Friday, November 4, 2022


I confess that Richard Zimler has long been one of my favourite contemporary authors. I'm a huge fan of HUNTING MIDNIGHT, THE LAST KABBALIST OF LISBON, and THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LAZARUS (a/k/a THE LOST GOSPEL OF LAZARUS). I was excited to be able to pick up his newest novel in English, THE INCANDESCENT THREADS, while I was in London this summer. I'm an American, and this book doesn't come out in the US until November 7th this year (2022). I'm writing this brief review on November 4th, but I read the book in September. I often write reviews right after finishing a novel, but it seems that this one wanted to bounce around in my brain and ruminate.

I'm drawn to works related to the Holocaust. Although I'm not Jewish, I'm a gay man and gays were also persecuted literally to death by the German Nazi regime. I consider those unfortunate gay men to be my ancestors, in a sense, and so I relate deeply to all the innocent victims targeted by the Nazis, whether they were Jews, gays, Poles, Russians, POWs, the differently abled, the sick, the mentally ill, and of course their political opponents. I've read all 1600 pages of William Shirer's THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH, which recounts everything from the Weimar era until just after the end of WWII. I've read many works of nonfiction and fiction related to the Holocaust. I'll never stop reading about it, because I never want to stop reading about it. In this sense, I may be different from many readers who feel reluctant to dive into literature about such a disturbing era.

For any such readers, I'd want them to know that THE INCANDESCENT THREADS is overall quite a positive novel, with an optimistic mood and some kind of faith in humanity in general, even if this faith is often borne out only by the actions of "a few" brave persons. I don't like to provide spoilers, so I won't. But even from the cover copy, you would learn that THE INCANDESCENT THREADS concerns itself with the lives of the only two members of a Polish Jewish family to have survived the Holocaust - two cousins, Benjamin and Shelly. Both happen to be very lucky. Benjamin is hidden away throughout most of the war by brave and kindly souls. Shelly manages by luck to escape Europe to a relative freedom in Algeria. They both later resettle in North America and grow their own relationships and their own families. Through a variety of points of view in this novel, via different members of their families, we learn all the amazing and wonderful facets of their lives, and how they've managed to keep the Zarco clan alive - together with stories of appalling tragedy and cruelty at the hands of Nazis and their collaborators. 

I cannot give any more details about the story without spoiling it. The writing is beautiful and poignant. All of the characters are well-rounded people, deftly drawn, and highly memorable. But I will say I found the novel highly relevant to today, when so many political lies are perpetuated all over the world at the expense of minority populations, who are so likely to face persecution when the indifferent majorities allow Fascists to come to power and then openly collaborate with these Fascists' goals. Contrary to these sinister forces still at work all around us, THE INCANDESCENT THREADS offers a testament to the courage and strength displayed by everyday normal human beings in the face of true evil. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. It will stay with me forever. THE INCANDESCENT THREADS deserves a wide readership.

Sunday, September 11, 2022


Peter Straub is one of my favorite authors. I was very sad to hear of his passing earlier last week. I grew up reading horror fiction, and without getting hooked on horror, I may not have progressed to reading other types of fiction. Peter Straub was one of the earliest horror writers I read - and that was GHOST STORY in the old Pocket Books paperback edition, which I read in 1980 when I was 13 years old. 

The first horror fiction I read was H. P. Lovecraft and other writers of Cthulhu Mythos stories, collected in TALES OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS by Ballantine Books. After that, I bought SUCH STUFF AS SCREAMS ARE MADE OF by Robert Bloch, collecting some of his very best horror stories (Del Rey, 1979). The first horror novel I read was THE AMITYVILLE HORROR by Jay Anson, which scared the crap out of me, although it's not that well written. Still, it had an emotional effect on me and made me want more. Next was 'SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King in the original Signet paperback (with a scary cover). Next was King's THE SHINING, which I read in summer of 1980 just before Stanley Kubrick's film came out (and now, to this day, I am determined to read a good book before ever watching a cinematic adaptation, for good reason, since most movies of good books are not very good). 

The next horror novel I read was Straub's GHOST STORY - over a Christmas holiday - and I literally couldn't put it down. At one point, I curled up in front of a fire burning in our Franklin stove in the basement of our house in Laramie, Wyoming, thus reading a few chapters of GHOST STORY by pure firelight. This was a mistake, of course, as the book was almost too scary.

SHADOWLAND by Straub came out in paperback (Berkeley Books) soon after GHOST STORY, but somehow I didn't read it at the time. I did, however, purchase the hardcover first trade edition of FLOATING DRAGON when it came out in 1983. I bought it at Books-a-Go-Go in Laramie, where I'd also bought the Bloch book and 'SALEM'S LOT and THE SHINING and GHOST STORY. I read FLOATING DRAGON straight away, and found it disturbing, scary, suspenseful, elegant, and superior to any other horror novel I'd read by the time.

I started going to science fiction & fantasy conventions in 1981, and in 1983 I attended my first World Fantasy Convention in Ottawa, Ontario. In 1984, I also attended WFC, this time in Chicago, Illinois. I can't remember at which one, but I had brought my copy of FLOATING DRAGON with me and must have been carrying it around when I ran into the author in the lobby of the main convention hotel. Straub was dressed like an investment banker, looking very natty in a grey suit and tie. I worked up my courage and approached him, told him how much I loved FLOATING DRAGON, and asked him to sign my copy for me. 

As he scribbled out his inscription and signature, I told him that I really admired how he had deftly switched the point-of-view of the whole novel halfway through, going from third person to first person, when we suddenly discover that an actual narrator has been telling us the story in a faux third-person POV up until the point when he advises us he's going to tell us the rest from where he himself enters the narrative. Peter Straub said, with great glee, "No one has ever noticed that before!" I couldn't believe no one had ever noticed, but it's quite possible no one had ever had the guts to tell him. 

I told him I loved the book, and that it seemed to me that in FLOATING DRAGON he was trying to write the "everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink" horror novel to end all "everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink" horror novels (of which there were plenty by that time, as 'SALEM'S LOT had spawned a lot of those). He laughed and told me I was absolutely right.

I consider myself lucky to have been present at the World Fantasy Awards banquet when he won Best Novel for KOKO and received his beautiful Gahan Wilson-designed bust of H. P. Lovecraft. He gave a self-deprecating speech but seemed truly honored. Later that evening, I was attending a party given by Karl Edward Wagner in his hotel room, quite packed, and Peter Straub was there for much of the time. So I got to chat with him about KOKO as well, and got to congratulate him on his award. He was gracious and seemed truly touched.

Since then, I've read everything else he's ever written, including SHADOWLAND (which is moody and dreamlike and strange, but not perhaps as good as most of his other novels). My favorite novel of his is actually MR. X, which seems his most Lovecraftian novel although it is by no means limited to that. Now that Peter Straub is gone, it's most likely that the first of his books that I would pick up would be MR. X ... although a re-read of FLOATING DRAGON and GHOST STORY are also definitely in order. The books that make up the Blue Rose trilogy of KOKO, MYSTERY, and THE THROAT are also worth a re-read. I'll definitely be getting back to all of them, one of these days.

Last year, I bought a beautiful limited edition (in two volumes) of THE COMPLETE SHORT FICTION OF PETER STRAUB, from Borderlands Press, which I'm grateful to own, as all of his short fiction warrants a re-read as well.

R.I.P., Peter Straub. One of our best writers is gone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022


Steve Neil Johnson
Steve Neil Johnson, a pioneering gay author of nine novels for adults, young adults, and children, died in Los Angeles on December 13, 2021, just one day shy of his 65th birthday. Most of his fiction was in the mystery/suspense genre and featured gay male protagonists. He was twice a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery, for Final Atonement (1992) and The Yellow Canary (2012). For his contributions to gay literature, he was also honored by the ONE Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries.

Born in Seattle on December 14, 1956, Johnson grew up there but left in the early 1980s to move to New York City with, as he liked to put it, “just a backpack (with a pair of cowboy boots tied to the back).” While producing his writing in his off-time, he worked the typical writers’ assortment of odd jobs, assisting early AIDS researchers including Mathilde Krim, and working for the first openly lesbian District Attorney of Brooklyn, Elizabeth Holtzman, in the mid-1980s. It was at the latter job that he began formulating the ideas and characters that would form his first novel, Final Atonement, featuring gay homicide cop Doug Orlando, who would also appear in his second novel, False Confessions (1993).

In recent years, he completed a four-novel mystery series (The Yellow Canary, The Black Cat, The Blue Parrot, and The Red Raven) interweaving the changing lives of two gay male protagonists – one a prosecutor, one a vice cop – as they navigate the investigations of tricky murders and other crimes over the course of four decades of Los Angeles gay history, from the 1950s through the 1980s. Collectively, these books form The L.A. After Midnight Quartet.

He was also the author of a novel for young adults featuring a gay teen protagonist (Raising Kane), a standalone thriller (This Endless Night), and a children’s book (Everybody Hates Edgar Allan Poe!) under the pseudonym Rathbone Ravenford. Together with co-writer Gary Stephens, he also wrote several telenovelas, which included Palero.

Johnson moved from New York City to Los Angeles in 1987, together with his boyfriend Don Hoover, who died of AIDS in early 1989. In October of that same year, Johnson met Lloyd Brown; the two got married in October 2014 (soon after gay marriage become legal in the United States), and Brown survives him. Johnson is also survived by a sister, Stephanie, and a brother, Gary, both of the Seattle area.

The cause of death was reported as complications from non–small cell lung cancer.

See also Johnson's web site:

(Photo is in Public Domain.)

Monday, November 15, 2021

NEW STORY - "Electric Pink" - COMING SOON

"Electric Pink"

I'm chuffed to have a new short story - "Electric Pink" - coming out soon in an anthology of gay male genre fiction, cross-genres, actually. 

**OKAY, the publisher has updated their official Publication Date and changed it to October 2022, so this post is now a bit premature . . . however, it will come out someday, one hopes**

PINK TRIANGLE RHAPSODY, edited by Andrew Wolter, will be published in late December 2021 October 2022, from Lycan Valley Press. Other authors appearing in this anthology include Hal Bodner, Jacob Budenz, Aaron Dries, Robert Dunbar, Ryan Field, David Gerrold, Darrell Grizzle, Greg Herren, Adrik Kemp, Corey Niles, Gregory Norris, Norman Prentiss, Rick R. Reed, Andrew Robertson, J. Daniel Stone, and Lee Thomas. Cover art by Joe Phillips. Interior art by Aaron Dries. You can pre-order from


Sunday, June 20, 2021


THE PASSENGER by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
(Metropolitan Books)

I recently finished reading this extraordinary novel, THE PASSENGER, by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz. It is something of a rediscovery, as it was written in the late 1930s, shortly after Kristallnacht occurred in Nazi Germany. The author, Boschwitz, was a young Jewish man who had already managed to flee Germany but was living a harried and harassed life as a refugee. He had written one other novel before this, but THE PASSENGER is what he is now remembered for. 

THE PASSENGER was published in various forms in English, French, and some other languages back in the 1930s and 1940s, but never in the original German in which it was composed. It was only in the last few years that the original German-language manuscript turned up, and was re-edited according to the intentions left behind by the author in some correspondence (before he sadly perished after his transport ship was torpedoed by the Germans), and was published finally in Germany. It is this new German edition that has formed the basis of several translations into other languages, and we are lucky that the English translation, by Philip Boehm, is now out in the United States from Metropolitan Books (and in the United Kingdom from Pushkin Press). 

I never like to review the plot of a book too fully in a mini-review like this. Suffice to say, the main character, a Jewish businessman in Germany who always thought he looked rather Aryan, finds himself the target of persecution, along with all other Jews throughout Germany, after the horrors of Kristallnacht. He then learns that the clock has been ticking behind the scenes, the last five years since the Nazis came to power, while everyone including himself thought this all would just "blow over." Then it is 1938 and it is too late. He is unable to get himself or his family out of Germany, and it takes a great deal of time for him to even understand that he has no meaningful German citizenship left, and no ability to cling to his assets . . . he will have no choice but to find some way to get out of Germany (illegally, as there is no longer any legal means, and he is not likely to be welcomed by any country he might be able to get himself to). So he becomes a passenger, going from here to there in different points across Germany, hoping not to be taken into custody by the Nazis, but really only just buying a bit of time. The inevitable is going to come, and it is truly too late.

Although some have compared THE PASSENGER to Kafka, I think that is not really accurate in the sense that everything that happens to the hero of THE PASSENGER is all too real, not surreal or fantastical. And it is a fate that can and does happen to anyone, anywhere in the world, who finds him- or herself suddenly the so-called Enemy of the State, for no other reason that one's own ethnicity. 

I highly recommend that everyone read THE PASSENGER before it vanishes again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021



I've been more active in recently with my writing, and it's starting to appear here and there. So here is an update, for anyone who's been looking for new stuff:

Short Stories:
"Electric Pink" forthcoming in PINK TRIANGLE RHAPSODY, Lycan Valley Press, approximately October 2021 2022.

"The Man Who Hated Foley" was published in THE PULP HORROR BOOK OF PHOBIAS, VOL. 2, Lycan Valley Press, December 2020.

"Let's Make a Face" was published in THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES, VOL. 4, Valancourt Books, October 2020.

I have completed the final draft manuscript of a new novel - more info to come in future as it progresses, but I hope it will be published someday.

My queer vampire novel OUT FOR BLOOD was republished by Valancourt Books, October 2019.

Thursday, March 9, 2017



This is my 3rd reading of Mr. Henry James's THE AMBASSADORS. I tried it when I was 20 and failed (found it impenetrable), tried again at 30 and succeeded in getting through it, but felt baffled and somewhat defeated by it. Read it again at 40 and marvelled at what I had missed, fell in love with it, stood in awe of it -- a revelation! Now, having turned 50, I have read it once more and it has vaulted to the top of my list of favourite novels. Every nuance I may have missed before seems to have revealed itself to me like a flowering blossom. In part, this may be due to the fact that in the ensuing decade, I (an American) have been living abroad, first in Canada and then mostly in England. James himself was an 'expat' who felt increasingly divorced from his home country and in due course became a British citizen. The influence of his life abroad, in London, in Europe, colours his point of view in THE AMBASSADORS and skews it toward Europe in something of a rebuke to the provincial, Puritanical ways of the United States.

James is honoured with an enormous plaque in Westminster Abbey with a quote from THE AMBASSADORS: 'Live all you can. It's a mistake not to.' Which is spoken by the main character, Lambert Strether (55 years of age) to little Bilham, a young American in his twenties, although of all the personages in THE AMBASSADORS little Bilham is the least likely to require this bit of advice.... Strether has been sent to Paris from Woollett, Massachusetts, by the cold-thinking Mrs Newsome, on a mission to retrieve her son Chad from the horrors of his presumed corrupt lifestyle in the Old World, and to whisk Chad back home to assume the mantle of the family business and perhaps to marry the young Mamie Pocock (his mother's idea). (Woollett makes a certain household article that dares not speak its name throughout the entire novel.) Not inconsequently, our hero Strether, a widower who lost his wife and child many years ago, is a trusted family friend and is more or less now engaged to the magnificent Mrs Newsome. Until Strether himself sets foot in Paris, it seems that the eventual return to Woollett and union with the Newsome family is all he can look forward to. However, Paris opens up his eyes as they have also opened up Chad Newsome's, in ways unpredictable and, as James would say, 'wonderful.' ... But nothing further. No spoilers here. If you've never read it, you may find it baffling at first (unless I was merely dense when I first read it), but now, finally, as I've passed the half-century mark and started to approach the age of 'our friend' Lambert Strether, I simply cannot express the exquisite pleasure I received on my 3rd reading of THE AMBASSADORS. Only question left is, shall I read it again when I turn 55? Or wait till 60?