Book Review: Spirit of Steamboat

Title: Spirit of Steamboat: A Walt Longmire Story
Author: Craig Johnson
Published: 2013
Format: Hardback

Longtime followers of the blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. I’m a little ashamed to say that the reason I haven’t posted is that I haven’t *read* in a while. No, really. I haven’t read a book in something like nine months, and I haven’t written more than 3k since December.
And I’ve been itching to, I really have, but life has gotten in the way and I just haven’t managed a book that has held my interest into chapter two.
So, one Friday, I got off early from work (woot!) and decided to take myself on the best kind of date – the library. So I started in adult fiction and I walked the stacks slowly, running my hands down the books, touching the spines, picking stuff up and putting it back down. I took the aisles out of order, coming in in the middle, heading back and forth, dismayed at the fact that they were actually taking shelves out of my library because of a lack of books on them.
That has something to do with this book, I promise.
So anyway, the first row I went down was H-J, and this was one of the first books I touched. I liked that it was small, novella-ish. I had decided that if nothing could hold my attention that a smaller book had a better chance. The dark, teal green of the cover stood out amidst a sea of much more boring black and white and uninspiring.
Until I turned to the front cover, I hadn’t realized that it had anything to do with the TV show – a plethora (okay, two, but they’re big and the book is small) of library stickers covered up half the spine. And I haven’t watched the TV show, so I read the first paragraph of the flap and decided that I could read this without knowing that.
So in the story, Sherriff Longmire is reading Dickens on Christmas Eve (because that is the most overdone Christmas trope ever in books), and somebody shows up in his office that he’s sure he’s never seen before but is adamant that she needs to see the old sheriff and that she knows them all.
So Walt takes her to the old guy and she starts her tale of how they know her, which is pretty much the rest of the book.  [NOTE:  This story takes place at Christmas, but it is most certainly not a Christmas story.]

So, because this was the first piece of fiction that I have held attention to in *nine months* I really wanted to give this book a full five page rating, but I just can’t.
For starters, the book is shelved as a mystery – there’s a sticker from the library that says it and everything – and really the only mystery in the whole thing is who the chick is and we figure that out pretty quick. Even the acknowledgement page says that this is a “weird little book that was supposed to be a short story… and is not a mystery per say, but a thriller with mysterious elements.” And while I’m not necessarily taking off points for expecting a mystery, that’s mostly because the author told me that on the very first page.
Second of all, there was a bit of an issue with the present day/flash back thing. Like when the flashback was over, the story pretty much was, too…there was nothing at all to wrap it up at the end. So either he could have just told the story of the rescue and not flashed back or he could have put a little more meat on the story. I felt that *all* the present day stuff was rushed to get to the 1988 flight.
That said, the 1988 flight part was *fabulous* I could just about feel the snow and having come from somewhere that got blizzards, just reading about it made me cold. That’s a sign of a good author. There was the right amount of suspense and detail, the right balance of slang and explaining things for the reader, and I didn’t feel out of place trying to read about pilots and doctors and whatever else.
And the old Asian woman in the story isn’t a bad stereotype. She’s written as kind and sympathetic.

So, there are a few things that needed help, which I think are an unfortunate product of this starting as a really short story and ending up at this length, but with a little tweaking this story could be perfect.
I loved the author’s writing style, and as such have another book of his waiting for me to pick it up at the library as I type this.
I will give this book a very sold – and very happy – 4 out of 5 pages.

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Book Review – The Joy of Gay Sex

The Joy of Gay Sex

Dr. Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano

Paperback, 2003 (Third Edition)

 

We are back in the world of banned books, and because of that, I need to preface this review with the following – I am neither gay nor a man.  I was, however, on the board of directors (and a founder) of a GLBT outreach and have many gay friends and family members.  So I am going to review this one anyway.

The first edition of the book was written in the late 70s, back when being gay was taboo and existed in the seedy underworld of America, hidden in back alleys and big cities, where people hid gayness and had gay sex like it was a fetish.

According to the prologue, the author (Dr. Silverstein with the help of somebody else) had intended a book made up of encyclopedia entries, blowjob erotica and sketches of men in the middle of whatever.  By the time the censorship was over, they had a dry, textbook of a book.  The anectdote of a little old lady who confused The Joy of Gay Sex with The Joy of Cooking was especially funny.

This book has, supposedly, been expanded and updated since then.  My problem with it is that the book is still geared towards that seedy underside of 70s gay culture.  The book is full of references to bath houses and glory holes and everything else.  But to put this book in context, the reprint was in 2003, so it was coming while Massachussettes was debating being the first state to allow gay marriage (the vote passed in Nov.), twenty years after they had named AIDS.  So when I read entry after entry talking about this great big scary epidemic of omg AIDS and everything else, it really pissed me off.

It pissed me off for a lot of reasons much too political to get into in depth here.  But really, because for every gay dude who went to a rave and screwed around in the bathroom, there were at least as many men out there who just wanted to be out of the closet and in regular society without persecution for the people they love.

And that is where I think this book failed.  Because they did not upgrade the book for the culture and society of today, they updated the entries they already had. What I failed to see was entries that said that something was popular in the 70s but had gone out of use.  What I failed to see were entries that painted the homosexual male as anything other than a sex-crazed pervert out to get as much cock as they could possibly have as fast as they could with footnotes and paragraphs that said watch out because everyone has AIDS.

So the book, in my opinion, is a failure.  While it paints a glorious picture of the early 1980s when everyone was suddenly dying of a mysterious disease that nobody understood, the same worlds that we get Angels in America and Borrowed Time, what it totally, epically fails at is bringing the book into modern times.  Bringing it to issues that would actually affect the average gay man today.

Like I said, I know I am not a gay man, but I know enough of them to know that the seedy 70s world that this book implies is not the world that everyone is a part of today.  I mean, this book lists married men as a category (meaning men who are married to women), but totally fails to talk about gay marriage at all.

I appreciate the research that went into this book 30 years ago for the first edition.  But because the book failed to update for the society of today (and partially because the illustrations are sometimes a bit creepy – think strong gay men with heart tattoos in odd places), I think the book falls short of what is needed today.  I keep thinking about the prologue and the book that the author wanted to do, and I really miss that.  This book is an AIDS IS COMING OMG trainwreck and just as outdated as it is current.  So for that I give it a 2/5.

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