Honorable Silence

Title & Link: Honorable Silence
Authors: Lex Valentine, George Seaton, Maura Anderson, William Maltese
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: Anthology, Contemporary M/M, Military
Length: 240 pages (+69,000 words)
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

A guest review by Buda

Summary Review: An uneven collection of stories revolving around the US military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

The Blurb:

Our men and women in uniform sacrifice daily to serve our country. But what about the additional, voluntary sacrifice that each gay person in the military makes daily when they don their uniform? We ask these men and women to not only serve their country but serve in silence and denial, sacrificing not only their physical lives but their emotional ones too by denying them their right to love. Four talented authors weave tales that describe how living a lie pulls at the hearts and souls of good servicemen, whose only desire is to do their duty to their country…honorably. In AFTERBURNER, two fighter pilots let their hearts soar despite regulations. THE LOSS OF INNOCENCE STORE provides a glimpse into the U.S. Army prior to the institutionalization of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. A sniper and infantryman find that love eases the pain of being forsaken in FORSAKE NOT. And STRATEGIC MANEUVERS reveals the intricate steps that can lead to love while in uniform.

The Review:

What a timely collection of stories, considering the weird legal situation the DADT policy has been in recently, not to mention the ridiculous statements that have been coming out of some members of the US Senate regarding the efforts to repeal the policy. This isn’t a political blog, so I won’t mention my personal thoughts on the matter; more importantly, this anthology isn’t particularly political either. Instead, each of the four books focuses on how the DADT policy affects its protagonist. Sadly, the books in this anthology didn’t receive their own blurbs, just the collective one above.

Afterburner by Lex Valentine – 3 out of 5 stars

Here we meet Sebastian Marchetti and Ryder Beckett. Both men are fighter pilots and have served with the Thunderbirds, the USAF demonstration team, and flew the #5 plane, which is always the inverted plane. Sebastian (Bas) retired from the USAF the previous year, spending his time preparing to join his brothers on the Flying Marchettis demonstration team. Ryder has just transferred to Edwards Air Force Base. He meets Bas while looking for Bas’s late father, from whom he had rented a room many years prior. Bas and Ryder’s attraction is immediate and white hot. Although Ryder still has two years before retirement from the Air Force, he is looking for a relationship, and he and Bas fall into one within the hour. Even for pilots used to traveling at super-sonic speeds, the relationship between Bas and Ryder happens way too fast–we’re talking Warp 10. Still, the two do have a nice chemistry and their relationship is believable and fun.

This book is enjoyable, but I did despair that after their initial sex scene, the phrase “his lover” appeared on nearly every page. Overall, this is a sweet story that deals only lightly with the dangers of DADT. Bas is concerned about the potential fall-out to Ryder’s career should their relationship be discovered, but it seems they have an ally in high places. While I liked this book, I was left with the lingering thought that it just tried too hard.


The Loss of Innocence Store by George Seaton – 4.75 out of 5 stars

This book is a departure from the others in the collection in a number of ways. First, it is set in the 1970s, long before DADT came about, but when the full-fledged, all-encompassing ban was in place. Second, it is the only story told in first person, by a mostly unnamed protagonist (we learn late in the book that his middle name is Michael). As such, this is the most personal story in the anthology. It was wholly unexpected and deeply moving in ways I cannot completely articulate, even after two readings.

We listen as this soldier tells his experiences, beginning and ending the story in one Denver, Colorado, gay bar. Along the way, he tells of Basic Training and, later, his life stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. In a book packed with emotion and detached analysis, thought-provoking passages abound. One of my favorite, lengthy ones is this: “The Army was both my nemesis and my savior. The Army was a harsh and unforgiving teacher. The Army was a sorcerer of magnificent proportions, capable of conjuring the desperate reality of the world in the blink of an eye, the Grand Champion Proprietor of the Loss of Innocence Store where all feet stood squarely on the ground, and purchases were made only with displays of absolute fealty to the Beast, the Proprietor, the Army. And the Army demanded a certain truth from each of us. At one point or another, on our bellies in the dust or as we wondered at the savage, predatory grace of hawks soaring from the tops of tall pines, the Army had a way of demanding that each of us reach down and examine our souls within that secret, dark and deep recess of ourselves, and scrutinize the essential truth of what we found ourselves to be.”

This is as much a voyage of self-discovery as it is a statement against the ridiculous ban and DADT. It is a deeply personal story with no real romance involved, just a moving testament to how it was then, how it is now.


Foresake Not by Maura Anderson – 4.25 out of 5 stars

Here we meet Rob, a physically wounded Marine, and Leo, an Army soldier, both of whom are mourning the loss of their best friend, Terry. The two men have never met, having known Terry at different times in Terry’s life, but they are aware of each other’s existence through stories Terry told each of them. Rob, a sniper, was wounded by an enemy sniper as he changed hiding spots and is in the midst of a lengthy, painful rehabilitation. Leo has just returned from the tour of duty in Iraq that ended Terry’s life. While Rob is dealing with his physical injuries possibly making him medically unfit to return to duty, Leo is worried that one of his fire teammates is about to report him as gay. Leo beat up this teammate at a bar after the teammate made some hateful, disparaging remarks about how Terry deserved his death because he was gay. Through their shared memories of and mourning for Terry, Leo and Rob manage to forge a friendship neither expected. Eventually, that friendship turns into more.

There is a lot to recommend this story, including interesting men dealing with difficult situations with humor, each allowing the other to lean on him a little without making a big deal of it. Rob’s sister is great, though her part is very small. Overall, this is an exceptionally sweet story of loss and love.

Strategic Maneuvers by William Maltese – 2.5 out of 5 stars

This is the story of Robert Larkin and Pablo Manuello, two completely different men from opposite sides of the tracks, as it were. After his parents died, Robert had been under the guardianship of Senator Stanley George, his father’s best friend. Pablo was a street thug who was sentenced by a judge to join the Army or face prison time. The opening sentences of the book are: “For Robert John Larkin III, it was always a little weird having his cock sucked by Stanley George.There was always some vaguely inherent subconscious insinuation of incestuous subtext … even though Stanley wasn’t related by blood and wasn’t even any longer Robert’s guardian, although he had been for five years. And so follows the rest of the book, which is broken into chapters dealing with different couplings of men: Robert & George, Pablo & Gomez, Robert & Pablo, etc, etc.

Robert and Pablo meet as they’re going through the physical examination line duringย  in-process at MEPS. The sexual attraction is immediate and overwhelming. So much so that they skip lunch and head down an alley, where Pablo goes head down. Buried deeply between the nearly all-consuming sex scenes is a plot line where Senator George and Robert have predetermined that Robert will use his military service as a stepping stone to a political career. Because of this plan and the Senator’s power, Robert is shipped to Korea (a hot zone, but not an in-danger hot zone, see?) wherein he is provided with contacts with other gay soldiers on the down low, so to speak. Meanwhile, poor Pablo is sent to the Middle East and has to do the real fighting.

There were many reasons I did not enjoy this book. First, it seemed to be one long succession of lengthy sex scenes where I would have preferred more of an emphasis on plot or characterization or relationship-building. Second, labyrinthine sentences cluttered the page. For example: “Soon, Robert wondered if he’d miscalculated in his seating assignments, in that his boner, had from just looking at Pablo, became, by its continuous stiffness (even Viagra warned about erections lasting overly long), an object of genuine disconcertion in its inability to fit, comfortably, the small amount of trouser space which it allotted by Robert’s sitting position.” (What?!?!) Third, there was an almost Deliverance-esque moment early on: “‘Show me you’re the ass-fucker we both know you are,’ Gomez ordered. ‘Get me squealing like a young virgin staked on her very first dick!'” Uh, yeah. About that.

Overall:

While the subtitle of this anthology is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, only two of the books included truly address the consequences of living under the policy with any real depth. As the individual ratings show, I felt the stories were uneven in quality, but I’m glad this publisher and these authors are providing a tribute to our over-tasked and under-recognized military men (and women, though they don’t factor into these stories for obvious reasons). If you’re a fan of any of these authors or the military in general, this is a must-read collection.

45 comments

  • Buda — Thank you for the kind words on “Loss of Innocence…” and the other storytelling in the anthology. Read through the entire string, eventually arriving here at the bottom of the hill, thinking I might bookend the discussion with the affirmation that, yes, anthologies tend to be “unbalanced.” For me, that’s a plus. Love to savor the diversity of thought, style, even genre when digging into an anthology. Thought I’d mention that Kris Jacen, the editor of “Honorable Silence,” worked very hard on this one–as she does on them all. Perhaps she gave this one a little more umph! as she is an Army Wife, living the Soldier’s life as intimately as her Soldier husband.

    Can’t speak much to hockey, but do understand soldiering, and believe the anthology captured significant insight–albeit “unbalanced”–into the mindset of gay folk who understand there is honor in serving their country, and wish only that their country would return the favor.

    Reply
    • George, I truly hope this country’s Congress wakes up and acts soon, though I”m not holding my breath. There still seems to be too much hate in the upper chamber.

      I’m glad you enjoy anthologies. I never have, not even textbooks for Literature classes. I do feel that I have to go on record as saying I referred to this particular collection as uneven, not unbalanced. That description is probably more appropriate for me than the book!

      Uneven or not, I’m glad I was able to read it. So my thanks to you, your fellow authors and editor Kris Jacen for putting it all together

      Reply
  • Buda
    WP wouldn’t allow me to respond directly but I wanted you to know that I laughed loudly, (I would have said snorted but I’m too ladylike for that sound) at the “volleyball” comment. Sometimes when I sit right in front on the third base line it does seem as if the balls are volleying or bouncing or jockeying for position. ๐Ÿ™‚ *off to look at pictures of hot guys in baseball*.

    Reply
  • Buda
    I have a question about William’s book. He wrote a post on the site almost a year ago here

    http://www.gaybook.reviews/?p=11238

    basically stating that female authors’ and readers’ expectations of M/M were unrealistic because there were different types and standards of M/M books for men and for women. As a man, it seems that you didn’t like his story (sex fest)? very much So why didn’t you, a guy, think this was a wonderful story? OK I’m putting you on the spot, but I’m really trying to find out whether there are different M/M audiences and if women and men want different things from these romances.

    You don’t have to answer dear Buda – you can take the fifth. lol

    Reply
    • Oh, boy, Wave, you really know how to throw a guy under a bus! So, just remember, I’m writing this with tread marks on my face.

      It has been mentioned here many times that sex scenes should be an extension of plot, that they should say things that the characters cannot say in words, that they be about more than just sex. Eh, I can agree that, for the most part, I like that better than “sex-for-sex’s-sake”, so maybe I am just a big girl on the inside.

      I love sex. Read in a book, done a bed, a shower, a car, a locker room in an ice hockey arena in Denver–wait, what was my point?… Oh, right. Sex. I don’t really care where. It’s great when it’s good–hell, it’s pretty damn good when it’s bad.

      I would probably have enjoyed this selection more if the other books in the antho had also been “one-hand reads.” They weren’t. Don’t get me wrong, though: as a “one-hand read,” a few of the scenes were scorching. (Still shuddering over the “squeal” line, though.)

      I know you’ll understand if I put it in terms of chocolate. I felt like I opened a Snickers bar and all I got was the chocolate coating, no nougat-y goodness. I need my nougat! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
      • Okay Buda. You best me this time. I was so hoping that you would come right out and confirm what William has been saying all along, which would give me an excuse to slap you.

        Did you say a hockey arena in Denver? What were you doing there? I digress, but your life is such fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

        So what you’re saying is that Strategic Maneuvers is a one-hand read? OK. (BTW did you know that William copyrighted the term “one-hand read”?) Better not let him see you using it here or you’ll be in big trouble. I still don’t understand how one can copyright such a generic term.

        When I’m in the mood for a you-know-what kind of read I know where to find it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Love the chocolate analogy.

        You’re no fun Buda. lol

        Reply
        • Who does he think he is, Billy Joelยฎ? lol Well, I did put the phrase in quotes. Isn’t copyrighting that term akin to patenting vitamins? Both seem to be naturally-occurring phenomena! ๐Ÿ™‚

          Denver. Lots of memories. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sadly, never in the good parts of Pepsi Center. But there’s always hope!

          Wait. Did you just concede defeat? You did. Ha! I totally won! That makes me…well, anyone who has played the Toronto Maple Leafs lately! :O Oh yeah. I went there. lol

          I knew you’d appreciate the chocolate. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Reply
          • >>Wait. Did you just concede defeat? You did. Ha! I totally won! That makes meโ€ฆwell, anyone who has played the Toronto Maple Leafs lately! :O Oh yeah. I went there. lol < < I did concede, this one time only. ๐Ÿ™‚ You can say what you like about the feeble Leafs - they suck lemons. Luckily I'm not a fan of hockey (I know you can't believe it). Give me baseball baby, with guys scratching underneath their cups - get the picture?? lol Now I have to leave you to write a review which is 24 hours overdue.

            Reply
          • As long as Buda can be bought ๐Ÿ™‚

            Hockey could be fun… wonder if I could get some good research done. I’m already a football fan so Mr. Maura might get testy but he IS the one who makes fun of the fact I can’t ice skate while he grew up in MN and it’s second nature to him.

            And Budaj is Slovakian, too. I do have ready references for eastern bloc sports training. But maybe a fiery red-head….with a temper….

            hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

            Reply
        • (Damn WordPress!)

          I like where you’re going, Maura.

          The NHL season is still only 7 weeks old, with 7 more months to go, including playoffs. Plenty of time to watch to get a feel. If Mr. Maura grew up in the Frozen North, he should already be a fan–isn’t it a legal requirement?

          Reply
          • He says no – but he’d never admit he wasn’t a fan when he lived there. “Too many scars from playing really BAD childhood hockey.” according to him.

            But Seattle has the Thunderbirds… And I do some sports photography on the side. Wonder if I can get a tour at least.

            Hmmm – damned plot bunnies…. Probably could get a flash fiction out of it pretty quickly though…. hmmmmm

            Buda – you are BAD for me!

            Reply
          • LOL – I do what I can.

            If you’re in Seattle, then you should know the Vancouver Canucks and their pretty left winger, Mason Raymond. He’s not just a pretty face, either.

            Ya know, not trying to influence you or anything. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Good luck!

            Reply
          • Ooh. Maybe Ryan can hook-up with Maura’s fiery redhead! ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually, at this point, I’d give almost anything to get some good M/M hockey stories to read.

            Reply
  • I really enjoyed George Seatons’ “Big Diehl” so I may have to check out these other stories also, thanks for the review!

    Reply
    • Hi rdafan7! Despite the fact that the two books take place in different decades and during different wars, I thought of Diehl a couple of times while reading TLOIS. I liked Big Diehl, but there’s no question this one more deeply affected me. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      I haven’t seen our friend lately. Is he writing my sequel yet? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply
      • Buda

        >>I havenโ€™t seen our friend lately. Is he writing my sequel yet? < < If you're referring to Ethan, he's finished LiF and it's in edits as we speak. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Reply
        • Actually, I mean the other Ethan. (Yes, I’ve been called an Ethan-ho.) Ethan Stone, whose In the Flesh was my first review here. I’m hoping he’s about to have another book published soon.

          Reply
        • “If youโ€™re referring to Ethan, heโ€™s finished LiF and itโ€™s in edits as we speak.”

          OMG – I think I just wet myself.

          Reply
  • Hey Buda boy – as always you’ve given a nicely organized review. I like how you spoke a little about each individual story. Anthologies are always iffy for me too, and frequently I end up with a few that I can’t even get through. I also really like military themed books, so some of these would appeal to me.

    BTW I like your little Buda, Buda. Oops, I guess that could have another meaning, huh? LOL I meant that I like the real Peter Budaj’s picture you now have. But, is he old enough for you to be lusting after? It’s probably just my age, but he looks like a teenager. LOL

    Reply
    • Thanks, TJ. You know how much I … enjoy … praise from you. ๐Ÿ˜‰ As a fan of the military theme, you should definitely give this compilation a try. I’d love to hear your opinions.

      The anthology monster is horrific, isn’t it? I mean, sometimes that’s the only way to get a book one really, really wants to read, but then there’s always the chance the rest of the books within will be just wasted money. Like that one antho that has that one book we really loved. The rest of the collection I couldn’t get through–not one of them. Thankfully, this antho is much better than that!

      TJ, Boods and I share a birthday, though there are a few years between us. He turned 28 a couple months back.

      Reply
      • Yeah Buda, Don’t feel bad. I had to buy that whole anthology that you referred to, just for the one book. I’ve done that before and I’m sure I’ll have to do it again. But for me the book that shall not be named was so worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Reply
        • Wasn’t it, though? *fans self* When I could, I deleted the anthology and purchased the BTSNBN in stand-alone format. Hmm. I think I’ll have to revisit it Thursday between work and going to bed mid-afternoon.

          Reply
  • Thanks, Wave. I think you know I’m not a huge fan of anthologies, but I really wanted to read this one. I have a huge amount of respect for our military,so any time I can get my hands on something that pays them homage, I try to read it. I’ve read most of Esprit de Corps and have to agree it’s excellent.

    As you can see, I was really struck by George Seaton’s selection. I’m still debating my final score for it. Lex Valentine’s book is interesting, but it felt as though the format wasn’t a good fit for Bas and Ryder. I think they needed a greater word count to get the heart of their story told. There is great potential there, and I hope she expands on it later. William Maltese’s book will probably appeal to many others, but I just had trouble with it. I would have preferred much more subplot development and less sex, but, obviously, my personal preference. That may be why I enjoyed Maura Anderson’s book so much more. Her two men, Leo and Rob, had layers of pain to work through before the big sexual payoff. The shortened format worked in this instance, but I would definitely enjoy reading more about that pair.

    I had to double-check the review to be sure I didn’t stuff up. Samantha Kane didn’t write for this collection, unless she uses another name?

    I can see your confusion with my tiny avatar. That handsome man, my dear, is Peter Budaj, (backup) goaltender for the currently-first-in-their-division Colorado Avalanche, and inspiration for my little moniker. ๐Ÿ˜€ (We won’t talk about Jayhawks football right now. First year with a new coach and all that horrific-ness.)

    Reply
    • Buda

      >>I had to double-check the review to be sure I didnโ€™t stuff up. Samantha Kane didnโ€™t write for this collection, unless she uses another name? < < Sorry I meant Maura Anderson. lol I will definitely be reading her story since it impressed you so much. OK now I get the picture - it was too small for me to figure out it was the real Buda, not the fake one. ๐Ÿ™‚ Does the real Budaj know that you're now wearing him? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply
    • Buda, there’s a lot more to Ryder and Bas in my head, but like with all anthologies, authors are kept to a fairly strict word count. My point with the story was that while Bas was retired and his family hell bent to protect him and Ryder in their little community, he still feared that Ryder would lose his career. The reason the Colonel says Ryder has the biggest heart of anyone he knew is because Ryder had the more stellar career (he mentions that to Bas in the first chapter)yet Bas meant more to him than that career. It was a story about how DADT affected them internally with regard to their relationship. Ryder almost doesn’t care because love means so much to him. Bas finds it hard to let go of the control he’d exhibited throughout his own career.

      Perhaps some day I’ll give these two a whirl in a longer format. I sincerely love them. They’re two of my favorite characters. I’ve wanted to write Air Force pilots ever since my daughter’s godfather started taking me to bases, hanging out in the Thunderbirds VIP areas at air shows, and talking to his best friend who is the Public Affairs officer for a major AF base here in the western US.

      Thanks very much for the review. I always appreciate them whether the reviewer likes and gets my story or not.

      Reply
      • Lex, I sincerely hope I didn’t give the impression that I didn’t enjoy your book or didn’t like the characters. I did and do.

        To be honest, as I read it, I was actually cursing the word count restriction. It felt as though there were many layers of Bas and Ryder’s relationship that could only be hinted at or mentioned in passing because of the format. That’s what I meant by it tried too hard. Even Campbell’s can only condense so much, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Ryder and Bas are interesting and engaging and I absolutely would not hesitate to read a more in-depth telling of their story.

        Reply
  • Thanks for the review, Buda! I’m glad you enjoyed Forsake Not and the stories of my fellow authors.

    Anthologies are an interesting thing. They are good for readers in some ways because they give a taste of a variety of authors but they do have inherent unevenness – sometimes in voice, sometimes in intent. Thank you for taking the time to comment on all the stories individually in particular.

    I conceived the basic story of Forsake Not over a year ago as a bit of flash fiction. It’s nagged at me since and I was happy to find it a home to do it justice. My son is an Army soldier and, while not gay, when I met his OSUT graduating class and immersed myself in his world for a bit, I was struck by how DADT affected those living under both it and their oaths and creeds of the military. It would be so hard.

    The story itself surprised me a bit as it evolved but, as seems to be my pattern, I do believe in love and wanted them to have a happy ending. It actually wasn’t the ending I envisioned but it was happy and included love. I also really wanted to keep the political side of the DADT policy less prominent so I’m thrilled to hear it didn’t intrude into what was a personal story.

    Wave – I hope you’ll consider reading Forsake Not when you read this anthology. I always love to her your take on my stories ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Thank you, Maura. What I loved about your book was that I could actually feel the physical and emotional pain Rob and Leo were experiencing. You did an amazing job with both. Thank you for such a great story. And, please, pass along to your son my thanks for his service.

      Reply
    • Maura

      >>Wave โ€“ I hope youโ€™ll consider reading Forsake Not when you read this anthology. I always love to hear your take on my stories< < Never fear, I will definitely be reading your story. Buda grabbed this anthology because my TBR pile was too high (he's very quick) ๐Ÿ™‚ but I will be reading Forsake Not.

      Reply
  • Great review Buda. I love military anthologies as you know, and have read many of them. IMO the best one to date is Esprit de Corps with stories by George Seaton, Josh Lanyon, Victor Banis and Samantha Kane, and I was pleased that George’s book received the highest ratings from you, because I really loved his story in Esprit, Big Diehl.

    I suppose anthologies are usually uneven because you never know what you’re going to get and it all depends on the authors and their skill in tackling a particular topic. 2 out of 4 are pretty good odds. I will definitely be reading Maura’s and George’s stories. I don’t know that I want to read William’s sex fest and I like Lex’s paranormal stories but I haven’t read any of her contemporaries so I’m undecided about her book.

    Thanks for this Buda.

    PS Love the new icon. Is the outfit an homage to your college football team? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

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