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Gay Times Summer Reads 2012

This summer Jack Cullen teams up with 2012 Orange Fiction Prize winner Madeleine Miller to pick out the best gay paperbacks for you to take on holiday...

Is it that time of year again already? It seems like only yesterday we were telling you to read Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child. Most holidaymakers manage one and a half novels while they’re away so don’t be intimidated by this list, we just want to offer a variety of recommendations. Finding good quality gay fiction can be like finding a hot guy mid-week in a sauna - bloody difficult but worth it when you do succeed. As always we’ve resisted just promoting new stuff and have dug deep into the gay canon to give you a good mix:


Indisputably one of the best-written gay novels of the last twenty years, 1995’s Like People In History flits between the sunny 50s and sex-bent 60s all the way up to the drug culture and politics of early 90s America as it follows the lives of two very different cousins who are gay. Few readers will forget the scene in which teenage millionaire Alastair is discovered by his parents riding a gardener in the shed...
Considered to be Edmund White’s successor, Picano was given permission by him to use the title Like People In History as it’s actually the name of an abandoned work by White.

THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller

One of Jack’s picks not Madeline’s - This isn’t a shameless plug! The Song of Achilles won the Orange prize in June and is a gay re-telling of Achilles’ youth told from the point of view of his boyfriend Patroclus. A thrilling, very funny and beautiful read, set against a baking hot golden backdrop of Ancient Greece. This has to be 2012’s perfect summer read. You’ll love it, that’s a Gay Times promise.

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU by John James Ashton

Ever been on the receiving end of a not-so-perfect man? Another debut novel, It’s Not Me, It’s You follows Steven, a nice normal gay guy who is looking for love in provincial Britain. The story opens with Steven discovering his boyfriend cheating on the porch of their vacation villa and follows him through the break-up and onto a subsequent spiral of new dates. Available now in paperback and for the price of a coffee on Kindle we recommend you give this one a whirl, it’ll help those departure lounge hours whizz past!

BORROWED TIME by Paul Monette

For those who prefer non-fiction when lying by the pool Paul Monette is your man. Borrowed Time is Monette’s fascinating, powerful and heart achingly emotive memoir that tells the story of his greatest love Roger and how AIDS ravaged and destroyed their lives. Get ready to cry with this book as the pages become an incredible portrait of a face staring right at you. And of course that famous opening line – “I don’t know if I will live to finish this”


A well-humoured and wonderful entwining of two love stories set across a summery week in Cornwall. There is Seth, the young violin prodigy who walks along the cliff-tops looking for sexual encounters, and there is Mo - an investigator trying to solve a series of violent attacks on newspaper astrologers. This rare piece of magic realism within the gay fiction canon is a real treat for gay bookworms. The Aerodynamics of Pork deserves way more recognition and is the sort of novel you’ll want to re-read several times.

CORPORAL IN CHARGE by Jack Fritscher

Erotica writer Jack Fritscher is enjoying a renaissance at the moment and his Facebook page has become a gay cult hang out (he WILL accept you). The leather historian and editor of underground magazine Drummer boasts a large following and the erotic fiction that he pens is vast and varied. Corporal In Charge, a collection of short gay sex stories, is a great introduction to erotic fiction for anyone unsure where to start (or whether to start!). Anthologies are perfect if you’re a bit of a dipper when it comes to reading, but be warned: You WILL have an erection on the airport shuttle bus. And before you think “Corporal In Charge” sounds a bit too militant, it is merely the title of one of the stories. Fritscher offers a fun array of characters, settings and climates throughout the book. But yes – there’s a lot of sex, so sorry to lower the tone. For a free online example of just how sexy Fritscher’s writing is, head here.

GIOVANNI’S ROOM by James Baldwin

The tragic but fascinating love story of an American travelling in France who is forced to face the closet door when he meets the luscious Giovanni and falls helplessly in love with him. A sad novel but one that is written so expertly, Giovanni’s Room really is a work of art. Get it get it get it.

Wow. So there are our recommendations for Summer 2012. If you’re looking for more then do pay a visit to Gay’s The Word on Marchmont St in London. They’ll kit you out with an armful of great reads, and they catalogue stuff online if you can’t get down to London. Let us know how you get on with these books, and you can tweet Jack from the poolside @jackcullenuk to discuss camp plot twists and sparkly cliff hangers.

Words: Jack Cullen

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