Excerpt: Hawaiian Holiday: A Jesse Ashworth Mystery by Stephen E Stanley

Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself who you are, and who you want to be.
-Anonymous

Chapter 1

It was another day in Paradise. I stepped out onto the lanai with my morning cup of coffee and took in the view. Between the buildings I could see sections of Waikiki Beach and to my left I could see Diamond Head. The calendar said it was February, but to me it seemed like an endless summer. Sitting at the small table and sipping my coffee, I remembered why I was here.

It had taken me almost a week to get here. I could have done the flight all in one day. I also could have jumped off a twenty story building, but that didn’t appeal to me either. To break up the trip I had stopped in Las Vegas for a few days and then on to San Francisco to see the sights before hopping on a jet to Honolulu.

This wasn’t my first time in Hawaii. I had been here three times before when I was much younger. I loved how it seemed a different world and how far away it was from daily life. It had been a rough year. On my birthday no less the doctor had called me to say, “Mr. Ashworth, there seems to be a problem with your blood work, and I’d like to see you in my office as soon as possible.”

I knew that wasn’t good, and when he informed me that I had a form of chronic leukemia he told me not to panic. In most cases it never develops to the stage where it needs to be treated and other than a checkup every six months I should be fine.

I was fine and then I wasn’t, so a six month ride on the chemo therapy rollercoaster had just ended. I love my hometown of Bath, Maine, and all my friends there, but I needed to get away by myself and recover both physically and spiritually. The fact that I hate winter with a passion helped the decision along.

My partner Tim Mallory and I run a small security agency back home. It’s called the Bigg-Boyce Security Agency because we bought it from Mr. Bigg and Mr. Boyce, but the locals call us the Big Boys Detective Agency. Tim and my two friends Hugh Cartier and Jason Goulet are finishing up a case back home, and then I expect everyone will head here and leave the agency in the hands of my son Jay and Tim’s daughter Jessica and her husband.
I planned to be here for the winter, so I rented a condo rather than a hotel room, and I had a kitchen to cook for myself if I didn’t feel like running off to a restaurant, but so far I’ve enjoyed eating out and not cooking, except for breakfast. My typical breakfast is cereal, fresh fruit, and yogurt. And coffee of course, good local Kona coffee.

I’ve heard that people after chemo sometimes have an identity issue, and I believe it. I feel like I left myself back home, and here I’m someone else, but I don’t know who. But the one thing I know is that I don’t feel whole.
It was time to start my day, which will be pretty much like every day: eat, swim, walk, nap, read, and repeat. Aloha!

Last night as I was having an umbrella drink in a nice open-air bar news stories were playing on the bar’s television. There was a three day blizzard in the Northeast from Washington to Nova Scotia. I thought Washington needed a good blizzard or two, but I felt bad thinking that back home the snowplows, generators, and snow blowers would be working overtime. So bad in fact that I ordered another drink and then went for a walk along the beach.

The one thing I love about Hawaii is the diversity of the people. Nobody cares much about what you are or what you look like, and it’s a great place for people watching. I had left my inhibitions back home, too. I never wear shorts in public back home, but here I would feel overdressed in long pants. You wouldn’t catch me dead in a Hawaiian shirt back home, but this was, after all, Hawaii. One of the first things I did was head over to Hilo Hattie’s and buy some shirts, but I bought muted designs and colors so I wouldn’t look like a tourist, and then I packed away all my New England clothing. I draw the line at flip-flops. I bought a pair of sandals. In an emergency, how could I ever run in flip-flops?

Finishing my coffee, I showered, got dressed, and headed out the door. Something told me to vary my morning routine. I should point out that that “something” is a little voice in my head that tells me to pay attention to my surroundings. I’ve learned over the years to listen to my sixth sense and that to ignore it doesn’t end well for me.

I should explain that my cousin Monica and I had been taught by our grandparents to listen to our inner voices. We come from a long line of Spiritualists, and though we don’t practice Spiritualism and are basically skeptics, we are more sensitive to our surroundings then other people.

So instead of heading to the beach I walked down Paki Avenue to Kapiolani Park. It was early and the place wasn’t busy. Later in the day many locals would be picnicking in the park, and tourists would be wandering around looking for that authentic Hawaii of their imagination.

There were parked cars along the way and I wondered where their drivers were because the automobiles were unoccupied. Walking along I spotted a red Volkswagen camper from the 1970s. There was something about the van that made me pause. I hadn’t seen one for a long time and I noticed that the windows were open and the curtains closed. I love cars and as I walked along I was able to recognize different automobile makes and models.

I had a sudden craving for coffee, so I headed out of the park and up Kalakaua Avenue until I found a small coffee shop and had a cup of coffee and a tasty pastry, and watched the people as they passed by on the sidewalk.

My phone went off and I looked at the caller ID and sighed. The ID read Clyde Ashworth, so it was either my father or my mother. “Jesse,” said my mother on the other end of the line, “is it true you ran away from home?”

“No, Mother, I didn’t run, I took an jet plane.”

“I called your office and Jay said you went to Hawaii? Are you looking for hula girls? There are plenty of girls here in Florida. You should have come down here.”

“Mother, we’ve been over this. I’m not looking for hula girls or any girls. And I think we now call them women by the way.”

“Did you get tired of your detective hobby? I remember you playing detective with that tin badge when you were a kid. Maybe you should go back to teaching.”

“I’m retired from teaching these last twelve years, and Tim and I aren’t indulging in a hobby. The agency is a real thing.”

“Who’s this Tim?”

“Tim Mallory. Remember, we grew up together. He’s my partner.”

“Has he found a woman yet?”

“Put dad on the phone, please,” I needed to touch reality again.

“CLYDE!” she yelled into the phone. “Jesse wants to talk to you.”

“Hello son. You’re mother is crazy as a loon.”

“I’m not crazy!” she yelled in the background. My father ignored her.

“How are you son?”

“My blood count is normal, so it looks like the chemo worked.”

“That’s good news. I’m glad you were able to get away for a while. You must be worn out.”

“He needs to get a real job,” yelled my mother from somewhere in the house.

“Yes, I admit I feel beat up. Thankfully everyone understands I need some rest. How is mother by the way?”

“Good days and bad days. The doctors are confident that her problem is plaque buildup in the arteries to the brain. They are going to operate and open them up, and hopefully that will help.”

“Keep me updated,” I said. “Love you both,” and I ended the call.

Blurb

It’s winter and retired teacher turned investigator Jesse Ashworth heads to Honolulu to recover from chemotherapy treatments. Jesse is pulled into a murder investigation when the sister of the murder victim hires Jesse to find the truth behind her brother’s death. The investigation leads him to cross paths with Honolulu Homicide Detective Travis Chan. As Jesse slowly recovers, his intuitive detective skills begin to return to help unravel the intricate case. Despite the distance, Jesse manages to keep in contact with those back in his home town.As spring approaches, Jesse heads back home to Bath, Maine and his partner former chief of police Tim Mallory. Two of the most unusual missing persons cases present themselves as the two try to solve the mysteries.

More about author Stephen E Stanley

Stephen E. Stanley has been an educator for over thirty years, first as a high school English instructor and then as a full-time teacher mentor for secondary education in a large New Hampshire school district. He grew up in Bath, Maine the setting of his Jesse Ashworth mysteries. He studied at the University of Southern Maine, Lesley University, the University of New Hampshire and currently resides in New Hampshire.

Sam Markum and the Palm Springs Predators (Sam Markum, PI – Book 1) by T. Lawton Carney

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Sam Markum ducked under an awning in front of a cannabis shop on North Palm Canyon Drive just as another January downpour hit the street. He was in a vintage Burberry khaki trench coat and sported a brown trilby hat cocked to one side and pulled low over his left eye. It was 12:50 and those who passed him thought he might be going to some sort of fancy dress party or possibly someone who needed professional help. Sam didn’t care, the coat kept him dry while those who hadn’t adjusted to the idea that Palm Springs, California was no longer a desert walked around soaked to the skin. As with so many storms that hit the western coast of America these days the deluge came in waves of heavy rain with lightning and thunder followed by periods of light drizzle and Sam knew this particular opening of the heavens would pass in a few minutes. As he watched the traffic on the street pass by he reached inside his coat and adjusted the pulse pistol tucked in its holster just under his left arm. He wasn’t a violent man but the pistol had saved his skin more than once while working a case. He kept his five foot eight inch forty-two year old frame well-toned and combined with his stunning deep-set blue eyes and jet black hair he was a very attractive man. He wasn’t vain but did enjoy the attention he often received when out and about in this Southern California oasis. Although his clothes were clean he was often disheveled and friends told him on more than one occasion he looked like an unmade bed. It didn’t bother him and to his mind he thought the look helped in his profession. 

In this, the year 2077, Sam’s choice of anachronistic clothing was just one of the many things that some saw as outdated. Sam was a PI or private investigator and his cases were, for the most part, as conventional as his wardrobe was not. He spied on wandering spouses, heterosexual and same sex, which usually revolved around the question of who was doing what to whom. He had been in the business for so long he could usually tell when, where and how he would get the hard evidence needed to pass along to the injured party. He also had a lucrative business consulting about security and improved theft prevention. There were cases, however, that often defied description and the one he had just been called in on was one. Missing persons weren’t new to Sam but he was intrigued by the call he had gotten earlier in the morning. A man named Elliot Duval wanted Sam to investigate the abduction of his husband who had been missing for almost three days. Mr. Duval told Sam he even knew how his husband, Michael Towson, had been taken. The police had dismissed his claims and would not follow-up with an investigation and he asked Sam to come right over and help him get his husband back. Sam agreed to meet that afternoon because he wanted to know more about a case that seemed on the face of it easy to solve.

With a crack of thunder and an explosive display of lightning the rain began to ease up and Sam started walking north toward the address given by Mr. Duval. 777 North Palm Canyon had once been a two story office and retail complex but in 2046 it was replaced by a thirty story condominium tower with expensive shops and restaurants on the ground floor and luxurious residences above. Mr. Duval’s flat was one of two penthouses located on the top floor. Sam arrived at the Tamarisk Tower and walked through the covered passageway with shops on either side to the lobby of the condominium tower. He was shaking the water off his hat as the tall, husky uniformed door man greeted him by tipping his hat and asking,

“May I help you?”

“I’m Sam Markum and have an appointment with Mr. Duval in 3001.”

“If you would go over to the concierge desk he will be happy to help you.”

At the desk Sam was greeted by a very handsome man in his late thirty’s with a thatch of dirty blonde hair and deep set brown eyes. He was dressed in the latest fashion of snug knee length shorts sporting a splashy print topped with a short sleeved silk shirt open at the collar. As Sam cast an appreciative eye over the tight body and delightfully rounded buns the concierge addressed him.

“Mr. Duval is expecting you. Are you here to help? I certainly hope so. Ellie’s been so upset since Mikey went missing. In truth we all are. You may go right up and I’ll be here when you’re finished if you need anything. I’m Jamie, by the way.” he said with a wink and a smile.

Sam turned away from the desk with a smile on his lips and stepped into the well-appointed lift. He was quickly on the thirtieth floor and knocking on Mr. Duval’s door.

The door was opened and there before him was his new client. Mr. Duval was five feet eight inches tall with a slender almost waif-like appearance and he couldn’t have weighed more than one hundred forty pounds. He was about twenty-seven years old with light brown hair that was perfectly groomed and dark brown eyes that were almost piercing as he looked Sam up and down with a languorous gaze that Sam took in as he looked at the man. He was dressed in tight tan trousers and a blousy flowing open necked deep blue linen shirt with a chartreuse green silk scarf wrapped loosely around his neck. The only jewelry he wore was a large chronograph-comm on his left wrist. His eyes finally settled on Sam’s and he broke into a broad, almost inviting, smile.

“Mr. Markum I’m so glad you were able to come over so quickly.” He was ushered into the foyer which led into the expansive living room with a spectacular south facing aspect that would have had wonderful views of the mountains to the right and left if the clouds weren’t hanging so low to the ground. As he entered the living room he was overwhelmed by the extravagance of the antique furniture on display. The flooring was white on white terrazzo with brilliantly colored Nichols and Fetti wool rugs throughout.  The sofa and matching chairs facing the expanse of windows were upholstered in violet mohair with a matching set of Ruhlman Macassar wood tables. The other furniture around the room was a well edited collection of Mies van der Rohe, Eileen Grey, Le Corbusier and Ray and Charles Eames. The wall behind him was adorned with an oil painting in the contructivism style by the renowned Hungarian artist Bela Kadar.

“Have a seat Mr. Markum; would you like something to drink? A cigarette, perhaps?”

“No thank you, I can’t help but admire your collection. Antiques like these are so hard to find these days. You two must have spent years looking for just the right pieces.” Sam said as he took a seat in one of the chairs next to the sofa.

“Oh, my I wouldn’t know. All this was here when I moved in two years ago. Michael loves to collect and he’s responsible for all this. I have a small study off the hall I’ve done up in 21st century Mid-American funk which I think is just as nice.”

Elliott had been fluttering around the room straightening nick-knacks and trying not to look as excited as he was. He moved from one table to another and from one upholstered piece to another. Sam sat quietly and watched the nervous man move around the room and observed how his unease was made more evident with each small flick of his wrists. Finally, he adjusted his scarf and sat down on the sofa next to Sam. “Mr. Duval tell me about the night Mr. Towson disappeared.”

Alien abductions. Mysterious lightning storms. A handsome concierge and a suave private investigator. In the near future, Palm Springs becomes the center for a murderous gang intent on blackmail and money. Using an advanced technology, no one is safe from their nefarious actions.

Blurb:

Sam is called by Elliott Duval to find his husband who was abducted three days before. The police don’t believe his story and Sam is his only hope. Through clever undercover work and deft research Sam and his team embark on a bizarre trail leading to an unexpected resolution.

Author T. Lawton Carney Bio:

Tom’s undergraduate studies were at the University of Tennessee, majoring in English Literature, and he is the published author of three highly successful books on the business of interior design under the name of Thomas L. Williams. Tom has also contributed to the premier issue of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal and co-written interior design forecast pieces and written for local and regional newspapers.

Tom’s mother sparked an interest in Sci-Fi when he was just six years old and took him to the neighborhood library to introduce him to Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and his early favorite, the Tom Swift, Jr. series. His love of optimistic portrayals of research and discovery in a futuristic setting have taken him to all parts of the universe. His own writing ranges from galactic adventure in the far future to a near future murder mystery series featuring Sam Markum. The Markum series brings the glamour and intrigue of the 1930’s to a late 21st century future with all the action and adventure one would expect from a suave private eye.

It was the supportive writing course at the Palm Springs LGBT center that first took Mr. Williams writing into Sci-Fi. The moderator of the group, successful author David Wallace, helped Tom discover the inner fantasy-fiction writer he is today. Tom embraces the concept of a future in which all mankind is the beneficiary of the exploration that will take us to the moon, the planets and ultimately the stars.  

Tom, and his husband Robert, have lived on the East Coast of the United States, London, England, Carmel, California and now Palm Springs, California. They have traveled extensively and enjoy a wide range of interests.

Murder at White Oak (White Oak Murder Series Book 1) by Marko Realmonte

Chapter 13:  TIMOTHY

Jake has decided to walk me back to St. John’s… I think we’re both a bit trollied. For some ungodly reason he wants to see the hovel I call home.

The turret which Blackmore assigned me to isn’t even a proper room. Originally, it was meant as a sort of military fortification, perhaps giving the old building a defensive posture should the Vikings ever decide to invade England again. There’s just enough room for a single mattress and a small desk. My clothes are all folded in neat stacks because there isn’t space for a wardrobe. The violin case and a loose pile of sheet music sit atop the only chair.

“Please don’t mock,” I beg.

Jacob takes a look around. “Sweet Jesus,” he says, “you barely have enough room in here to cuff the carrot.” He smirks.

“Is that your definition of not mocking?”

“Sorry. No we are here for the good of science, Ashlock.” He’s brought along a candle which he quickly lights and holds aloft.

“Tommy Walker,” he shouts, “if you can hear me… blow this out.”

Of course nothing happens.

“Interesting,” Jake notes.

“Apparently I am phantom-free. That certainly takes a load off,” I say.

“What is a ghost anyway?” Jake asks, blowing out the flame himself.

“Historically they are troubled souls.”

“Exactly,” he agrees, putting a drunken arm around my shoulder. “Restless spirits. Imagine this scenario: A White Oak lad goes missing, meeting some gruesome fate, and now he’s forced to wander about Brigsley for all eternity… he seems to be confined there.”

“Perhaps he just prefers it. Maybe it was his home,” I venture.

Jake trips on a stack of my uniforms and then leans against my desk, he’s far too big a bloke to be in this confined space. His feet are enormous. He opens the violin case and inspects my instrument. “That’s a decent hypothesis,” he says. “Of course, if we refer to our Poe, perhaps Little Tommy is buried under the floorboards…or even in the walls.”

“Don’t be morbid,” I say. “In literature spirits almost always have a purpose. They are out for vengeance, trying to right some wrong inflicted upon them in life. It’s personal. There’s always a bit of unfinished business, which is why they don’t willingly cross over.”

Jake smiles, threading his fingers through his thick blond hair. “You’re glorious, Ashlock, you little ripper,” he says. “You know what we’re going to do?”

“I’m afraid to ask,” I mutter.

“We’re going to solve Tommy Walker’s murder.”

Chapter 14:  JACOB

            Yes, I’m smitten. He’s charming, clever and just a bit sad. I find him irresistible.  He’s also gorgeous.

“I have a plan,” I say.

Tim’s refolding a stack of sweaters that I bumped over. He looks up. “Let’s hear it then.”

“First, pack up all your gear. You’re moving in with me.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Not afraid of ghosts, are you, Ashlock?” I tease. “Listen, it makes perfect sense. The cottage is a piece of this puzzle, and I need you around to bounce ideas off. You have far too little space in here, and I have far too much over there. Brigsley has three bedrooms, for Christ’s sake!”

“Perfect,” he says, “one for you, one for me and one for Tommy Walker.”

“Hilarious. What’s stopping you?”

“First, Blackmore will never sign off on it. He enjoys my misery here far too much.”

I scoff. “Leave him to me. What else?”

I know where he’s about to go.

“Second, I’m not going to sleep with you. I like you Weston, but I’m not gay.”

I laugh at him. “Mon Chéri,” I say, “hardly anyone is Gay-gay anymore. It’s all about being bi-curious or simply not being placed in a box. Don’t let others define you because to allow definition is to limit! You may not be full homo, but you’re definitely on the spectrum, less so than I am, sadly, but your sexuality is fluid.”

“Maybe so,” he admits, “but if I move into Brigsley you’ll be keeping your fluids to yourself.”

“It’s a deal,” I say. “Pack your duffel while I go downstairs and give Blackmore an Oscar-worthy performance.”

“You’re not going to pay a call on the Housemaster when you’re steaming drunk, are you?”

“He’ll be none the wiser. I can hold my liquor, mate.”

Blurb:

A murder mystery…a ghost story…and a gay romance. Jake Weston, a seventeen-year-old cross between Holden Caufield and Sherlock Holmes, is an openly gay American at a private British boarding school.
He’s being haunted by the ghost of a former student, and he’s fallen in love with his beautiful roommate.  He’s trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of Tommy Walker, a White Oak student who vanished in 1976 but piecing together a puzzle from the past will lead to real danger in the present. He’ll inherit a fortune if he can solve a murder and make it out of White Oak Academy alive. 
This genre-bending fusion of supernatural suspense, thriller and young adult LGBTQ romance has mind-blowing plot twists that will keep you guessing until the very last page. 
Finally, a gay whodunit! 
Murder at White Oak tackles some of the very real issues of bullying and beatings within the walls of prestigious boarding schools for boys and the difficulties of being gay in that restrictive, closed environment. This is the first in a series of gay mysteries. 

Learn more about author, Marko Realmonte

I currently live in beautiful Santa Cruz, California, devising wicked plot twists and murdering unsuspecting figments of my imagination.  I spent twenty years writing for film and television in Hollywood…primarily for Disney, but often as a laptop for hire.
As I’ve often said, I’ve had my fingers in more pilots than an Air Force proctologist.
I’m using my influential friends to sell this book (and hopefully the series) to Netflix or someone else with equally deep pockets.  I do aim to portray gay characters and relationships in a positive way.  To be honest, I’m tired of only reading queer coming out or coming of age yarns.

Exclusive Excerpt: Murder at the Green Lantern (Corey Shaw mysteries Book 2) by Alex Morgan

The interrogation of Chauncey was finished, and he stood behind the bar as Corey approached. He hurried over, extending his hand. “Hi, I’m Chauncey Avant, the manager of the Green Lantern. Didn’t I see you here last night?”

Corey introduced himself, and Chauncey’s eyes grew wide in surprise when he heard the Psionic Officer title.

“Do you recognize the victim?”

Chauncey shook his head. “I didn’t see his face.” He shuddered at the recollection. “As soon as I saw…him, I ran out of the room and dialed 911.”

“Remember the skinny twink wearing only red gym shorts and the Celtic knotwork tattoo around his right bicep?”

Chauncey searched his memory. “You mean Aiden?”

“Maybe. He didn’t introduce himself to me. Are there many other guys who come in here dressed like that, with that tattoo?” Corey gave him a minute.

“It’s gotta be him, then.” The manager choked a little as he lowered his head.

“I take it he was a regular?”

“Almost every weekend.” Chauncey pulled himself together. He wasn’t trembling anymore.

“Did you know him well?”

“Not outside of the Green Lantern. I only knew him as Aiden. I’m sure there are plenty of guys that know him better.”

Of that, I have no doubt, Corey mused. “I noticed that he was very…popular.” He emphasized the last word with raised eyebrows.

“If you mean ‘slut,’ yes. He was always bragging about how many men he slept with,” Chauncey said, sneering. “I don’t think he ever brought money with him. He always wore those skimpy shorts that obviously didn’t have a place for his wallet. He could get anyone to pay for his drinks. All he’d do is rub that flat stomach and his crotch up against them, and he got what he wanted.”

“Did he ever return the favors? Like he intimated to me?” Corey wasn’t ready to admit he almost fell for Aiden’s game.

Chauncey brushed some imaginary crumbs off the bar. “Yes, and no. Aiden liked to tease the older guys, the uglier ones, the ones he thought didn’t have a chance in hell of getting picked up. He’d make them think they could take him home, but usually, he went after the young, good-looking guys. The muscular, beefy men. Those were the ones he left with.”

Corey realized that Chauncey was simply being blunt and forthright, rather than insulting his customers. “I’m sure some of the men he rejected got mad at him.”

“Yeah, a lot of them got pissed off at him, but I don’t think that anyone got angry enough to do something like this, do you?”

“It doesn’t sound likely, but we have to consider every possibility. Do you have a coat check or some place that he may have left his clothes? I don’t think he came dressed like that, but I don’t remember seeing him come in.”

“We do upstairs, but we’ve already checked, and no one left any clothes behind.” Chauncey leaned up against the bar.

Corey walked to the staircase and called up to Detective Nash. “Have you found the shorts he wore last night? Red with white trim?”

“We’re still searching the building and the surrounding area. If they turn up, we’ll let you know,” came the answer.

Corey finished with Chauncey and walked upstairs to the bar. The flash of the forensic photographer’s camera cast odd shadows on the wall behind the gruesome scene, washing out what little color was in the room. He waited at the top of the stairs, watching patiently until the forensic team had finished taking pictures.

“Can I have a moment?” he asked the man with the camera. Or at least he thought it was a man. Both members of the team wore bio-suits, which masked faces, body shapes and features.

“We haven’t swept for fibers yet,” the man protested. His voice was muffled.

Corey repeated his observation that there were many, many people in the bar last night. The forensic technician removed the headpiece of the bio-suit. “I’d still like to prevent any more contamination.”

“Do you have an extra one of those?”

Several minutes later, Corey, donned in a bio-suit without the headpiece, approached the body, being careful not to step in the blood.

The forensic team left the room but remained in the doorway. Corey closed his eyes and let his mind roam free. He could see images easier that way.

A vision of a hand flashed across his thoughts, the fingers contorting and curling in pain as a nail was pounded through the wrist. He heard screams of agony and angry shouting. He saw a foot strapped to the cross with a rope to keep it anchored to the step while another nail was driven through it. More screaming, crying, and pleading. It was drowned out with angry yelling, but Corey heard more than one voice shouting.

How many were there? What had he done to be tortured like that?

The people shouting in fury sounded like they were reciting or orating. It sounded stilted to him, instead of normal voice intonations. He saw the young man’s face frozen in terror. Then he saw the flash of a knife.

Gasping in horror, Corey snapped out of his visions and recalled his power. As he reconnected with his surroundings, he realized that he had backed away from the cross and was pressed against the wall. He stood there panting and covered in sweat, his pulse racing, trying to calm down from the terrible visions he had seen.

Detective Nash leaned against the threshold. “See anything interesting?” he called out with the slight edge of disdain in his tone.

“Not much more than what you’ve already discovered here,” Corey said, his breathing starting to return to normal. “I think his murderers were passing some sort of religious judgment on him.”

“Murderers? We’re looking for more than one?”

Corey nodded.

“And what kind of judgment? Kind of like a divine retribution? A warning to gays?”

Corey shook his head as he walked closer to Nash. “No, just him. This was personal, like a jury sentencing him to death. And it may not have been because he was gay, either.”

Nash sighed in annoyance. “This whole setup of nailing him to a cross reeks of religious zealots. We’ve seen it before. Can you tell me something I don’t know?”

The detective’s callousness rankled him. In a lightning flash move, Corey ripped off his glove and grabbed him by the wrist. Before the detective could react, he forced the horrible images he had seen into Nash’s mind, letting him see the gruesome scene and hear the death cries of the victim.

Corey pulled his hand back. “I figured you didn’t know that.”

Detective Nash remained rooted to his spot. The blood drained from his face, frozen in an expression of terror. Corey pushed past him and out of the room.

Learn about author, Alex Morgan:

Alan Scott (aka Alex Morgan) was born and raised in western Oklahoma. He majored in chemistry in college and moved to Dallas to get his master’s degree. Later he received a PhD in analytical chemistry. He now lives in the Baltimore area.

He has been an avid reader, particularly mysteries, after being introduced to the Hardy Boys in grade school. After reading his first Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express, in junior high, mysteries have been one of his biggest enjoyments. He has always enjoyed reading comic books and loves the super-hero genre just as much.

Combining these two concepts, he has written four mystery novels introducing gay, paranormal sleuth Corey Shaw. Under the pen name Alan Scott, he has written a novel continuing the paranormal detective series with “Inside Passage to Murder” and the forthcoming “A Faire Day for Murder.”  He is also the author of several gay erotica short stories.

In His Own Words: a Self Reflection – Victor J. Banis

The self-reflective autobiography below was written in 2008 by author, Victor J. Banis when interviewed by Friend, Author, LQBTQ Reviewer & Prolific Blogger, Elisa Rolle for her online journal: Reviews and Ramblings. Reprinted here with permission. *Thank you, Elisa!*

Upon learning of the death of her friend, Elisa Rolle posted to her blog the following: (Victor) was a good friend and he deserves to be remembered. I met Victor J. Banis online back in 2006, when Gay Romance was blooming, but Victor was already a legend, the first author to be put under trial for publishing a Lesbian romance 42 years before in 1964. Publisher’s Weekly credited him with “the master’s touch in storytelling,” and the Nashville Banner echoed that with, “a master storyteller.” Eminent scholar and critic D. Wayne Gunn called him “a national treasure.” Thomas L. Long, editor-in-chief of the Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Quarterly, said he was the “godfather of modern popular gay fiction,” and William Hewitt, professor of gay studies at Westchester University, referred to him as “one of the Grand Old Men of Gay Fiction.” Cultural historian Michael Bronski calls him “one of (his) heroes” and credits him as one of a quartet of writers “who pioneered what we now call gay and lesbian literature.”

Victor Jerome Banis, 81, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, died Feb. 22, 2019.

Author Victor Banis


Victor J. Banis is a writer.”

Yes, I do see it is a bit terse, but it seems to me to cover the salient points well enough. And yes, I do realize I could add adjectives—say, Victor J. Banis is a wonderful writer.

I am an introvert, however. It is an ordeal, to say the least, to read my own material aloud to other people, as some writers enjoy doing, let alone toot my own horn. Anyway, I have long believed it is better to be more than you seem. It is so much nicer, as an example, to mention to others your “little shack in the woods,” and let them discover for themselves that it is really a country estate, than to tell them about your “country estate” and have them discover that it is really a shack in the woods. So, no, I’d rather not tell you how wonderful I am as a writer, lest you decide afterward that I am only “a shack in the woods” and not the estate you envisioned.

I suppose I could let others tell you. I have certainly received plenty of praise over the years. Publisher’s Weekly credited me with “the master’s touch in storytelling,” and the Nashville Banner echoed that with, “a master storyteller.” Eminent scholar and critic D. Wayne Gunn called me “a national treasure.” Thomas L. Long, editor-in-chief of the Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Quarterly, said I was the “godfather of modern popular gay fiction,” and William Hewitt, professor of gay studies at Westchester University, referred to me as “one of the Grand Old Men of Gay Fiction.” Cultural historian Michael Bronski calls me “one of (his) heroes” and credits me as one of a quartet of writers “who pioneered what we now call gay and lesbian literature.”

Hmm. Very nice, of course, and pleasant to bask in, but it seems to me a dreadful burden to bear, since I must measure every word I subsequently write against such fulsome praise. I am reminded of a friend who once looked at a particular photograph of me and said that I looked so good in it that I should never be seen in person again. I have an uneasy feeling when I read those reviews that perhaps I should quit where I am—if only I weren’t having so much fun.

And, since those little blurbs mentioned above, some of them, at least, touch upon the subject, I suppose I ought to talk about my gay writing history.

I have no embarrassment in doing so, and my only reluctance is my reluctance to label myself a “gay writer,” since in fact gay writing has been only a part of my literary output, and not the larger part. I think that I did sit down in the earliest days of my career to write gay novels (I think, because it was so very long ago), but I have long since ceased to think in terms of genre or subject matter or even style. I don’t think today I can even correctly say I write “stories.” I write people. They come to me and talk to me—often I literally hear them whispering in my ear—and they are who they are, and I don’t get to dictate whether they are gay or straight or Martian, anymore than I would with the person next to me on an airplane. They tell me their stories, these visitors, and I think it would be presumptuous of me to try to tell them what their stories should be, or how they should be written, let alone that they must fit into some preconceived “genre.” So, just a writer, then, and not a “this writer” or “that writer.”

On the other hand, if I have had an appreciable impact upon the world of books and writing, it is certainly in the genre of gay publishing, where I have become something of a cult figure over the years and a hero to some writers and critics.

That was not something I planned. I’m afraid my writing career has been rather a haphazard thing, to tell the truth. I suppose as much as anything, I was the right person in the right place at the right time. To be honest, I suspect much of history happens that way.

Victor J. Banis – Giovanni’s Room

In 1963, Fresno, California publishers Sanford Aday and Wallace de Ortega Maxey were sentenced to twenty-five years in federal prison for distributing obscene material, some of the material in question being gay-themed paperback novels.

In 1964, I was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute obscene material, this for my first novel, The Affairs of Gloria (Brandon House, 1964), which had no sexually explicit words or phrases, but did contain one “damn,” and, more to the point, a couple of very tepid lesbian scenes.

Clearly, in the early sixties, the U. S. Government thought that writing about or publishing books depicting homosexual behavior, male or female, was in and of itself obscene, and they meant to stamp it out.

That is not to say that there had not been books before which addressed the subject of homosexuality. The publishing world of the time did not have a specific code, like the Hayes code in Hollywood, but there was a sort of tacit understanding that homosexual characters must be portrayed as naughty, naughty people, doing wicked, wicked things, for which they must be punished by the final chapter, either by death or by a miraculous conversion to heterosexuality. A publisher portrayed homosexuals in a positive light, or gave them happy endings, at his own peril, as Misters Aday and Maxey—and I—learned to our grief. I had ten years in federal prison hanging over my head; not the cheeriest of prospects for a young, pretty (if I do say so myself) and certainly effeminate gay man.

I was acquitted (on a technicality) of the charges brought against me, but I continued for several years to be the target of governmental harassment. My mail, e.g., was routinely opened and left at my doorstep atop the envelopes, so I would be sure to know that it had been read. Yes, Virginia, it was and is illegal.

Surely, in bringing charges against me for what they certainly knew was my first novel, the governmental censors must have intended in part to discourage me from writing any more.
The irony of all this is that Gloria had been written on a whim, as a lark, really—the old “Gosh, I could do this” business. Probably, I would never have gone on to write any more books in this vein. It was my ambition to be a “serious” writer (I don’t think I know now what that is) when I grew up (I don’t know now what that is, either.)

I was outraged, however, by what had been done and was still being done to me, and to the constitutional guarantee of free speech, and being bullheaded by nature, I thought—perhaps a bit foolishly, in retrospect—that I would “show them.” Far from being dissuaded from writing more sexy paperbacks, I felt obligated to give it a few more whirls.

The problem was, I had many friends who were lesbians but I personally was not, so the books I could write in that vein were unhappily akin to the faux-lesbian books popular then and mostly written by heterosexual males for the pleasure of other heterosexual males.

What I wanted to write were gay novels; and after the Aday and Maxey convictions, there was little enthusiasm on the part of publishers for material of that sort; and the potential popular gay market had not yet been tapped. “Who would buy them?” publishers asked repeatedly.

Authors Victor J. Banis & Lori L. Lake

Undeterred, I wrote my gay novel, The Why Not, and after a time it fortunately landed on the desk of Earl Kemp at Greenleaf Classics. Greenleaf had not done any gay material up till then, and Earl himself was resolutely heterosexual and, as he himself has admitted, really quite ignorant of the gay world and especially of gay fiction. He was, however, an iconoclast, and firmly committed to battering down the barriers to sexual expression in print, and he was happy to take on the anti-homosexual forces as well. Greenleaf published The Why Not, it sold well, and got good reviews, and Earl indicated that he was amenable to seeing something more.

By this time, however, I had become a gay activist, and I began to look askance at that “sad-young-men” school of gay writing, in which, I regretted to admit, I now included The Why Not. When I read it again, I was dismayed to realize that there was hardly a happy character or incident in the book. Mostly it was gloom and doom.

Now, it is true, gay life in those early years could be painful, burdensome, and dangerous; but in dwelling exclusively on those aspects of our society, I thought those books, mine included, were essentially dishonest. I decided that I wanted to write a book about a happy homosexual who remained happy, and alive, and gay, in the final chapter.

The result was The Man from C. A. M. P., a spy spoof featuring agent Jackie Holmes, who worked for a super-secret organization, C. A. M. P., dedicated to the protection and advancement of homosexuals everywhere.

I think Earl Kemp must have blinked and gasped when I sent him the manuscript. I am convinced that there was not another editor in the U. S. of A. at that time who would even have considered publishing that novel; but gamely publish it Earl did, and the rest is truly a part of gay history.
Delighted gays took to this new kind of offering like ducks to the village pond. The book sold phenomenally well, so much so that an entire series of books followed, eight more Jackie Holmes adventures, and several spin offs.

More importantly, having seen that the market was far greater than anyone heretofore had imagined and that gays were enthusiastically receptive to books that portrayed them in a positive light, Earl and Greenleaf published over the next several years a variety of gay material in just about every genre imaginable: mysteries and histories and comedies and sci-fi and adventure and cowboys and sailors, the whole gamut of gay experience—no, make that human experience. Many of those books were written by me or by writers that I tutored, and for whom I became a de facto agent. It was joked in the industry that the gay publishing revolution had mostly happened around my kitchen table, and there was more than a little truth in the statement. At one time, some seventy-five to eighty percent of the gay novels being published were written by me or by my protégés.

In short order, other publishers became aware that Greenleaf was making lots of money catering to this “new” market, and they soon enough jumped on the bandwagon, and a revolution in gay publishing was truly and irrevocably launched. In the ten years leading up to 1966, when The Why Not appeared, there were only a few dozen genuinely gay novels published. In the decade that followed, there were thousands, some say as many as ten thousand. A revolution indeed. And many historians believe that it was this explosion of gay publishing that first led to a sense of community among gays, and so was a major contribution to the larger social revolution that followed.

L-R: Authors Zam Maxfield, Ethan Day, William Neale, Victor J. Banis
Philadelphia, PA 2008
photo courtesy Rick R. Reed

So, yes, I can look back with I think justifiable pride in having played a part, if a minor one, in opening doors to gay writers in particular and breaking down barriers in expression for writers in general. The freedom mainstream writers enjoy today springs directly from that publishing revolution of ours. It would be dishonest of me to pretend that I do not take some gratification from that fact.
On the other hand, the C.A.M.P. books and the scores of gay books that came after them were, on balance, only a small part of my total output. At the time I wrote them, I was just starting out on what has proven to be a far longer and more felicitous career than I would have imagined then.

I have written in all somewhere close to one hundred and fifty books (I stopped counting long ago), and many short pieces as well, under a variety of pen names. From 1970 until just the last couple of years, none of them were gay oriented, though I now find myself turning back to those roots and enjoying rediscovering them.

So, how does one neatly summarize that sort of checkered career? Really, I think I had it right to begin with, and I’m going to stick with that:

“Victor J. Banis is a writer.”

In Memorandum: by Gerard Koskovich

In memoriam Victor J. Banis (1937–2019): A prolific author of pulps, porn, queer fiction and nonfiction under his own name and numerous pseudonyms including Don Holliday, Victor Jay, J. X. Williams and Jay Vickery.

Banis died February 22 in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he had lived since 2004. He was 81 years old.

A longtime resident of Los Angeles (1960–1985) and then San Francisco (1985–2004), Banis published his first short story in 1963 in the Swiss homophile journal Der Kreis. He went on to write heterosexual, bisexual and gay erotic fiction for Brandon House, Greenleaf Press and Sherburne Press.

From 1966 to 1968, Banis produced eight pulp fiction titles in his “Man From C.A.M.P.” series — a fabulously queer takeoff of the “Man From UNCLE” television series. The protagonist of the novels is a brazenly gay undercover agent named Jackie Holmes.

Banis also wrote pop sexology titles, including the one seen here, which is part of my personal library: “Men & Their Boys” (Los Angeles: Medco Books, 1966). The author inscribed this copy when I met him at an event at A Different Light Bookstore in San Francisco in the early 1990s.

The book consists largely of somewhat racy case histories featuring quotes from interviews. This genre became highly popular with erotica publishers in the late 1960s, and I have always wondered if the cases were merely (im)pure fiction — so I once sent Victor a Facebook message to pose the question.

He very generously replied with the lowdown on the book, the publisher and the case histories, which, he said, were based on stories of people he knew or knew about — and on his own experiences: “I did try to keep everything authentic.”

Farewell to one of our pioneering creators of American queer popular culture. To learn more about his work, read his saucy memoir, “Spine Intact, Some Creases” (Wildside Press, 2008), readily available online in a print-on-demand edition for around $20.h

OBITUARY – VICTOR J. BANIS
MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA — Victor J. Banis, 81, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, died Feb. 22, 2019.Born May 25, 1937 in Alexandria, Pennsylvania to William and Anna (Wing) Banis, he was preceded in death by brothers William M., Albert, Robert (Dick), and Sam and sisters Eva Huddleston, May Crouse and Ruth Nance.He is survived by his brother Pat of Cincinnati, and sisters Fanny Kisling of Eaton, and Anne Blackmore of Wadsworth, and numerous nieces and nephews.Victor grew up in the Eaton area and was a 1955 graduate of Eaton High School. Having lived in several areas of the country, he eventually settled in California where he pursued his writing career. He was the published author of more than 250 books in several genres, The Man From C.A.M.P. being his most well known. A man of great wit and intelligence, he will always be remembered as a wonderful storyteller.A memorial celebration is being planned for the spring. Memorial gifts may be made to the Hospice facility of choice.