Thursday, June 24, 2010

Joe's "Gay Reads" Recommendations, Part Two

Joe says: "Looking for a unique mystery? Try these books, the first two in a series starring an Istanbul drag queen by night and sleuth by day. Fascinating on many different levels, this is dishy fun!"

The Kiss Murder

The Number One Ladies' Detective Agencymeets Pedro Almodovar in this outrageous new series featuring an ultraglamorous sleuth

Bestsellers in Mehmet Murat Somer's home country of Turkey and set to take the world by storm, the arrival of the Hop-Çiki-Yaya mysteries is cause for excitement (and lip gloss!) here in the United States. A male computer technician by day and a transvestite hostess of Istanbul's most notorious nightclub by night, the unnamed heroine of The Kiss Murder is the most charming and hilarious sleuth to debut in recent memory. When Buse, one of the "girls"at her club, fears someone is after private letters from a former lover, she comes to her boss for help. The next day Buse is dead and our girl must find the murderers before they find her. Fortunately, she is well armed with beauty, wit, the wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, and expert Thai kickboxing skills. With a page-turning plot and an irresistibly charming protagonist, The Kiss Murder is sure to attract mystery lovers and nightlife mavens alike.

The Gigolo Murder

Istanbul's most fabulously flamboyant sleuth is back in her second hilarious adventure

With its exotic Istanbul setting and racy peeks into the city's nightlife, The Kiss Murder left readers eager for more of Mehmet Murat Somer's charmingly original heroine. Software programmer by day and drag-queen club owner by night, our girl is back again, just jilted and feeling so blue she's violet-until she meets the hunky, married lawyer, Haluk Perkedem. When their conversation is interrupted by a phone call delivering news that his brother-in-law has been arrested for the murder of a notorious gigolo, she decides to put her sleuthing instincts and Thai kickboxing skills to work unraveling the crime. Filled with witty banter and ominous intrigue, mystery fans of all persuasions will find The Gigolo Murder this season's hottest read.

Salvation Army
An autobiographical novel by turn naive and cunning, funny and moving, this most recent work by Moroccan expatriate Abdellah Taia is a major addition to the new French literature emerging from the North African Arabic diaspora. "Salvation Army" is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Taia's life with complete disclosure--from a childhood bound by family order and latent (homo)sexual tensions in the poor city of Sale, through a sexual awakening in Tangier charged by the young writer's attraction to his eldest brother, to a disappointing arrival in the Western world to study in Geneva in adulthood. In so doing, "Salvation Army" manages to burn through the author's first-person singularity to embody the complex melange of fear and desire projected by Arabs on Western culture. Recently hailed by his native country's press as "the first Moroccan to have the courage to publicly assert his difference," Taia, through his calmly transgressive work, has "outed" himself as "the only gay man" in a country whose theocratic law still declares homosexuality a crime. The persistence of prejudices on all sides of the Mediterranean and Atlantic makes the translation of Taia's work both a literary and political event.

Joe says: "A fascinating and short autobiographical novel about growing up gay in Morocco. Abdellah Taia grew up roughly the same time I did, and he came out of the closet at roughly the same time I did. And I thought I had a rough go of it. In the intervening years, I've been able to talk about it, able to move back to my hometown, to spend time with my family, to speak frankly with them. Taia has been unable to move home, has been unable to speak about it because it is still illegal in Morocco. How brave of him to decide to write about homosexuality in his home country. And how eloquent he writes about it. This story captures so well not only the gay experience, but the Arab experience in the Western world, and served as a good reminder to me of just how far we have gone, and how lucky we are."

He adds, "Another series worth reading, and one that seems a little forgotten, is the "Buddies
Cycle" from Ethan Mordden. Began in the late 1970's, these five books chronicle the lives of a group of friends living in New York. These books were written with a gay audience in mind, and speak most directly to that audience, although the portrait of these guys is much like any family I know, at its essence. Beginning with I've a Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore, continuing with Buddies, Everybody Loves You and Some Men Are Lookers. Years later we got another book to conclude the series. This one came out in 2005 and was entitled How's Your Romance? I would call this series required reading for the younger generation of gay folks out there... as this book chronicles the changing lives of gay men, from pre-Stonewall to the AIDS era and beyond."

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