"The Trouble with Hairy" by Hal Bodner

This isn’t an actual review, because I don’t do many reviews here as a rule. A lot of authors ask me to read their books and review them and there’s no way I could do all those reviews. There wouldn’t be enough time for me to write, and it would change the blog too much.

But I will comment in a general sense on books I love…and authors I respect. I wrote about Hal Bodner’s new book a week or so ago and wanted to follow up. The first book of Hal’s I read was “Bite Club.” I loved it for many reasons…the solid writing, the well developed characters, and the way the gay characters/situations are treated…and when Hal told me about “The Trouble with Hairy,” I couldn’t wait to see what he’d done this time.

The interesting thing about “Hairy” is that Hal self-pubbed this one on Amazon. I want to begin by stating for those who are looking for books self-pubbed that the quality of this book is as good as anything that would have come from a “traditional” publisher or small e-press. Hal is a well published author and he’s had more than one book published the traditional way. He’s not new to publishing or LGBT fiction. This time I noticed a few nice additions to “Hairy,” like a note to readers at the beginning. And a personal dedication page. I like reading these personal things in books. With this book from Hal, I had a feeling of intimacy I don’t see as often as I’d like. (Fanny Flagg does this a lot, with recipes and comments.) Hal’s voice, which is a strong voice in fiction, came through with absolute clarity. Maybe I’m carrying this too far, but I had the feeling Hal was doing what he always wanted to do and he knew what his readers would enjoy. And that’s a nice feeling!! It’s evident this book is all about the readers.

The storyline returns to WeHo, with returning characters Chris and Troy…and gay men are being murdered. Yes, it’s suspenseful and chilling at times. But it’s done with a sense of humor mingled with suspense…and there’s a werewolf. Other enjoyable characters are brought back, and some elements continue where they left off. But this time I found more character arcs…or rather in-depth development that should, indeed, happen in a sequel. I felt closer to them, if that’s even possible. Though it’s paranormal, there’s enough humor and wit to make you smile more than once. A few times I laughed out loud, as I tend to do when I’m reading anything from Hal…even his facebook posts are funny. There’s also a little bit of camp, and it’s the kind of camp I don’t see often enough either. For those who don’t know what “camp” is, here’s a link. And the pace moved quickly, which for me is an important element in any novel.

Becky, the WeHo coroner, is an interesting character:

Despite her ghoulish profession, or perhaps because of it,
Becky was always quick with a smile, a clever quip and a helping
hand in times of adversity. She was a favorite of the City Council
and adored by her staff and the members of the Sheriff’s
Department with whom she worked. Even West Hollywood’s
ineffective mayor, Daniel Eversleigh, looked upon Becky as he
would a favorite niece. She was also, to Delaney’s further irritation,one of the few people besides Clive himself who seemed to be able to actually get along with West Hollywood’s notoriously
cantankerous City Manager.

Hal writes the best detailed scenes/descriptions that help draw the reader into the story, and we and care (and fall in love with) the characters and settings as a result. I especially love old film star references. Here’s one good example of what I mean:

Gertie and Ruth lived in a small one bedroom apartment in the
converted old Charlie Chaplin Studios on Poinsettia Place. Each
unit was unique and, to most people, would be uninhabitable with
oddly slanting floors and windows and doors chosen for quirkiness
rather than functionality. In the women’s living room, the trunk of a huge avocado tree grew smack dab up through the middle and out
through the roof which Gertie had surrounded with a cunningly
constructed wooden bench adorned by Ruth’s needlepoint
cushions. Visitors found their home strange, but Gertie and Ruth
loved it.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good fiction, and to anyone who’s looking for a good read in LGBT fiction. No spoilers…but I really loved the ending most of all. It’s clearly fiction, yet authentic in a slightly larger than life way like all of Hal’s fiction. And I’ll be recommending this one to my partner, Tony, who happens to be the worst critic I know when it comes to gay fiction. I rarely recommend anything to him because he is so critical (He has what I call “Ivy League Syndrome”). But this time I know I’m safe.

4th of July and Apple Pie…

In honor of the 4th of July, here’s an excerpt from a new book I’m working on right now. It’s PG rated and slightly paranormal. But other than that, it’s as American as you get.

On Thursday morning, Sienna woke early and baked more apple pies in Grace’s kitchen. She normally only baked her pies once or twice a month, but her grandmother had called on Tuesday and said that she’d given most of the last apple pie to her friends at the nursing home and she was dying for another. And Sienna knew that Jaydin needed one of her pies. He’d been through a lot of stress in only a few days, and the pie, she knew, would ease his nerves and help him sleep at night. She also wanted to bake one for Avenir. He hadn’t had one of her pies yet, and she thought it would be a nice gesture.
This time she added a few extra details to the pies, too. For some reason, whenever she added these details, the healing powers of the pies intensified. She cut the apples smaller and added a hint of lemon peel. Instead of flower as a thickener, she used a special brand of tapioca that she had to go all the way to Bangor to buy. They sold it at a small gourmet shop, where they also sold other herbs and remedies for healing. The apples had to come from an orchard that was located twenty miles from town, and she had to sort through them to be sure they were all the exact same size. But the two special ingredients that made these pies have stronger healing powers than her regular pies, she thought, were the butter and pastry.
The butter for the pastry and the pie filling had to be made by hand. Not with an electric blender or a food processor. She had to stir and whip fresh cream herself, thinking positive, healing thoughts with each turn of the wire whisk. And she had to add a pinch of sea salt and fold it in gently. Table salt wouldn’t do. There was something about the sea salt that created healing energy.
When the butter was whipped, she chilled it for an hour. And when it was cold, she used her fingers to mix the flour and cold butter together until the mixture formed bit-sized rounds that resembled English peas. Then she stirred in ice cold water until the dough formed. She did this all by hand, and barely worked the dough. The more you worked it, the tougher it became. And the tougher it became the less healing powers it had.
Then she filled each pie shell with a huge mound of sweet, apple filling and topped the mounds with globs of fresh butter, and after that, she went to work on the top layer of crust. The way the pie looked had nothing to do with the healing powers it contained. But she figured that as long as she’d worked so hard on the ingredients, the outside should look fantastic, too. Sometimes she crimped the edges with her fingers, and sometimes she pressed them together with a three-pronged fork.
But on that Thursday, she decided to make the edges of the pies look like the jagged, pointy cliffs of the Maine coastline. So she cut the edges, with a scissor, into perfect points that resembled arrowheads and folded every other one back. Then she brushed the pies with iced cold cream, secured the folded points to make sure they wouldn’t rise, and put them into the oven to bake. She never used an egg wash; it made the pies look store bought and she wanted them to look homemade and simple.