Jeff & Will kick things off with an announcement that Jeff’s hockey romance Head in the Game is now in Kindle Unlimited and that The Hockey Player’s Heart, a second chance romance they wrote together, is on pre-order for a January 15 re-release and will also be in KU. Will also looks at other re-release titles in this week’s installment of Romance Revisited.

The guys talk about season 4 of the Netflix series Eastsiders as well as Chuck Tingle’s latest short story Not Pounded By Romance Wranglers Of America Because Their New Leadership Is From The Depths Of The Endless Cosmic Void. Jeff also reviews Risk Assessment by Parker St. John.

Matt Lubbers-Moore talks with Jeff about ReQueered Tales, a publishing company with the mission to bring back out-of-print gay fiction. Matt discusses the first books they’ve released, what’s involved in securing the rights to the books and some of the wonderful reactions they’ve had with authors and their families as they’ve reached out about these books from long ago. Plus, we find out what’s on ReQueered’s wish list.

Remember, you can listen and subscribe to the podcast anytime on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, SpotifyStitcherPlayerFMYouTube and audio file download.

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Show Notes

Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links includes affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.

Jump to Reviews

Interview Transcript – Matt Lubbers-Moore

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Jeff: Welcome, Matt, to the podcast. It’s great to have you here.

Matt: Well, thanks for inviting me.

Jeff: I love what you’re doing with ReQueered books. When I first heard about it, it just made my heart happy that some of the books that I read, like, when I first came out back in the middle 90s, that are now out-of-print, are getting a new lease on life, especially, the Grant Michaels stuff. That’s really what pulled me in because I read many of those mysteries and was sad to find that they had gone out-of-print after all this time. Let’s start with the ReQueered origin story. How did this start?

Matt: Well, a group of friends and I were discussing the “Benjamin Justice Series” by John Morgan Wilson. And his books have been out-of-print for so long. And it was so depressing that we weren’t able to get ahold of them. And we were just kind of making jokes like, “Oh, not only should we be running this Facebook group, you know, the Gay Mystery Facebook group, but we should also start up our own publishing company.” You know, it was just kind of in jest. And we heard from my business partner, Alexander, and he said, “Well, actually, I’ve already converted all of his books into digital for myself. And it would be really easy for me just to get them into print.” And so, we were talking, and he had mentioned that he actually also had tons of books that he had turned from physical copies into digital for himself. And so we thought, “Well, if they’re already digitalized, this would be pretty easy to start up a business.” So we approached Justine to be our lawyer, to write the contracts, and everything like that, and she jumped on board immediately. So that’s really how it started was just a joke, and then found out that we actually all have skills that benefited each other and would support the business.

Jeff: That’s incredible. You make it sound so simple. And yet I imagine that it really is not.

Matt: No. No. You know, I mean, this started over a year ago. You know, it took Justine about six months to write up all the business paperwork and get the bank accounts going and get us legal in the state of California to run this publishing company, and then to start getting authors, and things like that. So it did take some time. And, you know, it started off as a joke, and then became a lot more serious.

Jeff: How did Alexander end up and transition so many books? Was it just for it to make him easier to read them on like a Kindle or a tablet or whatever?

Matt: Yeah, exactly. It was just for him to be able to read on his app because he travels down to Mexico six months out of the year, and he lives in Toronto. So, instead of taking all of his books with him, you know, it’s just an easier way of being able to read. You know, he uses an e-reader.

Jeff: And what inspired you to get involved and decide to start a business all of a sudden?

Matt: Well, you know, the idea of it was just so cool, of being able to start up a publishing company that only republished out-of-print books. You know, I love gay mysteries and thought it would be a really rewarding adventure. And it really is, so far. You know, my role is to reach out to these authors and to the estates, and ask them if they’d be interested in us republishing their books. And to be able to communicate with authors like Lev Raphael or Felice Picano, I mean, it’s just been amazing. I mean, Jack Dickson from the Jas Anderson books, you know, it’s just been incredible reaching out. You know, when I reached out to the brother of Jay B. Laws, Gary Laws, you know, I just sent him an email, you know, with Jay B. Laws in the subject header. And he emailed me back, and he goes, “Oh, my goodness, I have never expected to see my brother’s name in print again. And this is just an amazing thing that you guys are doing.” And so, for me, you know, it’s just been so rewarding. And, you know, the best part of this is knowing that, not only are we bringing the books back for nostalgic reasons, but we’re also bringing them back for new audiences. None of these books, or at least most of the books that we’re republishing have never been in ebook version either. So, for millions of people who read only on ebooks now, we’re able to reach out to them as well. And I think it’s great that we’re going to the old fans, and we’re bringing the new ones too.

Jeff: You know, a lot of people equate, you know, DVDs going from out-of-print to coming back in print with their new fancy Blu-ray editions and everything. And that’s essentially what you’re doing for these books.

Matt: Yeah. I mean, each book that we come out with, we make sure that we get a foreword. We have another author, or a family member, or a publisher, someone who knew the books then or know the books now, you know, and have some history with them. And they will write an introduction or a foreword, you know, introducing the book or the history of the author, of gay men. We were really privileged that Hal Bodner, who wrote the books “Bite Club” and “The Trouble with Hairy,” he actually wrote like a little short story at the beginning, you know, of his introduction. You know, and then he went into the importance of “Steam” by Jay B. Laws. So it’s just kind of neat to get the history of the books, the authors, and kind of give the history of the gay community, you know, from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and even early 2000s, you know, I feel like are being so overshadowed and forgotten.

Jeff: How do you decide, A, what would make a good foreword intro, and then actually finding the people who can bring that together?

Matt: Our hardest person to get a foreword or an introduction for was Jay B. Laws. He wrote two books, one in ’89, and the other one came out in ’91. He died in 1990 of AIDS. And so we were having a hard time finding someone who had read his books or knew him or knew of him. And it was just getting really difficult. So I emailed, I think, 30 authors. In one evening, I just got all their emails and just sent out bulk emails to all these authors, just asking, “Have you ever heard of him? Have you ever heard of these books?” And we knew Hal Bodner had, so that was my first email. And he was, like, one of the last people to get back to me, but almost everybody else had said, “I’d never heard of him or the books.” You know, and so, Hal Bodner emailed me back and said, “Hey, you know, I’ve read his books, I loved them. They’re incredible.” And so he wrote one, and then the most amazing… I’m sure, you know of Alyson Publications. They were very popular back in the 80s and 90s, and even a little early into the 2000s. So no one has heard from Sasha Alyson in years, you know, he sold his business, and then he moved. And I said, “Man, it’d be awesome if we could get him to write an introduction,” but no one’s heard from him or seen him. And I was talking to Richard Stevenson, who wrote the Donald Strachey mysteries. And I said, “You know, it’s just too bad, you know, I can’t find anyone that knows Jay B. Laws.” And Stephen said, “Well, I was in Bangkok, where he lives half of the year.” And he said, “And I ran into Sasha.” And I said, “I don’t know who’s Sasha. You know, who’s Sasha?”

And he goes, “Sasha Alyson, and, you know, here’s his email address. So you can, you know, see if he’d be willing to write you an introduction.” So I wrote out to him, never thinking I’d hear anything from him. And he actually wrote me back, wrote me a really awesome introduction. And so we’re gonna put that in for Jay B. Laws’ next book, for “Unfinished.” But it’s just amazing how much support we’re getting from the gay community and the gay authors, that they all wanna see these books back in print, you know, because they all grew up on these books or they remember reading these books. And so like Neil Plakcy, who writes the Mahu series, and the Have Body, Will Guard books. And he, you know, jumped on it. You know, and he wrote a really nice introduction for us for “A Body To Dye For,” which was the first book of the Grant Michaels books. And then the families have just been so supportive, Gary Laws wrote this really touching introduction to “Steam.” We have another brother writing one for one of our other books. And then just a good friend of Jack Dixon is writing one for “FreeForm.” So it’s just amazing the support that we’re getting from the community and from the families and friends.

Jeff: And as you mentioned, it’s great to hear that the families can be excited that the work is coming back after, you know, what could be several decades.

Matt: You know, we’re kind of hesitant sometimes because we don’t know how the families are with, you know, the gay brothers. And so it’s like, we don’t know if we’re gonna, you know, email these families, and then they come back and say, “Oh, you know, I’m glad that they’re out-of-print,” or you know, receive some sort of homophobic reaction. But so far, everything we’ve gotten is just wonderful and supportive.

Jeff: Tell us about the four books that are already in market.

Matt: Well, our first book that we came out with is “Steam,” which is a horror book by Jay B. Laws. He actually won an award. He actually won a competition in 1989, that was ran by Alyson Publications, and City Lights Books, bookstore in San Francisco. Whoever was the best new-author book would be published by Alyson Publications. And so he won that. And it’s funny because when I talked to Sasha, through email, he said, “You know, I was so nervous because his book was the best. But Alyson Publications had never published a horror book before.” And so it’s kind of getting a little out of their comfort zone. But he said, he read it, and he just could not not publish it. That was just an incredible book. And, you know, at the time, he was referred to as the gay Stephen King. It’s just an amazing horror book. The second book that we published was, “Let’s Get Criminal” by Lev Raphael, who lives in Michigan. I’ve met him a few times. And it’s a academic cozy mystery. It’s the Nick Hoffman book series. It’s the first book in the series. It’s nine books now. The latest one just came out this year. So he had his first book and his last book come out in the same year. So that was the first book. And it was really nice because he wrote the introduction to his book. He kind of wrote about, like, how he got into writing mysteries and where the character Nick Hoffman came from, and it’s really kind of interesting to hear about that. Our third book is “A Body To Dye For” by Grant Michaels. It’s the first book of six books about Stan Vanos Kraychick. It’s a hairstylist that solves mysteries.

And I know nowadays that there’s just tons of hairstylists that solve mysteries. But in the day, it was very groundbreaking. Most of the characters, up to this point, were private investigators, lawyers, tough men, written in the style of Ross MacDonald, it was very noir. And here’s a gay character who works in a stereotypical gay profession and could prove that he’s just as strong and, you know, self-supportive, as one of these noir tough guys. And it’s an incredible series. You know, and Neil Plakcy, who wrote the introduction, kind of points out, you know, that not only was he self-supporting, but he actively worked with the police. And at the time, you know, police and the gay community were not always, you know, willing to work hand in hand. And so Neil Plakcy’s introduction was really kind of nice, talking about the history of gay men, and the police, and their conflicts. The fourth book that came out at the end of June was “FreeForm” by Jack Dickson. It’s the first book in the Jas Anderson trilogy. They’re incredibly gritty. They take place in Glasgow, Scotland. Jack Dickson, who lives in Glasgow, but Anderson is a closeted police officer. He is suspended for beating a rapist up. And then when he arrives home, he finds that his lover has been murdered. And he’s framed for it, so he has to go through all the motions of trying to find the true killer and let himself be innocent so he can return to the police force. And as I said, it is Glasgow, so by the time you’re… It’s really interesting because all of the dialogue is written in authentic Scot. So you will be speaking like Sean Connery by the time you’re done with the book because it’s really hard to understand at first, to get into it, but once you do, like it all just makes sense and just flows really nicely. But, yeah, by the time you’re done, you’ll be talking like Sean Connery.

Jeff: That’s a nice side effect. I wouldn’t mind having a Scottish accent.

Matt: Exactly.

Jeff: For these books, like the Grant Michaels series, and these others, are there plans there to bring all the books in the series back?

Matt: Yes. For the Grant Michaels books, we have all six books. They’re gonna be released in roughly, like, either two months or three-month durations. So that way we can, you know, make sure that we edit them, get the introductions put in place and that kind of thing. So it’ll be about two to three months between each book. So those will be all out. And then the Jas Anderson books, we’re looking at bringing all three back, probably, you know, again, two to three months. All of Lev Raphael’s books are all in print, except for the first one that we just brought back in print. We’re hoping that what will end up happening is as his current publishers begin to drop his book, that we’ll just start picking those up as well. But our plans are to, if we pick up any series, that we get the entire series or at least whichever ones are out-of-print.

Jeff: That’s awesome. When you’re editing, are you just essentially doing a copy edit, since, in some cases, you can’t work with the author anymore?

Matt: The only thing we do for editing is we just fix any grammar issues, spelling issues. The one thing that we did for Jack Dickson, is he misspelled a character’s name in the books. But he went through the entire book and misspelled her name the entire way through. So we went through and changed her name to what he wanted it to be. But other than that, we don’t change any of the storylines. I mean, there’s some things that might seem inappropriate now or unsuitable, or no longer PC, but we wanna keep the books as pure as when they first came out. So the only thing we do is grammar and spelling checks.

Jeff: That’s great because they are time capsules.

Matt: Yes.

Jeff: How do you decide what to go after? Because it sounds like… I mean, between Alexander’s scanning project that he was doing and the vast number of books that are out there, how do you make the choices and hone your list down to manageable for the business?

Matt: So we try and focus on genre fiction. So mysteries are a big one because we’re all fans of gay mysteries and everything like that. So we try to keep it as close to the genre fiction as possible. The one thing that we are always going after…I mean, we’ll go after anything that’s out-of-print. We want a more rounded LGBTQ backlist. And the one problem that we’re having is getting lesbian, bisexual, and trans authors and books that are out-of-print from them because we want more books that are all-encompassing, rather than just gay mystery. You know, we want as many as we can, but really we’ll take anything. Like I said, we try to keep to genre fiction. But you know, like, when Felice Picano approached us… You know, we weren’t able to get “The Lure,” you know, which is his most famous book. You know, most of his books are more literary fiction, and we’ve been trying to avoid getting into literary fiction, you know, as most of those are still in print and still being read. But it’s like, how can you tell Felice Picano, “Oh, we’re not interested in your books,” you know? So, you know, we just let people know, “Hey, you know, we have about a two-year calendar now that’s almost full.” We’re releasing two books per month, usually on the 15th and then the last day of the month. And we have 24 books right now. You know, it’s midway through the year, so we’re about almost a year out that we have a full calendar. But you know, we leave gaps here and there to try and get more authors, so we can kind of fit them in where we need to. But really, we would love any type of suggestion or if anyone knows of authors, to let us know that we should be looking at them or not. And if they know how to contact people, that’s most important because that’s the hardest thing for us.

Jeff: You’ve gotta get down to the rights holder somewhere down the line. How much of a challenge is that? Because I’ve heard on the various writing podcasts I listen to, there’s always those episodes that talk about, “Make sure your estate is in order, so that if you do pass away, that somebody ends up with your rights and knows how to use them.”

Matt: So Grant Michaels, his real name is Michael Mesrobian. We had, I think, the hardest time getting hold of his rights holders. So in his obituary, he had listed his…it said, you know, people who were left behind, his mother, and father, brother. So, Justine was able to get a copy of his will and found that his mother was his heir. But we didn’t have her address, we only had the lawyer’s address. So I wrote up a letter, you know, sent it to her lawyer, you know, as saying, “Hey, you know, we know you’re the one that did the estate and, we’re looking at publishing his books.” And so she passed it on. So I got an email from Michael Mesrobian’s brother, who’s Carl. And Carl wrote back and said, “Oh, you know, my mother passed away, you know, so now I hold all the rights. I was the heir of the estate. So, yeah, let’s do this.” And so part of our contract states, you know, “You have to guarantee that you actually have all the rights.” So he went to, you know, his lawyer and got a copy of the will, and saw, “Oh, I’m not actually the heir of the rights of the books.”

It’s actually a friend of his. And so we contacted his friend, Rob. And Rob said, “Well, yeah, I got all his papers and all of his books, and all this kind of stuff, but I don’t think I actually have the rights anymore because I donated everything to this library. And so we contacted the library and we said, “Hey, we were told that you have all the rights,” and they’re like, “Oh, we have all these papers, but we don’t have the rights, that belongs to Rob.” And so we went back to Rob, and he said, “Well, I want, you know, like a certified letter from the library saying that I have the rights because I don’t wanna get sued. And so we went back to Rob and said, “Here’s the letter that says that, you know, you have all the rights.” And so it was a process. And sometimes it can be very complicated to find the estates. A lot of times we’re looking at obituaries, you know, trying to find those. We look up, like, literary articles about them. Trying to find the estates or the heirs are probably our hardest challenge. And then a lot of these authors, like living authors, a lot of them don’t have social media or websites, or any other way of contacting them. So it’s usually trying to find someone that knows them and maybe knows that person who knows that person, and then we try and get a chain going, to try and get to that person.

Jeff: So, essentially, you’re private investigators yourselves?

Matt: Exactly. Exactly.

Jeff: Going on a treasure hunt to find the right people. What have you heard from readers in the response as these books have been coming out?

Matt: We have been hearing a lot from readers, that they’re just so excited that we’re doing this. You know, like the first Grant Michaels book, “A Body To Dye For,” if you wanna buy that on Amazon, it’s like a $30 book in hardcover. You know, a lot of these books have been so out-of-print for so long, that you just can’t find them cheaply enough to… You know, and like I said, they’re older, they’re mainly in hardcovers or paperbacks or whatever. But, you know, a lot of authors…or a lot of readers don’t read physical books anymore. And so a lot of the great authors and titles are just getting not noticed by readers. And so we’ve been having a ton of really positive reader feedback. And it’s funny because a lot of readers, you know, who already owned the books or have already read the books are like, “I’m so tempted just to rebuy the book because, you know, I already have a first edition on my shelf, but now I really want another copy because I like your covers.” You know, I mean, Dawné Dominique, who does all of our covers, is just amazing. And she really gets the nuances of what we’re looking for and what the book is about. And so we’re really able to just… You know, a lot of readers are just very thrilled about this. And we’re just thrilled to be able to connect with so many people that are so excited about this. And so it just keeps us going,

Jeff: Do you think you’ll expand to audio since audio is such a thing right now?

Matt: Audiobooks are huge right now, we would love to. It’s just kind of getting to that point where we’re financially able to. You know, we’ve got four books out, you know, some of them are doing a lot better than others. And so we’re just kind of at that point where we kind of wanna wait six months, maybe a year before we start getting into audio. Although we would love to get into it eventually because I would just love to hear Stan Kraychik’s voice, you know, being on audio or even Jas Anderson, I mean, hearing the Scottish, instead of just, you know, reading it, and maybe kind of figuring out what it actually sounds like. But a lot of these books would just be amazing in audio, and we would like to get to that eventually, and we do have the rights to be able to do so. So we would like to do that eventually.

Jeff: What can you tell us about what’s coming up in the release queue as we get into the back half of 2019?

Matt: So what’s coming up, we have the Montreal-based “Sunday’s Child” by Edward O. Phillips. He has, I think, it’s five or six books in that series. And then we have “Onyx” by Felice Picano coming out. And then we’re hopefully getting “Black Marble Pool” by Stan Leventhal out soon. And then once those three books come out, we’ll be roping back around to the Grant Michaels and the Jack Dickson series. So those are the next five or six books that we’ve got coming out in the next few months.

Jeff: That’s exciting. What’s, in your personal wish list, like, something you read back in the day that you would love to see, you know, get this transformation and come back out?

Matt: So we have been struggling with Joseph Hansen, you know, the godfather of gay mysteries. And, you know, only two of his books have been in print in the last 10, 15 years. They were owned by the University of Wisconsin, who barely did anything with them. You know, they came out with the first two books, the covers were eh. And so it was just kind of, like, really disappointing that, you know, his books, that so many gay authors and gay mystery authors were building upon, had been out-of-print. And so I contacted the University of Wisconsin, and I said, “Hey, you know, I know you have these two books, but we’re wondering if you have the rights to the last group of books because we’d like to maybe start republishing them.” And it turns out, they had actually given up their rights a week before to Joseph Hansen. And so they gave us the agent who is running the estate for the daughter of…I think it’s the daughter. Sorry, Joseph Hansen was a gay man who was married to a lesbian and they had a transgender son or daughter. I really apologize. I can’t remember which… I think it’s the daughter now. Their daughter, you know, doesn’t really do anything much with these, and so they go through the agent.

And it turns out Soho Crime has already picked up all the Joseph Hansen “Dave Brandstetter” series, which we’re thrilled about because that means that they’ll actually be published and they’ll all be out next year. But the ones that I really want are, you know, his lesser-known works, “Pretty Boy Dead.” He had a couple of Gothic mysteries, there was Todd, but he had all these great, like, lesser-known books. And even I was talking to Michael Nava about this, you know, and he said, “You know, I would love to see his semi-autobiographical books put out.” And I’m like, “Me, too.” And so we contacted the agent and I said, “You know, here’s a list of, like, 20 more books that aren’t picked up by Soho, you know, would we be able to publish those?” And they said, “Well, we wanna see what Soho wants to do, you know, because if the ‘Brandstetter’ series goes well, then they might wanna pick up all the other books.” And so we’re just kind of waiting on what Soho will do. So if Soho doesn’t want these, we’re gonna jump on them, and try and get these published as much as we can. Those are the books that all three of us would love to see republished, just because of their importance to gay history, to the importance of gay mysteries, and just the importance of gay literature.

Jeff: That’s just incredible. How could readers and authors perhaps get in touch, not only obviously to find what you’re publishing, but also to perhaps suggest books or help even connect some dots for you?

Matt: Email us at Find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter by searching ReQueered Tales. Our Twitter handle is @queeredre. And you can search for that. If you’re looking at buying our books, you can go on Amazon by searching ReQueered Tales, and It’ll bring up all of our titles.

Jeff: Very cool. We’ll link up to all that stuff in the show notes so that people can easily click on any of that to find you guys. So awesome you’re doing this, again, and thank you for hanging out with us and telling us all about this project.

Matt: Well, thanks for letting us come and share this.

TV Show & Book Reviews

Here’s the text of this week’s reviews:

EastSiders. Reviewed by Will & Jeff.
Will: To celebrate the new year, Jeff and I actually binged some Netflix programming, which for introverts probably doesn’t come as a complete surprise. We watched the fourth and final season of EastSiders. Those of you who may not remember, EastSiders was the little web series that could, that got its start way back in 2012.

This fourth and final season wraps up the wild and weird adventures of our crazy crew of characters in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood. As always we fully admit EastSiders probably isn’t for everybody. We’ve said this several times in the past, and we reiterate it again because the characters are kind of horrible. There’s really no other way to put it. That’s one of the reasons I love EastSiders so much. It’s very real. The characters are flawed and weird and insane. They make terribly bad decisions and eventually deal with the consequences of their actions.

This fourth and final season, all of our characters are back and it focuses mainly on three couples. There’s Cal and Thom, essentially our two main characters. There’s also Jeremy and Derek. They’re dealing with a foster parent situation. The entire rest of the cast has to deal with the upcoming nuptials of Quincy and Douglas and it’s quickly turning into the wedding from hell.

Hilarity ensues over the course of the series. It’s really weird and wonderful. And I think what was nice about this final season is that the characters are still very real and very flawed. And, yes, they continue to make really big mistakes. But as a sign of their maturity, they’re starting to realize that these decisions that they’re making have consequences that they have to deal with like adults.

Jeff: I think everybody in this season really met the adulting head-on. There were tinges of it in season three, which focused on, the big road trip that Cal and Thom took. But this season everybody had to step up and adult. From the wedding from hell Douglas and Quincy had to find their way to a wedding they could both enjoy. For Cal and Thom, they had to come to terms with what their ongoing open relationship essentially meant as they were contemplating their future together. I really liked Ian and Hillary too. Spoiler alert, they break up in the first episode of the season, and I liked Ian’s exploration also of bisexuality and where he was headed as well.

It’s, it was a wonderful wrap-up. I feel for all of these characters that we’ve come to love so much. I would love to see, at some point, when Kit wants to write it, a reunion movie for Cal and Thom’s wedding would be awesome.

Will: A quick shout out to two specific actresses who appeared in the series. Through all four seasons, Cal’s mom has been played by Traci Lords, and she comes back and she’s pure genius. As always, she doesn’t seem phased at all by some of the insane things that Cal and Thom do. In this particular instance, she offers some very sage and intelligent motherly advice to our two main characters. Also, a quick shout out to Lin Shaye, who plays Quincy’s mom. We meet her for the first time in this fourth season and she also has some, some motherly advice to kind of ground her son and his, soon to be groom in the reality of the life that they’re facing together. it’s really a wonderful end to, groundbreaking series. I really enjoyed it.

All four seasons of EastSiders is available on Netflix. And if you haven’t checked out either season four or the entire series, we highly recommend it.

Not Pounded By Romance Wranglers Of America Because Their New Leadership Is From The Depths Of The Endless Cosmic Void by Chuck Tingle. Reviewed by Will & Jeff.
Will: This past week the indomitable Check Tingle released his newest story called Not Pounded By Romance Wranglers Of America Because Their New Leadership Is From The Depths Of The Endless Cosmic Void.

I freely admit this is the very first Chuck Tingle story that I have read in its entirety and I was charmed by the pure, delightful insanity of it all. The story focuses on a nice guy named Gorblin, who goes to a writer’s group where he meets, Amber. They get along swimmingly and she recommends that, in order to take Gorblin’s romance writing career to the next level that he join the Romance Wranglers of America.

So they decide to jet off to the headquarters, where things aren’t quite as they seem, or perhaps they are. There are some very dark forces at work, at the Romance Wranglers. They are met by Demon, the de facto leader of this group, and he takes them on a tour of the headquarters, which is suitably completely bonkers and insane. Thankfully our hero and his bestie escape with their sanity and ethics intact.

I really enjoyed this story. It’s incredibly difficult to describe Chuck Tingle’s style. It’s funny. It’s insightful. Of course there’s a dinosaur in the story, because, you know, why not? There’s also a very strange meta quality to the story because Gorblin and Amber know that they are inside a Chuck Tingle story. It’s charming and strange and I highly recommend everyone check it out.

Jeff: It was my first Chuck Tingle book too. I adored its insanity. I adored it’s very pointed commentary. It was kind of a perfect short story to read that helped put some perspective on the last week. So yeah, I will highly recommend that title as well.

Risk Assessment by Parker St. John Reviewed by Jeff.
I recently picked up the first book in Parker St. John’s Cabrini Law series. Risk Assessment is an opposites attract story with some May/December elements as well as light romantic suspense.

What better way is there to meet than over a broken down car in the rain? Elliot’s Prius conked out and the hipster who stopped first is no help, even as he tries to poke at the engine. But when a motorcycle roars up and a steel-jawed, rebel type with dark scruff on his jaw arrives Elliot mumbles to himself that he’s being rescued by an underwear model. Luckily, Lucas not only knows about cars, he owns the garage the overheated Prius ends up at.

Both guys took note of the other on first site. Elliot is very into Lucas’s look, which reminded him of every guy he’d ever dreamed about. And Lucas is all about Elliot’s book smart appearance but he feels means that Elliot’s way out of his league.

Not only is it Elliot’s appearance of education and money that gives Lucas pause, Lucas is sure his ex-con status would be a turn-off for Elliot. Yes, his life was getting back on track–he’d recently taken ownership of the garage, had his own apartment for a couple of years and was just a few weeks away from finishing up his parole.

Lucas overlooks all the red flags and when Elliot comes to get his car, Lucas reduces the bill down to Elliot taking him to dinner. Elliot, not quite recovered from a horrible breakup with a guy he worked with at a ritzy law firm, admits to Lucas that he didn’t think dinner with him was worth much. Elliot had not only separated from his boyfriend, but walked away from that firm to go to work in the Cabrini Law Clinic to help people who really needed it. Despite doing the work he loved, he was still down on himself with how his life had shifted so drastically.

Once Lucas finds out what Elliot does, he back peddles immediately. He hates attorneys having seen so many screwed by the legal system. Despite Elliot’s earnestness, he backs off of dinner because there’s no way he can make anything work with an attorney. Elliot, unfortunately, doesn’t earn any points with Lucas because after Lucas turns him away, Elliot goes far beyond a Google search and runs a background check and ends up with all the details on Lucas’s criminal past. That doesn’t deter Elliot though, he’s seen the person Lucas is today and that man attracts him.

Julio ends up being the person that draws the two together. Julio is one of Elliot’s cases and the young man needs to get a job and show he can be a good citizen to the court. Julio’s a mechanic, so Elliot goes to Lucas to see if he can get Julio a job. As they discuss Julio’s situation, there’s heat between them. What does Lucas want in return for hiring Julio? Elliot on his knees. Elliot’s more than happy to comply, servicing Lucas.

Despite Lucas’s hate for Elliot’s profession, Lucas can’t help but be wooed by his very own Clark Kent, rumpled librarian type while Elliot is extremely into Lucas’s rugged good looks and is charmed that Lucas even looks his direction. I loved how Parker unfolded the relationship between these two–the cautious talks about their pasts interspersed with some sizzling sex. It takes a lot for Lucas to overcome his ingrained distaste for all things lawyers while Elliot has to move past all the stories he’s told himself about why Lucas couldn’t possibly be into him. That both men had very squishy, loveable centers made me adore them even more–although I sometimes wanted to kick them for being so obstinate. Parker bounces these guys around between I love you/I hate you perfectly.

I mentioned a bit of romantic suspense here and it revolves around Julio when his past comes storming into his life. Elliot and Lucas are a great team rescuing the young man from his difficult situation. My romantic suspense loving self wildly enjoyed this element of the story.

Parker’s got great side characters too, especially Maksim, a hotshot attorney on the Cabrini team. It was highly entertaining watching him and Elliot trade barbs at each other, while at the same time having each other’s backs. Maksim is central to book two in the series and I’m looking forward to getting more of his story.

I very much recommend Parker St. John’s Risk Assessment. Two sexy guys fighting through their baggage to figure out how to love each other was a perfect read for a chilly winter’s night. Book two of this series is already out with book three arriving on January 24. There’s also a Christmas collection that I missed that I may just have to read outside the holiday season.