BOOKS: HOT HOLIDAY READS.
LOOKING FOR SOMEWHERE TO LOSE YOURSELF? GRAEME AITKEN SUGGESTS A RANGE OF GENRES AND AUTHORS TO EXPLORE OVER THE BREAK.
THE END OF BILLY KNIGHT by Ty Jacob
If you’re looking for the perfect holiday read, this is it! Desire and ambition set against the backdrop of LA’s gay porn world and based on (or inspired by) two fascinating real-life people – the late porn star, Joey Stefano and drag queen porn producer Chi Chi LaRue.
The characterisation of both is exceptionally strong, but Jacob particularly excels in portraying the vulnerabilities of drag queen character, Sasha Zahore. Out of drag, Sasha (aka Dale) is a plump, unattractive gay man nearing middle-age and the realities of sex and desire for him are bluntly portrayed. Naturally, Sasha falls for hustler and budding porn star Billy Knight (aka Mike), but Billy is firm with him from the outset that they are strictly friends. It’s difficult for Sasha to accept this when Billy works as a hustler, selling himself to all and sundry, yet won’t give Sasha a simple “mercy fuck”.
Although Sasha is closer to Mike than anyone else, it isn’t enough. Inflamed with jealousy when he realises Billy is falling for a strapping bar dancer, he schemes to sabotage the relationship and succeeds.
Similarly trying to break into the porn industry as a drag queen director appears to be an impossible challenge. Masculinity is key in the industry and being a drag queen is diametrically opposed to the image they want to project, but Sasha is talented, passionate and extremely determined. His closeness to Billy is one of his best assets in landing an opportunity to direct and he exploits it mercilessly.
Terrified that Billy will seize an opportunity, leaving him behind both professionally and personally, Sasha lies, misleads and manipulates Billy and anyone else in his path to get what he wants.
Jacob has done a masterful job in creating these two characters. The narrative is split evenly between them in alternating chapters and although Sasha is perhaps the more complex character, the portrayal of Billy/Mike is equally strong and convincing.
The settings and period detail are extremely well rendered and it is especially amusing when Sasha boasts about the technological accomplishments of his various 1980s/1990s video cameras to a readership equipped with the latest high-tech phones.
Jacob has elevated this sexy, pulpy subject matter into a moving and page-turning character study that is highly recommended.
Although this is Jacob’s first novel, he has previously written a memoir under his real name, Jared Gulian. Moon Over Martinborough was published by Random House New Zealand in 2013 and tells the comical story of two gay urban American guys running an olive farm in Martinborough, New Zealand.
THIRSTY: CONFESSIONS OF A FAME WHORE by Joel Creasey
The publicist for this book assured me that it contained mostly new material. Having never seen Joel Creasey perform stand-up comedy, it was all new to me and I was very impressed. This is a very funny and well-written book that is also frank and selfdeprecating about living life as a young gay man.
It’s very Australian and I suspect non-Australian readers may struggle with some of the Aussie pop culture references. The book is a loosely told lifestory, breezing through Joel’s childhood (his parents were extras in The Empire Strikes Back), teenage years (his high school newspaper took on aspects of Vogue’s September issue under his editorship) and then his quest for fame as a stand-up comedian.
In-between the jokes and the patter, there are some serious moments, including the story of his first real love affair with an American writer and its eventual demise and his friendship with Heath Ledger’s sister Ashleigh and supporting her through the very public death of her brother.
Studded with pop culture references and some snarky humour, this is an absolutely perfect summer read.
BEST GAY EROTICA OF THE YEAR, VOL 3 edited by Rob Rosen
Cleis Press have been turning out this annual anthology of erotica since 1998 and over the years various famous authors have done a stint as Guest Editor including Christopher Bram, Felice Picano,
Scott Heim, James Lear, Larry Duplechan and Australia’s Neal Drinnan.
Thirsty is studded with pop culture references and snarky humour – a perfect summer read.