MURDER ON CAMAC by Joseph R.G. DeMarco Tuesday, Sep 22 2009 

Murder on Camac

Murder on Camac
By
Joseph R. G. DeMarco

Publisher: Lethe Press (August 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590212134
ISBN-13: 978-1590212134

Murder on Camac is a P.I. novel so believable even I, who have not read many such books, was totally pulled into the story.

Marco Fontana, our hero, is a gorgeous Italian-American Private Investigator. He’s wary and a little cynical, as you would expect of a P.I. He’s also highly intelligent and sensitive-not the weeping kind of sensitivity but the kind that makes him aware of what makes people tick, how they think, and he’s a pretty wicked judge of character. Nor is he your average fictional P.I.; on the side Marco also owns a troupe of male strippers (with class and a whole lot more!). He is, in fact, good-looking enough to dance in a G-string himself – if he loses a particular bet with a friend.

The book has a cast of colorful characters, from a many-times-widowed Russian secretary to a stunningly handsome Catholic Monsignor, from a teenage hit man to a heartbroken stripper, and many more in between. DeMarco presents even the supporting cast perfectly; if he had gone a shade further with the characterizations some of them would have become stereotypes and the story would have been ruined for me, but with precision artistry he shows just enough but not too much.

Helmut Brandt, a youngish, successful author, is shot and killed on Camac Street in Philadelphia one night. The police dismiss it as a mugging gone bad, but Brandt’s much older lover believes it was murder, and he hires Marco to get at the truth. Brandt, you see, had rattled quite a few cages with his first book that levied broad hints that Albino Luciani – known to the world for four short weeks in 1978 as Pope John Paul I – had been murdered. Brandt had promised that his second book, nearing completion at the time of his death, would prove that men high up in the church were responsible, possibly including members of a shadowy organization called P2. But where – and what – was the proof? Brandt was dead, and not even his lover knew where he had hidden his manuscript and research notes. And why, since decades had passed and most of the principals were dead, would anyone think it necessary to murder Brandt? Or could he have been murdered for more mundane reasons, such as jealousy? Or could the one behind Brandt’s murder be the twitchy rival author who wanted to stop his competition dead in his tracks? Or could it actually be what the police said: simply a mugging?

Marco gets to the bottom of it all and unearths the guilty party, as of course he would. Before he reaches that point, though, he is threatened, nearly run down by a car, cracked on the head and hospitalized with a concussion, and, worst of all, he’s completely baffled. But he is Marco Fontana and you know he’ll get his man. Red herrings and MacGuffins abound, and I was often tempted to peek at the ending. But I didn’t. And I was glad I behaved myself.

Murder on Camac
is a fast, entertaining read. I expect we will be seeing more of Marco Fontana in the future, with or without the G-string. I give it five Sherlocks and a Watson.

King of Cats: A Life in Five Novellas, by Blake Fraina Tuesday, Dec 30 2008 

king-of-cats

KING OF CATS
Blake Fraina
0595307566
$16.95
I Universe
Forward Magazine Book of the Year Award, Bronze Medal

I read KING OF CATS by Blake Fraina three or four years ago, and only recently realized I had not added that review to my review blog—an oversight I truly regret.

I hope readers will not keep prejudices against the iUniverse label—often, alas, justified– from reading this book. It’s true there are some errors that a traditional publisher’s editor would have caught, and that’s unfortunate, but they don’t distract from the intense, dark stories.

This is no light read. It has layer upon layer of meanings beneath the obvious and should carry a warning: ENGAGE BRAIN BEFORE READING. If the book has a weak part, it’s the first novella which is told in first person by a wannabe filmmaker obsessed first by a painting, and then by a kid named Elliott. It’s the only novella in first person in the book, and Sam, the filmmaker, doesn’t appear in any of the other novellas.

Five novellas make up KING OF CATS. In terms of time, they leapfrog. The first, “King of the Cats”, about the filmmaker, takes place in 2002. The second “The Bargain” is set in 2001. Number 3, “Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter” is 1995. Number 4 “My Father’s House” is 2003. And “Hidden History” is in 1987. It’s not as off-putting as it sounds. When you read them, it actually makes sense. It’s like the famous movie scene with the fun house mirrors—this splinters off of that which splinters off something else….

On the surface, the rest of the novellas are about “sex, drugs, & rock ’n’ roll.” But under the music of electric guitars, drums, drugs, and promiscuity there is a seething pit of anger and physical abuse, neediness and tragedy, and most heartbreaking of all, the waste of potential in human life.

This is a complex book with characters that you alternately feel sorry for, despise, sympathize with, sometimes love, but will never forget. Elliott, the pathological baby-faced liar and hustler. Adam, the singer who spends a lot of time trying to convince himself he’s not gay just because he has sex with men. The character who will never leave your mind is Jimmy, the guitarist—to his fans and contemporaries he’s so cool he’s a gay Fonzie on drugs, somebody who gets what he wants when he wants it. They don’t see the tortured soul that looks through his eyes. By the end of the last novella, “Hidden History” you have seen Jimmy’s soul being twisted like a lone tree in the wind.

Highly recommended to adult readers.

I hope we may soon see another book from Blake Fraina, a vastly talented writer.

Eclectic Book Review Blog–what it is Monday, May 19 2008 

May 19. Welcome to my new Book Reviews blog.

I will be reviewing books of all kinds–some gay, some not, a lot of historical, some nonfiction–anything that strikes my fancy. Some of them won’t even be brand-new books, though hopefully they will still be in print and available on Amazon or elsewhere.

I don’t write negative reviews. Not every book is going to appeal to every person, but every author has poured time (sometimes many years) into that book and this reviewer will not rain on his or her parade. If I don’t like it, or didn’t enjoy it for some reason, than I’ll just pass on reviewing it. Every review is ONE PERSON’S OPINION, nothing else. Just because I didn’t care to review a particular title doesn’t mean the next reviewer won’t be ecstatic!

I’ll try to remember to put the genre/type of book in the title for your convenience. This is all new to me and I’m learning as I go.

I’m going to start out with reviews I’ve already posted elsewhere in order to have something here now, and will add to it when I can. Comments are more than welcome.

This will be an eclectic list, so I hope you can find something you enjoy or learn about a book you were unaware of.

And in case you didn’t know, here’s some blatant self-promotion:

 
author:
Novel: The Phoenix (ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year HM)
video for The Phoenix: http://youtube.com/user/badcock24
now available on Amazon & fine bookstores
 
Short story, TOM: or, An Improbable Tail–in two anthologies: Charmed Lives (Lethe) & Best Gay Romance (Cleis)
and in April issue of Forbidden Fruit e-zine http://www.forbiddenfruitzine.com/ 
Short story, “Mariel” — Blithe House Quarterly http://www.blithe.com/
Short story “Mr. Newby’s Revenge” to be in Fall issue of MystericalE at www.mystericale.com