BE SAFE by Doug Weaver


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This debut novel follows a group of HIV-positive gay men in the Los Angeles area.

Middle-aged Bert Sykes has HIV. He’s also a dealer and user of methamphetamine, which makes him hellbent on having sex and cleaning house. His friend Korn (also gay and an addict) owns a house in a Jewish neighborhood, where he is entirely unwelcome. Meanwhile, in North Hollywood, Mike Gallagher has graduated from the Cri-Life Recovery House (a place that’s “not just gay friendly, but gay sensitive”). His friend Rogarth was kicked out of Cri-Life by the sanctimonious Rick, a “fag with AIDS who quotes Ayn Rand.” The men’s travels and travails unfold through philosophical rants—like the similarity between ordering a burrito and being at the doctor—and flashbacks involving people like Becky Stein, an infamous “Kaiser Soze” among gay drug dealers. Further details about Cri-Life emerge as well, including the resident hoods, whose hard exteriors crack when they dance the Hokey-Pokey, and the meal called Spread, made with ramen noodles, Tabasco sauce, and mayonnaise that’s mixed in a giant trash bag. Thanks to the prevalence of HIV medications, those afflicted now have better prognoses, though whether salvation or damnation lies ahead for Bert and the others must still be decided. In this hilarious, if dark, debut, author Weaver places readers directly into the minds of meth-heads who are “constructing their own constantly changing contexts” to “fit new and different versions of themselves.” Skirting a traditional plot, Weaver’s adventures flow and burble like liquor taps, and ideas spill every which way, similar to the work of William Burroughs. His portraits continually entertain, like when he tells us that a bear (a burly, hairy gay man) is “the kind of guy who’s found a way to capitalize on his aversion to exercise along with his considerable appetite for pasta, cheese and peach cobbler.” Weaver’s marriage of the high and the low—the classical music digressions and the dirty sex fantasies—will broaden most readers’ horizons.

Strong writing chops sculpt an odyssey from an addict’s raw life.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-61296-808-7
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2017


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