Skin Deep - The Series

LONGTIME READERS of kaos will know that over the years, I've expressed my disappointment at the racial segregation in gay TV series, from Queer As Folk to Noah's Arc. Only Rikki Beadle-Blair's cult drama Metrosexuality was brave enough to depict a world where people don't just mix with "their own kind".

That seems to be changing, with Larry Kennar's promising (and multiracial) DTLA in production, and now David Summers' Skin Deep - The Series is in the works. Take that, Jill Scott!

"Skin Deep - The Series is a new scripted TV pilot that addresses racial and cultural differences within the gay community specifically in Atlanta. In short, it can best be described as Queer as Folk, meets Noah's Arc, meets Crash, taken to a new and vibrant level. The arc of the show will take us into the lives of three black men and three white men. The supporting characters will extend off into other racial arenas such as Asian and Latino, and will build as the series evolves."

Exciting stuff, and a project that deserves all our support.

Visit the official Skin Deep - The Series website, join the show's Facebook page, and enjoy the trailer!

It's a man's world, and you men can have it

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She done him wrong

"I wrote the story myself. It's about a girl who lost her reputation and never missed it."

The ones that say they don't want anything always get more in the end

at the movies

Death comes to small town American when Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton star in Alfred Hitchcock's personal favorite of all his films, Shadow Of A Doubt (1943).

Everyone in the Newton family is delighted that dear Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) has come for an extended visit. His biggest admirer is his niece Young Charlie (Teresa Wright) who begins to suspect that something isn't quite right with her mysterious relative, when two FBI men appear and begin asking questions. The suspense slowly mounts as she begins to realize she must release her Uncle from her what she thought he was, in order to see what he might actually be and that could be murder. Steve Hayes

(Syndication is with the kind permission of Steve Hayes.)

"Battyman in di studio!"


T'S BEEN A long time since John R. Gordon's last novel, Warriors & Outlaws, but in the meantime, we've had episodes of Noah's Arc (as well as the screenplay for the film, Jumping The Broom), and the brilliant short film Souljah. But since Gordon's publisher - the iconic Gay Men's Press - folded, no new books.

So, has fourth novel Faggamuffin been worth the wait?

Here's a clue: it was on the stage in London, long before the novel was even published. Iconic, black gay singer McAlmont was in the audience (I know - I held the door for him as he exited the theatre).

Faggamuffin joins John R. Gordon's previous works - Black Butterflies, Skin Deep, and Warriors & Outlaws - a definitive gay, Afrocentric oeuvre, with a very London bias. But here's the really important thing about Faggamuffin: it's a gripping page-turner. Set aside its impressive literary credentials - the searing, undeniable truth-telling - and you've got an electrifying plot in which our protaganist, Cutty, flees homophobic violence (and the murder of his lover, Sonny) in Jamaica, pitching up in London at the flat of acquaintance (and mini drug baron) Buju. And one tiny spark becomes a night of blazing suspense: Cutty and Buju's lust - and love - becomes an all consuming fire, and the novel deals with the fall-out from that, with Cynthia, Buju's girlfriend, standing by with a fire extinguisher.

(Spoiler: the moment Cutty and Buju finally come together should go down in history as one of the most exciting, sexiest, moments in literary fiction. Trust me: you'll shout, "WTF?")

This is a sexy, deeply moving novel, an unlikely love story forged out of the hell this world has created for some of us. Ever wondered what it's really like to be a gay Jamaican (chances are, you're probably not one)? Hearing, secondhand, about the horrors endured by our brothers in that part of the world is one thing, but actually living them through Cutty is another. The novel subtley reminds us that, but for the grace of God (as it were), you or I could be Cutty, and asks us to consider how we might deal with the impossible circumstances Cutty finds himself in. Because let's face it - most of us reading Faggamuffin won't be under the cosh, will we?

Getting under Cutty's skin is a privilege, the trade-off being that we get to see ourselves through the eyes of one who doesn't have the freedoms most of us enjoy. Particularly effective is Cutty's response to London's gay village, Soho. Through Cutty's eyes, we witness the apparent freedoms enjoyed by London's gays, and thus see ourselves as those less fortunate see us. But Gordon takes it a step further; later, when Cutty hears of the violent homophobia that still exists in Britain, Cutty's vision of a tolerant, liberal paradise is shattered. Cutty sees that Britain really isn't much better than Jamaica: here, the violence is simmering just beneath the surface. That reader who might smugly have gone along with Cutty's initial summation is forced to remove their rose-tinted glasses.

The cast of (mostly West London) characters are expertly drawn by Gordon, who's lived in that part of the world for 20 years. As you'd expect, leads Cutty and Buju are lovingly drawn, consequently engulfing the reader in their unexpected romance. The boys in Buju's click are all interesting, carefully drawn characters, rather than the irritating one-note stereotypes they might easily have been. Even potentially unsympathetic characters are rendered human: cock-blockin', manipulative Cynthia could easily have been a one dimensional monster in less skilled hands, yet instead evokes a surprising degree of sympathy.

Ultimately, Faggamuffin is sexy, searing, thoughtful, romantic, exciting, brutal, and much more, but there's just one thing you need to know: this is a story like no other, that had my heart, mind and pulse racing - sometimes, all at once - and it's the best novel you'll read this year.

Do not miss it.

Read our exclusive interview with author John R. Gordon.


Yesterday's men

While our weekly news compendium is on hiatus, feel free to leaf through our back issues. Rewind two years to Issue 76. Yesterday's men await you...

It's a man's world, and you men can have it

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OVELS LIKE Chulito don't come around very often, so it's only fair to warn you that this review is an unashamed love letter to a perfect literary dish.

Chulito, by Charles Rice-González, plunges us head first into a Latino neighbourhood in the Bronx, where we're fully immersed in Catholic guilt, bodegas, highly strung Latina mamas, street thugs, and a lot of ¿Qué pasa.

Also taking in the gay youth culture of Manhattan's piers, Chulito is a coming-of-age, coming out love story of tough, sexy, hip-hop loving Chulito (literally, "cutie"), and the colourful characters who populate his block. Popular with everyone in the neighbourhood - including enigmatic drug dealer Kamikaze - Chulito is an alpha-male in the making. Then there's Carlos,  Chulito's best friend until they hit puberty, and people started calling Carlos a pato: a faggot. Chulito rejects Carlos and becomes best friends with Kamikaze, but when Carlos comes home after his first year away at college, Chulito's worlds collide...

Rice-González lovingly depicts this poor Bronx neighbourhood in the kind of detail that leaves you feeling like you were there. He then populates Chulito's world with a vivid cast of characters: the Auto glass guys, gay Julio in his travel agency, Looney Tunes on the corner, Puti the broken drag queen... They all leap off the page. Chulito is the perfect summer novel, bursting with Latino pride. But the real pleasure is for the reader: I couldn't put this sizzling tale down for a minute. A major factor is Rice-González's rendering of conflicted 16-year-old Chulito ("a Latino, hip hop version of Michelangelo's David"), a thoroughly engaging character who might, in less skilled hands, have come across as a vapid jerk. González invites us to fall in love with Chulito - as much as Carlos does - and succeeds. As the novel progressed, I found myself frantic with worry for Chulito, and subsequently, Chulito and Carlos' burgeoning love. You'll fall head over heels, you'll care, and trust me, you'll be left bereft when it's all over. The very last scene is a poetic, cinematic masterstroke; quite possibly, one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. (Over a week later, Chulito still hasn't been returned to the bookcase - I keep rereading that perfect last scene.)

This vivid, good-hearted book filled me with joy, and when it was all over, I had to fight the urge to start all over again. Chulito moved me, and as is fitting for a novel about a 16-year-old's gay boy's coming of age, thrilled me, toyed with me, and slapped me around for good measure. Thanks to Mr Rice-González, a little part of my heart will always belong to Hunts Point, Bronx, New York.

Next time: We check out "The Beauty Of Men" by Andrew Holleran.

Read an interview with author Charles Rice-González.

Charles Rice-González: Official website.

The Legend of the Ditto Twins

 The Legend of the Ditto Twins 

Everyone loves twins, but no more so than twins themselves. That's the message in Jerry Douglas' The Legend of the Ditto Twins (Bruno Gmünder), an exploration of all-American twins Mark and Clark, who get a bit too close for their mother's comfort.

The novel follows their sexual awakening "from a modest dairy farm in America's heartland to the glamorous world of Berlin's physique models, from the wonderland of Prague's adult film industry to the fast lane of New York's glittering club life... and ultimately, all the way to the Supreme Court of the united States."

A perfectly charming read, more Carry On Twincest than hardcore porn, it takes its cue from cosy Americana like The Waltons ("Goodnight Mark!", "Goodnight Clark!"), but once the lights go out, the fun starts. Unfortunately, Douglas relies way too much on the long since broken taboo of twins being into each other: this novel is at least 10 years too late. We've had Bel Ami's Elijah and Milo Peters, who've done everything the Ditto twins have (and more) in full HD technicolour. And they aren't the only naughty twins in the biz - the Goffney twins have a colourful backstory worthy of a feature film.

Douglas throws in some ripped-from-the-headlines issues - there's a thinly-veiled version of the Westboro Baptist Church nuts - and we're asked to accept that same-sex incest is the next big civil rights issue. There might be something in that, but a lightweight slap'n'tickle book might not be the place for it.

What's unforgivable is the final, jarring change of tone, delivering the most distasteful, inappropriate climax (involving those famous twins from September 11) to any novel I've ever read.

The Legend of the Ditto Twins does work, however. It's a fun romp with a serious side, and the twins themselves are endearing. It's just a shame about that misjudged finale.

Next time: We check out "Chulito" by Charles Rice-Gonzalez.

Yesterday's men

While our weekly news compendium is on hiatus, feel free to leaf through our back issues. Rewind two years to Issue 75. Yesterday's men await you...

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