foreword, love story. This is a heartwarming, feel-good book about love surviving against all odds. Told in a series of narrative, checklists, journal entries, emails and letters, Kluger nonetheless brings his characters to amazing Technicolor life. This wild cross-country adventure will certainly have you believing in the power of love -and laughter.

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; First Edition edition (May 11, 2004)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780060595838/Almost_Like_Being_in_Love/index.aspx
ISBN-10: 0060595833
ISBN-13: 978-0060595838
Amazon: Almost Like Being in Love: A Novel

A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. Flash forward twenty years. Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing .... Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who's wondered what ever happened to that first great love.

10) Attack of the Theater People by Marc Acito. This is the sequel to How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater, and easily my favorite book of the last several years. The dialogue is so well-written and thought out, the narrative so original, the humor so spot-on, the situations so out of left field, the sex so titillating, that I was beside myself with jealousy at how awesome a writer Acito is. I have never laughed so much and so often with any other novel. Hang on for the ride of your life! One of the few authors to come along in a long while who really stands apart from the pack, he´ll certainly leave you desperate for more!

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Broadway; First Edition edition (April 22, 2008)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780767927734  
ISBN-10: 0767927737
ISBN-13: 978-0767927734
Amazon: Attack of the Theater People

In praising “the witty high school romp” How I Paid for College, the New York Times Book Review said, it “makes you hope there’s a lot more where this came from.” There is. In this hilarious sequel Attack of the Theater People, Edward Zanni and his merry crew of high school musical-comedy miscreants move to the magical wonderland that is Manhattan. It is 1986, and aspiring actor Edward Zanni has been kicked out of drama school for being “too jazz hands for Juilliard.” Mortified, Edward heads out into the urban jungle of eighties New York City and finally lands a job as a “party motivator” who gets thirteen-year-olds to dance at bar mitzvahs and charms businesspeople as a “stealth guest” at corporate events. When he accidentally gets caught up in insider trading with a handsome stockbroker named Chad, only the help of his crew from How I Paid for College can rescue him from a stretch in Club Fed. Laced with the inspired zaniness of classic American musical comedy, Attack of the Theater People matches the big hair of the eighties with an even bigger heart.

About Rob Rosen: Rob Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed novels, "Sparkle: The Queerest Book You'll Ever Love" and the Lambda Literary Award nominated "Divas Las Vegas". He has been writing for the past ten years, starting when he got his first home computer, and not stopping for a minute since. His short stories have appeared in more than 80 anthologies, most notably: Mentsh: On Being Jewish and Queer; I Do/I Don't: Queers on Marriage; Best Gay Love Stories 2006; Truckers; Best Gay Love Stories: New York City; My First Time, Volume 5; Best Gay Love Stories: Summer Flings; Ultimate Gay Erotica (2008 & 2009); Hard Hats; Backdraft: Fireman Erotica; Ride Me Cowboy - Erotic Tales of the West; Cruise Lines; Service With A Smile: Fun with Couriers, Contractors and Plumbers; Frat Sex 2; Best Gay Romance (2007, 2008, 2009, & 2010); Biker Boys; and I Do Two.

Please visit him at www.therobrosen.com  

Divas Las Vegas by Rob Rosen
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Cleis Press (November 3, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.cleispress.com/book_page.php?book_id=324  
ISBN-10: 1573443697
ISBN-13: 978-1573443692
Amazon: Divas Las Vegas

What happens when you find out that Grandma's vase mistakenly sold at a yard sale is worth tens of thousands of dollars-and somebody else is about to cash in on it on Antiques Roadshow? Of course, you hop on a plane with your best friend and race off to Las Vegas to get Grandma's vase back! Filled with action and suspense, hunky blackjack dealers, divine drag queens, strange sex, and sex in strange places, plus a Federal agent or two, Divas Las Vegas puts the sin back in Sin City. A fun, new take on the murder mystery genre, Rob Rosen's Divas Las Vegas is a hilarious, touching, and compulsively readable page turner! 4 ½ stars from Rainbow Reviews and Instinct Magazine, and the Airplane Read of the Month in Passport.


Feb. 5th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC)
Oh I totally agree. In fact when looking for classic LGBT fiction to review, I combed your series for recommendations.
Feb. 5th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
It's a pity that some of the titles are out of print, but maybe with out interest we will help publishers reconsider them for a new edition. Elisa


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