Blood Moon - Darwin Porter

Cerisaye's Review:

This whopping bonkbuster tells the story of Buck Brooke III, the sexiest man alive. It also features Shelley Phillips, the world's most beautiful boy and Ahmad Pharon, the world's most beautiful man. The cover with its sculpted male torso is gorgeous, tasteful enough that you needn't worry about leaving it lying around the house, though its contents are definitely for consenting adults only.

The novel is described as a psycho-sexual thriller. Some readers might find its sizzling combination of sex, right-wing religion, violence, political and moral corruption rather hard to swallow in the guise of titillating entertainment. I suspect you either love or hate this book. It's provocative but that's a large part of the attraction. You get an illicit thrill, as you do from a really good (i.e. trashy) TV soap especially if you're not normally one who goes for such things.

The setting is Okeechobee in Southern Florida, a garden of delights with a rotten core. There's a large cast of well-drawn, if larger-than-life, characters and an inter-weaving plot strand structure that can be confusing while you find your bearings. It took a while to get into the book, but once I did I was totally hooked.

The story centres on the Class of '71, seven years after college. Buck and his indispensable help-meet, Robert, together with sundry men and women in a complicated tangle of passion, marriage, friendship, ambition and betrayal. It's basically about power, sex and money. I've never read anything like it outside a Jackie Collins novel. Gay characters aren't defined by their sexuality; they're actively involved in politics and the accumulation of power just like everyone else. Buck loves whoever he happens to be with, man or woman and appears to have no morals whatsoever.

Darwin Porter is one ballsy writer. His style won't suit everyone. The book is ladled with explicit sex. The characters have it- oh boy, do they- in every possible combination, slash and some het. Much of it pretty graphic and even I began to flag just reading about their voracious appetites. Needless to say it's set in 1978, before AIDS and safe sex. The promiscuity is eye-popping.

We're taken into bedrooms and bars, bath houses and gay bordellos. Look out for the famous 'flower petal show' of flesh. By way of contrast there's evangelical Rose with her crusade of the 'normal majority' against filth and perversion. Is she, however, all that she seems? The divine Shelley is her adopted son. He tells Buck when they first meet that they will spend their lives together. Is he right? Although the men dominate the novel, and get all the best sex, I liked the character of Susan, whose cynicism and opportunism equals Buck's, with her freedom not to stock any food in her house so she can enjoy life free from domestic drudgery.

This is one to devour. An ideal holiday read for the beach, although public consumption may make you nervous as it's a very sexy book. Recommended, for the slash die-hard looking for something a bit naughty that you can really sink your teeth into.

Ladymol's Review:

I've never read Jackie Collins or Harold Robbins, or other blockbuster kinds of novels, but I should imagine that is one falls into that category-only the sex is between men.

The novel is set in the newspaper world in Florida, although to be honest, that's irrelevant really, secondary to the main plot, which is money and power: who has it, who gets it. This theme of riches grows exponentially throughout the book until there seems no end to the hyperbole of wealth, and frankly, it all grows rather tiresome.

My main complaint with this novel, and with his other Rhinestone Country, is that Darwin Potter just isn't a good writer. Sure, the plots are researched, sure, it cracks along at a good pace, but the real art of writing just isn't here. It's very narrator heavy. He tells you what you should be thinking, or what characters are thinking without giving you dialogue or plot that lets you come to those conclusions yourself. It's incredibly flat writing, and as the book is very long, to be honest, this becomes very wearing.

The characters are just plot contrivances. On one page you have a character described as loyal, passionate and never going to love anyone else, then a few pages later, to suit the plot and drag a few more men into the story, he's off f****** and sucking anyone he can find with no explanation. This would be acceptable if the characters were telling their own stories, and you suspected they weren't telling you whole truth, but as I said, the author is stating these things, then he just changes a character at a whim. It's rather like reading a story written by an eight year old: no understanding, or consideration of what makes good characterisation.

He has a core of main characters - male and female - who drive the plot. Buck is the main character (and it's no coincidence, if you ask me, what his name rhymes with). He's quite likeable, and needless to say, he's the most beautiful man in the world. All Darwin Potter's characters are the most beautiful, the most well endowed (yawn); like the wealth, it all becomes very tiresome. You find yourself longing for a crooked tooth or a zit, anything just to identify with the characters. Buck has a long-time lover, Robert, a character we never really get to understand, and he's the worst example of plot contrivance in the whole book. He's used and abused as the author sees fit and becomes merely a name on the page. Gene is a disillusioned Buck: sexually repressed and not fully out, his life ruined by a youthful mistake. He's the most problematic adult character for me, doing deeds of great kindness and unspeakable cruelty with neither of these contradictions in his personality really explained. Trust me, the violence when it comes is as exaggerated as everything else in this book. The most disturbing character is Shelley, a wealthy fourteen year old (obviously, the most beautiful boy in the world!) who seduces Buck. He's fourteen because the author states that he is, but he might as well be as old as time. Nothing about him is realistic; his dialogue is along the lines of: come and get me big boy, ram your inches down…. You get the picture. He's made a boy for titillation (something explored far more disturbingly in Rhinestone); he even works in a boy brothel for the fun of it, but he's disturbingly unreal, to the extent that he becomes the centre of the most farcical plot device I've ever read in a published novel.

Besides all this, the book is massively uneven. The best parts for me were the beginning before the vast wealth starts to intrude on the plot, when there's lots of fun sex. Most of the sex is crammed into the first half of the book, and the second half seems to try and reinvent itself as a real novel. It's like a series on TV that starts so well for the first season, but by the seventh it's become farcical and over the top, just to keep ratings. This book needs to be massively edited; Darwin Potter is hailed as one of the most prolific writers of his genre, basically because it's all the same. Change the name Buck to Bill, and you've got another long novel.

However, having said all this, I did read it. I finished it, and not just for this review. I sat in the sun happily reading it most of one day. And I suspect that's what a lot of people do with these sorts of books. They're holiday books, to be read when you don't want thought, angst or empathy-when you just want some hot sex and a trashy plot.

It's not my taste, but I'm not condemning it for that. If you want to try the gay Jackie Collins, then give it a go.

Publisher: Georgia Literary Association ISBN: 0966803043

Buy from Lambda Rising in the States

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