Title: Coming out in Cooper’s Crossing
Author: Jayne DeMarco
Cover Artist: Jade
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: contemporary/ recent history m/m
Length: Novella (101 pdf pages)
Rating: 5+ out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: Brokeback Mountain meets Paul Hogan indeed — only with much less drama, and the guys are waaaay cuter than Crocodile Dundee.
The Blurb: Sam grew up gay in a flyspeck town in rural Australia — his heroes are two legendary gay bushrangers, and then a gorgeous hunk arrives on a truck called “Stand and Deliver” … nothing could prepare Sam for the reality of Steve Ryan! Like a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Brokeback Mountain — hilarious, heartwarming, a tale you’ll never forget.
The Review: It’s the late 60’s, and fifteen – year-old Sam is the only gay kid in Cooper’s Crossing. At first, he’s had a hard time figuring out how he was different from other boys his age, until he came upon the local legend about young lad Will Fairchild who followed his lover Ben Garvey out into bushranger country a century ago. However, Sam is aware that being a “poofter” isn’t exactly looked upon as desirable, since the stories about Will and Ben are always told in hushed tones, and asking adults about “blokes-with blokes” only ever brought him a clout round the ear anyway. So Sam makes sure nobody knows he’s not into “sheilas”.
Yet, Sam is lucky enough that his straight school crush, Joey, is so pent up on hormones that he doesn’t mind fooling around with his poofter best friend. When Joey leaves Cooper’s Crossing for good, he consoles Sam by pointing him to another boy, Steven, who passes through Cooper’s on a regular basis as a co-driver in his uncle’s truck. According to Joey, sixteen-year-old Steven might be just the thing Sam needs. And boy, is he ever! His truck alone leaves an impression with Sam, sporting the picture of a bushranger of all things, and Steven strikes Sam as just drop-dead gorgeous and just like he has always pictured a gay man. One look at Steven, and Sam is lost. So is Steven, obviously, and for the next few years, Sam becomes Steven’s “Navy wife”, dropping everything and rushing to meet Steven as soon as “Stand and Deliver” rolls into town.
Their comfortable routine is on the rocks when Steven’s uncle falls ill with a heart attack just shortly before Steven is ready to take over the truck. Steven can’t do all the driving on his own. But the replacement driver, Reg, doesn’t mind Sam coming along with them as a third pair of hands, helping out and learning the trade, so Steven can take over when his uncle is back. Reg doesn’t mind Sam’s and Steven’s special kind of friendship either. Unfortunately, this results in Reg blabbering about them, and suddenly Sam finds himself looked at askance by people he’s known for all his life, including his family, as he’s outed in his hometown. But does this really matter? As Sam takes a new look at his hometown, he suddenly realizes that the folklore about Will Fairchild and his bushranger lover might be not so far away from his own life as he’d thought.
A big part of this story’s charm lays in its Aussi-slang laced narrative. Sam tells his story with a kind of dry humor and down to earth serenity that immediately cast a spell on me. His voice made me fall into the groove of his tale and transported me smack in the middle of the Australian outback. Just like Sam himself is, the people Sam talks about are so real as to be almost tangible. Here’s one example of his voice:
… Marureen Stacy was behind the bar, pulling pints, four nights a week. There’s a portrait of her up behind the bar to this day, wearing a low-cut red frock and looking like a couple of sofa cushions halfstuffed into a duffel bag. It was a wonder she could stand up straight with her centre of gravity too high and all off-balance. (Try wearing your rucksack backwards, see what I mean.)…
Sam and Steven have an easygoing way of putting up with whatever life throws into their way, some kind of “I get there when I get there” attitude that has always struck me as significant for the people who live the hard life in the Australian outback. It doesn’t matter to either of them that they can’t be together more than a few times a month, and that they have to meet in the woods or in the Semi’s sleeper cab. They seize any opportunity and make the best of it, trusting it’s going to work out, if not this way, then another.
This isn’t a romance in the classical sense, more of a love story or better, the story of Sam falling in love. Steven and Sam don’t even meet for the first third of the book, and they aren’t often together on-page (there’s no on-page-sex in here, btw, in case you were wondering) Steve is seen only through Sam’s eyes, thought about, thought of, mulled over, and yet there’s no doubt left that they are mutually serious about each other. Particularly delivered in Sam’s distinctive voice, I found this very skillfully done.
All in all, this cute little story was simply a joy to read. Sam’s tale is damn funny and real and as honest as they come, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as thoroughly as I did. Highly recommended.