Friday, 30 March 2018

New Release: Oskar Blows a Gasket by Claire Davis and Al Stewart

Author: Claire Davis and Al Stewart
Language: English
Published: 30th March, 2018
Length: 89,700 words (approx).
ISBN: eBook: 978-1-78645-202-3
Category: Fiction
Genre: LGBT, Humour, Romance and Relationships, New Adult, Pure Romance - M/M

Oskar Braithwaite is bold, brash and gorgeous. Just ask him.

Armed with designer backpack full of make-up and retro music galore, Oskar sets off for college. And, with attitude even spikier than his heels, nothing is going to hold him back. Except maybe one thing...his past is shouting louder than the 80s songs he adores and it won't be ignored. Behind the effervescence are secrets, lies and sadness. Try as he might, not even Oskar can hide forever, and one day it isn't only pop icon Simon Le Bon who's going to catch up.

Who is writing letters? And why is a spy secretly following?

Enter Bear, with dancing eyes and secrets of his own. Bear's kindness sparkles brighter than Lycra leggings, and everyone knows Oskar loves shiny things. Like every prophecy, their fates seem inevitably linked. As the walls of Oskar's defence crumble, Bear shows his hidden strength, but will it be enough to save them?

Find out in this far-out, zany tale of fame, first love and retro DJs. 

* * * * *

Editor's Review:
Who wouldn't want Simon Le Bon for a dad? Sharp suits, good looks, charm, sophistication, fame, success. He's bloody perfect, isn't he? Or if not Simon Le Bon, maybe Tony Hadley? So suave, so handsome...mmm...

So plastic.

Don't get me wrong. I fell for their charms too, back in the day. Well, not Simon Le Bon so much. I could see right through to his middle-class white boy pomp. But Tony Hadley? He's an Eastend working-class lad, and he was the one for me. I even figured out the age difference between us and whether it was too great for us to get married...until that fateful night, watching Top of the Pops, when I noticed the wedding band on Tony's hand. I was gutted.

But my teenaged broken heart is very much beside the point. 1980s British music was ideological hogwash. First up, we had Punk - The Sex Pistols, The Clash, etc. - with its anti-establishment angry rants. Middle-class kids masquerading as working-class heroes, pushing a liberal agenda, and I don't mean the 'good' kind of liberal that's all about securing rights and freedoms. I'm talking neoliberal - the right wing's rise to fame.

Thatcher's Britain.

F*cking grim.

Oh, it was all right for those in the southern English suburbs with their careers in big finance, lovely wives in Laura Ashley frocks and neat little sprogs in public (paid-for) education. But for those living in the big towns and cities in the north - Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, Newcastle, Birmingham, Stoke, Manchester, Liverpool - all those places once at the heart of British industry, it looked nothing like...

Well, nothing like Simon Le Bon.

To cut a long [political hi]story short, post-WWII Britain was generally in favour of state welfare to reduce inequality, up until the late 1970s, when British industry began to fail, unemployment was on the rise and the cost of welfare was considered too great, which was how Margaret Thatcher got a foothold and buggered us (the working class) up good and proper.

(Spandau Ballet - 'To Cut A Long Story Short'
with the delectable Tony Hadley - also the title of his autobiography)
* * *

Thatcher's government sold us a dream - work hard, earn your success - called 'meritocracy'. A lie that obscured the reality: 'the successful' were those born into privilege. Social mobility was a myth, but we still bought into it. What else could we do? There were exceptions, of course. Some of the UK's most successful businesspeople dragged themselves up through the class system. But for most of us, we just work and work and work and never get anywhere.

British pop music in the 1980s (post-punk) reflected Thatcher's meritocratic bullshit. Duran Duran, ABC, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet - all those New Romantic greats - wore the clothes and portrayed the illusion of socioeconomic success even though most were working-class boys who just brushed up well. (With the exception of Simon, as mentioned - he's from Pinner, Middlesex - Greater London. Posh.)

(Duran Duran - 'Rio' features the chaps on a massive yacht. How frightfully nice.)
* * *

I spent quite some time watching music videos, erm, I mean researching to find a working-class band/artist from the 1980s that didn't sell out for mainstream success. I came up with one: The Human League, who are from Sheffield in Yorkshire, and in their videos look like the working class dolled up for a night on the town.

(The Human League - 'Mirror Man' - clever video. Phil, Joanne and Susan on the pull.)
* * *

You may wonder where I'm going with all this, and how it's even slightly relevant to an editor's review of Oskar Blows a Gasket - the 'quirky British' new adult gay romance from Claire Davis and Al Stewart.

You may already have figured it out. If so, good on you. Thank you for appreciating the intelligent social commentary that is at the heart of every story Claire and Al write.

Because here's a thing you might not realise.

For us working-class 'Brits', being described as 'quirky' is little bit erasing. Most people in the UK are working class, many of whom live in council estates like Brinsted Gardens, with the reality of drug addiction and poverty, and only ever dream of escape to university or some other grand place, always one step away from tragedy and death (like at Grenfell Tower). Many kids who get free school meals (or used to, but that's another story) go back to school after the holidays with malnutrition. Even those a bit further up the social ladder live hand-to-mouth, live to work, and die younger than their middle- and upper-class counterparts.

What the world sees of British life is the sanitised version: red pillar boxes and phone boxes, men in suits, majestic London, rolling green fields, glorious manor houses, aerial shots of hills and coastlines... To outsiders, we're either urban or rural, and we're all well-to-do and talk like the queen or Dick Van Dyke.

Subway under Stanley Way, Skelmersdale, West Lancashire, North-West England.
© Gary Rogers (Creative Commons)
* * *

It's the same in British fiction - mainstream and literary. It's mostly written by middle-class white people (men), and they either portray their Britain, or the international edition (red pillar boxes...etc.).

I've even seen many a British author of gay romance tone down the Britishness, and I'd bet a part of that is fear of being called 'quirky' or 'quaint'.

So, when you read Oskar Blows a Gasket, and I know you will, by all means enjoy the delightfully quirky romance that blossoms between Oskar Braithwaite (good Yorkshire name, is that) and Bear. Revel in their first kisses; tear your hair out at Oskar's dramatics; shed a tear for these young men and all they've endured. But also embrace the opportunity to tuck in to some real British working-class culture, perhaps with a nice cuppa and a custard cream, or even a plate of egg and chips.

(Duran Duran - 'Hungry Like The Wolf')

Oskar Blows a Gasket is a new adult gay romance by Claire Davis and Al Stewart and is available from Beaten Track Publishing and all the usual places.

* * * * *

Purchase Links:
Beaten Track

* * * * *

About the Author:
Al Stewart and Claire Davis write about people who are not perfect. Claire embraces the dark side, and Al the good side of the force. Their work is there for a fusion of both, mixed often with kink and humour.


Saturday, 17 March 2018

New Release: Silent Terrorism: Saudi Arabia by Phetra H. Novak

Author: Phetra H. Novak
Language: English
Published: 17th March, 2018
Length: 78,000 words (approx).
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-184-2
eBook: 978-1-78645-185-9
ASIN: B07B298C5F
Category: Fiction
Genre: LGBT, Romance and Relationships, Political, Contemporary Fiction, Thriller.

Early morning, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Swedish correspondent cameraman Ebbe Skoog is out getting shots for an upcoming story and stumbles upon something he isn't supposed to see. On a building site, on the outskirts of the city, four men looking a lot like the Mabahith - the secret police - are sending a bound man to a certain death by stoning.

With camera still rolling, Ebbe begins to retreat when a second man enters the scene and throws himself on top of the dying man, shielding him with his body, soothing with loving words. Ebbe's reaction is immediate. Clutching his camera, he drags the screaming lover out of the rain of stones and in a storm of sand, they flee into the brutal uncertainty of the desert.

Correspondent reporter Mattis Andersson is the wild card, the rebel. He's also Ebbe's only hope of getting out alive with his new companion, Aasim El-Batal, and the memory card holding the footage that will make Saudia Arabia burn in the eyes of human rights activists the world over.

With their past as lovers, and their present as colleagues and best friends who would take a bullet for each other, it now falls on Mattis to protect his and Ebbe's future. But the Swedish government wants to silence them, unwilling to jeopardize years of lucrative weapons deals for "some petty gay love affair." It's an impossible mission that will draw on every strength the two men possess.


Editor's Review:
I love my job. Like any job, there are times when it can be a bit of a battle of endurance. Looming deadlines, sticking to schedules and having to work when I'm sick because there's no-one to pick up the slack can take their toll. But since I started Beaten Track Publishing, I wake up looking forward to what every single day has in store.

In a way, it's like having a library of my favourite books at my fingertips with a permanent excuse of 'I need to read this...for work'. I publish the books I want to read/would have wanted to read when I was younger, and refusing to bend to the sway of the market gives Beaten Track immense freedom. It's risky; there are books in our catalogue which sell very few copies and don't financially compensate for the time taken to get them 'out there'. But all of our books are important in some way or other.

Many have tremendous cultural/social/political importance. They're not always the books I would choose to read for pleasure because, being a bit of an escapist wimp and all. In my personal reading, I generally steer clear of horror and thrillers, largely because they tend to be driven more by plot than character, and I'm a natural psychologist. There is nothing I love more than everyday explorations of the human psyche.

It takes a very skilled author to write a story that is strong on both plot and character development. Silent Terrorism is the latest of Phetra H. Novak's novels and showcases her incredible ability in this regard. It's a tough read, dealing with the uglier aspects of human existence, specifically: how the political elite turn a blind eye against atrocities committed by other members of the elite if it's in their interests to do so.

Silent Terrorism is the story of a few brave men fighting for justice, fighting for their lives, and through the events that unfold, we follow their distinct yet intertwined journeys towards the same goal. There are very few female characters, but as most of the novel takes place in Saudi Arabia, this is to be expected. The women we do meet hold powerful positions in Western society, and their portrayal is too complex (and would spoil too much of the plot) to explore in this review. All of the characters are flawed, some more so than others, in some cases irredeemibly.

At the heart of it all, is Ebbe Skoog, our 'hero' in the truest sense of the word, whose every action is underpinned by an extraordinary (and dangerous) belief in justice. I can't say I enjoyed his journey, but I admired his strength and determination, and I never once stopped rooting for him. As for his partner Mattis...well, he certainly doesn't have Ebbe's quiet fortitude, but I appreciated his brash, say-it-like-it-is approach. It's vital to the rescue mission, as well as delivering brief moments of humorous respite, like flares of colour and hope in the desolate desert landscape of this novel.

Politically, Silent Terrorism tackles the complexities of international relations between cultures that share little common ground, even outside of the big human rights debates. Yet there is no dichotomy of West vs East, Good vs Evil. Instead, we encounter a detailed exploration of these issues through the events that unfold and the responses of the agencies involved in trying to get Ebbe and Aasim out of Saudi Arabia.

All in all, this is not a 'nice' read, but it's a damned good one - thought-provoking, emotional, devastating in places, but trust the author. Phetra ensures us safe passage to the other side.

50% of the proceeds of this book goes to Colin Stewart and Erasing 76 Crimes.

Silent Terrorism is a political thriller by Phetra H. Novak, and is available in paperback and ebook formats from Beaten Track Publishing and all the usual places.


Purchase Links:
Beaten Track Store:

Other Vendors:


About the Author:
Phetra often refers to herself as the odd man out, the dorky book nerd. She'd rather spend time with a good book or making up fantastic stories with even more fantastic characters, than live in the real world, dealing with real people.

The real world is strange, in a very non-humorous way, and people in it complicate it to the point of wearing you out. In the written word world, whether it's someone else's words or her own, things might get busy, complicated, and even downright painful, but somewhere along the line, a hero's always on the horizon. He's probably not a prim and proper, church-going pretty-boy since the author prefers rebellious men and women who don't follow the protocols of society.

One of her favorite sayings is that 'Only dead fish follow the stream,' and well she ain't no dead fish.

Phetra lives with her family - two children, a domestic partner, and their two cats in Gothenburg, Sweden. When reading her books, you'll notice she always finds a way to bring her own culture into her stories.

The joy of reading and writing comes from her childhood and is something she has always loved, and been passionate to share with others. Phetra loves hearing from her readers, even with ideas of what they'd like to come next.

If you are looking for her, the best place to start looking is at home in the quietest corner of the house, where she'll be curled up with either her Kindle, reading or with her laptop typing away.


Thursday, 1 March 2018

New Release: Closer by F.E. Feeley Jr.

Author: F.E. Feeley Jr.
Language: English
Published: 1st March, 2018
Length: 117,000 words (approx).
ISBN: Paperback: 978-1-78645-186-6
eBook: 978-1-78645-187-3
Category: Fiction
Genre: LGBT, Horror, Supernatural

Maplewood, Vermont is a picturesque town filled with unique shops, unique homes, and a quaint familiarity all centered around a lake with an unusual history.

Legends, old as well as Urban, float around like the mist that hovers above the lake at break of dawn.

But they're just stories, right?

Hayden Moore's life was destroyed when his husband, Malcolm, was murdered. Giving up his job as an assistant district attorney in Boston, Hayden moved to the little burg of Maplewood to recover.

A new life.

A fresh start.

However, something underneath the water is stirring. Something rotten. A deadly secret wakes underneath the black waters of Lake Veronica so disturbing it haunts the nightmares of the local residents.

It's coming closer...


Editor's Review:
March 1st, 2018 sees the release of Closer - a spectacular supernatural thriller from F.E. Feeley Jr. - not his first novel by a long shot, but the first of (hopefully) many published with Beaten Track.

The setting of the story is Maplewood, a town in Vermont - rural, picturesque, with woods, a lake and lots of touristy things to do. It's a vacation spot, and seemingly the perfect place for Hayden (our sort-of protagonist) to relocate after his husband's murder.

I say 'sort-of' protagonist because there is a small band of characters at the heart of this story, but Hayden gets a little more on-page time for reasons that become apparent as events unfold.

There's also some romance in store - what the author calls 'romance with a small r', and I agree with that. The relationships that bud are not limited to romance; friendships feature strongly, as does family, and some of the secondary characters are a real delight (Mr. and Mrs. Hatch, for instance).

The richly described setting and often flawed characters create a stunning backdrop to the supernatural element, and we, the readers, are treated to insights that the characters do not yet have. Indeed, the novel begins with the retelling of the events from the distant past, some of which are known to the people of Maplewood.

This is the beauty of the omniscient narrator; they  share details with the reader, drawing us into the inner circle. It works especially well in thrillers, putting us in a state of suspense, waiting for the 'jump scare', while the character remains blissfully unaware. I must confess, I found myself muttering 'Don't do it! Don't go in there!' a good few times while editing.

That said, it would be a pretty naff story if we knew everything from the beginning, so readers can expect a few twists and turns on the journey - a happy ending for many in relationship terms, a solid conclusion to the main arc, and an intriguing hook for the next novel.

Closer by F.E. Feeley Jr. is available in paperback and ebook formats from Beaten Track Publishing and all the usual places.


Purchase Links:
Beaten Track Store:

Other Vendors:


About the Author:
F.E. Feeley Jr is a poet and the author of six published works - four full length novels, two short stories featured in anthologies, and a good deal of poetry.

Married to the love of his life, John, he came to the writing world about four years ago where he fell in love, again, with the written word.