Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Posted by C. Zampa at 18:17
Sunday, 25 August 2013
Posted by C. Zampa at 11:06
Friday, 2 August 2013
Posted by C. Zampa at 14:59
Sunday, 21 July 2013
I get such pleasure from discovering new authors. We all have to start somewhere and I love, love, love the experience of reading the 'starting points' of other authors.
Only...well, hell...this new author, Parker Williams, bounded from his starting point and just jetted right into awesomeness!
This scrumptious story, 500 Miles, is part of an anthology, Mixed Tapes, from MLR Press, by the way. And, if I'm not mistaken, it's Mr. Williams' first published work. What a beautiful beginning he's made with this lovely contribution to this collection of stories.
That song carries a much deeper message that Mark will one day understand. And so will the reader by the time they've come to the end of the wonderful story.
This story immediately touched my heart because (no plot, remember, that's what the blurb is for...lol) it dragged me back to my own past, to a secret love for a soldier overseas in a war. To a youngster who loves that older sibling's friend with a yearning that's not any less true just because the dreamer is just a kid. With me, it was the Viet Nam era, a boyfriend of my older sister's. Just like Mark in the story, I wrote letters to him, clung to his every response, dreamed of him and missed him something fierce.
I daresay many folks have been in this position and will relate to this poignant telling of just that sort of young love. It's a common thing, told in a very UNcommon sweetness that was very, very deep and personal and heart wrenching.
The other facet of 500 Miles that impressed me, that was such a delight, was the prose. This is not fancy writing. And by that I mean it's natural as breathing yet powerful as a heartbeat. It IS a heartbeat, a lovely VERY personal rhythm that melts the reader right into Mark's very mind and heart. Only problem with that is that the reader's going to bawl with Mark, hate with Mark, love with Mark, smile with Mark and fly to the moon with ultimate happiness with Mark. The reader is going to BE Mark. And that, my friend, is good writing.
The prose was down to earth. Not like an author telling Mark's story but like Mark sitting on your porch with you, telling it to you himself. The beauty in that is that you come away from the book knowing Mark and never forgetting him. He made a friend of you.
Mind-blowing perfection in a short package. Perfect characters, very real characters. Perfect, well-synchronized plot fit into that small space. And a perfect ending.
Posted by C. Zampa at 09:54
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
On the battlefields of WWII Europe, Charlie Harris fell in love, and after the war, Roger marched home without a glance back. Ten years later, Charlie receives a cryptic summons and quickly departs for his former lover’s hometown of Whistle Pass.
But Roger Black isn’t the lover of Charlie’s dreams anymore. He’s a married, hard-bitten political schemer who wants to secure his future by destroying evidence of his indiscreet past. Open homosexuality is practically a death sentence, and that photo would ruin Roger and all his wife’s nefarious plans.
Caught up in foggy, tangled events, Charlie turns to hotel manager Gabe Kasper for help, and Gabe is intrigued by the haunted soldier who so desperately desires peace. When helping his new lover places Gabe in danger, the old warrior in Charlie will have to take drastic action to protect him... or condemn them both.
Posted by C. Zampa at 06:40
Saturday, 15 June 2013
Posted by C. Zampa at 18:01
Sunday, 9 June 2013
What. A. Book. Finding Jackie by Lou Sylvre.
This was the third installment in the Vasquez and James series by this author (the series also included a short novella titled Yes), and I would advise reading the books in order to get the maximum benefit of the series.
First of all, let me mention Sylvre's writing style. I know, I know, I've bragged about it very often---it's magical, lyrical, there's just something about it. How can I describe it? It's not even just the prose, but the presentation. Reading these books, the Vasquez and James delicious installments, I sort of get this light, airy but can-be-very-serious tone as though I'm listening to a delightful narrator with a very simple, very blunt and almost dry humor reading it to me. An arresting delivery like in the film Vickie Christina Barcelona. In fact, I can almost hear Giulia y Los Tellarini singing the zippy tune Barcelona as I read. How Sylvre does this is pure magic. Such serious themes---in Finding Jackie, a kidnapping and torture of a young boy is the heart---and yet presented in a perfect balance of drama and light comedy. A perfect balance.
For instance, I loved this bit: At the Monaco, they’d been offered the Ambassador Suite, but Sonny had insisted the purple furniture would prevent him from sleeping, so they ended up with the Monte Carlo suite. So adorable and yet somber, you just know Rod Serling is just sitting somewhere offstage, narrating.
Sylvre displayed her trademark knack for showing not telling her characters, and I was particularly touched by the humanness of one character, a drag hooker named Rita: Well, you know, Vasquez. I know I’m not like I used to be. I don’t draw the same clientele. You know what I mean?” Luki did know. Rita hadn’t been a street-corner “ho.” She’d drawn her clients from the richest, the most prestigious men in Chicago, both the flagrantly criminal and the supposedly legit. That was the reason she’d been useful to Luki. Small-time thieves and conmen weren’t the people Luki needed to know about when he was working for ATF. Rita hooked the big ones, and her trade in gossip was as lucrative as her trade in sex. Or possibly more. When Luki didn’t say anything, Rita deflated a little. She attempted a laugh but choked on it.
So subtle, just a teency touch of body language, and Rita's entire persona is sewn up in vivid color. A sad wishing that someone would tell her, no, you're still beautiful, you still got it going on, girl. But no one contradicts her and she deflates but carries on. Body language. A gift of Sylvre's.
You know I don't talk much about plots, and this is no exception except to say this particular story line was absolutely riveting. Big time. Sylvre knows her stuff. Weapons, computer technology, strategics, logistics, all the goodies that make for good action and adventure.
But...but...Ms. Sylvre also knows something ever bigger, even better. Humans. What one person has that makes another person tick. What one person has that dries another person ape shit. What one person has that makes another crazy with desire. Love, sensuality, deep-in-the-gut emotion, no holds barred. The good with the bad, the pretty with the ugly. Humans. The way we really are.
Sonny James and Luki Vasquez are two of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Something about them...just something about them. Beautiful, gentle but-can-be-a-force-to-be-reckoned-with Sonny James. So loyal, so enamored of his husband Luki. A perfect character, so well drawn I feel as though I could just pick up the phone and call him. So well drawn I find myself wildly attracted to him.
And then there's Luki....confirmed bad-ass who is growing a heart over the course of the series and who is softening up a little because of that heart.
Their dynamics---in and out of the bed---are fabulous. Oh, and speaking of the bed. One unforgettable scene---in a bath tub---ay-ay-ay! I even stopped reading to make a comment to the author. Oh, hell's bells. Can Sylvre write the intimate scenes. And they are not hump-it-baby-oh-yeah-baby fare. Her sex scenes are hot as Hades yet so damn classy. The lovemaking session by the water. On the rock. Beautiful, intense.
For you readers who are devoted Vasquez and James fans, you will not want to miss this installment. There are excellent flashbacks into Luki's past, when he was eighteen. There is a final confrontation with his childhood, when he faces the ghosts---thanks to the love and patience of Sonny---of the incident when his face was slashed. It's a wonderful insight into Luki, his growth, his triumph over his demons. And a beautiful tribute to his Sonny who has stood by him through all these fabulous books.
Finding Jackie. If I gave stars, I'd have to give this read its own constellation. Yes. It is that good.
Thanks, Ms. Sylvre, for another beautiful, satisfying read.
Posted by C. Zampa at 17:20
Sunday, 5 May 2013
First thing in order is an apology from the Zampster to the author, Lou Sylvre, because I had not read this short story sooner. I had my reasons for holding off on this giant gem of a book, but---now that I braved the emotional waters to read it---I only regret I didn't do it long ago.
I'd been blunt when Ms. Sylvre announced the release of this book. The subject matter---cancer---sent ice through me, scared me. Just prior to the release, I'd lost my son-in-law to cancer and I quickly informed Lou I was pretty sure I wouldn't be touching this book, that I could NOT deal with this issue in fiction. To compound my stance, it just so happened I'm an ardent fan of the characters of this series by Ms. Sylvre----the Vasquez and James series---and here the author was, telling me my favorite character was going to have cancer. No can do. Nuh-uh. Next book, please.
Well, since the author has another new Vasquez and James release coming up, I wanted to prime myself for the upcoming story (titled Finding Jackie), and bite the bullet by reading this short story titled simply Yes.
And my initial reaction after finishing this story? A resounding DAMN!
I seriously doubted----remembering the long emotional journey in watching my son-in-law battle cancer---that a story could efficiently address the complex nature of the illness. The moments from diagnosis to treatment to healing or the unthinkable---death. I was so sure I'd come away from the book with all sorts of points that had been missed. The emotions. The details.
I was wrong.
Somehow, Ms. Sylvre did manage to address this issue so fully, beautifully as I should have expected of her. She's a magnificent author, a gifted wordsmith, a talent I am in awe of. And why I ever doubted her handling of this subject, I don't know.
Luki Vazquez, as his fans have grown to know, is a bad ass. How was he going to handle the big C? How was Sonny, his lover of six years, going to handle it?
For one thing, with an odd sort of Luki-style humor which has become a beloved trademark of Lou Sylvre's writing style.
Remembering the day I sat with my father in the doctor's office when he got his lung cancer diagnosis, I laughed out loud at the truth to this moment with Luki when he is delivered the same news….and made his lung look like an almost egg-shaped hole, and the tumor look like a yoke splatted in the middle of it. Mr. Vasquez, I’m afraid you have a fried egg in your lung. Luki didn’t realize he’d chuckled aloud until Sonny clamped a hand on his shoulder, and he saw a shocked look on the doctor’s face. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I was thinking about… something….”
True Luki Vasquez. True human. So real. That haze between reality and disbelief.
Chills gripped me. My Luki. But with Sylvre's lovely sense of humor, the scene was put on a realistic, personal level. This fictional character is a real guy, just like you and me.
The most beautiful, poignant, powerful part of this story, though, is Sonny's battling with the illness of the man he loves more than his life.
The confusion, the pain, the hope, the loss of hope, the denial, the helplessness, the protectiveness, the over protectiveness, the craving for sex and intimacy but making do because love is more important than sex, the thought---that awful thought---of maybe losing them forever. The anger because they got sick in the first place.
And---oh, damn---Sylvre even added humor into one of the most base aspects of it. A moment when Sonny worries that Luki has expired in the bathroom...What if Luki died in some laughably compromising position? What if he, the most dignified and contained man Sonny had ever met, was held up for ridicule just for dying wrong?
Luki's illness carries into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, so very perfectly. I won't say much more, in fear of gushing too much. Although I sure could gush without end.
Luki's Christmas gift to Sonny. A tribute to how very little Sonny really wants from Luki---or should I say how much? Sonny's gift to Luki. Just the ending is reason alone to warrant reading this luscious masterpiece of prose.
And speaking of the ending. Lou Sylvre at it again, weaving this tapestry of words into the perfect ending with the end that ties the whole thing together. And the meaning behind the title, Yes. Ah!
So I apologize, Lou Sylvre. There's a reason you're one of my most beloved authors, why I love your work. You managed to incorporate a full-blown journey, jam-packed with every emotion possible, into this short story.
I should never have doubted you.
Posted by C. Zampa at 13:50