Ep: 124 Brad Shreve had planned to give a book recommendation but decided to offer a sample of his current work in progress. He's having great fun writing the novel and hopes that comes through when you listen in. Feel free to leave a voice message or send an email and let him know what you think.
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Hi, I'm Brad and this is Queer Writers of Crime each Thursday Justene, Philip or Laury give a book recommendation. Well, this is one of those months with an extra Thursday. So I had planned to give one myself. I changed my mind. As many of you know, it's been almost two years since my second book, A Body on the Hill came out. And I know you know this because the reminders that book three is way past to multiply every week. So, no, that day has not come. I will not be announcing a new book release. But instead of I'll give you a taste of what's to come.
It's time to put on your sleuthing cap, feel nailbiting dread and face heart racing fear. This is Queer Writers of Crime, where you'll get book recommendations and hear interviews with LGBTQ authors of mystery, suspense and thriller novels. Here's your host, Brad Shreve,
Again, I'm Brad and welcome back. I have two books in my Mitchell Riley series so far. Book number one is a body in a bathhouse. And book number two is a body on the hill. My goal is each book in the series can be read as a standalone. But if you're like me, there's no denying it's most fun to start at the beginning. So if you want to purchase either or both of the first two books, I won't stop yet. But if you'd prefer to wait until the upcoming third book, you'll be fine having missed the first two. But again, if you want to get the first two, go ahead. The title of the upcoming novel is a body, some bears and a blade. You'll see a slightly different name here in there because my original title was a body a bear and a blade, but then dawned on me the bears should be plural, because there are far more than just one bear in this novel. By bear I don't mean anything like smokey or Yogi though I am a fan of Yogi and boo boo. I mean, who wouldn't want a friend like booboo who happens to stands right at the perfect height? Nevermind. When I'm referring to bears, I mean bearish men. And there is an entire gay culture of bears and those who admire them. If you're not familiar, I think this chapter I'm about to read will fill you in. But if you'd like to know more, I put a link to an article about the bear culture in the show notes. But don't worry about that for now. For now, sit back. Enjoy that latte or whatever your beverage of choice is. And listen in on the first chapter. One thing I must note is what you're about to hear is a rough draft. And while I wouldn't expect any major changes what you hear may be different than what you may read once the book is published. A body some bears and a blade. A Metro Reilly mystery book three. Chapter one. Being averse to large crowds, I chose to start the night at the small dance party at the host hotel rather than heading straight to the bigger function at Thrust. I initially didn’t have the energy to handle a mob but getting to see my old friend Marcus Luther gave me the motivation to drive to the bar to take advantage of the perks I paid for. Over forty years in business, Thrust was a landmark in Silver Lake, especially as the spot for leather men and bears to congregate, get drunk, and cruise. It was one of the few gay bars in the community that hadn’t gentrified, and they boasted they were as raunchy as ever. It had been six months since I stepped inside and that was while working a murder case. This was a different situation altogether. I was a patron. My eagerness to go in was short lived. The beat from the music inside shook my little Honda, and the shouting that comes with a crowd of drunks straining to be heard over each other was too much all at once. To avoid a panic attack, I sat in my car in Thrust’s parking, played soft music and did deep breathing exercises my therapist taught me. My songs were drowned by the music erupting across the lot, but the breathing helped. Each time my brain took me to Afghanistan and the site of my buddy Suze’s screams as the Taliban ripped his body apart one single bullet at a time, I was able to focus and stay grounded to bring my mind back to LA. Having grown weary of staring at the drab, concrete block building, I steadied myself and went in. The size of the crowd was breaking numerous fire codes. After showing my event pass at the door, I forced my way through an ocean of sweaty men. Having to weave around tight clusters of friends made a straight line to the bar impossible. I’d bump hard into one guy after another. Some laughed, while others saw no humor in it. The exhausting process made me feel old at thirty-one years. There was a time when my ego got a boost when a handsome stranger would grab my ass, but I had reached the point where I wanted to punch the faces of each of the guys who pawed at me. The one who grabbed my crotch did become a victim of my elbow jab to his chest. Behind the bar was the guy who says we hooked up one night. I believe him, though I couldn’t remember. It was hard to keep track at times. The last time I’d seen him was six months ago when I questioned him as a witness in a case. He was adamant about us hooking up again, but I brushed him off as I was dating the other guy at the time. Well, not dating, but working a case with someone with a little side benefit. The bartender gave a big shit eating grin when I approached him. He liked to tease that I could never remember his name. “Who am I tonight, Mitch?” He asked. “Am I Greg or Gary? Oh Hell, whatever, you can call me shithead for all I care. It’s very few I’d allow to do that.” “How about I keep it simple and not try to remember names,” I said. “I’ll just call you Sir. Will you get me a Rolling Rock, please, Sir?” Grady threw back his head and laughed. “Sir? I didn’t know you were into the daddy scene. So, you want to be Daddy’s boy?” We laughed together at the poor choice of label I chose. “Let’s change that. Instead of Sir. I’ll call you ‘Hey Bartender.’” He frowned and ran his finger from his eye down his cheek to imply a tear. “You’re the customer, so I guess I’ll accept it if it’s the best you can do, you bitch!” “All right. All right. I have a better idea. From this point I’ll call you the G-man?” “G-Man’s cool. It makes me sound hard and mysterious.” He placed my bottle on the bar. “This first one is on me. It’s always good to see you, Mitch.” He winked. “The name’s Grady.” Again, I had to take some deep breathes to stay levelheaded. It gave me time to assess the bar and note little had changed over the years. The red concrete floor, and black walls became Thrust’s trademark. The sheets of corrugated metal strategically attached to large sections of the walls was a touch added sometime over the last five years. It gave the bar an even grubbier garage-like feel. I gave the bartender a salute and started to back off but had to ask a crucial question. “Before I suffocate trying to find him in this crowd, where’s Marcus Luther?” G-Man, whose real name I had already forgotten, told me Marcus was out back by the pool. He walked away to serve another customer before I had the chance to ask what pool he was talking about. I was puzzled until I wedged my way to the back patio. Just beyond it, on a vacant lot next door, was a temporary framed swimming pool. Next to it was my old friend mingling with a small group circling him. I was not surprised to find him still being the center of attention. It was that way wherever he’d go. Some things never change. When I caught his eye, he raised his arms wide, splashing half his beer in the process. Marcus exclaimed, “Oh my god. There he is. I was worried you wouldn’t show up. You’re as handsome as ever over all these years.” He stepped forward, wrapped his thick arms around me lifted me off my feet and spun me around. He ended his overplay of affection by giving me a kiss on my neck. I was torn appreciating the sign of affection and hating to be the center of attention. Being over six and a half feet, Marcus’ very presence garnered attention. His art of joke making, storytelling, and his hearty laugh added to his appeal. There are classifications of bearish and I’m not sure where Marcus fit. He wasn’t only big in height; his body was thick. Powerful muscles, with some extra padding from a big appetite. He enjoyed elegant food and fine wines. Some would classify him as a muscle bear, but purists would disagree because most of his body was smooth, but he did keep a thick scruffy beard. There were two occasions men told me he wasn’t a bear because he was black. I told both to ‘fuck off.’ The good from that is I remember those moments well because assholery of that level is rare. Marcus didn’t care how people categorized him, and the way he looked in his cowboy hat and open leather vest, I don’t think most others did either. I don’t think you could find a man at any bear bar or bear event in the country who hadn’t met him. There was no shortage of men who wanted to get in his pants, and Marcus wasn’t shy about accepting invitations. After putting me down, Marcus turned me to face his circle of friends and they all checked me out from top to bottom. They nodded, said their hellos, followed by half-hearted smiles. Friendly, but disappointed I had monopolized Marcus’ attention, even for a minute. Marcus told them about our time in college with some crazy antics and then pointed to each of the eight men and gave me their names. The one name I remembered was Chuck Burnett and only because he was Marcus’ husband, who he affectionately referred to as husbear. You’d think after being an MP in the military, as well as the following years as a PI, I would be good with names, but I’d forget within seconds of meeting someone. Chuck didn’t seem Marcus’ type. Oh, he was a chubby, hairy, bear, for sure, but he had a scowl on his face and no hint of a smile. I caught right away he wasn’t an asshole. He was one of those guys who was prone to live with an angry face that give no reflection of how they feel inside. I find the angry-face sexy on a lot of men, but it didn’t endear me toward Chuck. Like most bearish guys, when they were in groups like themselves, they had no inhibitions about their weight that they may have with the general public. Chuck did not seem hesitant to go shirtless, displaying his big, round belly that sagged over his wet swimsuit. When the bear movement started in the mid-80s the world opened to a lot of men who didn’t fit that stereotypical, thin, and toned gay man bod. For the first time in many of their lives, they were able to socialize and be who they were without fear of being judged by their shape. There was still plenty of judgment amongst themselves, but it wasn’t the type they’d feel by going to circuit parties, or twinky dance clubs. Chuck said, “Marcus told me a lot about you. You still as wild as he says you were?” “Not so much since I left college. I joined the military, and it sapped the joy out of me.” I chuckled as I said it in a flippant manner, but it stung because it was true. “I see you’ve been in the pool.” I crossed my arms and leaned back into its plastic sides. “How did you guys work this out?” Marcus said, “Alex, my co-partner for this conference, worked it out. Have you been to our host hotel Solace Inn? We had set up several pool parties with their group sales manager, but there seems to be a lack of communication with their employees. Their maintenance department neglected to tell her the pool would be closed for repairs.” “Yeah, I noticed,” I replied. “I was there on the pool deck a little while ago. It seemed odd there was just a big cement hole in the ground.” “We weren’t happy about that,” Marcus continued. “But Alex didn’t let it faze him. He started making calls, rented the pool, and then magically got us a permit to use it here. Good thing there’s this empty lot next to the bar and the lot’s owner was happy to rent us the space. It’s been for sale and sitting empty for a while, I guess. It’s not the same, despite the water overflowing from being overcrowded with big guys, but we’ve had few complaints yet. We’re just not allowed to have alcohol here, since this piece of land has no alcohol license. One you step off the bar’s porch the drink stays behind. “You say that as you stand with a mug in your hand.” Marcus clasped his mouth, squatted down, and looked from side to side. “Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t want to get us in trouble.” “My lips are sealed,” I said. “Your lips are sealed? Wow. You have changed since college.” He guffawed, while the rest of the group politely chuckled. “I didn’t say they were permanently sealed. I open them wide when necessary.” “That sounds more like the Mitch Marcus told me about,” Chuck said. I hung with the group for twenty minutes and I caught I was feeling more relaxed than I could recall for some time. It couldn’t have been the alcohol since my earlier drinks were long wore off and I was still nursing the beer from G-Man. It was a rare moment when the tension releases its grasp from my neck, and I didn’t find myself withdrawing from the conversations. They were a silly bunch and my sides hurt from laughing. Maybe my meds were starting to work, or the PTSD group was helping. I took a mental note not to tell my psychiatrist I’d been drinking. I had been a heavy drinker but cut back after my shrink told me alcohol is not a good mix with my medication. I smirked like I was a kid getting away with something and took the last swig from my bottle. Marcus said, “Mitch, you’ve run dry. Let’s go grab you another beer and I’ll introduce you to my co-host Alex. There was a second bar on Thrust’s patio that was less packed than the one up front. We passed the tables where caterers had served a buffet. They were loading serving dishes into a white van. One of the servers linked eyes with me and nodded. I knew him from somewhere but couldn’t place it. Marcus escorted me to a large shed to the side of the patio. He said, “They set a temporary work area for me and Alex in this storage room, since we can’t run back and forth to the office we setup in one of the hotel rooms. This way we can keep track of our funds while we’re here, which is most of the time. It beats shoving money and receipts in our pockets and keeps us honest.” Marcus swung open the shed door and with gusto exclaimed, “Hey Alex, here’s Mitch!” No one was there. “That son of a bitch!” Marcus roared. “If he needs to take a piss then take a piss but lock up the goddamn money first.” My friend huffed while he stashed bills into a small lock box. When I nudged him, he spun so fast, I jumped. I expected to be punched. “What do you want, Mitch?” I pointed at the stream of blood coming from behind a stack of beer kegs. The body spread on the concrete slab assaulted me with one emotion. I was pissed. There are a host of feelings that would have been more fitting - empathy, sadness, queasiness, disgust, maybe even a little fear, but none of those touched my nerves. Nope, I was pissed, and it was plain old selfishness. I was easing into what I hoped would be one of my best nights in years and the bastard sopping in blood ruined it for me. Two men held back the crowd from entering the storeroom, but one bystander slipped through. “Is that guy dead?” he asked. It was a question only an idiot would ask and when I turned and saw him it was no surprise. We had met earlier, had a fun time but, there was no grain in his silo. It isn’t the cleverest metaphor, but it’s the best I can come up with and it fits. He was from South Dakota. I left Jeff’s hotel room three hours earlier, or it may have been Jack or Joe. It doesn’t matter. I’m almost certain it began with “J,” but given there are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, I could have been way off. I do remember he was from Sioux Falls because I’d never met anyone from South Dakota before. Or, at least who would admit it. Mister South Dakota and I were at a small dance party beside the empty pool at the Solace Inn, the host hotel for the Bearfoonery International Rally. He cruised me from across the patio and approached me to dance. Dancing hadn’t been my thing for a long time, but I drank enough greyhounds to loosen up enough to accept. Festivals like these were not my thing either, but Marcus, my old roommate from UCLA, was a co-founder of the event, and I had a little extra cash on hand from my most recent investigation. Hoping to get my twin sister Josie off my back about living in isolation was extra incentive. I’d learned from two other conferences that bearish men were a fun bunch. Like any labeled group, they have their share of drama, but overall are welcoming to all types of men. Overworked was my usual excuse to avoid socializing. Being both a store owner and a private investigator gave it validity. Most of my personal life was on hold after leaving the military six years ago. I did break down and dated a guy for a brief time, but I was in my early stages of treatment for PTSD, and he wanted more of a relationship than I could give. After a brief stint together, I called it off to give me space to focus on me. Keeping people at a distance was safe, and necessary, for my recovery. But Mister South Dakota was fine. I didn’t have to get close to someone to get laid, which was all I needed. While the two of us danced, we chatted long enough to get what each of us was in to and agreed we were a good match for fun and frolic. We spent an hour in Mr. South Dakota’s room proving our intuitions were right. While we dressed, he asked if I’d like to ride with him to Thrust, the bar where most of the conference events were held. I declined the ride. I lived in the Los Angeles Silver Lake neighborhood, near Thrust, but the hotel was further than I cared to walk. I had my car. There was shuttle with scheduled runs from the hotel to the bar, but that was part of the Deluxe Package. I had a little extra money to pay for the premiums, but I never knew when my cash would run dry. To join the fun, I plopped down one-hundred-sixty-nine bucks to purchase the Basic Party Package that offered plenty to keep me entertained, including dance parties, pool parties, a welcome reception, game nights, and a drag show sing-along. Other than the shuttle to events, there wasn’t much more to the more costly Premium Package than an exclusive opening night barbecue. Label something “exclusive” and it’s not for me. Living nearby also saved me the extra one-seventy-five per night for a hotel room. A Body, Some Bears, and a Blade. Coming later in 2022.
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