Story: "Public Relations" in The Great Filling Station Holdup
|When editor Josh Pachter invited me to submit a story for his anthology based on the songs of Jimmy Buffett, I was thrilled. I have been a Parrothead since I moved to Florida in the mid-1980s. It was a great challenge first, to choose a song, and then to write a piece of crime fiction that ws inspired by that song.
I chose "Public Relations" from Buffett's Broadway musical "Don't Stop the Carnival," based on a book by Herman Wouk. I loved the color, the characters and the atmosphere of the show, which I saw at the Coconut Grove Theater. It reflected so much of the South Florida I love-- and after all, Miami is the capital of the Caribbean.
If you know me at all, you know of my love for the double entendre-- and once I settled on this song I knew my story had to involve someone having sex in public. Very quickly I knew it was the ostensbily straight, married CEO of a manufacturer of condoms, caught barebacking on video. That's public relations for you!
It's also the kind of crisis that takes an experienced PR guru to manage, just like Norman Paperman, the star of the musical. Want to know how the real crime comes in, and how Norman saves the day? You'll have to read the story. You can pre-order the book until pub date on February 22, or order it whenever you're reading this. The best place to do so is from the publisher, Down and Out Books, though I'm sure it will be available through all the usual sources, including Amazon.
Can a lord and valet find love in Victorian England?
I'm a huge fan of British historical gay romance, like that written by K.J. Charles and Cat Sebastian, among others. So a year or more ago I decided to try my hand at one. Though many of those are earlier, I wanted to focus on the Victorian era—specifically December, 1877. I can’t say exactly why. But I read a lot of Victorian literature in college and graduate school, so I felt familiar with the era.
I began by with research on the common tropes. Inheritance is a big one, because many of the grand estates were entailed—they were often tied to a title, and the property could only be inherited by the holder of the title. Younger sons were left to find their own way in the world once their father died.
Class differences were also big, and the idea of an upstairs/downstairs romance was frowned upon. I set out to incorporate those tropes into an MM romance.
I began with Lord Magnus Dawson, the third son of a duke. His oldest brother will inherit, while the second son has been set up with a tea plantation in in Ceylon. Magnus’s father bought him a military commission, but when the Duke became ill, Magnus sold his commission to look after his dying dad. The book begins with the Duke’s death, and Magnus realizing he will soon be cut off and needs to find a way to make a living.
One of the ways a young man could succeed back then was by education, and Toby Marsh’s father, a wealthy manufacturer, sends him to King’s College and then to Cambridge. Unfortunately, the senior Marsh dies before Toby can finish his degree, and he’s forced to serve as a valet slash tutor to his wealthy dissolute roommate.
When the book opens, he’s struggling to make a living as a freelance tutor in Cambridge. Then an unusual summons arrives, which will put him in close quarters with Magnus. Love blossoms between them—but can it survive against the stigmas of the Victorian era?
One of my beta readers wrote, “I was completely taken with Magnus and Toby and their personal back stories.”
I hope you will be, too!