BOOKS: HOT HOL­I­DAY READS.

LOOK­ING FOR SOME­WHERE TO LOSE YOUR­SELF? GRAEME AITKEN SUG­GESTS A RANGE OF GEN­RES AND AU­THORS TO EX­PLORE OVER THE BREAK.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #216 -

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.

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