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.

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As always, I'll leave you to the blurb for plot details. But I will tell you the setting was a new one for me.

A town called Whistle Pass, not much of a place in the big scheme of things; but, in story telling, it's a luscious locale that seems all quaint and homey on the surface but underneath that diners-loaded-with-smiles-and-cherry pie veneer is a snake pit of corruption, violence and homophobia. It's a delicious setting straight out of a George Raft movie. And just as noir and tantalizing.

If Whistle Pass was a motion picture and if I was an Oscar judge, I'd---first of all---give the book an award for its rich description of the world the reader is drawn to. KevaD is extremely gifted in transporting us to the era. The imagery, not only in visuals but all the other senses---smells, touches. With KevaD, I'm inside automobiles, sitting in a diner's booth, hiding in dark corners in the rain, looking in a hotel mirror at myself, smelling the freshly lit match, fingering the worn deck of cards, sniffing a dame's strong perfume and----ah, wonderfully last but not least---rolling around in the warm, fresh scents of masculinity and Aqua Velva and the fingers-on-bristly-beard.

Whistle Pass is chock full of sights and sounds I've personally never experienced in fiction---the railroad. The town is a spot where railroaders lay over and I enjoyed the flavor this aspect contributed to the story.
I'd give Whistle Pass an award for characterization. Charlie and Gabe, Roger and his scheming wife, the waitresses in the cafe and all the townsfolk---good guys and bad guys.

Charlie and Gabe are lavishly realistic.

Charlie's no angel, plain and clear. No bones about that. He's a shell-shocked veteran with some boulders on his shoulders all wrapped up in a gorgeous man's body. Virile, steely, slick, rough, seasoned, keen to his surroundings. He's a lumberjack. Oh, yes, I loved that! Wait! What's a lumberjack doing in a noir-type story? Well, read it and find out!

Gabe? Young hotel manager. Sophisticated, swank, dark hair always perfect, good looking, gentle yet strong as a lion when he needs to be. And he has a secret beneath all that sweet kid coating. Yet I adored him and I accepted him and all his frailties and life decisions. I very much loved his loyalty to his friends and to his new lover Charlie.

And, oh, man, oh, man, did I ever FEEL Gabe's longing for Charlie and Charlie's attraction for Gabe. Sizzling. One of those get-together-why-don't-you-already type relationships that I love to read.

Roger. The former lover who wasn't so lovable anymore. But, in spite of his fall from grace (or at least the grace Charlie had fixed in his mind from the past), I still kind of liked Roger. Because he was, underneath it all, just a human, too. A human gone bad and greedy. And, to me, that's a literary accomplishment to develop the protagonist so carefully that the reader can't really hate him even though they want to.

But, alas, Whistle Pass is not a movie. It's a book. So I give it a whopping award for being a book that reads like a wonderful, well-detailed, opulent, lavish big-screen production.

Highly recommended.


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Dear Father...

 “It never gets easier, missing you. And sometimes I wonder if it ever will.” --- Heather Brewer, "Ninth Grade Slays"

This is a re-post of a blog I originally wrote in 2009, the year my dear father passed away. My sister asked if I would repeat it this year, in honor of Father's Day.

And I might add that, even after four years, I miss Daddy just as much as ever.

Here's the post...

I’m listening to Neil Diamond’s “Dear Father” from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” right now.  Seems appropriate. 

Today is your birthday, Daddy.  You would have been 83. I lost you on February 29, this year. And, oh God, this is your first birthday away from us.  Before you tell me you’re in a better place, I do know that. I find comfort in that. Comfort in the fact you’re whole, healthy. In fact, I still keep seeing visions of you at 18 years old, in the army.  Before I knew you.  And I tell myself it’s really you, not just a wishful thought. It’s you, telling me you’re fine. That you don’t need your oxygen machine anymore. You can go anywhere you want now without having to lug your little portable oxygen device. And you assure me that is something I should be happy about. And I am. Believe me, Daddy, I am. 

But. Of course there is a ‘but’ to this. I went to Walmart on the way home from work today, Daddy. I needed to go the card aisle to get you a birthday card; and, damn it, I got hit with it. Hit like a piano falling from a five thousand story building. You are gone. You are gone. No more birthday cakes. No parties. No cards. Never again. 

I mean, really. Do you realize how hard it was to find the perfect card for you every year? You hated those schmaltzy cookie cutter cards just as much as I did. And they were SO not you. So my yearly mission was to find the card --- the card that reflected you. And let me tell you. It was hard. Because you weren’t one of those Hallmark Daddies. You were good ol’ Daddy, plain ol’ Daddy. 

The cards were right about one thing, though, Daddy. Every single one of those pesky cards said, “I don’t tell you I love you as often as I should.” How did those card writers know that most of us kids do not do that? Well, I suppose they were all kids, too? Well, they were right. I did not tell you as often as I should. Heck, looking back, I don’t suppose I told you much at all.  I figured you knew, anyway. And I’m sure you did. But I bet you would have loved to have heard it more often. 

Well, we won’t have to be bothered by those irritating American Greetings anymore, will we? 

Oh, Daddy, I wish it really did make me feel better to tell myself that. That I’m glad to be relieved of that chore every year --- that quest for the Ark of the Covenant of birthday cards, the Holy Grail of greetings. 

But it does not. I’d gladly spend all night in stupid Walmart to find you a stupid card if you were just still here. All night, I’d look for a card.  I wouldn’t care how sugary it was, how silly. If you could just be here for me to give it to you. 

Well, I’ve whined enough. Your birthday is nearly over now. Good. So maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and not miss you so much? Fat chance.

Daddy, I sure do miss you. I miss you so much. Didn’t get you a card. But --- wherever you may be --- Happy, happy birthday. I love you.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

"FINDING JACKIE" by Lou Sylvre...

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. 

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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.