Title: Coming Home
Author: Victor J. Banis
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Historical M/M (60’s)
Length: Novella (48 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
The swinging sixties, the Sunset Strip a smorgasbord of horny Marines, looking for a little action before heading off to Nam. A queen’s delight, and it’s all too easy for a guy to fall in love with these brave, young warriors. But some of those shipping out won’t be coming home, and not all of the wounded wear uniforms.
The sixties. A time when the Sunset Strip was a gay pickup zone for hunky Marines on weekend leave who were ready to take whatever was offered, man or woman, but on the Strip it was only man meat. Mike, who narrates the story, is a gay man who lives for the weekend just waiting for the guys to show up. He lets us in as he unabashedly goes trolling for fresh meat and his choice of steak is Marine T-Bone. The Viet Nam war was looming and the sailors and soldiers knew that they could ship out at any time so they lived for the moment. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the story which paints a picture that no reviewer could ever hope to capture
The Swinging Sixties. To some, that conjures up images of The Haight in all its flower power glory, before the lilies festered. To others, it was Greenwich Village and that heady period leading up to the events at Stonewall; or the love-ins in Griffith Park.
For me, it was The Strip. Sunset Boulevard. Not the Norma Desmond Boulevard, of flame red Maseratis and grand hotels and pink mansions with heart-shaped swimming pools, but the hurdy-gurdy strip of once-elegant-now-sleazy clubs, discount record stores and gay bars.
And Marines. Scores of them, hundreds of them, flocking there every weekend from Camp Pendleton down the road, strolling about wide-eyed in twosomes, three-four-and-moresomes. And some of them alone. On the prowl. Happily, because these were the ones a gay man like me looked for.
This was the era of the Vietnam war.
Mike tells us about his first meeting with Doug, an innocent looking Marine still wet behind the ears, who seemed uncertain about what he wanted that first time Mike saw him. It was clear that he had never done this before but that he wanted to, so Mike took him home fully expecting that he would cut and run, but Doug was up for whatever Mike dished out. Mike couldn’t believe his luck to have found someone like Doug who seemed to be the man of his dreams. The sex was so raunchy, steam was coming out of my ears as I was reading the book. When Doug went back to the base Mike didn’t expect to see him again because that was the way it was, but to his surprise he called the next weekend and Mike was overjoyed. But when he went to pick him up there was a very big surprise.
Victor J. Banis tells a poignant tale about love and war and the horrible effects of war but there is a lot of humour in his prose as well.. This wonderful story was redolent with the smell of pot and the sights and sounds of the sixties and the taste of mint juleps on Kentucky Derby Day which no one really drank. The love story was unexpected but beautifully done, and I was moved by the way he made these men so vulnerable and human yet brave, at a time when life was not worth very much because everyone knew that once you shipped out there was a good chance that you wouldn’t be back.
Every time I read a story by this author I’m struck by his writing skill and brilliant characterizations, and in this book that was barely 50 pages he gives the readers not just a slice of life but the whole pie. You will love Mike’s story and I think the ending will move you as it did me. Definitely recommended.