Authors: Josh Lanyon, Samantha Kane, Victor J Banis, George Seaton
Publisher: Genre: military anthology, historical, contemporary
Rating: 4.50 stars out of 5
The first thing I loved about this anthology was the dedication
“This book is dedicated to those gay men who by not telling continue to serve our country with pride and honor. To those gay men who found the strength to tell and the courage to hold their heads high while being discharged in disgrace. To those gay men who have sacrificed their lives to maintain our freedoms while sacrificing their freedom to be heard.
Till we are judged for the honor and strength of our character and not by the prejudice and weakness of others…
I wish you fair seas, following winds, safe harbor and silent running.”
RM2(SS) Dick D.
This anthology explores military life of the past and present into four gay romantic military stories that will throw you back in time to WWI, WWII, the Vietnam conflict and then bring you back to contemporary times aboard Naval submarines.
OUT OF THE BLUE by Josh Lanyon (WW I, November 1916) 5+ stars out of 5
France, 1916. The Great War. High above the carnage in the trenches, British and German aces joust like knights of old for control of the skies. The strain and tension of living every day on the edge of death leads to dangerous choices and wild risks. When British ace Bat Bryant’s past catches up with him, he strikes out in panic and kills the man threatening him with exposure. But there’s a witness: the big, handsome American pilot Cowboy Cooper.
Cowboy, it seems, has his own ideas of rough justice.
Have you ever felt so immersed in a book that it seemed you were part of the action? Out of the Blue will have that effect on you. The adrenalin of the suicide flights, the courage displayed by the airmen in rescuing their comrades while under heavy fire, the firefights in the air, the drone of the aircraft, the crashes as planes went down in flames with their pilots still shooting at the enemy, the camaraderie among the pilots – the battles were all too exciting at times!! The era seems to have been accurately described by Lanyon – the music (”Roses of Picardy” was a favourite as the guys sang along with the gramophone), the atmosphere, the clothing, the speech were all wonderfully depicted and there wasn’t anyone who was a caricature.
Of all the characters in this book for me the most remarkable and memorable was Cowboy who made Bat seem like a pale reflection, even though Bat was the captain in charge of this band of flying aces and was just as brave. Cowboy was the outsider since most of the other officers were Brits who had been at Eton together, and if they weren’t old school chums at least they had the facade of class and breeding, and they tended to look down on the American who was not part of their inner circle. The secondary characters were all well drawn but they had so little face time before they bought it that it was difficult to get to know them.
This is such a wonderful story that you will read it again and again and again. Despite its theme of war and death the book is quite funny in parts as well as uplifting.
The full review of Out of The Blue can be found here
ISLANDS by Samantha Kane (WW II August 1943) 4.75 stars out of 5
Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Conlan, United States Navy Seabees, knows he’s not in Kansas anymore when he steps off the launch at the small island of Ile Dorée and sees gorgeous Frenchman René Dubois waiting for him on the dock. The year is 1943, the place is the Pacific and the world is at war. Free from the censure of the military, Gabe has an explosive affair with René. But when the world intrudes, Gabe denies René and tries to forget the best sex of his life.
The only westerner on his small Pacific island, René is desperately lonely. When the tall, lanky American steps onto his dock, René knows his life will never be the same. He teaches Gabe how to make love to a man and, unexpectedly, falls in love. René will brave prejudice, Japanese Zeros and Gabe’s reluctance to find love at last.
The full review of Islands can be found here
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.
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.
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.
The full review of Coming Home can be found here
BIG DIEHL by George Seaton (Iraq – present day) 4.50 stars out of 5
Big Diehl understood his nature, early-on. Raised as a cowkid on a ranch in northeastern Colorado, Diehl yearned for something more, something encompassing the truth of himself. He became a soldier. Served honorably in Iraq. Found precious love along the way. Yearned to return to Wyoming where his future awaited, where an unfinished reckoning beckoned.
Before he enlisted, Big Diehl lived in Laramie most of his life and had never really been anywhere except Colorado and Wyoming. His first name was actually Big – I guess his parents didn’t care enough to give him a real name. His dream was to move far away from the tin house in Laramie, being dirt poor, and leave his no-good father behind. He also wanted to do something noble with his life which he felt was worthless.
This story really moved me as Big grew up from a scared kid of 18 to a man of 24 who lived through some of the most terrifying moments in his life with one objective – to serve his country. In the book I relived September 11 when the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and other US monuments were destroyed by terrorists. What was amazing was that 8 years have gone by since September 11, 2001, and the hell that was and still is the Iraq war was so real I could taste it in Big Diehl.
The author George Seaton created characters that were three dimensional, the story was well plotted, and the 6 years Big was in the army just seemed to fly by. This story was one of the saddest but most compelling in the anthology because it was present day, but it was also very uplifting. I really liked the prose and dialogue in Big Diehl which were crisp and fresh and did a great job of illustrating life in the Forces. I was sorry when the story ended because I felt that there was so much more that Big could have accomplished, and you will fall in love with him as I did.
Because Big was gay, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was very much a part of his story, and the few liaisons that he had while he served were conducted off the base in secret. Although he railed against them personally he knew there was nothing he could do since regulations were the military, and sometimes you just have to play the hand you’re dealt.
Big Diehl is part of the Esprit de Corps anthology and the full review can be found here. Definitely recommended!
This is a wonderful anthology of the men who served their countries in four different periods of history from WW I to the present day and I think any reader who likes military stories, (and even if you don’t) , will want to get this book because all of the stories are so well written. The emotions are palpable and you will fall in love with the protagonists and secondary characters brought to life by these writers. Most anthologies can’t boast that every story is a “must read,” but this one can. Highly recommended.