Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018



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Wingmen by Ensan Case; Cheyenne Publishing, $17.99

Whistle Pass by Kevad; Dreamspinner Press, $14.99

Eat Your Heart Out by Dayna Ingram; Lethe Press, $13

Heroic acts by gay men and lesbians transcend time and writing styles in three new paperback works of fiction.

Considered a gay From Here to Eternity when it was originally published in 1979, Ensan Case's World War II epic Wingmen offers a discreet romance full of more battle scenes than love scenes. Captain Jack Hardigan doesn't exactly understand why he feels differently about handsome young pilot Fred Trusteau until well into the novel. They each fool around with women, and prove themselves more than worthy in tense training and battle situations set in the Pacific. Both men do eventually fall in love and find some private R&R together, despite a suspicious fellow pilot's snooping.

After reading a reprinted paperback edition in the 1980s, I gave it to a closeted serviceman who at the time remarked on its accuracy in describing the tension of life aboard a battleship. Fans of war stories will prefer this tome, whose focus gets very specific with the details of flying planes and crashing them. Case's writing isn't the least bit "gay," with the serious tone of its older protagonist Hardigan. The book reads like postwar fiction of the 1950s, but with a discreet gay affair that does eventually inspire a late dramatic turn of events. The pre-Stonewall epilogue offers a pleasant yet too-short "happy ending" set in San Jose.

Feeling a bit noir-ish? Shifting from WWII to postwar paranoia, Kevad (aka David Kentner)'s Whistle Pass offers up a tough-punching, chain-smoking, square-jawed lug in the manly form of Charlie Harris. He's just shown up in a tiny railroad town after a cryptic telegram from a former war-era beau, Roger Black.

But upon arrival in the strange burg, Charlie discovers that his one-time lover is the town's mayor, whose wife may be trying to kill him. The town police aren't much friendlier, and Charlie ends up winning and losing a few violent attacks. Fortunately, Charlie gets a bit of help from the lithe Gabe Kasper, whose attraction to Charlie is quickly surmised by his coworkers and few friends who don't mind being close with one of the town "queers."

The crosses and double-crosses, perplexingly over a mere photo of two men kissing, provide plenty of action between Harris' too-frequent cigarette smoking. That's my only complaint, that the author captures the tobacco-infested 1950s a bit too well. His expansive descriptions of each light-up may be a sign of a writer either enjoying a smoke, or allowing his characters the indulgence after quitting himself.

For a cure for withdrawals of another addiction, say, zombie shows like The Walking Dead, author Dayna Ingram has penned a lighthearted comic and contemporary take on the zombie-killing genre with Eat Your Heart Out.

Devin, who understandably doesn't care for her uneventful job at a furniture store in a small Ohio town, perks up considerably when her favorite probably-lesbian action film star Renni Ramirez shows up at her store. Bearing a distinct resemblance to Lost actress Michelle Rodriguez (the book is dedicated to her), Devin nearly forgets about her girlfriend when the feisty star shows up while on a road trip.

But before Devin's dream scenario results in a star smooch session, a customer walks, or rather, slumps in, craving not sofas but human flesh. A manic retreat to the shop's storeroom ensues, with Ramirez conveniently proving that her action movie heroism is applicable in real, er, zombie fiction, life.

With a dry wit and a sense of the absurdity of the situation (zombies? In the middle of Ohio? Who would notice the difference?), author Ingram keeps the action brief and the tale short enough to avoid indulgence. It's a romp you can sink your teeth into.

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