Thursday, August 30, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: The Empty Family by Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín, a gay author and the Leonard Milberg Lecturer in Irish Studies at Princeton University, is one of my favorite storytellers. His prose is superlative and his imagination captivates me. One of his best works, in my opinion, is his collection of short stories called The Empty Family

These exquisitely written stories, set in present-day Ireland, 1970s Spain and nineteenth-century England, are about people linked by love, loneliness and desire. Tóibín is a master at portraying mute emotions and intense intimacies that remain unacknowledged and unspoken. His characters are often difficult and combative, compelled to disguise their vulnerability and longings until he unmasks them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Inch-by-Inch Development of Humans

Human history may be viewed as a gradual education of mankind. Every religion was, and still is, a phase along that step-by-step path to illumination. Religion was not, as some have supposed, a scam imposed upon credulous people by self-seeking clergy; it was an evolutionary theory intended to civilize humanity by instilling virtue, decency, and social unity.  Some religions (the Old Testament for example) sought to make men virtuous by assuring them worldly riches in a long life. In another phase (the New Testament) it tried to overcome the disheartening discrepancy between virtue and earthly riches by promising rewards after death. In both cases the appeal was adjusted to the limited understanding of the people at the time. 

Supernatural religions, like Christianity and Islam, are only a phase of evolution of the human mind. A higher phase comes when humans learn to reason, and when men and women grow strong and clear enough to do what’s morally right because it is seen to be virtuous and reasonable, rather than for material or heavenly rewards. That phase has been reached by many individuals; it has not yet come to the race. But it will come as man’s education develops. Just as the average individual recapitulates in his growth the intellectual and moral development of the race, so the race slowly passes through the intellectual and moral development of progressive individuals. 

Religion has been an immense aid to morality, but it has also been the cause of much pain and suffering and death because it separates people into them vs. us. Who’s right and who’s wrong…. Hopefully, the human race can soon move beyond a system of dogmas demanding acceptance on pain of sin, punishment, and social obloquy, and become compassionate, moral beings simply because it is the moral way to live, and causes the least amount of suffering for everyone.  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Author Laury A. Egan reviews Surviving Immortality

A Propulsive, Suspenseful, Dystopian Novel: Surviving Immortality

Review by Laury A. Egan, author of Fabulous! An Opera Buffa  

Surviving Immortality—a provocative title (an oxymoron?) that raises a myriad of questions, chiefly: How can someone survive immortality if one is already immortal, i.e., there is inherently no need to survive if a person already will live forever? How can the state of immortality exist? What would create such a state? As I approached Alan Chin’s new book, these were my initial thoughts. 

The novel is a cautionary tale about how society and, indeed, our civilization has been poisoned by people’s need “to convince themselves that they are relevant in an irrelevant universe.” Chin cites three pernicious threats that are destroying us: Religion: “The myth of God and a hereafter [that] gives [people] a false sense of importance.” Greed: “the idea that we are what we own…that gluttonous pigs want not only the best of everything…but they don’t want others to have what they’ve got.” The third is that “people [are] willing to defend themselves and their cause at all costs. Their sense of heroism gives them relevance. They have a deep distrust of governments, other religions, and other tribes.” In our present times, these insidious menaces are eating at the fabric of our humanity, eroding our democracy, our belief in truth, our feelings of empathy, our trust and morality, and our system of justice and government. Surviving Immortality is a serious warning about where the human race is headed and a very relevant one.

Although the book deals with weighty themes and edges into the category of dystopian fiction, it is primarily a fast-paced thriller wrapped around a coming-of-age story about Matt Reece Connors, an eighteen-year-old boy who, over the course of events, becomes a man. The beginning chapter sets us on a ranch in Nevada. Matt Reece is a fine horseman and cowboy who lives with his father, Jessup, and his stepfather, Kenji—the two are married. Matt Reece himself is gay, though without any sexual experience. At first, the reader may expect that a western—perhaps in the mold of Brokeback Mountain—is about to unfold. Then, suddenly, as we are settling in to life on the ranch, a tornado of events engulfs Matt Reece, and he is forced to rush headlong into a journey that takes him to multiple exotic places and thrusts him up against a cast of villains who embody all that is wrong with our world. 

Alan Chin writes with an impressive knowledge of science, medicine, technology, sailing, horsemanship, and also masterfully describes numerous national and international locations. The action is propulsive and suspenseful, yet never loses sight of Matt Reece’s personal challenges: his quest to overcome his fears and to find his identity.

Published by Dreamspinner Press. Available in paperback and eBook.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

 A Single Man is the story of George, a gay, middle-aged expatriate Englishman now teaching at a California university. Consumed with grief of the recent death of the young man he has lived with and loved, George resolutely persists in the routine of his daily life, which includes becoming very close with one of his students. Behind his British reserve, tides of grief, rage, and loneliness surge—but all this emotion reveals a man in love with being alive despite all the everyday injustices. 

This is an undeniably overwhelming, unnerving, brilliant book. I found it a moving portrayal of a gay man in maturity and also a meditation on life as an outsider. Isherwood writes about love, loss, acceptance, and grief in a way that is as profound as it is engrossing. It eloquently speaks a message of accepting the uniqueness of each individual and living each day as if it is your last. Each time I read it I discover something new and wonderous. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Interesting Words From Frederick The Great

While reading about Frederick The Great’s reign over eighteenth century Prussia, I came across the following quote:

Superstition, self-interest, vengeance, treason, ingratitude, will produce bloody and tragic. Scenes until the end of time, because we are governed by passions and very rarely by reason. There will always be wars, lawsuits, devastations, plagues, earthquakes, bankruptcies. . . . Since this is so, I presume it must be necessary. . . . But it seems to me that if this universe had been made by a benevolent being, he should have made us happier than we are. . . . The human mind is weak; more than three fourths of mankind are made for subjection to the most absurd fanaticism. Fear of the Devil and of hell fascinates their eyes, and they detest the wise man who tries to enlighten them. . . . In vain do I seek in them that image of God which the theologians assert they bear upon them. Every man has a wild beast in him; few can restrain it; most men let loose the bridle when not restrained by terror of the law. 

He was the first avowedly agnostic ruler of modern times, but he made no public attack on religion. He felt that the uneducated, unenlightened masses need the yoke of religion to keep them in their place.

Frederick also concluded that to allow governments to be dominated by the majority would be disastrous. A democracy, to survive, must be, like other governments, a minority persuading a majority to let itself be led by a minority. Frederick thought like Napoleon that “among nations and in revolutions aristocracy always exists.” He believed that an hereditary aristocracy would gevelop a sense of honor and loyalty, and a willingness to serve the state at great personal cost, which could not be expected of bourgeois geniuses formed in the race for wealth. Indeed, Frederick liked to picture himself as the servant of the state and the people, and he lived up to that claim. The state for him became the Supreme Being, to which he would sacrifice himself and others.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Surviving Immortality Excerpt

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest novel, Surviving Immortality, is available in paperback and any eBook format, at:

Dreamspinner Press Publications

This is a story of discovering the fountain of youth, and the upheaval that breakthrough brings to our slightly crazed, slightly paranoid, overly greedy society.

When Kenji Hiroshige discovers a formula that will keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years, he tells the world he will not divulge his formula until every gun, tank, battleship, and bomb has been destroyed. When the world is free of weapons, everyone can live forever. And then he goes into hiding.

Before he disappears, his stepson Matt is exposed to the formula. Kenji takes Matt on the run with him, but as they struggle to elude both government agencies and corporations who will do anything to profit from Kenji’s discovery, Matt learns that world peace might not be his stepfather’s only goal. There may be a darker purpose at work. But what can a young man who’s barely stepped foot off his isolated ranch do in the face of something so sinister?

This is the story of human greed and man’s lust for violence. It’s the story of a world on the brink of destruction, but it’s also a tale of a young man who finds in himself the will, courage, and compassion to stand against the darkness—both outside and within himself.

This is a story of hope.

Consuela was dead. It was a fact, a simple truth connecting other truths. All he had to do was follow the facts backward and see where they led. He consulted his inner reserves and realized he had taken part in murder. He was a teenager, who believed all life was sacred, now as guilty as biblical Cain, and how ironic his choice of new names.
He avoided consciously blaming Kenji, but in the same heartbeat he knew he had to get the hell out of there before Kenji returned. He needed a plan, to change whatever lay in front of him. He tried to take a calming breath but came up short.
He leaned forward, planted his hands on his knees, and sucked air into unyielding lungs. He felt a familiar pressure in the back of his esophagus, and he coughed, long rasping coughs that clogged his windpipe with mucus.
“Oh”—he drew a shallow breath—“fuck.” He dropped the remote as a nervy rush pushed him into a survival response. He had to find a place with enough air, and quickly.
He ripped open the front door and ran for the stairs, already dizzy from lack of oxygen. He flew down to the first floor, unaware Groucho was following him.
He dashed into sunshine. Several people on the street backed away. Groucho whimpered at his side. Heads turned in unison to stare at him. It was alarming to be so intensely visible at the moment he felt most vulnerable.
A homeless person crouched on the pavement a few feet away, scratching distractedly at whatever was crawling in his beard. He shouted, “Praise the Lord. The little green men have landed. Take me to your leader!”
Through his panic he saw a door, the closest one, and he dashed for it, ripped it open, and lunged through. A bell over the door chimed as he pitched forward and fell to his knees on a black-and-white checkered tile floor. He struggled to suck air into his lungs. His head spun. He knew he was moments away from blacking out.
Arms hug him from behind. A voice said, “Relax, cowboy. Breathe with me, nice and easy.” Someone removed his Stetson and set it on the floor beside him.
He could do nothing beyond trying to draw air. Someone laid him out flat on his back and lifted his head. He opened his eyes, and a flash of overhead lighting distorted everything into a Magoo-like blur. As his vision cleared, he saw a dark-hooded figure hovering over him, and he could feel an icy touch on the back of his neck. Within the recesses of that shadowy hood hovered a red, mutilated face surrounding gentle smoke-colored eyes under silky lashes.
Is this the Grim Reaper?
Fear caused a sick shrinking in his heart from the knowledge that he was dying.
That face lowered until those marred lips touched his and air pushed past the blockage in his throat. Oxygen inflated his lungs. As if standing at the edge of a cliff preparing to plunge, his mind delayed, struggling with the shock of coming back alive.
That face breathed more life into him a second and third time. He coughed, spitting phlegm, and inhaled on his own. He stared into that face, noting the black hair across the forehead, the coppery skin on one side, the rough, ugly, plum-colored scars on the other, and the wispy facial hair that was still a week’s growth away from being considered a beard. Matt Reece was caught in that chemic gaze as the Grim Reaper cradled his head like a newborn, smiling down with such tenderness that it loosened the muscles clinching his chest. Time stopped. Nothing else existed.
“You’re the cowboy everybody’s looking for.” His voice was soft with an Indian lilt to its American accent, slightly melodious, sounding like a flute that could form words.
“How… did you…?”
“It’s all over Twitter, cowboy, how your grandpa turned green as an avocado, and how you and your stepdad are the new Osama bin Ladens. You’re like, infamous.”
“I’m someone else. I’m Kirby. Kirby Cain.”
A dimple appeared on the coppery side of the Grim Reaper’s face. “Who’d have guessed such an unobtrusive-looking boy could be public enemy number one?”
“Who are you?”
“Vishal Mandial.”
“From India? Man, that’s cool.”
“My parents immigrated from India. But I was born here. And people don’t say ‘cool’ even on Haight Street. You say ‘beautiful’ or if it’s something really spectacular you say ‘sick.’ Coming from Mumbai only merits a shrug of the shoulders.”
Matt Reece glanced around the shop, a patchouli-oil-scented space heavy with sitar music. He saw racks of clothing, shelves holding pipes and other drug paraphernalia, posters of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and statues of Ganesh, the elephant with many arms. Groucho lay by the door, inching toward him. He brought his gaze back to Vishal, who seemed Patrick’s age, and wore a coal-gray hoody sweatshirt with the words “Sinner’s Gin” stenciled across the front.
“Your face?” Matt Reece said, reaching up and touching the mesh of scars.
“My father fell asleep on the couch with a lit cigarette. I tried to put him out.”
Now that he was breathing normally, he detected Vishal’s scent—clean and carnal, with the hint of some exotic spice Matt Reece imagined as curry. Matt Reece wanted to ask if he had saved his father but thought that seemed too personal a question.
“You kissed me.”
“Yeah, well, that’s how I roll. Give me a pretty-faced cowboy and I lose control and snog the hell out of him.” He laughed, again sounding like a living flute. “Is that your dog?”
Matt Reece nodded. “His name is Groucho.”
Vishal helped Matt Reece to his feet and placed the Stetson on his head. His legs felt rubbery, but Vishal wrapped an arm around his waist to help him stand. Now Matt Reece saw much more than his face—the compact V of his torso, the hip clothes, the casual grace with which he moved. His hands, like his face, were red scars, as if coming forth from a furnace. A young prince deformed, seemingly incapable of cruelty or love.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: Maurice by E.M. Forster

Forster completed Mauricein 1914, but it was not published until 1971. It tells the story of Maurice Hall, an undergraduate at Cambridge before World War I who discovers that he is homosexual. The manuscript was found in Forester’s rooms at Cambridge after his death in 1970. “Publishable,” a note on the manuscript in his own handwriting said, “but worth it?” Acclaim for the novel on its publication firmly answered Forster’s question, but perhaps it was fortunate that it didn’t come out until general attitudes toward homosexuals became more enlightened.

Forster was one of the greatest writers of our time, a true craftsman of the modern novel. And Mauriceis one of his most powerful works. It’s an extraordinary work to have been written when it was, honest, compassionate, and sympathetic, with rich and beautiful prose that was common in all of Forster’s novels. Mauriceis rich in its subtle intelligence, beautifully controlled in its development, deeply moving. It is a masterpiece of an exceptional artist working at the peak of his creative powers. 

It is a book I’ve read several times, and will no doubt continue to read again and again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Words to Live by From Catherine The Great

 While reading about Catherine The Great’s reign over eighteenth century Russia, I came across a list of her resolutions, written by her shortly after taking power. With ideas like these, the world can hardly doubt her good intentions in the early years of her sovereignty. She wrote:

Study mankind, lean to use men without surrendering to them unreservedly. Search for true merit, be it at the other end of the world, for usually it is modest and retiring. 

Do not allow yourself to become the prey of flatterers; make them understand that you care neither for praise nor for obsequiousness. Have confidence in those who have the courage to contradict you, . . . and who place more value on your reputation than on your favor. 

Be polite, humane, accessible, compassionate, and liberal-minded. Do not let your grandeur prevent you from condescending with kindness toward the small, and putting yourself in their place. See that this kindness, however, does not weaken your authority nor diminish their respect. . . . Reject all artificiality.

Do not allow the world to contaminate you to the point of making you lose the ancient principles of honor and virtue. . . . 

I swear by Providence to stamp these words into my heart.

What a world we would enjoy if the politicians of all nations would stamp these ideas onto their hearts and live every day by them.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Surviving Immortality Excerpt

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest novel, Surviving Immortality, is now available in paperback and any eBook format, at

Dreamspinner Press Publications

This is a story of discovering the fountain of youth, and the upheaval that breakthrough brings to our slightly craze, slightly paranoid, overly greedy society.

When Kenji Hiroshige discovers a formula that will keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years, he tells the world he will not divulge his formula until every gun, tank, battleship, and bomb has been destroyed. When the world is free of weapons, everyone can live forever. And then he goes into hiding.

Before he disappears, his stepson Matt is exposed to the formula. Kenji takes Matt on the run with him, but as they struggle to elude both government agencies and corporations who will do anything to profit from Kenji’s discovery, Matt learns that world peace might not be his stepfather’s only goal. There may be a darker purpose at work. But what can a young man who’s barely stepped foot off his isolated ranch do in the face of something so sinister?

This is the story of human greed and man’s lust for violence. It’s the story of a world on the brink of destruction, but it’s also a tale of one young man who finds in himself the will, courage, and compassion to stand against the darkness—both outside and within himself.

This is a story of hope.

Jessup glanced out the window over the sink and saw a helicopter hovering just beyond the holding pens.
The horses spooked, galloping along the fence in all directions. Their panic turned to terror as the copter drew close. Dust thrown up by their hooves and by the copter’s rotor blades turned the corral into a brown tempest. By the time Jessup raced out the back door, the horses crashed through the corral rails, bursting into the work yard. In a single body, they tore across the yard hell-bent for the foothills.
Jessup leaped for his life and landed only a few feet from flashing hooves. He rolled under the porch and waited until the last of them sped by. He stood, squaring his shoulders, preparing for a fight. The herd was almost out of sight by the time the copter touched earth and the blades slowed. As soon as the air cleared, a man and a woman crawled from the cockpit, leaving the pilot in the plastic bubble.
The man was meticulously groomed, wearing Dockers, a Polo shirt, and aviator sunglasses. He looked to be in his midfifties, sporting a full head of salt-and-pepper hair and a salon tan. He cradled a bottle of champagne in his left arm and held out his manicured right hand to shake Jessup’s rough paw. The woman wore her brown hair in a tight bun on the back of her head, and her stylish navy blue silk suit and heels made her seem as if she’d just stepped from a boardroom rather than a helicopter. Her skirt showed off a great pair of athletic legs. She was seductive and seemed cheerily aware of it. She carried champagne flutes in one hand and a briefcase in the other. She walked several feet behind her male companion, letting Jessup know who was in charge.
Jessup pointed after the herd. “Do you halfwits have any idea what you did?”
“All too sorry,” the gentleman said with a slight Scottish brogue, “but there was no time to waste with airports and rental cars. I wanted to be the first to congratulate our rising star.” He flashed a billion-dollar smile. When Jessup didn’t answer, he added, “Fear not. I’ll buy you a new herd of thoroughbreds. Any breed you’d like.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“Declan Hughes, at your service. I’m the founder and chairman of the board of Golden Eagle Industries, parent company to Golden Eagle Pharmaceuticals.” He turned to the woman. “And this is Miz Diane McCarthy, Golden Eagle’s CEO.”
She lifted her hand to shake, but it was holding four wine flutes, one stem between each finger. She shrugged, and her cheeks blushed a lovely peach color. “Pleased to meet you. I assume you’re Mr. Connors?”
Even Jessup, tucked away on this ranch for the last dozen years, knew plenty about Declan Hughes. A 2004 Timemagazine article listed twenty people under the age of forty who were shaping the new century. Declan Hughes was fifth on that list. A multibillionaire physicist and businessman, he was the Steve Jobs of the US defense industry. He made a killing in the decade-long Iraq war. In addition to owning Golden Eagle Applied Avionics, the premier corporation developing drone-aircraft weaponry for the US military, he also owned the pharmacological research company that employed Kenji.
Jessup had also read his name online and in the society columns of the LA Times, enough to know that Declan had a penchant for sexy women, vintage cars, and Cambodian art, and his charity functions drew most of Hollywood’s A-list to his Holmby Hills mansion, yet his politics were surprisingly liberal. He reportedly abhorred war, even though that’s what earned the lion’s share of his billions, and he sat on the board of advisors of the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society.
Jessup’s anger imploded. This grand entrance, no doubt, had something to do with Kenji’s hasty exit just a half hour before. Jessup waved an arm toward the back door, and Declan brushed past him, as cheerful and confident as British royalty.
In the kitchen, Declan unwired the cork on his champagne bottle, and Diane McCarthy lined up flutes on the counter. The cork came out with a festive pop.
“Pernod Ricard Perrier-Jouët, two-thousand-four,” Declan said, holding up the bottle. “It’s not quite as expensive as the Dom Pérignon Oenotheque Rose, two-thousand-six, but I think it tastes as exquisite, and I love the flowers on the bottle.” He poured the slightly golden liquid into flutes. “Please invite Kenji to join our celebration. We have much to talk about.”
Diane handed Jessup a glass of bubbly.
“He’s not here.”
“When will he return?”
Jessup shrugged.
Declan glanced around the kitchen, lingering on the two things that were unusual: the ashes in the sink and the envelope on the counter. “I see you’re a man of few words, Mr. Connors. Would you tell me where I might find him? I’m sure his letter gave his destination, or you wouldn’t have destroyed it.”
“We’re just simple ranch people here. We don’t like folks butting in, and we don’t give out information until we know why someone is asking questions.”
Declan’s smile broadened as he held up his flute in a toast. “Mr. Connors, cheers.” He swallowed a thimbleful and seemed to roll it on his tongue. “Superlative.”
Diane also sipped. Jessup drained his flute in one swallow. Declan refilled his glass.
“As to the why, we want to congratulate him and his research partner, Miss Consuela Rocha y Villareal, for their discovery of the greatest scientific breakthrough in the history of mankind.” He took another sip, but his eyes never left Jessup’s face. Jessup felt like he was being dissected like a lab rat.
He shook his head. “Kenji never mentioned any breakthrough.”
“Mr. Connors,” Diane said, “Kenji and Consuela are leading authorities in the field of regenerative medicine. Let me show you something that will explain everything.” She set her flute on the counter and placed her briefcase on the walnut table. She sat before the case, popped open the latches, and removed a laptop.
Jessup drained his second glass while she brought the computer to life and clicked an avatar. The monitor filled with a video of Kenji and Consuela in a lab setting. As he listened to Consuela spout off a lot of scientific jargon about altering human DNA, he felt the blood drain from his face. They claimed their breakthrough regenerated human tissue so effectively that a body could remain healthy for thousands of years. And with this ability to mass generate healthy cells, the body could reverse many forms of cancer, AIDS, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. Kenji made the outrageous claim that he was born during World War Two, which would make him over seventy years old. Absurd, of course, because he looked not a day over thirty. Jessup had to admit, however, that during the last eleven years of living with him, Kenji had not aged, not a day.
To prove their assertion, they showed an elderly Asian patient who they claimed had been treated moments before. The old man looked wrinkled and sickly. A clock on the bottom corner of the screen showed the passage of time. He went from looking ninety years old to a healthy forty years old in five hours, and with the aid of time-lapse photography, those hours sped by in three minutes.
Then came the kicker. Consuela announced they would not share their research findings with anyone until every gun, bullet, bomb, tank, battleship, and nuclear warhead had been destroyed. “When the world is wholly disarmed, when there are no armies, when war and mass killing are no longer possible, then we will end disease and aging. Everyone will live for several thousand years. Nobody will suffer old age.”
On screen, Kenji added, “We can wait centuries for you to de-arm. You, unfortunately, have little time if you wish to live.” He smiled, and the screen went dark.
“Oh shit,” Jessup mumbled.
“Spot-on, Mr. Connors,” Declan said. “You Americans have such clever slang.”
Diane closed her laptop. “Consuela posted this video on YouTube this morning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time. Because of Consuela’s considerable fame and reputation as an exemplary scientist, nobody is doubting its authenticity. It scored a hundred and sixty million hits before YouTube crashed. The world is going crazy over it.”
“You see, old boy,” Declan said, “Consuela disappeared after she made that post. We want to tether Kenji before he vanishes as well. They’re hiding because they’re in severe peril.”
Jessup grabbed the champagne bottle, pressed it to his lips, and upended it. He emptied the bottle and wiped his mouth on his shirtsleeve.
“You’re not as simple as you would have us think, Mr. Connors,” Declan said. “You see the gravity of this situation. They’ve engineered a formula worth several trillion dollars, over time, perhaps a hundred trillion. Everybody on the planet will pursue them—every government, every drug company, every bounty hunter. No telling what will happen if the KGB or the CIA get to them first. I have the resources to protect them. I can safeguard them and the formula, but we need to find them in a hurry.”
Jessup’s head spun from the champagne.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: The Persian Boy by Mary Renault

The Persian Boy follows the life of Alexander the Great, who died at the age of thirty-three, leaving behind an empire that stretched from Greece and Egypt to India and a new cosmopolitan model for western civilization. In this stunning work of historical fiction, Mary Renault vividly brings to life the world of this charismatic leader, his drive and ambition that created a legend, and his love affair with his boy servant.
This remarkable work traces the last seven years of Alexander’s life, from the perspective of his devoted Persian lover, the eunuch Bagoas. Not only the great king’s lover, Bagoas’s extraordinary loyalty elevated him to a key confidant. Renault shows how this Persian boy (who is based on an actual historical figure) may have understood and supported Alexander’s quest for greatness. 

History was never so interesting, fun, or sexy. Renault draws the reader into these wonderful character’s lives until you feel you’re riding beside them in battle. This was one of the first novels I read that had gay protagonists, and it heavily inspired me to imagine writing my own stories with gay protagonists. I’ve read this novel four times over the last forty years, and each time has been a joy, and an education on how to write compelling fiction. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

When Dear Friends Pass

A few days ago, I lost a dear friend to liver cancer. We’ve known it was coming for only about a month, and I spent some quality time with him a week ago, but it’s still painful.

What hurts is not so much that Ken is dead—he lived a long and fulfilling life—what hurts is that his husband of thirty-five years will now have to go through the grieving process, as well as everyone who knew and loved Ken. 

I fell into a tailspin for a few hours, but then pulled out by telling myself Ken was no longer in pain. I'm feeling much better and am back to writing. We march on until our own time comes, appreciating our adventures and our friends and our loved ones as we go. What else can we do?

I wish I had some brilliant words or ideas to expound on the nature of death, but I don’t. It is, to me at least, a mystery. But there are two things I can say about it: It is absolutely certain that each of us will die, and it is uncertain when or how that will happen. The only surety we have, then, is this uncertainty about the hour of our death, which is what makes our time of living so precious. I realize that is a worn-out cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

My Buddhist teaching tells me that the life of a person is like a wave in the sea. Seen in one way, it seems to have a distinct identity, a visible form, an end and a beginning, a birth and a death. Seen in another way, the wave itself doesn’t really exist, but is just the behavior of a large body of water, empty of any separate identity but full of water. So life is something made temporarily possible when the life force we all share is formed by temporary circumstances, then it collapses back into the sea of that life force. That makes the idea of death less fearful and sad, yet it does little for the people who must still grieve the absence of a loved one. 

"So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good." - Helen Keller

Sunday, August 5, 2018

★★★★★ Author Edward C. Patterson reviews Surviving Immortality

Surviving Immortality by Alan Chin
Edward C. Patterson, Reviewer

Powerfully fast-moving with now-relevancy
I know I can rely on a good read whenever I open a book by Alan Chin; and Surviving Immortalityis no exception, except it isexceptional. With a believable spark, Mr. Chin presents us with a world devouring itself when promise has given it its greatest loss for hope. All the inchoate faults of humanity, ready today to strike our civilization to the core, leeches out when confronted by a mind shattering development and a simple, lethal condition. Surviving Immortality is masterfully rendered into a work long lingering after the last pages.
The characters are complex, each with their own demon, but honest to their convictions; so much so, there are no heroes, and those who appear villainous can be redeemed by their good intentions. The main thread of the story his told through Matt Reece’s point of view, although all the characters get their turn; but it is Matt’s intense purity, a purity despoiled by circumstances, which unfolds like a night flower in moonlight. Alan Chin crafts an action adventure and psychological political philosophical tale, if there could be such a genre, keeping the pages turning until those pages disappear and time is lost. The elements in the work, and those effecting Matt Reece, are all about us today just waiting for the spark to ignite them. Mr. Chin strikes that spark.
I am a fan of Alan Chin’s other works, but this one combines all the signature touches of them all — ranch life, storms at sea, tropical islands, police procedural, Buddhism, sexuality and a lust for travel. He even includes doffs to his latest wanderlust — Machu Picchu. The world he presents is hisworld as much as ourworld. The arguments are current ones, and I’ll not spoil your read by mentioning them, but whatever opinions you have on those topics, Surviving Immortalitywill not fail to engage you, even if you wind up talking to your night light at midnight in bed. 
Needless to say (but I will say it), I highly recommend this book if you enjoy a powerful fast-moving work with now-relevancy from a major author who contributes to our contemporary literary legacy.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Book Review: Less by Andrew Sean Green

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company (May 2018)
Pages: 261★★★★★

A Magical Adventure

Arthur Less is a little-known novelist about to turn fifty. He receives a wedding invitation from his ex-boyfriend of nine years, a younger man who he is still in love with. He decides it would be too painful to attend the wedding, yet if he doesn’t it will be an admission of defeat to his ex and to all their friends. What to do? Accept a handful of half-baked literary events scattered around the globe so he’ll be out of town when the wedding occurs. What could go wrong?

The answer, Arthur Less finds as he journeys to Mexico, Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, and Japan, is everything!

A romance, a satire on Americans abroad, a musing on success, aging, and the human heart. Lessshows a man blundering through a low point in his life, and along the way he continually raises the curtain on our shared human comedy.

Being both an aging writer and a world traveler, I became engrossed in this Pulitzer Prize winning novel on page one, and had to slow my reading because I wanted to savor the experience for as long as possible. I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed a book this much. Greer seamlessly blends humor with sharp poignancy. The writing is elegantly laced with wit, as much as the story is fortified with wonderfully interesting characters.  

Less goes on my shelve containing all the beloved books I read over and over.