Indieland’s Pride picks all have strong queer leads and well-imagined settings—Seattle during Covid-19; Venice in the 1300s; and an English port city, also during Covid. Each protagonist gamely navigates the obstacles of their time and place—whether it’s fellow commuters ignoring mask mandates, ruthless Venetian politics, or small-town blues.
Prolific Indie author Johnny Townsend sets his latest novel, Orgy at the STD Clinic, on Seattle’s public transportation in Covid times. The lead, Todd Tillotson, a 60-year-old gay ex-Mormon, isn’t having an easy time of it. “Townsend offers a marvelously detailed portrait of a big-city transit system, with bleary-eyed working stiffs, ranting inebriates, people carrying all their worldly belongings in garbage bags, anti-vaccination protesters, conspiracy theorists, and rushes of elation and despair.” Todd tries to weather it all with a measure of humanity. Our reviewer calls the book “a richly textured saga that brilliantly captures the fraying social fabric of contemporary life.”
The Ballot Boy by Larry Mellman is something I wish we’d see more of in Indie—LGBTQ+ historical romance. Here’s the setup: “In the lush world of 14th-century Venice, Niccolò ‘Nico’ Saltano is little more than a young peasant. That is, until the Venetian leadership fatefully plucks the 14-year-old from his place in life to serve as the ‘ballot boy’—an attendant of sorts to the new doge.” Nico’s new life is full of love, danger, and intriguing queer personalities. “Absorbing political machinations and sexual tension collide to hook readers.”
Brixton Nights follows the many misadventures of an English lesbian struggling with issues of love and family. Amy Tollyfield’s layered novella stars Christina, a blue-collar worker who “trolls lesbian bars for short-term hookups and pines for her ex-girlfriend.” Our reviewer describes it as “a meandering but often affecting tale of ties that bind—and leave deep marks.”
Karen Schechner is the president of Kirkus Indie.