by Lorie Lewis Ham
& Neil S. Plakcy
This week we have a review of Survival is A Dying Art by Neil S. Plakcy, and a very interesting guest post by Neil about some of the early mystery novels featuring gay male protagonists. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win either an ebook or print copy of Survival is A Dying Art . You will also find a link to purchase the book from Amazon.
Survival is A Dying Art by Neil S. Plakcy
Review by Lorie Ham
In honor of Pride, this month we are featuring several LGBTQ+ authors and characters. When I was looking around for books to include, I stumbled upon Neil S. Plakcy’s series featuring Special Agent Angus Green and noticed that his latest book, Survival is A Dying Art, was a finalist for the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery. I decided that this was the perfect choice and I am very glad that I did!
In Survival is a Dying Art Special Agent Angus Green is a fairly green, but very eager and capable, FBI agent. Still in his twenties, and very attractive, many people tend to underestimate him and assume he’s just a pretty boy, but there is a lot more to Agent Green than what one sees.
When Angus is approached by retiree Frank Sena about helping him determine if a special painting he wants to purchase is authentic, Angus sees this as a chance to not only help someone, but perhaps score some points with his bosses. Sena is trying to purchase the painting through pawnshop owner Jesse Venable who just happens to be under investigation for smuggling immigrants out of the Middle East. The painting is one that was stolen from Frank’s uncle, a gay Venetian killed during the Holocaust.
Since Angus knows nothing about art, he begins his art education with the help of his brother who is studying art in Italy, his art-loving boyfriend, and another agent who specializes in art. Angus then has to go undercover and win the trust of Venable, something that could be deadly if he isn’t careful.
This action filled adventure even takes Angus to Italy, where his brother helps translate for him. Things take a dangerous turn when Angus is accused of a murder. The story had plenty of twists and turns and was filled with interesting characters, and even a bit of art history. I look forward to going back and reading the previous books in the series! Angus is a believable and very likeable character and it was refreshing to have a character who isn’t yet jaded, but who believes in others and just wants to make a difference.
I highly recommend Survival is a Dying Art.
In the Footsteps of Giants
by Neil Plakcy
Though I had been an eager reader of crime fiction since I was a teenager, when I began writing my first published mystery novel, Mahu, I had no idea that there was already an active and diverse mystery genre featuring gay male protagonists. It wasn’t until I spoke about the book in progress to someone I met at a conference that I discovered I was walking in the footsteps of giants.
One of the first gay detectives I read was Dave Brandstetter, in Joseph Hansen’s first book, Fadeout (1970). A straight friend who was a mystery lover pushed this book into my hands, along with those of a few other authors, and I fell in love.
Brandstetter was a masculine man in the mold of many hard-boiled detectives, but he faced discrimination, and had his job as an insurance investigator only through his father’s ownership of the firm. I reread Fadeout about a year ago, and was very pleased to see that it held up very well. Lots of atmosphere, great writing, and interesting characters.
I also recently reread A Body to Dye For, the first of Grant Michael’s Stan Kraychick books, about a somewhat fey hairdresser in Boston who uses his talents at talking to people (What secrets have you told your stylist?) as well as his personal fearlessness, to help gay men in danger, and those who have been victims. He works with a sympathetic police detective who wants to see justice for all kinds of people, despite the pervasive anti-gay sentiments of the time in his department.
Many, many authors have since populated the genre, including Greg Herren, Mark Richard Zubro, and Michael Nava. These books have built devoted readerships and generated much acclaim. John Morgan Wilson’s Simple Justice (1996) was the first book featuring a gay detective to win an Edgar. My own Mahu Surfer won a Lefty at the Left Coast Crime conference in 2009 in Waikoloa, Hawaii.
Unfortunately, the rise in interest in these books hasn’t been recognized by mainstream publishers. The Lambda Literary Awards celebrate all kinds of excellent LGBTQ writing, with categories for both best gay mystery and best lesbian mystery. None of the eight finalists for the 2019 award in gay mystery were issued by one of the big five publishers. Joseph Olshan’s Black Diamond Fall, published by Polis Books, and John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning, from Pegasus, were the only finalists on the list not self-published or from a GLBT specialty press.
It’s my hope that with the visibility of gay people in all kinds of roles, from Olympic athletes to presidential candidates, we’ll see the mainstream mystery field catch up and began including LGBTQ detectives on their front lists.
To enter to win either an ebook or print copy of Survival is A Dying Art, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “art,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 6, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via comment please include your email address and if entering via email please include your address. BE SURE TO STATE IF YOU WANT PRINT OR EBOOK. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.
Check out one of Neil’s mystery short stories featured in a Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast last year:
You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.