CHASING DANNY BOY
of Celtic Eros
What the Reviewers say:
Edward Lucie-Smith, Author, Race, Sex and Gender, London
Victor Terry, Checkmate Magazine, New York
George Stambolian, Editor, Men on Men 1, New York
Elle Hills, Timeless Voice Newspaper, Macon, Georgia
Marilyn Saye-Lewis, President, www.eroticbooksociety.com
John Willmer, The Pink Paper, London, England
Doug Gordy, The Slant, San Francisco Bay Area, California
Richard Labonte, Lambda Book Report, Washington D.C.
Electronic Gay Community Magazine
Montgomery West, Inches
Anthony Glassman, Gay People's Chronicle
M.J. Arcangelini, We The People, Santa Rosa, California
Author, Race, Sex and Gender, London
"Everyone fascinated by Ireland and the Irish--so tangled in passion vs. repression--will love this book illuminating aspects of Celtic culture usually left in the shadow."
Victor Terry, Checkmate Magazine, New York
"If the great and controversial Sean O'Casey, whose play started a riot in the Abbey Theatre, had written Irish erotic fiction, he might have authored stories like these charmers in Chasing Danny Boy to start the 21st century."
George Stambolian, Editor, Men on Men 1, New York
"The Story Knife'...a fine enjoyable piece of work."
Elle Hills, Timeless Voices Newspaper, Macon, Georgia
"Wit as warm as hearty stout...These stories exhibit the delicate heart of Celtic lovers trapped in the escapades of love."
Marilyn Saye-Lewis, www.EroticBookSociety.com
"Chasing Danny Boy is a wonderful book."
The Pink Paper London, England
Mark Hemry's collection of short stories, Chasing Danny Boy is aimed at a much younger audience and, as the title suggest, with Irish ancestry.
One or two are banal, a couple maybe a little obtuse to a non-Irish reader but some are exceptional, reaching out to everyone.
Kelvin Beliele has Charles McGinty, a young Northern Ireland Protestant, enjoying sex with Patrick, a Catholic drag queen in Dublin. They talk of the fighting: Charles had a brother killed and Patrick admits he was once in the IRA. "Killing's crazy," he says. "Queers shouldn't have hate. Ain't we had enough of the war inside this war?"
Another beguilingly told tale is "The Lake of Being Human: Dead Sea Fruit" by Michael Wynne, describing a boy learning that his mother is a lesbian. Not all the stories are deep, both Peter Paul Sweeney's "Flight" and P-P Hartnett's E-Mail: Remember When We Weren't Queens?" are wryly amusing.
The Slant www.theslant.org
An odd thing has happened as I've reached my middle-aged crazies. My sexuality, which for much of my youth and young adulthood had seemed the end-all and be-all of my self-identity, has become rather a given, less a driven core of my essential being and more a comfortable pair of old shoes. However, I now find that other aspects of identity that eluded me for much of that necessary soul-searching period have become more important to me, including a desire for knowledge and identification with my ethnic and cultural roots (being something of an Anglo-Saxon mongrel - composed of various parts Scottish, Irish, French, Welsh, and English ancestry - meant I grew up with to clear ethnic delineation, other than White Bread Suburban WASP).
Something akin to my own search has seemingly exploded on the gay literary scene, with homosexuality becoming an adjunct to an exploration of "Otherness" that encompasses more than mere sexual orientation. Witness the two new anthologies at hand, which place Celtic and Latino identity at the forefront of a larger search for belonging in the context of male erotic love and lust.
If I prefer the Celtic collection to the Latin one, that is easily explained by both my own heritage and predilections (I'd take Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan over Antonio Banderas or Ricky Martin any day!). But, being fiction as opposed to "True Stories", Chasing Danny also exhibits a wider spectrum of styles, genres and attitudes than is allowed by the "confessional" nature of Latin Lovers.
One of the more interesting stories, Kelvin Beliele's Love's Sweet Sweet Song, even appropriates the linguistic styling of Ireland's premiere writer, James Joyce (in a conscious tribute to the Penelope' section of his masterwork, Ulysses), in an amusing tale of a masculine man getting the tables turned on him by a feisty tranny.
Indeed, the collection, written by Irish writers from the homeland, the US, Britain and even Germany, has a broad enough range to encompass elements from Celtic mythology (the bizarre and bloody Fiachra's Cath, by Lawrence W. Cloake), as well as the expected meditations on Catholic/ Protestant tensions (a marvelous short story by the same author called The Checkpoint), and the title story by longtime "fiction" master Jack Fritscher, which posits the erotic allure of homegrown lads for the visiting tourist. Punk stylist P-P Hartnett (known for his popular phone sex novel, Call Me), whose tantalizingly scowling visage is used for the cover art, also contributes two interesting samples, most successfully with his Dublin Sunday, which details the erotic longings of a 50-something fetishist. Perhaps the most prestigiously noteworthy addition (and the only work not written in the past year or so) comes from famous writer/film director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game). His 1976 story Last Rites (reprinted from his own early collection) somberly closes this compendium with the sad, predictable (and most obliquely gay) tale of a young laborer's suicide at a bathhouse.
Despite the aforementioned sameness in its offerings (after awhile, the first person narratives all seem rather self- indulgent), Latin Lovers will be a welcome addition to the libraries of those numerous fans of Hispanic and Chicano machismo.
As opposed to Chasing Danny, only about a third of the authors of this collection profess to a Latino heritage, however (and almost all of them also hail from the East Coast), making the majority of the. stories tales of erotic longing by Anglos for their ethnic brethren.
In summation, however, both paperbacks make for enjoyable, often arousing, and offbeat excursions into this new realm of homoerotic artistic expression and cultural exploration.
Lambda Book Report www.lambdalit.org
It is a fine example of a second generation of diversification, this Chasing Danny Boy, whose 17 stories by eight authors, feature, favor and fetishize Irish lads, just as recent anthologies have focused their sexual interests and energies on Asian, Black, Hispanic--or coming soon--bisexual communities.
Editor Mark Hemry has come up with more than a concept, too: all but two of the authors are represented by several stories (which in the case of work by Bob Condron, Jack Fritscher and Michael Wynne, is a treat). Each story is prefaced by a glossary which explains Irish-specific settings and situations, a useful innovation for fiction which is strong on both dialect and appropriate cultural, political, and historical context. For example, Lawrence Cloake's "The Checkpoint," is a tense tale about a highly-charged encounter between an Irish messenger and a British soldier, or his "Fiachra's Cath," a blood-curdling tale of lust and killing set in 500 B.C.
A highlight of this strong, skilled collection is film director ("The Crying Game") Neil Jordan's "Last Rites," in which an adolescent Irish worker's unrealized sexual longing shifts into focus as he imagines the nude men bathing in the stall next to him at a public bath. Like the rest of this anthology, it's a "Powerful Story of Celtic Eros."
Electronic Gay Community Magazine
no author listed
Hotter than Riverdance? Chasing Danny Boy is sexy, in a non-threatening literary way, because American editor, Mark Hemry, keeps the human tone entertaining. The engaging stories feature strong characters, witty dialog, and plots that are mostly modern in time, place and action. Some are archetypes of myths: Celtic warriors and IRA soldiers. Some are romantic: the Irish-American priest in "The Story Knife." Five charming stories by twenty-something Dublin writer, Michael Wynne, examine the family secrets shared by mother and son in "Me and Mam."
The young London-based Irish literary genus, photographer, and fashion model, P-P Hartnett, whose self-portrait is the photo on the cover of Chasing Danny Boy, writes a feisty story, that like all these stories, leaves no room for too-ra-loo-ra sentimentality. Only one story dares tell itself in "Joycean" drag equating the division of gender to the division of Ireland and, it rather works. Fans of San Francisco writer, Jack Fritscher, will enjoy his title story "Chasing Danny Boy." Illustrations introducing stories are from the Book of Kells.
Readers needn't be Irish or male or parading on St. Paddy's Day to enjoy these stories. (This anthology's wickedly satirical portrait of American tourists traveling back to Ireland in search of "their own inner Danny Boy" may actually increase tourism!) Chasing Danny Boy is a book of timely pop-culture interest to readers of the book and movie versions of Angela's Ashes and Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, directed by Neil Jordan whose glimmering fiction in Chasing Danny Boy examines one of the alternative ways "the Irish saved civilization." The first international collection of sexy fiction out-of-the-closets of Ireland is fresh, clever, entertaining reading for coffee-house, commute, beach or bedside!
Inches, June 2000, Vol14, No 10
by Montgomery West
Being Irish sucks. It’s all about being poor, dirt-poor reallyI’m talkin’ “Angela’s Ashes” poorand being Roman Catholic to the point of being ashamed of even thinking about masturbating, let alone suck cock. Although there is an underlying thread of artistic greatness that pops up every once in a while when talking generally about the Irish; James Joyce, the My-Left-Foot-guy, Oscar Wilde, I think. Even Frank McCourt, who wrote “Angela’s Ashes.” He lieved the worst life imaginable, poorer than poor and several of his brothers and sisters died very young, yet his book is downright amazing.
Anyway, you get the point: Being Irish is twisted. Which made a certain book that landed on my desk all the more noteworthyChasing Danny Boy: Powerful Stories of Celtic Eros, edited by Mark Hemry. What the hell? I thought. What is Celtic Eros? Trolls and giants and warlocks and shit?
Not reallyand thank god.
“Chasing Danny Boy” is a compilation of new gay fiction, mostly erotic, about Irish guys or being Irish. Sounds iffy, I know. But its not. There are some great stories by some good writers here.
Take P-P Hartnett, a raging queer from the Emerald Isle who contributed a cyber-tinged piece called “E-Mail: Remember When We Weren’t Queens?” A contemporary piece structured around messages relaying a trip to England and a potential new boyfriend who is Irish. It’s rough and edgy and sexy, too. Judging by the photo of Mr. Hartnett in the back of the book, he’s a stud himself. (In fact, the pictures in the back of the book are one of the bonuses of “Chasing Danny Boy.” Short-fiction anthologies don’t usually include them, but for me, after reading a story by someone, seeing the face is crucial.)
The title story, about the boy named Danny, is by Drummer veteran Jack Fritscher. He seems to be everywhere is month. A new book of Fritscher’s sexiest short pieces landed on my desk as well. Stand by Your Man. Thank somebody that it has nothing to do with Tammy Wynette. Or maybe it does, I was awfully distracted while reading the book and might have missed the allusion.
You’re probably wondering how I got distracted, and I’ll tell you. This book is rather erotic, in the get-my-dick-hard-while-I’m readin’-it category. So I kept having to run and get some Kleenex to wipe up my dirppings.
The nice thing about Fritscher is that his stories are tight, like a young asshole. If a few pages, he can weave a story about two brothers whacking the 10-inch cocks for a voyeur in “The Adams Boys and Me!” In “Foreskin Fever,” Fritscher fills the reader in on all kinds of trivial fetish info about the sacred bits of skin.
For those who like their meat prematurely cooked, so to speak, check out Fritscher’s story “The Cabbage Patch Boys.” It’s actually about adults, real San Francisco men. But they play together in such sexy, jovial and jocular ways they might as well be undeage.
Gay People’s Chronicle, January 12, 2001
by Anthony Glassman
There is nothing like reading an anthology. A slew of stories, a bevy of writers, not two exactly the same, it’s hard to get bored when every ten pages or so there’s something completely new to read.
Of course, that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes you’re reading a really great story, and then it ends and the next tale leaves you wishing the last hadn’t stopped.
Chasing Danny Boy: Powerful Stories of Celtic Eros exemplifies both views of the modern anthology. On the one hand, every story is different from the last. There’s something new lurking every few pages, a surprise to be discovered. Sometimes, however, the surprise that you discover is that the next story is not as good as the last. This was rarely the case with this book; only a couple of the 17 stories were less than amusing. P-P Hartnett’s "Dublin Sunday" was actually rather disturbing, definitely not for those with extremely visual imaginations.
The highlights of the collection are much easier to pick out than the disappointments. Lawrence W. Cloake’s "Bike Boy: Transporting" made fascinating use of changes in first- and third-person narrative, changing voice shortly after the beginning of the story. The tale itself is bizarre, almost reminiscent of a cross between the movies "The Lost Boys" and "The Wild One."
The crown jewel of the collection, though, is "Last Rites," written by Neil Jordan, best known as the Oscar-winning writer and director of "The Crying Game." Unlike the majority of the other stories in this volume, which emphasize the “eros” in the subtitle, Jordan’s Rites is almost completely chaste, despite the fact that it takes place in a public bathing facility. Jordan has made a name for himself directing movies with strong themes of sexual confusion and angst; he also writes most of the stories for his movies. Reading this piece, it’s not difficult to recognize the mind that produced The Crying Game and Mona Lisa, who brought Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire to the screen. There is not happiness, no joy in this story, but it is, either because of this or in spite of this, which makes this story the most real.
That is also one of the problems with this book. A number of the stories repeat a similar theme of yearning young gay man gets to bed his secret desire.
Another complaint with the book regards the history of the Irish people. Mel Gibson gave us a three-hour epic based on five years of Scottish history, but this book only has one story that takes place before the turn of the century. The Celts have been raising heck since the Roman Empire was running rampant, and this is all we get? One story about a horny, post-adolescent chieftain getting his jollies hacking and slashing his way through the enemy?
All in all, this is a fairly minor complaint given the number of stories here. Even the stories that weren’t great certainly weren’t bad; a little trite, perhaps, but nothing legitimately bad. If you have any interest in contemporary Irish culture, grab this book. If you like Neil Jordan, grab this book. If you want and in-depth study of history of gay and lesbian aesthetics, wrong book. But Chasing Danny Boy is fun, and occasionally quite arousing. Buy it.
We the People, March 2001
by M.J. Arcangelini
Headline: Gay erotica with distinct Irish consciousness
“Gay writing, at heat, is the forbidden literature of Irish culture,” proclaims editor and Sebastopol resident, Mark Hemry in his introduction to Chasing Danny Boy, a provocative and often arousing collection of gay erotica with a distinctive Irish consciousness.
Some of the 17 stories in this book owe as much, if not more, to the folk tales collected by Lady Augusta Gregory and William Butler Yeats around the turn of the 19th century, as they might to the sorts of tales more likely to appear in Drummer.
The three stories of Lawrence W. Cloake are particular favorites of mine. Digging into Lady Gregory’s Complete Irish Mythology for inspiration, Fiachara’s Cath is like a brief, Irish Braveheart, except hard-ons as they plunge into fierce battle. Well, I know that’s the way I’ve always imagined it!
Cloake can find as much drama in present day Ireland as in the past. The quietly tense, The Checkpoint has an English Soldier and an Irish motorcycle courier flirting dangerously with each other on the border between north and south, while Bike Boy: Transporting combines the mythic tale of a group of hunter/warriors, called the Fianna, with the motorcycle eroticism of Checkpoint. The result is a hardcore vision of outlaw camaraderie, culminating in a late-night initiation ritual, held within a ring of brilliant motorcycle headlights, where Boy and Bike are transformed into a new being.
Local author, Jack Fritscher’s, title story, Chasing Danny Boy, also takes its inspiration from the past as it contemporizes a sort of prequel to the story of Dermid and Grania (the Celtic Romeo and Juliet). This story, told from the Irish point of view, uses drama to explore the conflicts at the heart of Irish-Americans who go searching for romantic roots in the Old Country, only to come fact-to-face with the reality of modern Ireland.
Fritscher gets under the skin of the surly, Irish hooligans who’ve had it with playing Danny Boy to American tourists. In the process, both the American fantasy of a romantic homeland, and the Irish dream of redemptive immigration, emerge seriously bruised, but not entirely drained, of their power. The story pivots on a carefully choreographed orgy in which men from each side pair off into sexwrestling, fighting couples spitting insults back and forth to grease their passions. These boys take the transference of lust into violence very literally.
In contrast, the stories of P-P Hartnett and Michael Wynne deal with the quieter, more internal landscapes which, especially in Wynne’s five excellent stories, find their reflections in the world around them.
Hartnett’s characters play on fears of isolation and aging. Both the ritualizing masturbator of Dublin Sunday (He schedules mechanical sex with himself, a box of memories and, thanks to copyguard, a literal blue movie.) And the dishy expatriate of Email: Remember When We Weren’t Queens? Are both visions of the kind of dead-end future gay men used to believein the not so distant pastawaited us all. In Ireland, Hartnett seems to be telling us, things haven’t changed that much.
Wynne, on the other hand, presents characters rising, or striving to arise, above the dismal, oppressive atmosphere into which they’re borneven when they don’t seem to realize what they’re doing: young men open to life and ready to relate to others in ways their elders could only dream of.
In The Lake of Being Human: Dead Sea Fruit Wynne finds images which both reach inward toward other images as touchstones for events as well as stories unfolding out of each otheruntil he arrives back at his point of departure.
Bob Condron relates an unlikely, but highly satisfying, coming out in Lost & Found and tangles an immigrant’s reminiscences of first love with fantasies about beat writer, Jack Kerouac, in Visions of Sean.
Peter Paul Sweeney’s Flight is also about first love, but with a very different, even more bittersweet, conclusion. And Kelvin Beliele’s Love Sweet Sweet Song manages, in spite of some annoying quasi-James Joyce-ian word wriggling, to convey the erotic heat between the older leatherman and a young drag queen. The leatherman’s surprising realization that he’s being turned on by a drag queen is exquisitely portrayedas in their coupling.
There is an overriding (and, I’m told, very Irish) darkness to all these storiesnot least of all to the final piece by film-maker, (The Crying Game) Neil Jordan’s, Last Rites. This story of an Irish immigrant living in England is the most subtly erotic story in the book, and an apt ending for a volume saturated with a strong sense of both oppression and repression.
Fritscher, commenting on the mood of the books, says: “What you sniff in their voices is not so much ‘depressing’ as it is the ‘oppressing’ that their very writing resists. Unlike U.S. gays, these authors don’t have a history of gay liberation at all. They are in the forefront of gay liberation and gay culture emerging in the new Ireland.”
Each of the eight authors represented herein are aiming in their writing for something beyond simple pornography, something which is closer to a true literature of Eros, and for the most part they succeed. In the process they make a beginning at filling the hole in Irish literature where the stories of gay men should always have been.