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Leathermen: Gay Erotic Stories edited by Simon Sheppard

I received Leathermen: Gay Erotic Stories about a month after hearing of the passing of legendary leatherman Larry Townsend, author of the Leatherman’s Handbook and over 20 other books. Most BDSM writers and many gay erotica writers were influenced by Larry’s writing. Reading the stories in Leathermen gave me a chance to reflect on the continuum and continuity of the leather community because, well, I’m the type of person who dwells on those kinds of things. Those thoughts I’ll keep to myself. (Thank goodness, you’re probably saying.) Instead, I’ll talk about the leathersex stories in this anthology.

In “Exposed,” Aaron Travis captures the eroticism of ritual as a man shaves away his body hair and prepares to immerse himself in the sensual world. Even though he dons clothes over his shaved skin, he has a heightened awareness of his sexuality. He’s stripped away everything else to show who he truly is. What happens when he gets to the bar is an exhibitionist’s hot, sweaty, spunk-filled dream where his submissive side is exposed for all to see.

Dan Cullinane’s “Introduction” is another story about a man new to the BDSM scene. His main character is a student who enjoys observing BDSM but holds himself outside the experience. He wants it, but doesn’t. An experienced Dom shows him the power of his imagination in a scene that would be simple to a casual observer but nearly overwhelms the narrator. Longing and desire are powerful aphrodisiacs in this story. It’s an interesting, and refreshing, look at the psychology involved when someone wants to surrender but doesn’t want to accept the responsibility for doing it. Since no one will force him to submit, all he can do is pace along the border of a life he fears and wants.

I know I can always count on Thomas Roche for a gritty story. His “Bootlegger” is a guilty pleasure tale of forced submission. It’s an interesting counterpoint to Dan Cullinane’s story. “Bootlegger” is a forbidden fantasy of humiliation and rough sex that Roche delivers with terse style.

If you like your fantasy on the extreme side, Xan West’s vampire tale “Willing” is packed with sharp edges, blood, and violence. For the “Been there, done that to death” crowd, the vampire’s restless ennui will speak volumes, as will the thrill at finding that life can still hold some surprises.

Horehound Stillpoint’s “How A Guy On A Bike Can Get Hit By A Car, Made To Eat Asphalt, And Thank God All The While” is a luscious collection of words. I may never forgive him for putting the song “You’re Too Good To Be True” into my head, but as I glanced through the story again to write this review, his buoyant words had the power to leave me smiling as he reminded me how good infatuation feels.

Jeff Mann has a power that few writers have—the ability to make me slow down and savor words. I’m a fast reader, devouring most novels in a couple hours. But when I read something like this, “Walker looks up at the sky, periwinkle at the summit, indigo at the edges, bisected by sugar maple limb aflame with autumn’s burnt orange,” I draw in a long breath, let it out slow, and relax into the story. “In The Shadow of Devil’s Backbone,” Jeff takes leather out of its usual urban setting to show a bittersweet and intense moment between men who can’t have a life together, so they make the most of now. Such raw hurt, more than the whip inflicts, is powerfully portrayed.

Simon Sheppard has gathered an impressive group of stories for this anthology. From veterans of the BDSM scene to novices, physically intense to emotionally deep, stories that turn on your groin or your brain, there’s a tale for you here.

Leathermen: Gay Erotic Stories
(Cleis Press, August 1, 2008; ISBN-10: 1573443220)
Available at: / Amazon UK

© 2008 Kathleen Bradean. All rights reserved.

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