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Archive for November, 2007

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Terence from In the Blood, by Rick R. Reed

Terence is not expecting me when I drop by at dusk. The house where he and Edward live on Chicago’s Sheridan Road appears deserted, ghostly really, so I’m sure neither of them is expecting visitors.

But it’s dusk and I want to see Terence, catch him before he goes out for the night (vampires have such predictable lives!). It’s been so long since we’ve chatted and I wanted to be sure he isn’t too cross with me about how I represented him in my novel In the Blood. Not that I think I represented him unfairly (hey, when you’re gorgeous, heartless, and ruthless, there’s little a writer can do to mask it).

I knock and wait. The house’s windows, black, make me think of empty eye sockets. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think this house had stood empty for decades. I glance across at Lake Michigan, which looks angry, flinging itself at the boulders along the shores. I do not even hear the door opening.

“Oh my! Look what we have here! It’s the little writer boy come to call. The one who thinks he knows all about us.”

The voice chills me; it’s deep, resonant, and has a way of penetrating more deeply than a human voice. Almost as if a cold hand grasped my shoulder and forced me around, I turn. Terence stands before me, in all his glory: alabaster skin, long blond hair, muscles sheathed in pewter latex and black leather. He is like a fetishist’s dream and a fundamentalist’s nightmare. And he actually is both of those things. He is, quite simply, stunning. And I, the “writer boy” can barely think of a word to say. Terence’s gaze has a way of doing that.

“Hello, Terence. I thought I’d stop by, see how you were.”

“Oh, concerned now, are we? After you exposed me to the world?” Terence steps back and I follow him inside the cavernous space. They have knocked down walls to make room for their eclectic and voluminous art collection.

He doesn’t offer me a seat and I stand, staring up at him. “Oh come on, my dear. You live for such exposure.”

Terence gives his best impression of a pout and I want to laugh, but I don’t. “Not when you make me look so horrible.”

I shake my head. “I was just reporting what you did. I’m not the one that killed the old homeless man while he was sleeping, or dragged the schoolgirl back to my lair and fed on her for days.”

“Oh hush! Just because you shop at a grocery and I do my shopping al fresco doesn’t mean we’re any different.” He smiles hugely. “We all have to eat.”

“I suppose. But do you know what? I wanted to tell you this. I thought you might be pleased.”

Terence cocks his head. “What? The only thing I’d be pleased with is opening up that pretty little throat you’ve got there. But they’d notice you missing too soon and our connection would lead them here.”

“Remember that. No, what I wanted to tell you is that many people who have read about you thought you were gorgeous and extremely sexy. More than any other character, women and men alike wanted a taste of Terence.”

For once, a glimmer of a real, human smile whispers across Terence’s features. I can tell he’s genuinely pleased. I know, that for Terence, it’s all about Terence. “Really?”

“Yes. They all want to be your next victims. They think it would be achingly romantic.”

“Hmph. They’ve got the aching part right.” He grins and then grabs me, inspired. “Tell me where I can find some of them.”

I slowly shake my head. “Don’t you know I never reveal my sources?”

Terence smirks. “Always with the conscience! Why don’t you give it up to me and become one of us?”

“What? And lose my ability to put fiends like you on paper? No way.”

“Well, if that’s how you feel, you should know that I have better things to do now that it’s gotten dark outside. I’ll thank you to be on your way. Lovely chatting with you.”

I turn at the door. “Try to pick on someone your own size tonight. Maybe someone just as heartless.”

Terence winks at me. “You’re no fun.” He waves his hand in my direction. “Off with you now.”

Available at Amazon, here.

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Interviews with Oscar Wilde

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Speaking of interviews, I was just Googling for Oscar Wilde and found a variety of interviews ranging from real interviews given by him (available on subscription only), to interviews with those who played him, to interviews with fictionalized versions of him. This, by Mark Simpson gave me a laugh and also made me pause for thought.

“Greek to Me”

But I think I agreed more with Stephen Fry’s interview on ‘mini reviews’ or Salon Entertainment. I wonder if Wilde would have been pleased to know that he turned even his life into art; perhaps his greatest work of art? Despite what Mark Simpson says, I can’t help feeling that he would.

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AN INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE

 

Marcus Verano talks to J.P. Bowie, author of My Vampire and I

 

 

 

The home of Marcus Lucius Verano and his lover Roger Folsom, is quite simply, one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen in my life. Set high up in the Hollywood Hills, complete with a breathtaking nighttime view of Los Angeles, it is the perfect partnership of wealth and good taste.

 

Something like the man himself…

 

Marcus greeted me at the door, his magnificent presence and killer smile entrancing me immediately. Wearing a black, raw silk shirt, black jeans and cowboy boots, he is the epitome of your classically handsome vampire. He is also the perfect host. A firm handshake, and then a gentle pressure on my shoulder as he guided me across the impressive foyer into the immense living room, beautifully decorated with priceless art deco furniture and objets d’art. I had seen this room many times in my mind’s eye, but its reality was even more stunning than I had imagined.

 

“Thank you, Marcus,” I said as he led me to the bar by the immense river stone fireplace. “Thank you for allowing this interview to take place in your home.”

 

His smile made me weak at the knees. “How could I refuse you, J.P.? After all, without you I would not exist – nor would I live in this wonderful home, surrounded by all this opulence. Would you care for some wine?”

 

“Whatever you’re having,” I replied. “Roger’s not home?”

 

“No. He went to the movies with Ron and Micah.”

 

“A horror movie no doubt.”

 

“Correct. I’m afraid I have not the patience to sit through these dreary representations of things supernatural.”

 

“Well, you’ve seen enough of that in your own lifetime.”

 

He passed me a crystal glass filled with a dark red liquid. “Salud,” he said softly, then indicated that I should sit in one of the armchairs by the fireplace. As we both settled into the cushioned comfort of the antique chairs I asked; “Now that you’ve averted yet another crisis, are you finding your leisure time rewarding?”

 

“Extremely – thank you for giving me a respite between fighting off the bad guys, and rescuing my friends from the Dark Forces.”

 

“Wait – you’re talking about the second installment of My Vampire and I, aren’t you?”

 

“Oh, sorry – you mean I shouldn’t mention that yet?”

 

“No, that’s OK. Shameless self-promotion is part of the author’s game.” I took a sip of my wine. “Mmm, delicious…. So, do you feel that vampires generally get a raw deal in movies and literature?”

 

“Absolutely.” His emerald green eyes shone with intensity as he leaned forward in his chair and fixed me with a look that was mesmerizing – and extremely sexy. “We’re either portrayed as bloodthirsty soulless monsters, or weak as water romantic ninnies. I pride myself on the fact that I am neither of those types.”

 

“You are definitely not soulless, nor weak.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“However, I do see you as quite the romantic – and there is the matter of the blood…”

 

“Mmm…the blood is the life, to quote Mr. Stoker.” His smile was a trifle rueful. “I am afraid there is nothing I can do about that side of me.”

 

“You have lived a long time…”

 

“Eighteen hundred years – and counting…”

 

“Yet you look amazing.”

 

“Thank you, again.” His smile was wide enough for me to see the tip of his fangs.

 

“Do you have any regrets, Marcus?” I asked, clearing my throat.

 

“A few… For a long time I regretted that I could not save my lover Thomas from the curse the Comte d’Arcy inflicted upon him. But after what he tried to do to Roger, my main regret was that I could not punish him for it.”

 

“He’s still on the loose?”

 

“He’s somewhere out there.”

 

“And of being a vampire – do you regret that?”

 

“I’ve had a long time to come to terms with my fate. In the beginning, of course, not knowing quite what had happened to me, it was traumatic, to say the least. That is why when I became fully attuned and confident of my supernatural prowess, I decided to befriend and mentor those who may have been suddenly and abruptly changed without their consent. ” He smiled again. “And, of course, since meeting Roger, my life has become a deal more pleasant – rowdy, but pleasant.”

 

“How is Roger?”

 

“Very well, thank you for asking. He still has problems adjusting to his newfound strength and abilities, but all-in-all I would say he has coped admirably since his change. His main problem is that he tries to do too much at once. He is enthusiastic in everything…”

 

“Everything?”

 

“Everything…and that’s all I’m saying on that subject.”

 

We chuckled together. “Well,” I said, “thanks again for the interview – and the wine.”

 

“It has been a pleasure…”

 

He rose and offered me his hand, which, of course, I took willingly. He drew me into his arms for a hug, his lips touching my cheek. I gave an involuntary shiver. I’d often wondered what a vampire’s kiss would feel like. It was…merely sensational.

 

As I pressed myself to the solid wall of his muscled torso, I felt myself envying Roger’s place in Marcus’ life. Of course, I thought, I could always write him out…

 

“Please don’t do that,” Marcus murmured.

 

Drat! Of course, he could read my mind.

 

“Sorry.” I pulled back and gave him a weak smile. “I’d better go – I have another story to write!”

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Mother Clap’s Molly House

Textbook: Mother Clap’s Molly House, (The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830) by Rictor Norton

First published in 1992 by GMP Books. A Second, Revised and Enlarged edition published in October 2006 by Chalfont Press (Tempus Publishing, UK).

Available through Amazon, or via Rictor Norton’s site here: http://www.infopt.demon.co.uk/molly.htm

which is a great place to go for a more detailed run down of the contents. It’s also a fascinating site in itself, where you can find essays on all sorts of queer issues from the homosexual pastoral tradition to bawdy limericks.

Table of Contents

Introduction

1. The Renaissance Background

2. The Birth of the Subculture

3. Mother Clap’s Molly House

4. The Sodomites’ Walk in Moorfields

5. Maiden Names and Little Sports

6. Caterwauling

7. Popular Rage

8. Blackmail

9. The Third Sex

10. The Warden of Wadham

11. The Case of Captain Jones
12. The Macaroni Club

13. The Vere Street Coterie

14. A Child of Peculiar Providence

15. Men of Rank and Fortune

16. Tommies and the Game of Flats

Review:

Basically, for anyone interested in what it was like to be gay during the 18th and early 19th Century, this book is a must. By combing through records of criminal prosecutions for buggery, and the documents kept by the Societies which persecuted gay men, Rictor Norton has amassed an enormous wealth of evidence about a heretofore unknown subculture. He’s able to prove that our own century was not the first to have cruising grounds, gay bars and even a sense of gay pride. On the contrary, our own views on homosexuality and our own modern gay culture have their roots in the culture which came to light in the 18th Century.

I say ‘came to light’ because as the book shows, it’s entirely possible that this gay subculture had already evolved by the 17th Century. The first chapter of the book describes King James Ist’s court, in which the King’s love for George Villiers made the court a relatively tolerant place for gay relationships to flourish.

Norton holds that the specific subculture we see in the 18th Century did not spring to life in that century, but was merely revealed as a result of the purges organized by the newly formed Societies for the Reformation of Manners. These societies organized ordinary people to shop their neighbours for immoral behaviour, and as a result an awful lot of gay men were prosecuted for buggery. With the result that there were a lot of executions, but also that for the first time we have documented existence not just of one or two isolated individuals but of a whole culture of homosexuality.

In successive chapters, Norton explores some of the plays that show the playwright’s knowledge of this culture; the locations of the cruising grounds; the most famous gay bars (or Molly Houses). Incidentally, I was amused and a little relieved to find out that Mother Clap’s molly house was so called because it was run by a gay-friendly lady called Margaret Clap, and not because that was what you could expect to acquire there!

Norton also covers the molly’s slang, some of their stranger rituals – like the practice of having pretend marriages, and sometimes even pretend childbirth. We’re introduced to an enormous variety of characters, from blackmailers to Dukes. I have to admit my heart was warmed to read of the butcher ‘princess Seraphina’, who borrowed the clothes of his female neighbours and was obviously treated as one of the girls by the neighbourhood. It was also good to read of Reverend John Church, the ‘child of peculiar Providence’, who as a gay priest had worked out a theology of God’s love long before our own time, and officiated at some of the marriages at The Swan molly house.

Less happy, however, are Norton’s accounts of so many trials and executions, and the enormous hatred of the general public for the mollies. Such hatred that even those who were only sentenced to the pillory often barely made it out alive.

There is also a very interesting final chapter on Tommies or Lesbians – Norton is able to show that the word ‘lesbian’ was already in use in its modern sense at this time.

The strength of this book is its reliance on primary sources, so that the reader almost feels she is meeting the people described and participating in their tumultuous, dangerous, but ultimately surprisingly positive lives. They seem to have been, despite the level of hatred and persecution surrounding them, confident, unashamed and well able to justify themselves to themselves. The sense of positive, courageous joy in life is a welcome antidote to the statistics of trials and persecution. I came away impressed by their resilience and convinced that it was not necessarily all doom and gloom, after all, being a gay man in the 18th Century.

The weakness of the book, I think, also comes from its reliance on primary sources. There is a sense that although we’re meeting a number of fascinating individuals, the writer hasn’t managed to synthesize this information into very much of a larger picture. There was a feeling of listening to repeated anecdotes, and by the end I yearned for some sort of pulling together of the evidence into a summary.

That didn’t happen. I didn’t get any sense that an argument was being made, or a logical plan was being followed through the sequence of chapters. There’s a sense in which this is simply a disorganized dumping of information on the reader. But really, it’s such interesting information, and so lightly and amusingly told, that asking for more would be grasping. A must have book for anyone writing m/m historical fiction from the late 17th Century to the early 19th.

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Dean from ‘Snow Angel’

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I’m surprised to see the garage looking so empty, and feeling so cold, so… hostile almost.

“It’s not always like this.” Dean Chapman’s voice contains deep notes, but he sounds almost shy. He’s slouched against one of the work beaches, legs crossed at the ankles, arms folded across his chest. His posture is relaxed, yet slightly defensive. A shimmering image in the corner of my eye distracts me. The Jaguar XK150 appears as a ghost-like vision and then materialises. The manifestation reminds me that in the world of imagination anything can happen. The vehicle’s beautiful blue bodywork matches the colour of Dean’s amazing eyes. He grins sheepishly at me. “What can I say? It’s my favourite.”

“I know. No one knows you better than I do. I even know why you agreed to meet me here.” I look around. “This is your place, your sanctuary.”

“You took that away from me.”

“True, but it suited my purpose. I needed to crack that shell of yours, shake up your composure.” He replies with what sounds like a non-committal grunt. “I invented you. Even your job I chose carefully. Working in your father’s garage servicing vintage cars, it’s a masculine persona. This was always intended to be your space.”

“So you could attack me even where I feel most confident. I get it. Why… Why have me write that type of book, though?”

“I researched. Almost everyone has some indication of sexual preference in early life.”

Those blue eyes flash towards me and the light catches them, almost making them glitter. For a moment, I wonder if Dean is angry. Then his expression changes and he looks almost embarrassed. “Ah…” He makes that single sound contain a world of meaning.

“Shall we take it then that now you’ve committed yourself to a gay relationship that you no longer feel the need to explore this through your writing?”

There’s no immediate response to this. Dean stands there blinking as though he’s a small animal caught in a headlight and, considering the size of him, that’s some analogy. I decide to take pity on him. “The reason I’ve called you here is that a reviewer said she had a problem with your refusal to admit to your sexuality. I don’t feel it’s that simple. Do you?”

Dean sighs, lowers his arms from that defensive posture and grips the workbench. I’m a little closer to him now and suddenly the small space feels rather more intimate. “Look, I’m tired of trying to explain who I am, of trying to justify how I feel.”

“It’s not so much that I think anyone wants you to justify yourself, but that they like you even though you can be irritating. They truly want to understand you. You’re not the typical hero in a romance story.”

“You mean I’m human?”

I can’t help it. He makes me smile. “Hmm… the flawed handsome hero.” I hesitate at the risk of inflating his ego. “You’re attractive, it’s true, but that’s not why the readers love you. There’s a depth to you that’s almost tantalising because you keep it hidden so much of the time.” The expected grin materalises.

“I admit to being flawed. People who aren’t are…” He stops, then laughs. “I was going to say they’re boring, but it’s not true. I mean, take Jay. He’s so damn perfect and he’s not boring.”

“You really believe that? That Jay’s perfect?”

“Sure. Don’t you see him that way?”

“Some have said that he seems a little too vulnerable at times, especially where you’re concerned. Some people would see that as being weak.” In response, Dean says nothing, just widens his eyes and raises an eyebrow. He almost makes me blush. “Okay, you and I know different. Jay’s amazingly strong and determined.”

“Absolutely. I…” Dean hesitates, as though he’s just realised what he’s about to say and then it all comes out in a rush, almost as though if he doesn’t get the words out in a hurry he won’t say them. “Jay’s a lovely person. He’s much better than I could ever hope to be. He’s more forgiving, more loving, more open emotionally.”

“Some would say that kind of personality is more vulnerable, more likely to get hurt, especially in matters of love.”

Dean shrugs. “Maybe. But he’s more willing to risk his heart so maybe that means he’s more likely to find love. Some people don’t even want to try. Not truly.”

“Is that what you were doing? Having casual sex in order to protect your heart?”

Dean makes a derisory sound in his throat. “Hell no. Look, I know what you’re getting at.” He stretches, the very sturdy bench creaks, and I have to stop my gaze from doing too much wandering. Many women must be crying into their pillows to lose this one to the other side. “I just like sex. I’ve known men into each other. Some said they weren’t gay either.” He stands up and I almost step back. Despite his size, I have to remember that Dean isn’t truly aggressive. If I step back, I’ll only upset him. “Let’s cut to the chase. You want to know what I think about my sexuality.”

“Not I, but…”

“The readers. Yeah, I get it.” He leans back and his jeans strain at the seams. He has no reason that I can see to be embarrassed. “I’ve slept around. I’m not going to lie about that. Women…” It’s my turn to raise an eyebrow. “I’ve been with some attractive and not so attractive women.”

I’ve a feeling he altered the sentence. I roll my eyes. “Save us. No wonder you ruffle so many feathers.”

He smirks. “I’m not pretending to be anything other than I am. I like sex and if I met a woman who didn’t make me vomit and she wanted sex, then hey, I was all for it, but…” He shrugs. “Guys can be gentle yet so raw at the same time.”

“Maybe you’ve just dated the wrong women or maybe an early girlfriend was an over the top role-model.” He grins. We both know whom I mean.

“Maybe, but hell, some of my mates are married, they’ve got kids, and their wives won’t go down on them.”

“You think women never complain of the same thing?”

He looks surprised, then grins. “Have to say never given that a whole load of thought and it was never a problem for me.”

I’m seeing way too much of those white teeth. I shake my head at him. “You’re incorrigible.”

“No. I’m just me. That’s the whole point. Take me or leave me. I guess when you get down to it good sex is good sex.”

“Then why don’t you at least claim to be bisexual?”

He’s silent for a moment as though seriously thinking about it, or trying to find the best way to explain. “I’ve had one or two girlfriends who experimented. I’m cool about women with women.”

“Most men seem to be, and I’d bet you’d ask them for details?”

“What man wouldn’t?”

“And there we have our double standard.”

“Of course. Anyway, point being one experience does not necessarily make you gay.”

“But this is no longer just one experience. It’s a long-lasting relationship. Shouldn’t that dictate what you are? If you still feel attracted to women how will you deal with that desire?”

“If you’re asking if that attraction is ever going to get the better of me, I don’t believe so. I don’t need to look elsewhere for great sex and I’ve too much to lose. I’m lucky that someone like Jay loves me. I’m not going to jeopardise that and I’d rather… I’d rather he hurt me than I hurt him that way.”

“You make it sound as though you think you deserve it, to be hurt.”

He’s silent a moment, then says, “No. I wouldn’t say that, but I would deserve it more than he does. Bottom line, I love him.”

“Doesn’t who you love dictate what you are? If you love Jay, doesn’t that make you gay?”

Dean looks uneasy but it’s more as if he’s frustrated by a lack of personal understanding. “Two guys, two girls, a mixed orgy, that’s just sex. It doesn’t matter what I’m watching, but if I’m gay doesn’t that mean that I should be able to contemplate sex with other men? Watching is one thing. Doing is something else. I’m confused. Damn!” He rubs his hands over his face. His eyes look slightly wild. I can feel his confusion and frustration, and I feel sorry for him. “I don’t know that I want a tag placed on me. If loving one man makes you gay then I’m gay, but I still like women and don’t want any other man, ever, so how can you call me gay or bisexual?” Clearly, he’s given the question some thought. “I can’t help thinking if we didn’t use all these little labels, if no one blinked an eye or asked questions, well, wouldn’t that make things like same sex marriages easier?”

“Marriage?” I can see Dean struggling not to smile, but eventually the corners of his mouth curl up. He shrugs.

“Let’s just call it a possibility.”

“A possibility?”

“Yeah, sure. Why not?” He shrugs again. “After all, there are those who would still like to deny someone like me could jump the fence. If someone like me, an arrogant, womanising, cocky sod can get in touch with his feminine side, I guess anything’s possible.”

“You’re never going to change, are you?”

Dean laughs. “What for? Jay loves me just as I am. If it’s good enough for him, it should be good enough for anybody. Sorry, Sharon. What you see is what you get. If people don’t like that to hell with them.”

“You could just say you’re gay and make everyone happy.”

That blue stare can be so unnerving at times. “I could, but why should I? I could say what everyone wants to hear, but I won’t lie to Jay. I’m not perfect but the only important thing is what Jay and I think and if I slip into one lie, then maybe I’ll slip into another. I don’t know if I’m gay and until that changes, or they come up with some other neat little label that fits, I won’t say it just to please people who aren’t important to me. I don’t know that I’m gay, but I still love Jay.” He looks contemplative suddenly. “In some ways, I can’t help thinking that means more to him, that I love him despite all the reasons I can think of not to. My being honest with Jay, that’s more important than trying to fit into some neat little box to please other people.”

I can’t help smiling and Dean grins back. Whatever choices Dean Chapman has made, there’s no denying he’s a heartbreaker.

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      INTERVIEW  WITH  DICK  HARDESTY  AND JONATHAN QUINLAN

I had dinner at Dick and Jonathan’s the other night, to bring them a
copy of The Dream Ender, and after they’d put Joshua to bed and we
were sitting in the living room having a glass of Strega–Jonathan had
a Coke–I thought I’d take advantage of Alex’s kind offer to do an
interview with them.
DG: You don’t mind doing an interview, do you?
DH (shrugs): Never done one, but sure.
JQ: Wow! An interview. It sounds like fun. But why would you want to?
We’re nobody special.
DG: Well, you do have quite a few fans out there who might like to get
to know you better.
JQ: Really? That’s nice to know! I guess I’ve just been too busy to
notice. Did you know that, Dick?
DH: Well, yeah, since I’m always talking to them.
JQ (looking puzzled): Huh?
DH (smiling): I’ll tell you later. So, what do you want to know?
DG: Well, like how you and the gang are getting along. Especially
Jake: he still doing okay?
DH: He’s doing fine. His brother Stan is keeping a close eye on him,
and he’s been taking his meds regularly. We see him and Jared and the
rest of the gang as often as we can.
JQ: That reminds me…we’ve got to call Craig to see if he can sit for
us on the 18th. Phil and Tim are celebrating their anniversary.
DH: That’s right! I’d nearly forgotten. I’m glad I’ve got you to
remember these things.
DG: That brings up a question. Some of your fans have said that
sometimes you treat Jonathan more like your kid than your partner.
JQ: See? I’m not the only one.
DH: But I’m getting a lot better. Jonathan’s done a lot of growing up
since we first got together. And I’m a Scorpio…what can I tell you?
It’s my ‘Me Tarzan, Him Boy’ nature.
JQ: And I should say that now that we’ve got Joshua, Dick’s been a
lot better about it. I admit I was pretty insecure when we first got
together, but like he says, I think I’ve grown up quite a bit.
DG: I understand you’ve joined the Gay Men’s Chorus. How’s that going?
JQ: I love it! We’ll be doing our first concert pretty soon, and
it’ll be fantastic! I hope you can come!
DG: I wouldn’t miss it for the world. So, are you working on any new
cases, Dick?
DH: The one thing that drives me nuts about this P.I. business is
that it’s either feast or famine. I’m keeping pretty busy with little
stuff, and doing things for Glen O’Banyon and some other lawyers, but
at the moment nothing exciting is going on. Which isn’t to say that
the other shoe won’t drop any second now.
DG: And how is Joshua doing? He’s been with you a year now. Any problems?
DH: Not really. Nothing major, anyway. I know he still misses his
folks…Jonathan does, too…but we just handle things as they come up.
DG: I really enjoyed spending some time with him before and after
dinner, though I can imagine he can get to be a handful. Is he always
that full of energy?
DH: You have no idea! But he’s really a great kid. Takes a lot after Jonathan.
JQ: Flattery will get you anywhere.
DH: I sure hope so.
DG: Do you want me to leave so you two can be alone?
DH and JQ (laughing): Sorry about that!
DG: Well, it’s nice to see you’re still getting along after all this
time. But tell me, Dick, do you miss your old alley-cat days?
DH: Not a bit.
JQ: A-hem!
DH: Okay, so I do think about it from time to time. I’m only human.
But there’s no way I would risk jeopardizing what I”ve got now.
DG: Same for you, Jonathan?
JQ: What do you think?
DG: Well, guys, it’s getting late and I’d better be heading out.
Thanks again for dinner, and give my best to the gang when you see
them.
DH: Will do. Glad you could come by.
JQ: And don’t forget our concert, okay?
DG: I’ll be there.

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Kit St. Denys from “The Phoenix”

By

Ruth Sims

Welcome to an interview with Kit St. Denys, The Phoenix. It’s somewhat different from most interviews, in that it leaps more than a century and shatters the fragile divide between fact and fancy.

RS: Kit, it’s wonderful to see you in the flesh.

Kit: (laughing) I’m sure it is. You created me, after all, so I must be to your liking.

RS: Tall, handsome, brown-eyed, fair-haired man…you might say that. As for creating you, it’s true, I did. I wish I could have controlled you!

Kit: No one has ever done that. I don’t anticipate that anyone ever will. It’s not your fault.

RS: Let’s get immediately to the interview, since you’re not allowed to stay in my world very long. People want to know about you in your own words. You’re a nineteenth century version of a rock star, you know. Famous, idolized, rich. Women throw themselves at you; offer to leave their lovers and husbands. I’ve heard they literally beg for you. Do you ever take them up on it?

A – I don’t know what a rock star is, but I know that when I want sport it’s not with a woman. And it would never be with anyone who begs.

RS: You call yourself as a phoenix. Why?

Kit: Why not? It’s what I am, as you well know. I’ve destroyed and remade myself over and over. I was born in the worst slum in London. My father—if I can even use that word for him–was a monster and my mother was a whore. I was a thief. I was good at it. Then I did something that could have left me dangling from a noose before I reached manhood. Fate stepped in and gave me the chance to become someone else. The theatre gave me the chance to remake myself with every performance. And when I met Nick I remade myself again, into someone I didn’t even recognize because for the first time I knew what it was to be in love—which was most assuredly not my original intention. I meant only to seduce him because he was so innocent and it was a game.

RS: You mean Nick. Tell people about Nicholas Stuart.

Kit: My Nico. Healer. Self-righteous Puritan. Pain in my heart. Innocent fool with the clearest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. I took him in hand—in more ways than one—and taught him how to love another man. I taught him that his body was something more than just inconvenient baggage for the soul. You see, he believes in souls. And in God. I believe in neither. Sometimes he would be possessed by an insufferable self-righteousness that made me very cross. Once he called me a man’s whore and accused me of sleeping with half the men in England. Well, that infuriated me, especially when he said it was half only because I bypassed the ugly, the insane, and the dead.

RS: And you responded by…

Kit: Knocking him flat on his arse. In fairness to him, he wasn’t entirely wrong. There had been many men before I met him. But I never slept with those I loved and I never loved those with whom I slept. When he came into my life I suddenly did both. We were even happy for a while. Neither of us had ever been truly happy before; perhaps we just didn’t know how. He couldn’t reconcile what he is with the demands of his God. And I refused to share him with anyone, not even God.

RS: Loving another man is very dangerous legally, is it not.

Kit: Before the laws were changed we could have been executed. Now we would only go to prison. Wilde was an amusing, pretentious ass but at times he was spot-on. He said danger was part of the attraction, and likened it to “feasting with panthers.” Be that as it may, I feasted with many panthers, but I never gave up control to them. Or to anyone.

RS: I must admit, your charm and charisma, your…intensity is a bit overwhelming—

Kit: You do look a bit flushed. (laughing)

RS: How ungentlemanly!

Kit: You forget that I’m a gentleman only on the outside. On the inside I’m still what I was born to be.

RS: How do you feel about women?

Kit: Other than my mother, who was a waste of space, the women I’ve known have been grand and wonderful creatures. Lizbet saved me. Rama loves me with all her good heart. Minnie Fiske was a devoted friend. I adore women. I just don’t sleep with them.

RS: Someday I am going to interview Rama. I know she has been in love with you for many years.

Kit: She never stops hoping. Sometimes I wish I could change just to please her.

RS: Earlier you said you did not believe in God. Does that mean you don’t believe in Evil?

Kit: I believe completely in Evil. I’m well acquainted with it. I lived with it. I saw it in the eyes of the monster who fathered me. I saw it when he beat me and my twin brother. I saw it in the nightmares that terrified me every sleeping moment and many waking ones. Oh, yes. I believe in Evil. I believe it must be destroyed no matter the consequences.

RS: Tell us more about Nick.

Kit: I told you I believe wholeheartedly that Evil exists. But thanks to Nick as well as my adopted father I also know that there are good men in the world. Xavier St. Denys, took me in when I was a wild child who could have faced the gallows. He gave me a new name and the chance to become someone else. And Nick, my Nick…well, with every fiber of his being he cares about mankind. When he was a boy he promised God that he would devote his body to chastity, his soul to purity, and his industry to mankind. Poor Nico. Only the last has been easy. Thanks to me the chastity was abandoned! And no man has worked harder to ease life for suffering humanity, though it is a losing fight. As for his soul…it is pure and always will be, though he thinks it is not.

RS: I thought you didn’t believe in souls.

Kit: I believe in his.

RS: You conquered the theatre world before you were thirty, rose from your own ashes a half dozen times, and fought devils both inside yourself and outside. What does the future hold for you?

Kit: More of the same. The battle will never end.

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