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 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 Gershwin 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 a woman to a man…or one man to another.

The day Hammett shows up in their lives, he invites Michael to the dance floor in a gay tavern (in those days, a Molly House) 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.

All the mysteries are here:

http://amzn.to/2CZsBxm   

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*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 of the Gaslight Mysteries by Erin O’Quinn (Bonita Franks)

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From big toe to bigger

 

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Foot fetish … or just a damn good story?

SPARRING WITH SHADOWS is the second Gaslight Mystery…a continuing novel of outer mystery and inner discovery.

Something about Simon Hart’s new PI partner Michael McCree—not to mention his secret vocation—invites trouble. Simon finds himself sparring with shadows: in the hidden bedrooms of a roaring twenties gay bar…as a chained wall decoration in the flat of a thief and sexual deviant…as the quarry in a deadly confrontation in an exhibitionist’s bed…and in a sewer tunnel beneath the streets of a 1923 city somewhere in Ireland.

Above all, Simon is sparring with the shadow of his own secret urges. Michael will not allow him to turn away from a kind of private investigation he has not even dreamed of, until now.

Follow a fastidious, surly investigator and his randy yet secretive partner through the very cracks in a city of gaslights and vintage motorcars, into a hidden homosexual culture, as both men find themselves sparring with shadows.

SWS finds Simon anguished about the loss of his former business partner and the recent loss of his virginity to heavy-handed Michael. But, like life itself, the novel has its laugh-out-loud moments.

What follows is one of the book’s comedic scenes.

In this bit, the ever-horny Michael has manipulated the other man into slowly removing his socks, then bringing down his trousers as he massages his feet and thighs. As long as Simon continues stripping and rubbing him, Michael will continue his intriguing story.

And when Simon hesitates, so does Michael’s tale.

Simon rested one hand on Michael’s ankle and traced his index finger up to where the garter caught the top of the sock. He slowly opened the clasp on each side and rolled the sock to his ankle. Inch by inch, he pulled it off, then placed it on the carpet.

He saw one side of Michael’s mouth twitch a small fraction and his remaining stocking-clad foot wagged also. Simon sighed again and gradually removed the other sock. He unclasped one garter, then the next, and set them next to the abandoned stockings.

“Ah, Simon, me poor feet hurt. Would ye mind?”

Simon bent over the large feet, actually well shaped with slender, high arches. He noticed the nails were neatly square-cut, as manicured as his own. He began to stroke the right foot, bringing his thumb up under the insole and kneading the meat under the big toe. His ministrations were met with moans Simon would describe as almost lustful—as redolent of pleasure as though he were stroking the man’s groin instead of his foot.

big toe 300He was astonished to find that his own groin felt bathed in heat, responding to every touch of his fingers on the ball of Michael’s foot and then on the toe itself. He felt a rising pain in his chest, then realized he’d forgotten to breathe.

Sighing, he released the right foot and grasped the other. With sure, steady strokes, he applied the same pressure, imagining how these same movements would feel if Michael were returning the gesture, knowing the entire process was probably rather pleasurable.

As Simon massaged, Michael began to speak.

“I was able to follow the very scent of the man, Simon. Ah, yes, right there. I found he keeps a second flat-within-a-flat, almost. One lair only scant minutes from the other. No one would ever suspect he hadn’t set his feet miles away from his former apartment. Damn cheeky. Brilliant.”

Simon forgot to rub, and Michael forgot to speak.

Trying not to show his amusement or his arousal, Simon ducked his head and continued to stroke his friend’s feet, his ankles, and even a little higher onto his calves.

Michael picked up the narrative.

“He owns something of great value, I believe. Higher, please, Simon. Ah, yes… He keeps it for wealth, of course, but me gut tells me it holds some kind of religious significance. That is how we shall trace him. Tomorrow, early, we shall go back and pick up the trail.”

Simon was slowly massaging Michael’s calf muscles and drawing his trouser legs higher. Michael had drawn his knees up in the large ottoman, and his butt had sunk lower in the chair.

“If me trousers were lowered, ye could reach me thighs. Will ye, love? Just for a few minutes, just the muscles, while I relax.”

By now, Simon’s breath had begun to be labored, and his heartbeat had increased until he thought his entire face and neck were red with the blood rushing there. For a fact, his own groin had blossomed to a frightening degree. How had this charlatan manipulated him again into a scene of such intimacy?

Even while silently cursing him, Simon carefully opened the top button on Michael’s fly. He saw that the trousers the man wore—his own goddamn britches—held a brick, that Michael wore a huge erection. Steadily, he continued to undo every mother-of-pearl button. And then he stopped. His fingers were trembling so much he was afraid he’d slip and graze the man’s shaft or testicles.

“More, lad?”

Simon thought it could have been a question, or a quiet plea. He rolled Michael’s trousers off his hips—again, inch by inch—while the man tried to continue his story.

“The most important fact is that this man is smart . . . Criminey, Simon, I love that . . . I had to take a trip to a certain, um, haberdashery to alert me people. That place of business is now shut down. Ah, God, Simon, don’t stop, lad.”

phallus 300Simon had taken one of Michael’s upper legs between his outstretched hands and was kneading, rubbing and massaging it. He deliberately allowed his fingers to graze the cobwebbed testicles as he worked his hands higher. Michael’s buttocks were raised several inches from the seat of the chair, and Simon began to feel a certain power, a kind of mastery over his much larger companion. Michael’s breath was a rasp, his legs were shaking, and Simon was hardly breathing.

By the time Simon began on the other leg, Michael had reared himself up enough to seize his shoulders.

“Ye’ve sapped me strength, Simon. I cannot move. God, finish me, let me die on the battlefield.”

Thinking of Hussars and plunging stallions, Simon knelt between massive thighs while Michael’s strong hands grasped his shoulders. He’d already set his mouth over this monstrous phallus twice, and both times he’d been shaken to the core. Looking at it now, trellised with purple veins, moving of its own accord, he wondered again how this vital part of Michael had ever entered his own arse without splitting him.

Without meaning to look in his face, Simon’s eyes grazed the pale ivory silk shirt Michael was wearing, saw the striped, wide suspenders awry on his arms, the half-knotted gold scarf on his neck. The sight fired him in some deep place. It was like spreading satin on a bed of rocks to touch this muscular man swathed in Simon’s own soft clothing. His hands seemed to take on an energy all their own as he began to soothe Michael’s long, warm phallus, at the same time that he finally looked into his face.

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Michael was gazing at him with an expression that sent a jolt to his gut and a hot flare up his rectum. His eyes seemed to consume him. His mouth looked almost soft in surrender. Simon thought that if the man said anything at all right now, he might jump up and run from the room, barricade himself behind his bedroom door. But Michael merely held his own eyes with a kind of haunting appeal.

He watched Michael’s face as his own fingers began a slow dance on his rigid flesh. He saw Michael shut his eyes and heard him whisper, a choke that sent another flame to his groin, “Love me, Simon.”

And he did. With palms and fingers and tongue and mouth, Simon sank into a rapturous dance that held all the longing and passion he’d ever in his life felt for another human being. He knew that Michael was a man of huge capacity who would accept even the roughest kind of sex play. Incapable of that, he merely licked and stroked, sucked and feasted until the monster erupted, and Michael’s voice was a roar of release. He tasted the tart pungency of his seed, and he swallowed it.

While Michael stroked his hair, he rested his head on the flat stomach, still kneeling, as if in obeisance to the god of all cocks.

~oOo~

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~The Gaslight Mysteries

New Kindle Series page!

https://tinyurl.com/yap2ducr 

Grow a set: The Gaslight Mysteries

~ Update May 1, 2018 ~

‘Tis Beltane. A day for lovers. The anniversary of the day Michael met Simon, May 1, 1923.

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.

I’m re-designing this blog because I’ve re-written, re-formatted, and re-covered the novels. So they’re “reed” to death. This blog, I hope, will feature each novel in order, with   dates starting May 1, 2018.

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A 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 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~

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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.

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 four 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.

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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…

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~

In THIN AS SMOKE, a man from Michael’s past almost pulls the men apart for good.

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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.

 

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

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

~

MASTERS OF CANE

In a way, this caper is the most humorous of the set, as you may see from the collage below:

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The fifth mystery, MASTERS OF CANE features the turn-of-the-century fad (the 20th century, that is)…the craze 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.

On the top of this blog, you’ll find “In the Raw,” the first two chapters of the novel—sexy and (for Simon) unusual—and an article about the “gay language” used in the series.

The “Lavender Language” or “underground gay language”  called Polari comes into play in this novel, as the men call on their stalwart team of back-alley boys who have not quite grasped  the finer points of  the King’s English. An old nemesis reappears to give Simon grief, and Sam Hammett joins the fray as a small army descends on Dun Linden’s center of criminal activity—the local cop headquarters!

And finally…finally! Simon lets down his  reserves long enough to give Michael an unforgettable display of canesmanship.

~oOo~

pair o pugs 300Throughout 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.

And yes, I am fiddling with a sixth mystery. Simon is still giving Michael a hard time. With and without his cane.

~

 

Find the mysteries on my Amazon series page, and these other fine sites:

https://tinyurl.com/yap2ducr  

Queer Romance Ink http://bit.ly/2mnG1hL (links, reviews, etc.)

Sea to Sky http://bit.ly/2lJ72bd (epub or pdf links, excerpts)

Smashwords http://bit.ly/1s3cf1q (epub)
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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

April, 2018   Hi, everyone! You’ve reached the home page of Michael McCree and Simon Hart, otherwise known as Erin’s gaslight boys. This blog is being revised, and subsequent articles will appear weekly beginning May 1, 2018…exactly 95 years from the day when Michael met Simon…

~~Scroll down to see the articles in chrono order…or click a calendar date~~ 

Their sexcapades and investigations stretch over five novels so far:

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sparring 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.

 

 

 

 

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To 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.

 

 

 

 

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Thin 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

 

 

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Masters of Cane:  No one has hired them this time, as the private dicks find their neighbors and their own tiny spy network in grave danger from a group of thieves who would rather slit a throat than pick an honest pocket; and an old nemesis who has a score to settle with both of them. When the peril grows too grave for two men to handle, they call on a few trusted friends and some unusual weaponry to help in a case where they are outnumbered—but never outwitted.

The always-edgy partnership of the two investigators also undergoes some twists and turns …of fate and canes alike. Even Simon is surprised to discover the true masters of cane in this novel of sex, crime, punishment—and sexual payback.

~oOo~

All five mysteries are together on a unique Kindle Series page, here:

~The Gaslight Mysteries

http://amzn.to/2CZsBxm

Keep this blog bookmarked (or click “follow”)  if you want to follow the sexy adventures of Michael and Simon…gay retro with a twist.

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A side note: I have recently designed all new covers, along with publishing the mysteries on my own press, New Dawn Press. Not coincidentally, the name of my press is also the name of Michael’s newspaper.

 

Logo design by Rebecca Poole, Dreams2Media.