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Mystery Fiction: Gay Male  
 
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As the series opens, Strachey is recently divorced, living alone, and casually promiscuous, which threatens his future with the conservative and monogamous Timmy. As the novels progress, the two make a home and life together, and Strachey--faced with such serious issues as widespread and deadly homophobia, the gay rights movement, political corruption, AIDS, outing, and the sexual hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church--has his gay consciousness raised. Stevenson is adept at creating believable and sympathetic characters, and although some of the situations strain credulity, the writing is always good.

Stevenson's novels gained a new audience as a result of the success of their adaptation into stylish films starring Chad Allen as Strachey by the gay television network Here! So far four titles have aired (Third Man Out in 2005, Shock to the System in 2006, and On the Other Hand, Death and Ice Blues in 2008).

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The success of the films may have also inspired Lipez to continue the series, for the last two titles appeared after the film adaptations began.

The Two Series by Mark Richard Zubro

In the 1990s the gay detective novel flourished, with several new series beginning and others maturing. The most prolific writer in the genre during that period was Mark Richard Zubro, a native of the Chicago area who, in twelve years, published thirteen novels, eight in one series and five in a second.

The first series consists, so far, of A Simple Suburban Murder (1989, Lambda Award winner), Why Isn't Becky Twitchell Dead? (1990), The Only Good Priest (1991), The Principal Cause of Death (1992), An Echo of Death (1994), Rust on the Razor (1996), Are You Nuts? (1998), One Dead Drag Queen (2000) Here Comes the Corpse (2002), File under Dead (2004), Everyone's Dead But Us (2006), and Schooled in Murder (2008). In these novels, the amateur detectives are a pair of lovers: Tom Mason, an ex-marine English teacher in a suburban high school (as is Zubro himself), and Scott Carpenter, "one of the highest paid pitchers in the Major Leagues."

The two divide their lives between Tom's home, "a farmhouse in the middle of one of the last cornfields in southwestern Cook County" and Scott's luxury penthouse on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, where they work out and make love (but rarely cook). If the reader can accept this highly unlikely premise, straight out of gay fantasy, the novels are entertaining and suspenseful, if somewhat awkwardly written.

Some of the mysteries arise out of Tom's teaching job and involve academic politics and such serious matters as drug dealing in schools and under-aged prostitution and pornography. Others deal with issues in the gay community at large, including homophobia in both its religious and political manifestations. Part of the charm of the series is the interaction of the two young men with their families and straight colleagues and their obvious joy in their own relationship.

The novels in Zubro's second series--Sorry Now? (1991), Political Poison (1993), Another Dead Teenager (1995), The Truth Can Get You Killed (1997), Drop Dead (1999), Sex and Murder.com (2001), Dead Egotistical Morons (2003), Nerds Who Kill (2005), and Hook, Line, and Homicide (2007)--are police procedurals and feature Paul Turner, an openly gay homicide detective in the Chicago Police Department. A widower, Paul must balance caring for two teen-aged sons, one of whom has spina bifida, and his love life with the frequently long hours demanded by his job.

The crimes in these novels are not, for the most part, gay centered, but all nine books include important gay characters. Although Paul is a more believable character than Tom and Scott, the unreserved support he gets from his colleagues in the police department and from the straight world in general seems wishful thinking. These Turner novels draw authentic Chicago locales and present an interesting portrait of a gay father, but the writing is often clumsy and the mysteries themselves are often solved arbitrarily.

The Police Procedurals of Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson's Final Atonement (1992) and False Confessions (1993) began what promised to be a fine police procedural series. The protagonist, Doug Orlando, is an openly gay homicide detective based in Brooklyn. He has been ostracized by his department because he has broken the rule against testifying against a fellow officer, and the spite of his colleagues finds expression in anti-gay remarks and actions.

In the first novel, Doug investigates the murder of a renegade Hassidic rabbi against a backdrop of racial and political tensions. In the second, he tracks a murderer while exploring the underworld of sadomasochism and hypocritical Catholicism. The supporting characters, including Doug's Italian immigrant mother and his Jewish lover who teaches English at NYU, are well drawn; the plotting is intricate and interesting and the writing is excellent. Although a third Orlando mystery was promised in the note on the author appended to False Confessions, it failed to appear.

The Campy Series by Grant Michaels

Hearkening back to the campy novels of Nathan Aldyne are the Stan Kraychik novels by Michael Mesrobian who writes under the name Grant Michaels: A Body to Die For (1990), Love You to Death (1992), Dead on Your Feet (1993), Mask for a Diva (1994), Time to Check Out (1996), and Dead as a Doornail (1998). Stan is an amateur detective, an ex-psychologist hairdresser of Czech descent known professionally as Vannos.

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