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Grab Bag 3

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231 pages3 hours

Summary

The third of habu’s Grab Bag short story anthologies is much like the first two, a totally unthemed gay male story collection that skips over the world in location and across time in setting and offers a variety of thoughtful themes, romance, humor, hot sex, irony, twist and/or twisted endings, and much else that has dropped out of habu’s fertile mind and into his computer on almost a daily basis during the past year. Included in this fifteen-story collection are, in addition to contemporary explorations of being an “actively gay male” in the United States, stories reflective of habu’s past in Bangkok and Hong Kong; a few inspired by a recent trip to England, Wales, and Scotland, and even a short trip to Portugal as well as several exploring favorite themes of his: first times, older and younger men, black on white, surprise and unexpected twists, and the worlds of art and spies.

The anthology fittingly starts with a “first time” story, “The Awakening,” of a young man doing just that—awakening to his sexuality and his preference as he’s thrust out into the world from a protected childhood. From there, the anthology takes a wide turn to the humorous in “Best Job in the World,” with a skin magazine editor receiving a surprise “thanks” visit from one of his unlikely authors. Turning to snarky, “Lance’s Secret” is about the plight of a college fraternity house “reliever.”

“Emmet” takes us to a university community, where a very proper university don develops a fixation on a black working-class neighbor and gives up all of his academic pretensions. “Ernestine,” which continues the black and white element, is one of habu’s rare explorations into the world of transvestites.

“Loving Wife” turns to a somber note, with a real-world look at the threat to an older-younger, same-sex marriage built on the sex drive when the older partner is dying from cancer.
We zip off next for Portugal in “Chaz’s Choice” for a “rubber-meets-the-road” decision that has to be made in the nasty world of spying. “The Negotiator,” the first of three England-based stories in the anthology, offers a different kind of espionage, as two men work each other as they each work to come out on top in an international business transaction.

“The Clothes Horse,” takes us to Hong Kong for the story of a deal to exchange services for sexy men’s clothes. In “The Video List,” a young man in rural Virginia learns that it’s more exciting and profitable to be in gay sex videos than to work in a video store. “The Celtic Sonata of Life” crosses the Atlantic to England’s Cotswolds and a special service vacation cottage. “On a String in Bangkok” takes the reader back across the world for a habu reminiscence about gay life in Bangkok in the mid-seventies and the particular meaning of being “on a string.”

In a change-of-pace and timing piece for this anthology, “Training Asu,” set in an ancient Middle Eastern city, covers the coming-of-age initiation of a beautiful young man. “So You Want to Be in Movies” is the proverbial film producer office couch audition story, but laced with a bit of mystery and menace. The anthology ends with a historical piece set in Norwich, England, covering the developing professional life of a fine young artist who was willing to do anything to receive the mentoring of an older, accomplished artist.

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