In this newest story collection from award-winning writer, Daniel M. Jaffe, red-blooded American men make mischief while vacationing abroad. They encounter a serial killer in a Munich bathhouse, a gay Holocaust ghost in Prague, a shape-shifting seductress in Mexico City, a desperate prostitute in Seville, a closeted Catholic school administrator in Dublin, and many others. These stories will transport, titillate, intrigue, and tug at your heartstrings.
Publisher: Rattling Good Yarns Press
Cover Artist: Ian Henzel
Genre/s: Short stories, literary fiction, LGBT romance
Trope/s: Travel romance, flirtation, sexual encounters, history in contemporary life
Themes: Travel, sexual/gender identity, love, desire, loss,
friendship, historical memory, spirituality
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 60 000 words/168 pages
It is a standalone book.
Paperback - US addresses only (includes FREE shipping)
How long have you been writing?
Full-time for over 30 years. But I always loved writing—as a child, even before I learned to spell, I’d go down to the basement and plunk out little stories on my mother’s old manual typewriter. During high school, I wrote plays, stories, and poems just for myself because I enjoyed immersing in my imagination. Given how much fun writing was, it never occurred to me that writing could be a profession—after all, fun was fun and work was work. So, I began my professional life as a corporate/securities lawyer. After several years in that field, I realized that I needed a change, and that what I really wanted to do was to write, primarily fiction. Was it possible that one’s work could also be fun?
I made a deal with myself: if I could complete a draft of a novel and still want to write more, I’d quit my lawyering job. It took me two years of writing on nights and weekends, but I did complete a draft of a novel (that’s too awful ever to be published), and wanted to write more. So, I handed in my notice to my boss, who was very understanding.
What was your first published book?
My first book publication was actually my translation of a best-selling Russian novel, HERE COMES THE MESSIAH! by Dina Rubina, published in 2000. (In college, I concentrated in Russian Studies, and I studied for a short time in the USSR in the late 1970’s.) My first published novel came the year after that, in 2001, with THE LIMITS OF PLEASURE, which is about a gay-Jewish man who’s struggling to deal with his own self-hatred. Set in Boston and Amsterdam, the novel explores similarities among internalized anti-Semitism, internalized racism, and internalized homophobia.
Do you have a favorite character from one of your books? Why?
Gosh, this is a tough question to answer. When I’m writing a given novel or short story, I’m completely invested in that work, in those characters. Thinking about my new collection of short stories, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, just published by Rattling Good Yarns Press, one of my favorite characters is Quinn in the story, “The Importance of Being Jurassic.” Quinn’s an older Irishman who works for the Catholic Church and has remained closeted his entire life, even going so far as to hide his long-term relationship with another man. When his partner dies, in order to get some time off to grieve, Quinn tells the Church fathers that his “brother” died. So sad. I think of all the lgbtq closeted people over the centuries who’ve had to hide their relationships and then their grief after losing partners. My heart goes out to all of them and, in the case of my fiction, to Quinn.
Is there one genre you haven’t tried but you see yourself writing in the future?
I’ve recently tried my hand at sci-fi/horror for the first time, a short story about Covid-19. I submitted the story to an editor who was compiling an lgbt anthology of horror stories called Unburied, and she snapped it up within hours of my sending it to her. That had never happened to me before! So, I may try writing more of those kinds of stories.
Would you ever write a hetero romance? Why or why not?
Actually, I’ve done that. One story in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, “El Bochorno,” is about a hetero man grieving the loss of his wife. He goes to Seville, Spain, a city she’d always wanted to show him. There, he meets a prostitute who’s intelligent, cultured, beautiful, and caring. A difficult romance ensues, and he has to decide whether or not he can overcome his guilt at having feelings for another woman so soon after his wife’s death.
I’ve thought a lot about this issue over the years, the question of if/how/when one can move on after losing one’s love. I witnessed a number of men lose partners to AIDS, and the survivors had to figure out how to move on. Would they allow themselves to look for love again? How soon was too soon to go looking? Did other people around them judge them or respect their loss? How would they handle the memory of their departed beloved?
What are your thoughts on erotica?
I think it’s great! I’ve written a bit of erotica myself. My novel that I mentioned earlier, THE LIMITS OF PLEASURE, involves a lot of sex. The main character acts out his angst by engaging in risky sexual behavior. An excerpt of that novel was published in BEST GAY EROTICA 2003. After that, I received several requests to write stories for gay erotica anthologies, which I happily did. Great fun! In FOREIGN AFFAIRS, a couple of stories have very erotic moments. There’s one story, “Walpurgisnacht,” in which a serial killer lurks in a Munich bath house, so you can imagine that sex plays an oversized role in the story.
If you write gay romance or erotica, just how descriptive are you in their sex scenes?
This varies with the piece and the characters. In the short story “Walpurgisnacht,” the sex writing is very explicit because it seems to me that if you’re setting a story in a bath house, the “setting” includes the sex. On the other hand, in my short story, “The Return,” an American in Toledo, Spain is seduced by a haunting figure. Their only physical interaction takes place at a train station, in public, so it simply couldn’t be anything other than a kiss.
I approach writing sex the same way I approach writing any other aspect of characterization—how does this aspect of a character reveal the character’s psyche? In order fully to understand a character, we need to know what they like and dislike, how they interact with others, whether they’re being honest in their behaviors or defensive. Are they kind? Sensitive? Cruel? Are they demanding? Manipulative? Giving? Selfish? I take the same critical approach whether I’m writing about a person engaged in sex or working in an office. It’s all about getting to know who the character is, how the character thinks, and what the character values.
As an m/m romance or gay fiction writer, what stereotype of gay men bothers you the most?
In real life, I’ve known lots of gay men who fit into stereotypes, whether it’s an ultra-leather-butch Tom of Finland muscleman type, or an ultra-fem fellow who refers to self and other men with female pronouns. There really are such men, so when fiction represents them, is it stereotyping or being realistic? But I grow bothered when fiction doesn’t seek to help the reader look behind such a character’s stereotypical self-representation. For a given character, is stereotypical behavior an unconscious protective shield? A self-aware, in-your-face form of rebellion against constraints imposed by society, or even aggression? What interests me most is the psychology behind the stereotype, so if a work of fiction doesn’t help me gain insight into that, I feel frustrated.
What promotional method works best for you?
I love having the chance to discuss my work with potential readers to let them see the way I think about my characters and what I’m hoping to accomplish in my writing. I relish answering questions because readers are more likely to be interested in an author’s work if they can somehow relate to the author as a real person, an artist who thinks about the way s/he creates art. This is all my way of thanking you for this interview!
Your favorite gay TV show or movie?
The answer might not strike people as obvious, but it’s the cheesy old soap opera, DARK SHADOWS, about vampires, witches, zombies, etc. who run rampant in a small New England town. No, there were no out gay characters (as far as I remember), but I think of it as a totally gay show because every single character had a secret that they desperately guarded. In other words, everyone was in the closet, and disclosure would have meant absolute eternal damnation. That’s exactly how I felt as a closeted gay teenager, the years when I watched the show—if I were to come out, the Earth would open up and swallow me whole. What’s fascinating is that, at the time, I didn’t at all recognize the psychological connection between those characters’ experiences and my own inner terrors. It was only later, after I came out, that I realized.
Quinn to be whispering “dirty,” but in the raspy, heavy brogue, the word came out as “dehrty”: “Yer a dehrr-ty, dehrr-ty man.” Quinn flicked out his tongue and sucked it in, frog-like. With a thurping sound: “You’re a dehrr-ty, dehrr-ty man,” thurp thurp thurp.
A journalist for the Chicago Tribune, Bill had arrived in Dublin this morning to write a human interest story on the upcoming gay marriage referendum. Polls anticipated Ireland becoming the first country to authorize gay marriage by public vote. Traditional, Catholic Ireland.
Not having slept on the plane—and his body reminding that he was older than he used to be—he spent the day napping in his Jury’s Inn Christchurch hotel room, studying local newspapers and webzines, making notes and listing questions for his article. He supped in his room on take-away from the “great wee chipshop” around the corner, Leo Burdock Fish & Chips—greasy, salty, thick-crusted smoked cod accompanied by more fries than he could possibly consume. Later on, he trimmed his gray beard, donned jeans and a button-down blue shirt that showed off his squarish pecs without appearing too obvious—his decades-old uniform whenever scoping out a new city’s gay life. Bill always enjoyed these forays most of all, surveying the terrain before his newspaper’s photographer arrived and hovered, thereby preventing Bill from conducting his most enjoyable background research.
Passionate encounters with locals were the secret to Bill’s success as human interest story writer—even in his late 50’s, he could still get laid with fair enough regularity, especially as exotic foreigner. Few journalists’ articles contained the under-the-skin insights Bill’s did, revelations feeling like disclosure to a trusted confidant. Bill’s interviews read like intimate pillow talk because that’s precisely what they were.
Bill put little stock in ethical baloney about maintaining journalistic distance: if you want to get an inside story, you need to get inside. Repressed countries were Bill’s specialty because they burst with scared horny locals who had few other bed partner options. Want a journalist to cover police harassment of Russian gay activists? brutality against gays in Iraq? death-threats against gays in Uganda? Send Bill with a pack of condoms to ferret out the under-cover(s) scoop. Only a matter of time before he’d win a Pulitzer. He sure was having fun trying.
Bill headed out in the cool evening for George, the nightclub touted on all Irish gay websites as Dublin’s primary gay hangout. He’d undoubtedly find some trick to “interview.”
Strolling down Dame Street—odd, he thought, how historically grand the word “Dame” sounded in Ireland, whereas in American ears it came across as outdated Al Capone cheap. He walked the narrow sidewalk past restaurants, pubs, cafés, repeatedly bumping shoulders with those walking toward him until he realized that the Irish walked the way they drove—on the left, unlike on-the-right Americans: head-on collisions were inevitable.
A scan around the cobblestone courtyard of Dublin Castle, a mix of red brick Georgian palace, gray medieval fortress, and white-gray Gothic revival chapel. A quick look-see at City Hall with its white-gray granite columns and triangular pediment. On the corner of South Great George’s Street, a main shopping avenue, he faced an enormous mural covering the entire side of a gray building: two young men, one in white sweater, the other in black, snuggling in romantic embrace. Larger-than-life gay love, four stories high. And tacked to a lamppost on the corner beneath it—a bold, green-lettered “Yes For Marriage Equality” poster sporting a rainbow flag. All this smack in the center of Catholic Dublin. A more in-your-face public display than he could recall having seen in Chicago’s Boystown.
That must be the place, with the rainbow flag over the entrance and a thick bouncer staring into Bill’s eye. He nodded at the guy and stepped inside. A low-lit cavernous space with stairs to the right—the upper level looked closed…well, it was a Sunday. The music was fast-paced and louder than he liked. Bill walked to the far end of the long bar with men and women in their 20’s chatting, noted the stage behind the bar, empty now of the drag acts he’d read about. He grabbed a black leather barstool, asked the muscular barman for a pint of Guinness, one of those touristy must-do’s. He savored the thick molasses foam, the mix of bitter and heavy sweet, then turned to the lean young man beside him, a handsome fellow with close-cropped blond hair, and introduced himself, knowing that his accent would lead at least to a where-are-you-from conversation. Bill slapped on his personae of naïve visitor: “All I basically know about Ireland is leprechauns and four-leaf clovers.”
“And all I know about America is that you all carry guns and shoot black teenagers when you’re strung out on crack.”
Daniel M. Jaffe is an award-winning writer whose short stories and personal essays have appeared in over half a dozen countries and several languages. He has been profiled in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature, and his work has been taught in college and university courses. Daniel is author of the novels Yeled Tov, The Genealogy of Understanding, The Limits of Pleasure, and the short story collection, Jewish Gentle and Other Stories of Gay-Jewish Living. He lives in California with his husband, the writer and professor, Leo Cabranes-Grant.
Read more at www.DanielJaffe.com.