Fault Lines


Title: Fault Lines
Author: Shane K. Morton
Publisher: I.M. Limited
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary
Page Count: 238
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 0 flame out of 5
Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Blurb:

Drag goddess, Ursula Moolay, left Kentucky as fast as her size twelve pumps could carry her and has created a new life for herself in Los Angeles. Here, she has found herself surrounded by a group of people with their own secrets and lies:

A daytime Soap stud hiding in the Hollywood closet.

A reality television producer prepared to destroy his star.

An aging showgirl- the complex’s mother hen, fighting to survive.

A married male escort desperately hiding his profession from his pregnant wife.

And finally, Ursula, pulled into a terrifying ordeal of drugs, murder, and deception as she grapples with her own identity.

Enter the world of red carpet meltdowns, sex tapes, shopping with drag queens, earthquakes, mortgages and murder.

Can they survive or will they each fall into the cracks of LA’s fault lines?


We’re in L.A. (West Hollywood, to be more precise). Drag queen Ursula Mooley discovers one of her patrons, Eric, used her credit to buy a flat in a condo. Now, he’s dead, and she owns the place. When she moves in, she meets and immediately befriends her new neighbours: daytime soap-star Harrison and his boyfriend Cole, a Reality TV producer; wannabe actress Amber and her husband, the dashing construction worker Tommy; Margaret and her lawyer girlfriend Bea; and former stripper Isabel, who’s living in the condo with her husband. The book centres on the friendship between these guys and the issues they have (and solve). Because they do have issues—brace yourself.

Let’s proceed character by character. Ursula: She finds a stash of heroine and a bundle of dollars sleazy Eric has hidden in the flat before his untimely demise. Panicked she informs her former boyfriend Kris, who happens to work for the LAPD (drug division, as luck would have it). He a) promises to investigate and b) seizes the occasion to firmly establish himself in Ursula’s love life. Harrison: For career-reasons he’s officially in the closet (Hollywood’s best/worst kept secret, as everybody seems to know he’s gay). At a red-carpet event he finally comes out, much to his hitherto secret (or not so secret) boyfriend’s delight. How will his career evolve from now on? Cole: With his TV show “Date Tad”, he’s turned a young man (Tad) into a celebrity so full of himself the guy not only shags half of the women in town but also films their frolicking. When Cole lays hands on the recordings, he finally gets the opportunity to destroy the man he’s learned to loathe. But unforeseeable things happen and change the course of events. Amber: She finds out she’s pregnant and worries about her husband’s reaction. How will they be able to afford being parents? Tommy: He suffers from depression, and his employer’s wife blackmails him into being a male prostitute she caters to rich and famous women. What if his wife finds out? Isabel: She discovers she has breast cancer. Luckily, there are her friends at the condo who help her cope with chemotherapy and the subsequent surgery. Margaret: Very fickle job-wise, she’s in search of herself. That’s when Isabel suggests she turn her hobby meditations into a living.

As issues go, we get quite a handful. But with the strong bonds these guys create, the outlined story-line could be a promising start for an interesting novel. I mean, you get all the ingredients for drama, for conflict, for suspense, plus the rekindling of an old romance (between Ursula and Kris). The story is cut down to perfectly sized scenes, so some thought has been given to tackling the problem. But, alas, the remaining flaws of the book are too manifold, I’m afraid, to make for a pleasant read. First of all, the way the story is told. You’ve heard of the #1 writing advice “Show, don’t tell”? As an example, you wouldn’t say “it’s hot”, but rather describe how thirsty the plants look or how parched your mouth is. Well, very little is shown in this book, too many aspects are simply told. You learn about goings-on and emotions, alright; but it sometimes reads like a shopping list, and you don’t really get the chance to relate to any of it. Other things remain strangely hazy and vague. Take Ursula, for instance (a character I rather liked, by the way). I was unable to form a picture of her in my mind. She’s comfortable with who she is, so I didn’t get it why she’d want to “go all the way” (you know, undergo hormone therapy and surgery). Moreover, the way she’s described in the book, when people see her, they see a stunningly beautiful woman. But she’s supposed to be drag queen, right? Drag queens tend to be “more” than women in the sense that they tend to be so outrageously, exageratedly female no one could mistake them for “the real thing”. That’s what makes a drag queen a drag queen vs. a transgender or transsexual person. I don’t mention this for daft categorization purposes (I don’t really care for filing people away in labelled drawers), but as a reader, I need to be able to “see” the characters in order to be touched by who they are and what they do.

As characters go, some of those in the book are outright annoying. Amber, for instance, is constantly going on about how she and her husband Tommy don’t have much money, but she doesn’t do a damn thing to go earn some bucks. She’s a wannabe actress, but not once do we get to see her at an audition. How come they own a flat in a condo described as rather upscale, anyway? OK, I’m European, and over here little income means we’d rather rent a little place than pass down mortgages to the next generation, so maybe it’s just one of those specific US-things going on. Another annoying detail: all the people living in the condo are supposed to be friends and open-minded; why on earth would everyone always flippantly call Harrison and Cole “the gays” (even the Lesbian couple)? Is this meant to be funny or charming?

Last but certainly not least: editing is a complete shambles. There are so many hyphens missing I lost count (take the blurb, for example: “red carpet meltdown” should be “red-carpet meltdown). The punctuation as a whole… I mean, commas, even points and semicolons are thrown in seemingly helter-skelter. For heaven’s sake, there is no comma after the word “but”, even if you place it at the beginning of a sentence! Do it for “however”, but please leave “but” alone. Another thing: the verb “may” does have a very simple past-tense form—“might”! It’s there, free to use, so please use it when you write in past tense. I even glimpsed some “their”—“there”—”they’re” errors. And some occurrences of “too” where the second “o” was missing. Amazing why these things would be so difficult for native speakers when they feel so obvious to non-native speakers. All in all, I had to be very patient in order to finish the book. As I make it a point of honour to only review books I’ve read from the first to the last page, I struggled through. And was frustrated because the raw material for a good book was there. Unfortunately, it remained too raw for my taste.


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Advanced Review Copy

Galley copy of Fault Lines provided by the author in exchange of an honest review.

Author

Dieter, born and raised in Austria, studied Political Sciences in Vienna in the early 90s. He's living in Paris, France, with his boyfriend and working as a graphic designer. In his spare time, he loves to write, read, cook, take photos, and travel as often as possible. He’s already published two short-story collections as well as four poetry collections. His first murder mystery novel “The Stuffed Coffin” featuring Damien Drechsler and the dashing Greek student Nikos has been released on Jan. 6, 2019, and is available in English, French, and German. By the way, the French version "Le cercueil farci" has won the prestigious Prix du roman gay 2019 in the category murder mystery. Dieter runs a gay book reviews site in French and is also writing reviews for Gay Book Reviews under the pseudonym of ParisDude.
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