Tuesday, July 24, 2001


Alex Marcoux
Haworth Press

Sidney Marcum, founder and president of Marcum Promotions, Inc., is a personal manager for musical groups and singers. For more than a decade she has specialized in taking unknown talent and making it a success. Anastasia, the beautiful, sensual, talented singer-songwriter, is struggling with her flagging professional career while attempting to balance her personal relationship with Stephanie and a life with the closet door open.

After a series of unfortunate publicity incidents, the singer approaches Sidney for management help to reclaim her superstar status. Sidney advises Anastasia to reenter the closet and create a straight public persona or "facade" to reconnect with her straight audience. The relationship these two women develop over the next two years is an interesting and cautious one. The publicity campaign that Sidney orchestrates for Anastasia's comeback is a fascinating story alone. Marcoux uses the "facade" analogy to represent both that constructed public entertainment persona as well as the face of a closeted lesbian. However, set primarily around 1993, with flashbacks to the early 1980s, Facades is more complicated than the thematic analogy implies.

Marcoux also deals with spousal abuse (heterosexual and lesbian), sexual assault, child custody issues for previously married lesbians like Sidney, blackmail and reincarnation. In addition to the above issues, Anastasia performs in Denver during the Boycott after Amendment 2. [An Amendment to the Colorado constitution that would disallow any municipal government to grant civil rights protection based on sexual orientation, which the US Supreme Court struck down.] She uses her concert as an opportunity to question the Religious Right and A2 supporters.

If it's starting to sound as though Marcoux is juggling a lot of themes in this book, you're right. While most of the story lines are tied up at the end, the reincarnation theme is never fully developed. It is hinted at throughout the novel and yet doesn't seem to fit. In fairness, many of the themes are interconnected. Overall this is a pleasantly readable novel with characters who draw the reader into the story. As a lesbian love story, Facades is rather chaste.

The characters and the writing make Facades a novel worth reading. Marcoux does not shy away from controversial issues, in the lesbian & gay community or the majority society. Actually it is that willingness to address sensitive socio/political issues around sexism, homophobia and violence that makes this a good a novel to loan to a straight friend. Facades is the first novel from Marcoux, a Colorado resident. Hopefully there will be future novels that allow Marcoux to pay more attention to tightening her plot lines.

Monday, July 16, 2001

Bleeding Out

Baxter Clare
Firebrand Books

Clare's first novel,
Bleeding Out, is a taut, gritty, psychological thriller set in contemporary South Los Angeles. Police Lt. L.A. Franco is a tough, tall, handsome, intelligent, dyke investigator. Years ago, the traumatic loss of her lover prompted Franco to shut down much of her personal life and focus on work. Years in one of the city's toughest districts have built an armor around Franco.

Franco cares about the people in her district and is alarmed when the first victim of a serial murderer appears. Franco sees the pattern in these murders as an extension of earlier, increasingly brutal, rapes and walks a razor's edge as she allows herself to sink deeper into the killer's mind in order to track him down.

Clare provides remarkable insight into the "rearing" of a serial killer in a series of short, often horrific vignettes at the beginning of each chapter. These hauntingly powerful depictions stay with the reader.

Allison Kennedy, a young, smart mouthed, narcotics officer is brought in to act as bait for the killer. Displeased with the stake out plan, Franco is annoyed, worried and just a little attracted to Kennedy. --Feelings that Franco does not welcome, yet may be important for her salvation. Not because their relationship is necessarily destined to be a success, this is not a "happily ever after" love story. -- Because for the first time in years Franco feels more than simple lust for another woman and is willing to risk the relationship.

Some of Clare's secondary characters are difficult to differentiate, particularly in the macho police world. Yet other characters are complex, compassionately drawn and touchingly real. Not a thoughtless, pleasant armchair mystery; Bleeding Out is a well written, engrossing thriller of police investigation and politics.

-MJ Lowe

BN: There are now five L.A. Franco mystery released by Bella Books including a new edition of Bleeding Out.