Something Hard, from Masters of Cane

 

Here’s a short continuation of what I started last week. Soon I’ll post the debut date and link to the newest Gaslight Mystery.

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Chapter 2: Something Hard

Simon had awakened surprised and was still astonished.

His heart was rattling like a toy drum, his throat was dry, his hands were shaking as he tried to unlock the door to his flat.

Of course he expected Michael to try to lure him back into the privy, or to touch him somewhere as they stood briefly in the gaslit hallway. He even wanted the slick intrusion into his ear, the husky promise of the man’s voice. No, not merely wanted those sensations. Craved them.

What flabbergasted him—now, and every moment since waking up this morning—was his own eager collaboration. He had always ducked and fled from the randy roustabout, one for whom the word “subtlety” had seemed to be some form of undecipherable ancient tongue.

Why now, after a full year, had he thrown aside the sham of disliking Michael’s frank interest?

He’d rushed through his daily toilet and bath, hoping to find the brawny, good looking Irishman outside the privy door. And as badly as he’d wanted to stroke his heavy penis until the pressure eased, he’d merely washed it gingerly until he was sure it would be acceptable to his flat-mate’s questing mouth—if, indeed, Michael began to look for the obvious.

fireplace:roomSimon’s fingers finally found the keyhole, and he opened the door to number 3-C, the large Victorian-era flat he shared with Michael McCree. His eyes took in every detail of the room immediately, noting the small change wrought by his flat-mate.

The room was spacious, with a high domed ceiling where his own shadow played, caught by the flickering gaslight. His eyes swept the marble fireplace whose mantel boasted his antique clock … his father’s handsome liquor cabinet next to it with stained-glass panels … a huge impressionist-style painting of the hills of Cambridge … the old wingback chair and the slick leather divan three meters away, both hand-me-downs from his father … the thick oriental rug whose reds and golds shimmered like mysterious gems.

This was the environment where he felt both safe and in peril. The place where he could come to find privacy and forbidden pleasure too.

The canes. The ivory-handled fighting sticks. He’d mounted them near the fireplace a few years ago, and yesterday he’d taken them down as a veiled message to his flat-mate. Carefully laying them next to each other, he’d propped them against his roomer’s door. Michael had to take them away to get inside. Where had he put them?

Simon saw them in his next glance, lying absolutely perpendicular on the heavy mahogany dining table. Uncrossed, open, the way he wanted Michael to see them also—an invitation to be his stick-fighting partner. Even though the street-wise Michael relied mainly on his blunt fists, Simon thought no self-respecting Irishman should be without a rudimentary knowledge of cudgels in some form. And Michael was showing him he understood and agreed.

Lately his blustery room-mate had begun to show promise … a shade of delicacy, moments rife with actual nuance. It had taken Simon almost a year to teach the fellow, and the man’s sexual energies were now being channeled in a way that deeply excited him.

cane in handStanding at the table, he ran his fingers down the length of the canes. Their high polish and adamantine smoothness called to him, reminded him of the fighting master who’d awarded him these beauties. He felt almost an electric spark, letting the meat of one palm settle on the hard surface before lifting his hand again, loathe to disturb their static potential yet longing to release that promise once more, with a new partner.

As he crossed the large sitting room to his bedchamber, Simon reflected that he had not truly taught Michael. His business partner and companion—face it, Simon, your lover—had learned because he’d found every way conceivable to say “I want you.” And maybe Michael’s unspoken words told him something even deeper. His partner’s off-and-on subtlety was just a small part of a secret daily message Simon knew he was whispering sometimes soft, sometimes with a rasping insistence.

Once he entered his large bedchamber, Simon was again taken aback. The soiled linens were no longer crumpled on his bed but balled up on the floor next to an old lumpy chair. Fresh folded sheets were sitting on the too-plump seat, no doubt waiting for the damp mattress to air-dry in the slight breeze wafting from the window.

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Normally he would firmly close the door. He’d strip the robe and don clean underwear, then find some suitable summer-weight suit to wear the rest of the day. But today he walked directly to his large four-poster bed and sat heavily at its foot, his mind snagged by the fighting sticks, the clean sheets, the memory of a wet movement in his ear and his own eager tongue on Michael’s full lower lip. Flicking, then fleeing. But absolutely honest and direct, like Michael’s own.

His phallus began to swell, and for once he did not try to will “it” away. The erection. The hardness. My stiff cock.

Michael had taught him how to give his body to another person. He’d also showed him how to blurt out his needs in words of one syllable.

He’d gone from being a hermit with a bad attitude to a willing lover, all in the space of just one year. If he were to be honest with himself, Simon knew the “willing lover” part was somewhat scarce most of the time. Simon shook his head, still reeling from the change in himself—not in a year, but in just a few days. Hell and damn, in the space of a few hours.

Something important, some alchemists’s magic, had turned him from straw to flesh. He needed time to take stock of this new Simon Hart…

A familiar lilt, the deep humor-laced tones of a sensuous man, penetrated his thoughts.

“Simon, lad. Let’s make this damned bed, or let it make us.”

towel:blondHe looked up and saw his flat-mate in a towel that was way too thin to disguise the man beneath. Looking from there into Michael’s brindled eyes, tawny as a cat, he found himself suddenly smiling.

“Make us what, McCree?”

The interloper leaned over him, the tented cloth only inches from his chin.

“Make us crazy again.”

Almost by rote, Simon slid away from the heat of Michael and managed to stand not quite touching him. But not exactly running away. And again out of habit, he pushed his lower lip into its usual cynical droop.

“I heard no knock on the door.”

“Sure an’ ’twere a knock, lad. Something hard knocking against this bloody towel.”

And then Michael kissed him. A slow, wet kiss that started on his surly lower lip and moved inside, while his bear-paw hands gentled his cheeks and chin then moved to cup his buttocks.

Simon felt his phallus become a bed post.

~oOo~

mofC figures only=pizap.com14526098981981Missed the excerpt from Chapter 1? It’s here:

https://caitlinfire.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/masters-of-cane-coming-soon/

Have you started Erin O’Quinn’s acclaimed Gaslight Mysteries? Find them on my Amazon and ARe/Omni Lit pages.

#gay #romcom #mysteries
Amazon USA http://goo.gl/N3cZ16
OmniLit https://goo.gl/xcDY3L

❤️HEART TO HEART ❤️

👥SPARRING WITH SHADOWS 👥

☠️TO THE BONE ☠️

🔫THIN AS SMOKE 🔫

Art of the cane fighters is by Alex A. Akira, writer/artist/illustrator. If you need covers, banners, box set art, etc., you’ll find his service here:  alexaakira.org

 

Thin as Smoke: Smoldering Reviews!

Thin as Smoke has been out only a few days, and it has a few well-crafted reviews!

I count myself lucky. My writing seems to draw the kinds of readers and reviewers every author pines for—ones who can look into the soul of a story, understand the symbols and themes, explore the sometimes complex motivations of the characters.

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Cover copyright 2015 by Trace Edward Zaber

One such reviewer is Suzana Wylie, author of M/M paranormal literature, poetry, flash fiction, and other work. She did not write this review of Thin as Smoke with any “mutual back-scratching” arrangement. In fact, she has no idea I’m even doing this! Her review is so penetrating that I reproduce it here in full.

Another reviewer, this one a sharp-eyed reader, is Fiona Rachel Warner. I freaking love her unvarnished sentiment, her way of approaching the book as a wide-eyed reader with no preconceptions. In a way, hers is the kind of review I most cherish, because it’s beautifully written and comes straight from the heart.

~oOo~

First, Suzana Wylie:

She does it every time. When I pick up a book by Erin O’Quinn, I know I’m going to enjoy it. That’s a foregone conclusion. With her Gaslight Mysteries series, it’s not simply enjoyment; it’s magic. One moment I’m sitting in my familiar surroundings opening a book; and before I’ve finished the first paragraph, space and time have contracted and I’m in Dun Linden, Ireland, in the early 1920’s.

Thin as Smoke is every bit as magical as the previous three books in the series. O’Quinn delivers both a mystery taut with danger and a love story, just as taut and just as dangerous. In many ways, this is the best of them, and I have loved each one.

pretend cropSimon Hart, reticent and reluctant to embrace his own sexuality, and boisterous, brash Michael McCree are partners in their firm of private investigators, and often as agents in Michael’s own covert activities. They are also sometime partners in the bedroom, though not nearly often enough to suit Michael. Each is trapped inside the snare of his emotions, straining to find a means of escape, not from each other, but toward each other.

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Into this already tense situation comes a presence from Michael’s past, a former partner, one who holds a part of Michael close to his own tubercular chest, one who goes by the familiar name of Dashiell Hammett. Hammett and a private client are each in need—of Michael in one case, and Simon in the other. Rather than their accustomed work together, they must work separately to solve these cases. Separately, but not alone. The man Hammett is there, thin as smoke and yet hard as flint between them.

There is more than one way to step into danger; there is more than one way to damage a relationship, perhaps beyond repair. Though he stands between them, Hammett may hold the key to uniting Michael and Simon in deeper ways than ever before.
It’s a brave author who pulls a flesh-and-blood [historical] character into a work of fiction. Rarely have I seen such skillful weaving-in as O’Quinn does in Thin as Smoke. Very highly recommended. Five stars!

~oOo~

Next, Fiona Rachel Warner (UK reader):

“Quirky, original, different and stimulating—who could ask for more!”
Five stars …

I have been sent an arc of this fourth Gaslight Mystery and I have devoured it in two days such was my enthusiasm to find out more about Simon and Michael’s lives. And this in my opinion is the best of the 4 books. I liked the additional characters and the storyline was intriguing and exciting, but the developing relationship between these two men was the cause of much angst and wishful thinking and for me made it a real page turner.

Not going to ‘spoil’ it for any of you so no comments on the story; but suffice it to say that Erin O’Quinn should be extremely proud of this book. It was so well written and the style so magical and evocative of the time that it was a delight to read just for that. And it certainly wasn’t predictable… I genuinely enjoyed it. Quirky, original, different and stimulating – who could ask for more!

~oOo~

Just a reminder … Thin as Smoke is the fourth of the series. The art below shows the spirit of all these m/mysteries.

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The books are all available on my Amber Quill Press author page… Coming soon to amazon dot com and dot uk. Note that Thin as Smoke is being offered at an introductory 35% discount for a limited time only.

http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx 

http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2118-Thin-As-Smoke.aspx 

You’ll find the trilogy also on my Amazon author page, complete with 45 five-star reviews:

http://amzn.to/1w8PVgI 

Hammett, Gershwin, and O’Quinn

Dashiell Hammett, best known for his iconic novel The Maltese Falcon, struggled with tuberculosis most of his adult life. The portrait you’ll read of him in THIN AS SMOKE, however, is a creation of my frazzled brain and not a representation of the “real” Dashiell  Hammett, except insofar as a distinct personality emerges from reading his body of work.

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George Gershwin, beloved American composer of popular jazz and sophisticated orchestral pieces, was the son of Russian Jews. In Michael and Simon’s tavern, the music would have been heard on scratchy gramophones and even live, from the fingers and lips of jazz musicians for whom there were no international boundaries, only music.

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Both these fellows are imbedded in my new romcom mystery THIN AS SMOKE, each in a different way.

Hammett, the famous writer of hard-boiled crime novels, was really a Pinkerton Agency op from 1915 until 1922. And Gershwin wrote the hugely famous “The Man I Love” in 1924,* the year my story takes place.

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Those of you who’ve read the first Gaslight Mystery, Heart to Hart, already know the Pinkerton’s link with Michael. Because of this association, I postulate that my character had met Hammett, whom he calls “Sam,” on U.S. soil in 1917, right before the writer-to-be joined the WWI effort.

Almost impoverished, with a wife and newborn child to support, the tubercular, chain-smoking Hammett was living in San Francisco in 1924. And here’s where Erin O’Quinn’s imagination substitutes fiction for reality. It’s true that Hammett had bitterly turned away from the detection agency two years before (because of their anti-union activities, which I don’t mention in the book).

But needing money, he agrees to one last assignment for Pinkerton’s; and that covert operation takes him to Dun Linden, Ireland, back to the man he’d known Stateside seven years earlier.

And Simon, battling his inner demons—in love with Michael but refusing to admit his gayness … guilt-ridden over his ambivalent feelings—Simon does not like Hammett’s appearance and his teaming up with his PI partner Michael. Not one little bit.

Ironically, the man who’s “thin as smoke” comes between the two private investigators in a way that’s “hard as a fist,” and that tension drives the inner action of the book. The outer action hinges on two sets of mysteries, and the PIs must split up to investigate both.

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Now let’s segue to a lovely song … “The Man I Love” is a standard, usually sung by a female vocalist. But anyone who’s heard the lyrics knows it’s a tender yearning for love, no matter whether from one man to another or from a woman to a man.

The day Hammett shows up in their lives, he invites Michael to the dance floor in a gay tavern in order to discuss a secret op. The music they closely dance to, ironically, is Gershwin’s song. Simon sits listening, fantasizing, anguished, while his secret love is in the arms of a dangerously handsome man.tmil green

You may choose not to believe this. But the video I present below was totally new to me until a few weeks ago, months after I wrote the dance-floor scene with the Gershwin song. Watch it, and you may weep for its understated declaration of pure love, one man for another. I cannot see it without fighting down a lump in my throat.

One of life’s strange coincidences.

The song winds its way throughout the book, coming back like a leitmotif, and reprises in the Epilogue. Hearing that song in some crevice of his mind, Simon finally understands what he must do.

And the very thin one, Hammett? His very presence becomes the catalyst for profound change in the life of both Michael and Simon, in ways you’ll have to read about to understand.

Please click the link (not the arrow) and watch/listen!

http://youtu.be/rcdgKtT-i-k

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If you haven’t yet read the Gaslight Mysteries, I urge you to read them in order—both to avoid any spoiler of a few interesting quirks and quiddities; and especially for the developing relationship between Michael McCree and Simon Hart.

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Heart to Hart
Sparring with Shadows
To the Bone
Thin as Smoke http://www.amberquill.com/store/p/2118-Thin-As-Smoke.aspx
Coming soon to Amazon dot com and dot uk.

Find all my novels on these author pages:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1w8PVgI
AmberQuillPress: http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx
OmniLit: http://bit.ly/1uxLxy4
Siren Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/erin-oquinn

*The music and lyrics were written in 1924 for inclusion in a Broadway musical but were later scrapped; and the song wasn’t heard as a single until 1927. So I’m pushing the boundaries a little for the sake of the story. So sue me …

Photos on this page from Yahoo! Images and from Wikipedia
Cover Images by Marion Sipe and Trace Edward Zaber

Grow a set: The Gaslight Mysteries

~ April 13, 2015 ~

Welcome to Dun Linden, Ireland. Please meet Michael McCree and Simon Hart.

4 GL lined up 2-pizap.com14219502617254 copyHere is a mash-up of the four novels. Although I like the covers for their “old-timey” flavor, I find myself making other graphic representations of the books to go along with the articles I pose here and on Facebook.

Let me say right away that the universe of these books, the Ireland city of Dun Linden, is wholly fabricated. In every bloody detail. And because it’s set in the mid-1920s, I have deliberately left out The Troubles … the years of horrendous confrontations between the Irish and the British, and between Irish fathers and sons. The series is meant to be a romcom, not a representation of grim history.

michael 400 flipA couple of years ago, my attraction to all things Gaelic led me to imagine a man named Michael McCree—a roustabout Irishman, a lover of men and a drinker of whiskey, and yet one with some surprising depths and one huge secret. He makes a living out of being smarter than most, quicker, more athletic, and by-god more able to hold his liquor and swive more men.

A man like Michael is only as interesting as the man he sets his sights on. And that unlikely person is a surly, angry, altogether closeted and touch-me-not fellow named Simon Hart. Simon’s a Cambridge-educated private investigator whose partner has been murdered, and he meets Michael in a newspaper shop when turning in an obit notice.

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They meet. Fisticuffs fly. And before Simon knows what’s happened, he’s gained a new flat-mate, a new business partner, and a wanna-be lover. It’s the “wanna-be” that drives every novel, from first to latest.

Here’s a nutshell of the first four novels. The biggest surprise is how long it takes Michael and Simon to actually “come together,” in every way. Each book seems to tiptoe to the edge and by the next book, they must start all over again because of their complex personalities.

~oOo~

When I wrote HEART TO HART, I had to keep in mind the future of the two 1920s Private Investigators. I don’t mean their careers, but their hearts.

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In the first mystery, Michael McCree seduces a skittish Simon Hart, more uptight about his sexual self than the bluff Irishman can possibly guess, and far more sensitive than Michael has the experience to recognize. His slam-bam techniques work, up to a point.

But the man he finagles into being his flat-mate, the one who trusts him to be his new partner, is far too complex for Michael to bed and then take for granted.

These men’s story grows over the next three books. I need to add that each book is a stand-alone, but the developing relationship really cries out for a reader to start with the first one and continue from there.

This first mystery could well be called “The Case of the Crimson Feather” and introduces several characters who reappear in subsequent novels.

~

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SPARRING WITH SHADOWS finds Simon anguished about the loss of his former business partner and the recent loss of his virginity to heavy-handed Michael.

Merely calling him a “homosexual” causes Simon to fall apart in front of Michael’s eyes. The carefree McCree needs to change, and he needs to help Simon see past his angst. But can he? And is Simon capable of sparring with his private demons and seeing himself more truly?

There is a lot of action in this second novel, with the idea of “shadows” coming into play always.

~

In TO THE BONE, the men are visited by a ghost from Simon’s earlier life, a man named Moshe. Just as he is on the verge of reaching out to Michael, Simon finds himself withdrawing even more, avoiding not just the present but even his past.

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But something important begins to cement these men together. Call it Michael’s new-found awareness of Simon’s secret desires. Call it Simon’s slow acceptance of his own complicated sexual needs. No matter what the reason, these two PIs begin to explore matters both in and out of their two large beds. For them, it’s a work in progress. Apart from pooling their talents on PI cases, it also involves bed dowels, silken neckties, and a certain walking cane.

Like its prequel, this novel contains more than one mystery, and the threads come together rather provocatively. The book also contains some engaging private encounters, not the least of which occurs with verses from Omar Khayyám.

~

Now, finally, THIN AS SMOKE arrives (February 1), and a man from Michael’s past almost pulls the men apart for good.

Dashiell Hammett was unknown to readers in 1924, although the fledgling author and former Pinkerton’s op had a few stories published (“The Continental Op” series). The beginnings of a fictional hard-boiled operative would eventually result in THE MALTESE FALCON. But for now, sent to Ireland to pin down Mafia bootleggers, he renews ties with his old friend Michael.

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And Simon does not like this development. Not one bit. Hammett’s presence becomes a catalyst for change, in every way…

This latest novel is more “shoot ’em up” than the others—but what can one expect when Dashiell Hamnmett is on the case?

~oOo~

Throughout the books, Michael and Simon encounter and solve cases which “happen”—from murder to dog-napping—while they struggle with their own personal lives. I’ve found in writing these books that there is a lot of potential for humor, for irony, and for exploring the clues to bona fide mysteries.

Damn, I’m the luckiest author I know. To have conceived a pair of absolutely riveting and pleasing characters who’ve won a lot of dedicated followers.

For those who keep asking … The fifth mystery, MASTERS OF CANE, is in progress. It will include a few interesting facts and some action centering on the turn-of-the-century fad known as “Bartitsu” or cane-fighting which has had a resurgence and is alive and well all over the U.K. and the U.S.

And yes, Simon is still giving Michael a hard time. With and without his cane.

~

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Find the mysteries on my Amazon author page:

http://www.amazon.com/Erin-OQuinn/e/B009AW51SA 

And on  my AmberAllure author page:

http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx
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Erin O’Quinn sprang from the high desert hills of Nevada, from a tiny town which no longer exists. A truant officer dragged her kicking and screaming to grade school, too late to attend kindergarten; and since that time her best education has come from the ground she’s walked and the people she’s met.

These M/Mysteries are contagious

January 29, 2015 Hi, everyone! You’ve reached the home page of Michael McCree and Simon Hart, otherwise known as Erin’s gaslight boys. Their sexcapades and investigations stretch over four books now:

tnHeartToHart.jpg 97x150 Heart to Hart sets up the improbable pairing of a roustabout named Michael McCree, a man with a huge secret … and a snotty, angry man named Simon Hart, whose good looks have drawn Michael into a murder mystery and a lot more on the emotional side of the ledger.

http://amzn.to/12gBwlL

sparringwithshadows 97 copySparring with Shadows continues the adventures of two unlikely private investigators, who look into affairs very private indeed. Their efforts take them from a gay bar to the sewers under a city in their quest for a priceless treasure, a master criminal, and an answer to Simon’s anguished question about himself.

http://amzn.to/14QXtqW

tothebone 97To the Bone introduces a character who worms his way between the two men, burrowing like a tick almost to the bone, while the investigators are on the trail of a thief and a murderer…not to mention a possible breakthrough in their always edgy relationship.

http://amzn.to/1bEXep2

tnThinAsSmokeThin as Smoke: Out of the haze of cigarette smoke and the sea of clustered dancers steps a very thin man. A gaunt man, with shuttered eyes betraying both sickness and a world of emotional hurt. Dashiell Hammett has come to Dun Linden on a covert assignment, and he meets his old friend Michael after seven years. He’s astonished. Michael seems delighted. But Simon, refusing to admit how much he’s drawn to his handsome partner, is stricken by the sudden appearance of the man drawing Michael’s attention,

Now on amazon dot com: http://amzn.to/17gOVCi

And on these sites:

ARe/OmniLit  https://www.omnilit.com/product-thinassmoke-1741558-340.html
For your Kindle, choose Mobipocket .prc
Or go to my pub site: http://www.amberquill.com/store/m/223-Erin-O-Quinn.aspx