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Visible Lives: Three Stories in Tribute to E. Lynn Harris

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WEB ONLY

Visible Lives: Three Stories in Tribute to E. Lynn Harris
by Terrance Dean, James Earl Hardy, and Stanley Bennett Clay

Reviewed by Terri Schlichenmeyer

ONLY ON THE WEB

There are few things in life that you need, other than clothes and food. You need love: someone to curl up with, to re-hash the day, to warm your feet. You need strength to get through the drama. And you need to know you’re on the right path in life.

Don’t you wish you knew someone who told you—convincingly—that everything was going to turn out alright? In the new book Visible Lives: Three Stories in Tribute to E. Lynn Harris by Terrance Dean, James Earl Hardy, and Stanley Bennett Clay, three authors tip their hats to a man who did exactly that.

It’s hard for a thirty-something gay man to find someone his own age to love. Chase Kennedy’s best friend, Ashley, always said that Chase should just become a Cougay, but to Chase, that was despicable. In the first story, “The Intern” by Terrance Dean, a hot new worker makes him re-think his position. He always seems to choose the wrong men. Is it wrong to sleep with an employee?

In the very confusing second novelette, “Is It Still Jood to Ya?” by James Earl Hardy, Mitchell and Raheim are an on-again, off-again couple, even though their children want them together. So when Mitchell asks Raheim for a ride to the airport for a visit with an old lover, everybody thinks Raheim is crazy for agreeing. But a citywide blackout means a delay for Mitchell’s flight. Could it be the delay that will keep them together?

Devastated by a nasty breakup, Jesse Templeton III almost passed up an unexpected offer from a travel agent-friend: a three-week vacation in the Caribbean, the perfect broken-heart balm. In the final novelette, “House of John” by Stanley Bennett Clay, Jesse’s friend promises a Bacchanalian 21 days filled with hot boys. Jesse’s sister, Frankie, says that a getaway is just what he needs. But once he settles into Santo Domingo and the opulent, decadent House of John, Jesse learns, brutally and firsthand, that the party is no fun for some invitees and that he might return home with more than just memories of a good time.

Reading Visible Lives is a little like riding a roller coaster: the first tribute is an anticipatory ascent that’s rewarded by a gasp of surprise at what occurs. The second story (filled with impossible-to-follow dialogue and irritating faux language) is the lower point of the ride, fortunately followed by the sweet spot, the third, beautifully written novelette that sweeps you to a satisfying end.

What’s also satisfying is that, in the midst of these three tales, each author gives the late E. Lynn Harris a cameo appearance. That’s a unique twist in an anthology, and it’s oddly comforting for fans who miss Harris and for writers who gratefully accepted his good-natured support.

Though this anthology contains some scenes that are graphic but not gratuitous, it is, overall, a loving eulogy for a missed friend. If you’re looking for a quick read with a few heartfelt twists, Visible Lives is exactly what you need.

Visible Lives: Three Stories in Tribute to E. Lynn Harris
by Terrance Dean, James Earl Hardy, and Stanley Bennett Clay
Foreword by Victoria Christopher Murray
2010, Kensington Dafina Books (www.kensingtonbooks.com)
352 pages, $15

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and she lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terry Schlichenmeyer is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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