Despite Mainstreaming, This Gay Pride June - Few Gay Thrillers on the Book Shelves

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Bestselling gay novelist Perry Brass ("The Harvest," "Warlock," "The Substance of God") will speak on June 8 in New York on who killed gay thrillers, and why even post-9/11 so few of these popular books are on the shelves.

Missing: Novelist Perry Brass Explains Death of Gay Thrillers - On Tuesday, June 8 at 7 pm at New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Community Center, 208 West 13th Street, in Greenwich Village, novelist Perry Brass will be talking about gay thrillers, or, to be precise, the lack of them in the flood of gay and lesbian books you find in June (Gay Pride Month) in bookstores around the country.

The topic of his talk is “FEVER PITCH: In the Age of the Thriller, Why Aren’t Gay Writer’s Writing Them?” Brass, the author of the new best-selling novel “The Substance of God, A Spiritual Thriller” (Belhue Press, $13.95) has been writing thrillers for years, and usually finds himself alone in a field that in mainstream writing is over-crowded with titles.

“The thriller,” says Brass, “is different from the mystery. Mysteries are cerebral. They’re about finding out who done it. They deal with the rational part of the psyche. But thrillers are suspense driven. They are visceral, focusing on basic human drives. In the thriller you know who the bad guys are. The question is what are they going to do next, and how will the hero either outwit them, or, using as many dirty tricks as the villains, survive them? Thrillers are about adrenaline and testosterone; guts and vinegar. You need a hero who doesn’t play by the rules, isn’t hung up on always being nice, and who can get mean when he has to.

“Gay writers can write these kind of heroes. I’ve been doing it for fifteen years. But most of the editors who put out gay books still can’t see these books in that light. We’re either long suffering victims, brainy nice guys, or bitchy wise-cracking queens out of sitcoms”

Are their other reasons, too?

“A lot of gay men,” Brass says, “still feel physically or psychologically threatened. There are still many homophobic consequences to being gay in America, despite the progress of the lesbian and gay movement. Many fear the rise of the religious right, reprisals at work, or the disapproval of their families and friends who may not know they’re gay. So stories where we are in the middle of violence bothers them. Many gay men and lesbians prefer escapist science fiction or fantasy. I’ve used science fiction ideas in my thrillers. My popular futurist thriller ‘The Harvest,’ from 1997, used science fiction in its plot about a cloned humanoid, produced for his harvestable organs, who becomes sexually involved with an attractive, double-aliased human rebel who’ll do anything, including kill, to keep him alive. The plot is real Bruce Willis material. Its filled with fights, narrow escapes, and a final white-knuckle-tense show down."

Brass admits the book was "ghettoized" twice. First as a gay book and second as science fiction.

"Readers told me they couldn’t put the book down, staying up half the night reading it. That’s a sure sign of a good thriller. The stakes are human life, that’s what I love about this form. Life to me is a dance to the tune of ambition, aggression, and survival. Since my books deal openly with these inner drives instead of the usual gay cuteness, many critics still can’t deal with them. So I understand what it’s like to be an outsider among outsiders.”

Explaining why “The Substance of God” is a “Spiritual Thriller,” Brass says: “I called it a ‘Spiritual Thriller’ because the focal point of it is the search for God. Most of us are looking for something bigger than we are, some larger presence. Some people call this presence God.”

Dr. Leonard Miller, an openly gay, atheist bio-researcher feels this presence after he’s been brought back from death by a constantly self-cloning specimen he’s been secretly investigating, a “substance” also pursued by a group of Christian fundamentalist extremists convinced that it originated with God. They will do anything to get their hands on it, including murder Miller. What they don’t count on is that the substance will revive Miller, and then make him question everything he once assumed about life, death, sexual-identity, and God. The big question though is how long will it keep Miller alive, and what will he have to do to stay that way?

“In many ways,” says the author, “this book deals with the AIDS Crisis and the fact that many people are being kept alive and healthy now by substances that have a miraculous quality -- and a price -- to them. The Crisis has also given many people that feeling of being forced to meet their own destinies. Post 9/11, we are living in the Era of the Thriller, and a lot of people’s lives have taken on that urgency. So the question is: what’s going to happen next, and how do you survive and stick around to see it?”

Perry Brass’s appearance at The Center is part of its Second Tuesday series of cultural events. Other writers in the series have included Michael Cunningham and Larry Kramer. Admission is $6 for Center members, $10 nonmembers. For more information, please call 718 884-6606, or 212 620-7310. Brass will be reading from “The Substance of God” with actor Michael E. O’Connor. He will talk about his work, about the craft of thriller writing, and also answer those life-or-death questions stalking us all. You can learn more about this author's books at

for more information: Tom Laine, Belhue Press

718 884-6606

Belhue Press

2501 Palisade Avenue, Suite. A1

Bronx, NY 10463

718 884-6606

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Tom Laine