Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

Publisher:          Firebrand Books

Jewelle Gomez’s book is considered a classic in lesbian literature and the nice thing about classics is that they can be discovered by other people long after they are published.  Gomez recently announced that she’s working on another volume of stories about Gilda, so reviewing the first book seems especially appropriate now.

The book opens when Gilda is a nameless slave running for her life in Louisiana in 1850.  She’s rescued by the original Gilda who takes her to New Orleans where she runs a brothel with an Indian woman named Bird.  Gilda and Bird take the girl under their wings, educate her and expose her to a multitude of experiences that change her from a slave into a confident woman.  Eventually it is revealed that Gilda and Bird are vampires and they offer the girl the chance at eternal life.  The original Gilda is tired of her existence and wants to let go of life, so she arranges for the girl to take her place and her name.  The book then propels the new Gilda through two centuries, ending in 2050.  During her travels she mingles with her kind and normal humans, witnessing the rise of African American culture, the civil rights movement and feminism.  She also deals with sexuality, racism and environmental issues.

Gomez created a different type of vampire, especially for the time when this book was written.  Most of these vampires don’t kill humans unless forced to do so and the act of taking blood is portrayed as a mutually beneficial exchange.  Gilda is taught to look into people’s thoughts and find something that is important to them; then she is to leave them with the belief that they can achieve it.  Gomez relies on some of the vampire myths, but the purpose of this book isn’t to be horror fiction.  The motif of the vampire gives her the ability to take her character through time and observe the changes that take place.

Gilda’s story is one of being the ultimate “outsider.”  As a black female lesbian vampire she’s about as outside as a character can be.  She lives in the times that are examined, but she’s also not part of those times.  It gives her a unique perspective as she examines humans in their development, especially the areas where they have failed to improve.  This is a conflicted character, but coming from four minorities makes this seem natural.  What she does do is gain strength over time and that reflects the changes that have occurred in American society. 

The most speculative chapter is the last one which takes Gilda into an almost apocalyptic 2050.  What is most interesting is that Gomez had to guess twenty years ago where the world would be in approximately sixty years due to environmental degradation.  What is sad is that, as the earth has moved closer to that date, her predictions have become more accurate.  Gilda ends the book as she started it, being hunted, but she also ends it with hope and love.

The Gilda Stories can appeal to a wide range of readers. The story moves along very smoothly and is very informative.  Vampire lovers, feminists, lesbians and African Americans will all find something in this book.  That’s why it’s a classic.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What Happened In Malinmore by Kate Sweeney

Publisher:     Intaglio Publications

After her last experience in Ireland, Kate Ryan wasn’t sure that she ever wanted to go there again.  She and her friends are drawn back when Kate is implicated in the murder of Dr. Rose Clancy, a woman she never met.  The woman’s lover, Maureen Costello, is a very insistent Irish police detective who first believes Kate is involved in the crime and then pressures Ryan into investigating what happened.  As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that there is a connection between Kate and the doctor and it’s not a pleasant one because it leads back to one of Kate’s old cases.  If a murder can become more sinister than the act itself, that’s what happens with this one as it becomes clear to Kate, Maggie and Aunt Hannah that there is more danger in this situation than they suspected.

Fans of the Kate Ryan series may be surprised at this fifth installment.  Although there are humorous scenes, the funny bumbling Kate of the past doesn’t appear here.  The overall feel of the story is darker than any of the previous books, which may be because the situation becomes serious very quickly.  It’s clear that a problem Kate has been dealing with for a while is becoming more dangerous as time passes. This book is also an obvious set up for the next story.  This is a Kate who finally has found the love she wants and understands how dangerous the future can be for both Maggie and her.  A sense of fear hangs over the women that hasn’t been there before.

This is still a well written book and probably a necessary one.  Sweeney has been hinting at a confrontation in the last couple of books, so it has to be resolved.  It’s a mystery in the sense that the reader will wonder where the blow is going to come from next and how Kate Ryan will deal with it.  It definitely sets you up to want to read the sixth volume in the series.  It will be interesting to see if Sweeney stays with this more serious Kate or returns to the funnier figure of the earlier books.

Monday, June 18, 2012

2012 Golden Crown Literary Society Award Winners

The GCLS gave it's annual awards Saturday, June 16.  This is the list of winners.

Debut Author Award

After the Fall by Robin Summers
Open Water by Pol Robinson
Waiting in the Wings by Melissa Brayden

Dramatic/General Fiction Award
Marching to a Different Accordion by Saxon Bennett
Maye's Request by Clifford Henderson
Shaken and Stirred by Joan Opyr

Historical Romance Award

Hidden Truths by Jae

Lesbian Erotica Award

A Ride to Remember and Other Erotic Tales
by Sacchi Green
The Collectors by Lesley Gowan (Anne Laughlin)

Mystery/Thriller Award
Beyond Instinct by Lynn Ames
Buyer's Remorse: Book 1 in the Public Eye Series by Lori Lake
Hell's Highway by Gerri Hill

Paranormal Romance Award

Before the Dawn by Kate Sweeney
Blood Hunt by L. L. Raand

Poetry Award

Head Off and Split by Nikki Finney
Things I Say To Pirates On Nights When I Miss You by Keely Hyslop

Romantic Suspense/Intrigue/Adventure Award

Dying To Live by Kim Baldwin & Xenia Alexiou
Nothing But The Truth by Carsen Taite
Tats by Layce Gardner

Short Stories/Essays/Collections (Non-Erotica) Award
When We Were Outlaws by Jeanne Cordova

Speculative Fiction Award

After The Fall by Robin Summers
The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer
When An Echo Returns by Linda Kay Silva

Traditional Contemporary Romance Award
96 Hours by Georgia Beers
Camptown Ladies by Mari San Giovanni
Waiting in the Wings by Melissa Brayden

Ann Bannon Award

Bingo Barge Murder by Jessie Chandler

Director's Award  -  Lori Lake

The Lee Lynch Classics Award - this is a new award created this year to honor books that were published before GCLS came into being.  The first winner is The Swashbuckler by Lee Lynch.

The Trailblazer Award is given to a person who has opened doors and furthered the cause of lesbian literature. It's the most important award the society gives. This year's recipient was  Marianne K. Martin.

Congratulations to everyone.