Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A New Story by Alan Chin

I finished a novella today that has been knocking about in my head for the last two years. I’m super excited about it. It started out as a short story to give away on my website, but it grew in both depth and length, and now is a novella that I think is good enough to publish.

It’s the story of a dysfunctional gay couple who travel to Thailand and pay to live as monks for a month. That is a real program that was offered in one of the temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand (I considered doing it myself at one point). There is a killer on the loose roaming the town; at the same time another monk comes between the couple. Both events have disastrous effect on everybody’s karma.

I am giving this story out as a freebie. If you would like to read my work, go to and click on the FREE STORY button.

Alan Chin

Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

I try to stay clear of politics, mostly because I get so angry at it. But I was recently cornered by a guy discounting the Occupy Wall Street Movement as the lunatic left that don’t know what they are doing, or even what they stand for. They simply want to protest. This guy, IMHO, was a conservative shill (read: GOP and/or the nitwits supporting them), bought and paid for by corporate interests spinning a viewpoint that has a tiny kernel of truth upon which to divide public opinion.

He zeroed in on students complaining of having to pay back student loans, building a spiel around this specific group upon which to label, demean and discount the whole of those participating in OWS. He tried to convince me that the whole OWS protesters are ungrateful brats unable to fend for themselves. He's broadly painting the protesters as an entitled generation with discretionary income, expensive high tech toys, lolling around sipping their upscale coffees, all the while complaining and whining.

But there is another, much larger face to the protesters, those working class people struggling to build a career or who have already retired. He didn’t acknowledge that many of those protesters are the laborers employed, or laid off, by the corporations. He didn’t acknowledge that there are people protesting the foreclosure on their homes by the banks (like my sister), nor those angry that their retirement funds have been ripped off by the investment bankers.

There are many, like me, who are angry over the bailouts for Wall Street's fraud and deceit, and Congress's kowtowing to corporate power. The whole truth of the OWS protest is they all feel fear, frustration and anger about the corporate malfeasance and political corruption that has plundered the country's wealth and saddled it with debt.

The corporate interests will say and do all they can to dilute the power of the 99%. I commend the protesters for their courage and it saddens me that our country does not practice what it preaches and chooses to resort to force to stifle dissent.

I pray that this movement grows and grows in power and influence, and leads this country back to a more just way of dealing with the middle class, which is what made this country great in the first place.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Madness

There is no explaining this.... WATCH a near riot breakout over $2 waffle makers


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: CAREGIVER by Rick R. Reed

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 205

Dan and Mark have their difficulties. Neither are working and Mark seems not to be sexually interested in Dan. The honeymoon is definitely over for this couple. The problem? Cocaine. They had recently moved from Chicago to South Florida in a failed attempt to pull Mark away from his drug addiction.

While Dan beats the bushes for a job, he also finds plenty of time on his hands, so being a giving person, he volunteers at the Tampa AIDS Alliance to be a buddy to people suffering from AIDS. This story takes place in 1991, before the cocktails that prolonged AIDS-suffer’s lives, so there are plenty of buddies to choose from.

Dan’s HIV buddy, Adam, turns out to be light years beyond all expectations. Adam is flamboyant, witty, wise, giving and charming. He is the type of friend one finds only once or twice in a lifetime. The two quickly bond (non-sexually) and become friends for life. In their short time together, Adam teaches Dan several life lessons, including how to be strong and stand up for himself, something at Adam is a pro at.

Dan also befriends Adam’s lover, Sullivan, who is easy on the eyes but a bit standoffish. Dan is attracted to Sullivan, but is too much the gentleman to go after Adam’s man.

All seems well for Dan until Mark falls off the wagon and plunges the couple into an unknown landscape, while at the same time Adam lands himself in prison. The problems (as often happens in Rick Reed’s novels) seem insurmountable. But while this author leads his characters into hell, he always leaves them a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back. But will they?

Having lived my young adult life in an epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, and having lost my share of friends and loved ones to the disease, it is clear to me that the author draws from personal experience in writing this gripping story. I found that, although this story is set in the height of the AIDS epidemic, it is a story about friendship, love and finding courage. It is a sad, often humorous, and inspirational journey.

This is a story that resonates with me. I enjoyed the characters and their undertaking, and I can recommend it to all who enjoy a dark and complicated tale.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living a Life of Gratitude

It’s rather cold and raining on this Sunday morning. Still, I’m sitting at my desk, looking out over the grey gloom, and brimming with gratitude. I’ve recently been thinking about how lucky I am, being an openly gay man, living in this time in American history where gay rights is front and center in our political landscape. This entire gay-rights movement started at a time when I was discovering that I was gay, and has been a part of my life, my struggle, for forty years.

I’ve seldom marched in picket lines and I’ve never been bashed in the head with billy-clubs, but I’ve always been part of the fight. It was impossible to avoid it while living in San Francisco. I’ve worked with AIDS organizations and marched in countless Gay-Pride parades, but the thing I’ve done constantly through out my life to advance the rights of gay and lesbian people is to live openly, to get in everybody’s face and say “This is who I am and I’m not about to change, so deal with it!”

I must confess, I’m very proud of the fact that Herman and I were the first male couple legally wed in Marin County, California. We did that solely to make a political statement. We had already lived together for fifteen years and certainly didn’t feel the need for a piece of paper from the state to legitimize our relationship, but that was our way to advance this equality movement. It was this same idea that led me in 1999 to legally change my last name to “Chin” so that Herman and I would have the same family name. We wanted everyone to realize, even back then, that we were a wedded couple.

I never in my younger life dreamed that I would actually be married in the eyes of the state, or that gays and lesbians would be allowed to openly serve in the military. The strides we have all made are tremendous, even though the fight continues. And I welcome the opportunity to do more.

For the first time in my life, I’m actually beginning to think that I will see the end of discrimination toward my queer brothers and sisters in this country, and I’m feeling immensely grateful that I’ve played a small but important part in making that happen. Yes, it is a fantastic time to be gay, or even gay friendly.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A sexy new book by Jamie Fessenden

A fellow writer and friend, Jamie Fessenden, has just published a new book that I'd like to call everyone's attention to -- The Dogs of Cyberwar.

It's published by Dreamspinner Press, which is also my publisher. If you enjoy the excerpt below, the buy link is:

Blurb: Connor is a netrunner: a hacker who ventures into cyberspace to steal data from corporate computers. As he hides out in the slums of Seattle, he’s attacked by a street gang and, incredibly, rescued by one of the members. His rescuer is a man named Luis, who has decided Connor needs his protection.
But instead of providing safety, Luis’s presence wreaks havoc with Connor’s online identity, and they find themselves hunted by a lethal security force. While they attempt to escape the city, Connor finds himself struggling to survive with the most lethal killer ever pitted against the corporations that control the FreeCorp—and he risks losing his heart to the same man.

EXCERPT -- Rated PG -- M/M --

The gym had sleep capsules in a room off to one side of the locker room. These were “rooms” just big enough for a person to crawl into and sleep. But
they were comfortable enough and provided access to the Net, which Connor would need in order to finish the job he’d contracted for.

But when he swiped his wrist across the reader and the door swung open, he discovered a new drawback to having Luis for his bodyguard.

“Is that big enough for both of us?” the Latino asked, peering into the capsule.

This took Connor aback. “What? No, not really. Can’t you get your own?”

“I don’t have any money,” Luis reminded him.

Jesus. Just how much was this deal going to end up costing him on a regular basis?

“I suppose I could rent you a capsule,” Connor said, not bothering to hide his annoyance. The capsules were pretty pricey.

“That’s all right,” Luis replied. “I’ll just keep watch out here.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You have to sleep.”

“If I’m locked in another capsule, I might not hear if somebody comes after you.”

“It’s not like I get attacked every time I try to sleep,” Connor protested. But he could see from the look in Luis’s eyes that this argument wouldn’t get him anywhere. Luis had decided that Connor needed to be protected. And that meant not leaving his side, apparently. “So your idea of being my bodyguard is pretty much what other people would call a ‘stalker’?”

“Don’t you think your bodyguard should be nearby whenever you need him?”

“If I have to take a shit, are you going to come into the stall with me?” Connor asked him, irritated. “No, don’t answer that. We’ll save it for a surprise. In the meantime, if you’re going to be like this, you might as well just get in the goddamned capsule with me. They’re big enough for two, if
you don’t mind being snug. But leave everything you don’t need in the locker.”

Following his own advice, Connor stripped to his underwear. There certainly wasn’t going to be room in there to undress if Luis was inside with him. The one thing he brought in was his cyber deck.

Luis followed his example and stripped to his underwear, though he insisted on bringing his gun with him into the capsule. Connor prayed neither of them rolled over on it in the night.

It was pretty cramped when they were both inside and the door was locked, but thankfully the capsule had air conditioning. Not that Luis smelled bad. In fact, once he was stretched out beside Connor, his chest at the level of
Connor’s face, Connor found that he liked the faint masculine musk Luis seemed to radiate. The scent was clean and held a trace of the generic liquid soap available in the gym shower, but it was unmistakably manly.

It was impossible for their skin not to touch in this close space, but Luis didn’t seem to care. When Connor glanced up at his face, he found Luis looking at him thoughtfully with those beautiful dark eyes. Not for the first time, Connor wondered whether Luis was gay or straight. So far, he hadn’t given much indication—unless the fact that he had a strong desire to make himself subservient to another man was a sign.

“Um… just so we’re clear about this,” Connor began, uncertain how exactly to phrase the question, “Are you…expecting sex out of this arrangement?”

Luis shook his head, smiling at his discomfort. “No. Although I did my time giving hand jobs for money, so if you want me to get you off….”

“No,” Connor answered quickly. Luis was certainly not the first guy he’d known who’d resorted to prostitution to get by, so he didn’t fault him for it. But he didn’t want some guy helping him “get off” if the guy wasn’t enjoying it himself. “So you don’t like guys, then?”

Luis shrugged. “I guess I don’t really care one way or another. If I like someone, I’ll fuck them. It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female.”

“All right. That’s cool. I generally just like guys, myself.”

“Muy bien.”

That seemed to end the discussion. Connor wasn’t certain if he liked the fact that Luis had left the possibility of sex open. This guy was already complicating his life. If they started fucking around, it would get even more complicated.

* * *

Luis smiled at Connor and lowered his head to the pillow they’d be sharing. “I already have a job as a bodyguard.”

“I can’t pay.”

“Just feed me. That’s all I need.”

“And a ‘purpose’?”

“I want someone to protect,” Luis said, his voice beginning to sound sleepy. “I don’t like being the bad guy. Is that wrong?”

Connor sighed. “No, it’s not wrong. But you realize you’re protecting someone who steals and destroys data, don’t you? I’m not exactly a ‘good guy,’ myself.”

There was no response, and Connor glanced up to see that Luis had drifted off. Asleep, there was something innocent and childlike in his beautiful face. Of course, Connor had to remind himself, this was the man he’d just seen cut two men into tiny pieces.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

When Telling Is Too Much

I’ve just put down a book after being 130 pages into it. It was a marginally good story with lots of emotions I could identify with. The problem? The damned author was telling me every last detail, every nuance of emotion each character was feeling. He left nothing for me to discover, nothing to engage my brain. He spoon-fed me everything. He must think I’m a moron. What I think is, the story was boring because of the way it was told.

Unfortunately, the last two books I’ve read, by authors I respect, have shared this identical problem. It’s maddening. It’s sloppy writing and laziness on the part of the author. Yes, it takes more effort and creativity to show what characters are feeling, rather than simply telling the reader. If they want easy, then they should find something else to do other than writing. There is already enough bad writing on the market without them adding to the heap.

Give me actions!!! Don’t tell me the protagonist is mad. Show him punching his fist through the wall. Show me what they are doing, and let me figure out what the characters are feeling.

I feel like these writers should be made to write a screenplay because there is no telling, at all, in scripts. They would be forced to think about how to show what the characters are feeling. They would be forced to expand their creativity to find ways to express feelings through actions. That is the mark of a good writer.

The frustrating part for me is, I know both these writers can do so much better. I’ve seen them do it. They can both write rings around me when they are on…but not this time. It feels like they rushed to get these stories to market without spending the time to polish them. Sad.

Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox for now. I’m not mad, merely disappointed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ranting About Injustice

I could be premature about all this, but I’m very pissed at a situation that happened yesterday. Herman and I have put our lovely home up for sale and yesterday, Sunday, was another of the many open houses that we have had over the last six weeks.

While we were gone and our agent was riding herd over a multitude of browsers, one couple came through the house and let their little boy run wild. The boy thought the sliding glass door was open (which it wasn’t) and ran into it head first, shattering the glass.

Luckily, the boy only received a small cut on his nose and no other obvious injuries. His father, a lawyer, left his card before taking his family on to the next house on their list.

Herman called for estimates this morning. Cheapest was $300 if we bring the glass door to them, with only a four-day wait. The most expensive was $575, but they come onsite and fix it here, with only a three-day wait.

The problem: Who Pays???

We called our insurance company, you know, those guys who take huge sums of money each month and give nothing in return. Their advice is for us to pay for it ourselves. EXCUSE ME? How is this our fault?

Their logic is, if we file an insurance claim just before moving, it will effect us getting insurance at our new home in Palm Springs, and will certainly drive the policy price up.

But now the interesting part comes in. They advise us not to try and make the parents of the kid pay because that might piss them off and they could sue us. Let me see if I got this straight, some jackoff brings his Tasmanian Devil into our home and lets him run wild, and because the boy gets a bloody nose, they can sue us?

Back in the day (fifty years ago) when children were seen and not heard, this would never have happened in the first place, because parents would have controlled their damned kids. But if the unthinkable did happen and the kid caused $300 of damage to a strangers house, the parents (at least MY parents) would have whipped out their checkbooks in a heart beat and covered the cost, then taken me to the car and given me a $300 spanking.

IMHO, that’s what a gentleman should do—cover the repair costs, apologize, and send a bottle of pricy wine to make up for any inconvenience to the home owners. Yet, everyone—Herman, the insurance company, the realtor—are all walking on eggshells worried that this lawyer will sue our pants off.

What has this society come to?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

JMS Books LLC GLBTQ Short Story Call for Submissions

JMS Books LLC <> is a small queer press specializing in GLBT erotic romance. They release 3 e-books a week and 3 print titles a month. Authors receive 50% net on royalties from all sales.

There're currently looking for GLBT short stories in all subgenres. Stories must be at least 5,000 words and no more than 20,000 words in length.

Full submission guidelines can be found on their site at If you're
responding to this particular submissions call, please send us the FULL MANUSCRIPT and don't worry about including a synopsis.

What are you waiting for? Show us your shorts!

J.M. Snyder

A Queer Small Press

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: Deadly Kind of Love by Victor J. Banis

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 215

When Chris Rafferty returns to his room at a posh Palm Springs resort, he finds a naked man in his bed. This is not so unusual considering this gay resort is known for satisfying their clientele’s needs with young hustlers, but this hustler is a little too stiff for Chris’s liking. This hustler is dead. Even before calling the police, Chris calls his good friends, Stanley Korski and Tom Danzel, a gay couple who are San Francisco private detectives.

Once Tom and Stanley take the case, they drive to Palm Springs and meet with PS homicide detective Dick Hammond. The three men confirm that the deceased was a hustler who worked the resort, and that he was murdered and dumped in Chris’s room.

Tom and Stanley check into the resort, and are given the royal treatment while they investigate clues. They have a hunch that the killer was one of the well-to-do gay clients, and that he is watching their every move. The closer they get to identifying the killer, the more bodies pile up until the killer decides to target the detectives. The boys soon find themselves in a deadly game and in over their heads.

Deadly Kind of Love is the fifth novel in the Deadly Series, and the third one I’ve read. It is told with the same delightful voice and quick pacing that Mr. Banis captures with each of these Deadly books. Fans of this series will no doubt enjoy this latest offering, as I did, to follow these sexy investigators through plot twists and turns.

Banis has created something special with this detective duo, and the mystery and motives fall second to the interplay between these characters. Still, I felt something lacking in their chemistry in this 5th book. The magic that I’ve seen in other Deadly books was there, but not with the same wit and intensity. I also felt the author rushed to reveal the killer and wrap up the ending, which I must say was, none the less, exciting.

Followers of the Deadly Series as well as mystery lovers in general will no doubt enjoy this latest outing from master author Victor Banis.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Exerpt: Haji’s Exile, a short story by Alan Chin

This is a bittersweet coming out tale that follows a young rancher training his new horse for a handicap race. Like many of my stories, it is a yarn of two different cultures coming together, teaching each other, supporting each other, and eventually loving each other. Dreamspinner Press published it, and you can download the entire story, thirty-three pages, at:

Nathan has cared for horses all his life, but Haji is the first he’ll train on his own. When the Arabian stallion arrives at the Bitter Coffee ranch, Nathan thinks he is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. And then he lays eyes on Haji’s handler, Yousef. Nathan has much to learn about horses, about pride, and about love, but with the ranch’s hopes riding on Haji, he’ll also learn that all things have their price.

To an owl or an eagle or even the lark, man must seem a rather pitiful and forlorn creature; he is condemned to crawl the earth alongside only two friends. The dog and the horse are the only exceptions to man’s universal unpopularity. Man points with pride at these two contrarians and naively believes that both are equally proud to call him friend. “Look at my two companions,” says man, “they are dumb, yet loyal.” I have always maintained that they are tolerant at best, and if man didn’t feed them, they would quickly join ranks with the majority.

I have nevertheless depended on the tolerance of horses and dogs since my childhood. I believe with all my fiber that until a man has loved an animal, a large part of his soul remains unawakened. Even now at my advanced age if I were deprived of the gratification of caring for either dog or horse, I would lose all that I hold dear. I should feel as adrift as a Muslim who had lost touch with Allah.

Horses in particular have been as much a part of my history as breathing. I define every phase of my life by which horse I owned then, or ones my father owned. Some were intelligent, some valiant, while others were rogues. None were alike. Some won the big handicap races and some won the smaller unimportant races. My family’s red and blue colors have swept past grandstands from Santa Anita to Bay Meadows. Some horses my father brought from the Eastern Seaboard, where old money and long bloodlines defined the sport. But one horse my father brought all the way from North Africa.

That stallion’s name was Haji.

When he came to the Bitter Coffee ranch, I was a straw-haired boy who had recently graduated high school, with a lanky body and wide, blue eyes. He was an Arabian stallion, part royalty and part desert whirlwind. I was awed by his self-possession, and I couldn’t help wondering what he thought of me.

He arrived at daybreak, descending the ramp from a two-horse trailer with the slow and dignified steps of Bonaparte in exile. With his head held high and nostrils flaring, he breathed the thin air of the Nevada high desert for the first time. Like me, he was a bit slender in the chest, but unlike me, he had strong legs as clean as limestone.

Sword Bearer, out of Cairo, had sired him, and noble blood flowed through his arrogant veins.

He was a sorrel, and his reddish coat gave off a golden sheen in the strong morning sunlight. Once his hooves stood on solid earth, his body shivered and his lungs let out a rush of air, as if letting me know he craved the freedom of open space again after being cramped in a ship’s hold and then in that trailer for so many thousands of miles. I heard a ring of certain gratitude in his undulant murmur.

Then I laid eyes on Haji’s handler. He had made the long voyage with the horse. The dawn’s rays lent his flowing white robes and tarboosh a shimmering orange-yellow hue, and I found myself momentarily stunned with a frozen gaze. Was it the splendor of the light reflecting off his flowing gown that dazzled me, or simply that this young man would wear a dress in broad daylight? Or could it have been his face, that porcelain-smooth skin the warm color of creamed coffee, accented by pitch-black eyebrows? His coloring was similar to the Mexican ranch hands who worked for my father and yet somehow softer. Whatever the cause, my compulsively chattering mind gave pause, and I was mentally whisked into a space of pure silence, broken only by the pulse beating at my temples.

My father walked to the thoroughbred and held the animal’s head steady, gazing into those large moist eyes. It was clear to me that the horse knew men. In his three short years, he had probably been around more men than his own kind, and from the bold stare he gave my father, I sensed that Haji understood that men were there to serve him, that we were his servants.

A tremor ran through the stallion, and he grew impatient. He shook his head free of my father’s grasp, bent the sleek bow of his neck, and kicked at the ground with a hoof. I instinctively knew that it was not that my father was a stranger but that Haji didn’t trust a man who did not smell of the earth. Even though my father owned a seven thousand acre ranch, he was a businessman and spent his time in his office or traveling.

My father stepped to the handler and laid a hand on his shoulder. “You must be Yousef. Welcome to the Bitter Coffee. Nathan will show you to your quarters. Come up to the house for breakfast after you’re settled.”

“Yousef,” I repeated in my head several times as I moved forward and grasped Haji’s halter. I felt foolishly happy at how the sound of it tumbled through my head. The stallion did not flinch at my touch, and as he took in my smell, he blew a snort into my straw-colored hair to warn me he felt nervous. I laughed, a low gentle sound which seemed to set him at ease.

The handler pulled a carpetbag from the horse trailer and stood beside me. As I glanced into Yousef’s cautious eyes, I inhaled his spicy fragrance, a mixture of horse and something else I could not identify, something vaguely like toasted sugar.

I tugged at the halter and both Haji and Yousef followed, flanking me all the way to the stables where I had already prepared the stallion’s stall. Haji stared straight ahead, glancing neither to one side or the other as if he were walking alone, like abdicated royalty, and we were merely servants trailing in his wake. He must have felt forlorn in this country of different sights and smells. It would be my job to manage him, and that included making him comfortable in this new environment. I felt much pride in that. Haji was my first horse to train. All my life I had cared for horses, learning their needs and habits, but always under the guidance of the foreman until now. Because of financial hardships, my father had let the foreman go. Haji was my responsibility, and Yousef would answer to me.

I could tell the stallion found the stall to his liking. The stable harbored a dozen other horses in a long row of stalls, but Haji’s quarters were separate from the others and twice as large.

Yousef seemed equally pleased with his own quarters next to the tack room, and though he didn’t say a word, he seemed surprised that he was given a room to himself. When he slid the tarboosh from his head, I realized he was much younger than I had first thought. I now guessed he was only a few years older than me, perhaps twenty, twenty-one at the most. And right then, he looked far more beautiful than moments before and seemed in desperate need of a friend.

I told him my name: Nathan. He repeated it twice and told me his name in broken English: Yousef Ruta. I knew then that it would be my job to teach him how to speak my language, which would be no small task. With hands waving and pointing to my own pants and shirt, I indicated he should change into more suitable work clothes and join me for breakfast at the house. It took several attempts, but he finally smiled and began to pull the white robe over his head. Much as I wanted to stay and see if the rest of his skin had the same warm coloring as his face, I turned and hurried out, giving him his privacy.

Later, after Yousef had changed into working clothes which included a shirt with flaps that hung to his knees and we had feasted on flapjacks, Yousef and I returned to Haji’s stall. While Yousef separated the good straw on the floor from the straw already soiled with urine and manure, I began to brush the stallion with clean, even strokes from mane to tail. As I worked, I felt anger rising within Haji, but I was not prepared when he bent his neck around and gripped my arm above the elbow with his teeth, biting down with enough force to make me yelp before flinging me against the wall.

I crumpled to the ground and lay in the trampled bedding for a moment, looking up into Yousef’s dark eyes. A wave of shame washed through me. I scrambled to my feet and marched to the tack room, selecting a riding crop that I had never needed before now.

I approached the stallion with a brush in one hand, the crop in the other. I spoke to him in soothing tones, telling him that he might have Sword Bearer’s blood, but I had a whip and I knew how to use it.

I began to brush him again while continuing to use soothing tones. But once more, I felt his anger swell. His hooves stomped, and his head turned with teeth bared. This time, however, I was expecting him. I struck his muzzle with the whip, hard and without mercy. I think he was more startled by the act than by the pain. The alchemy of his pride transformed the pain to rage that must have blinded him. He tried to bite again, and I struck his soft muzzle with all the force I could muster. He tried to whirl away from me but Yousef jumped to help and we held him firm. He reared upward, cutting the air with his hooves. Plunging, he felt my crop bite his muzzle again and again.

At that point, Yousef pushed me back toward the far wall and began to sooth the horse with caressing hands. The stallion slowly calmed under his touch.

When Haji became composed, Yousef lifted my brush from where it had fallen and began to brush Haji’s withers with a kind of intimate knowledge of how this horse wanted to be treated: that is, without any sense of possession.

I felt the sting of resentment, but then, more slowly, comprehension took its place.

Yousef waved me over. With he on one side of Haji and me on the other, I mimicked his strokes with my bare hands. The horse now accepted the soothing touch of my hands. Across the horse’s back, Yousef smiled at me in a way that made my stomach do a slow somersault.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Review: True Stories – Portraits from My Past by Felice Picano

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Pages: 220

This charming collection of memoirs by author Felice Picano is written in fifteen vignettes. The author recounts tales of his childhood, his experiences as a GLBT publisher, his co-founding the now-famous Violet Quill Club, his early years as a journalist, and his encounters with the rich and famous—including Bette Midler, Tennessee Williams, W.H. Auden, Charles Henri Ford, and the queen of Twentieth-Century fashion, Diana Vreeland. For the most part, the author tells his story via his relationships with an array of fascinating people that helped guide his destiny.

I found this read to be compelling and deliciously entertaining. Many of these stories span the gulf between the post-stonewall flowering of gay culture to the harsh years of AIDS. Picano writes with wit, sensitivity and vivid detail. It is still hard for me to imagine that one person could cross paths with so many interesting people in only one lifetime, but the truly remarkable aspect is that he was able to capture those experiences in such a delightful collection of anecdotes and portraits.

Each vignette is equally entertaining as the others. Whether he’s talking about partying down with Bette Midler at the Continental Baths, or a not-so-simple road trip with his father, or caring for a dying business partner, or lunching with the dragon-lady of New York high fashion, I could not put it down. This is a book I will read over and over.