Although this book is not your typical M/M romance, in actual fact there is hardly any romance to speak about. I was however still thoroughly entertained by a story about investigative journalism and digging up the dirt on people to get to the truth.
Julie is also with us today talking about being A Fish Out of Water. Intrigued? Then read on! Also Julie will be giving away a choice of any ebook from her backlist to five lucky winners! What are you waiting for? Check out the post!
A Fish out of Water
It is a common device for a main character to be dropped into an unsettling new environment. Taking someone out of their comfort zone shakes them up, prompts them to rethink their assumptions – indeed, forces them to question everything – and helps them to work out what is and isn’t really important.
This is often referred to as the main character becoming ‘a fish out of water’, which interestingly makes it not only a time of challenge and change but a life-or-death scenario. When I looked up the origins of this term, I found it has long and excellent credentials. In the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (late 14th century), Chaucer remarks, “… a monk, when he is cloisterless, is like to a fish that is waterless”. Samuel Purchas seems to have introduced the modern phrasing in Pilgrimage (1613) with, “The Arabians out of the deserts are as fishes out of the water.”
Righty oh, then! Coming down out of those lofty literary heights, here we have Mitch Rebecki, the main character in my latest novel, Mitch Rebecki Gets a Life.
Mitch is an investigative journalist who lives and breathes New York City. He has worked hard to carve out his own place in the world, which is terrific. But he is so narrowly focussed on pursuing his vocation that he has got himself into a very self-destructive mindset. Also, he is – or has become? – a loner, and so there is no one around to force a reality check or bring him out of himself.
When Mitch gets himself into danger while investigating a mob boss, however, Mitch’s Australian-born editor Tom Lewis is the one to finally force a change. Mitch is sent ‘undercover’ to Sydney in Australia, to work for Tom’s cousin Eva Lewis. Mitch is deeply unhappy about going, and comes close to sabotaging the whole plan once or twice.
Mitch isn’t one to not take the work seriously, though, so he engages with that – even though he thinks his new assignments are beneath him. He makes friends with Jane Cody, the photographer who works with him. And he slowly, ever so slowly, begins to … well, if not value, then at least take notice of Australia for its own sake.
I’m a bit of a fish out of water, too. I was born in England, and my family emigrated to Australia when I was seven. That was way back in pre-Internet days when the world seemed rather larger. My sister and I did not want to go, and remained inveterate Anglophiles for many a long year. Eventually, though, I grew to love Australia, and I fell in love with and married an Aussie man – named Bruce, of course! Things were good. But I was always considered as English while there, by myself as well as others.
Then, ten years ago, Bruce and I came to live in England. And I love it here, too. The green countryside (you won’t ever catch me complaining about the rain!) and the sense of history and culture, is all just marvellous. Inevitably, though, I’m always considered as Australian while I’m here. Personally, I now feel as if I belong in both places – despite the fact that from an external point of view it may seem like I belong in neither.
This has all been very useful (if not exactly cost-effective) research for my writing, of course! Thinking of Mitch in Australia, I knew he’d find the pace there so much slower, the lifestyle so much more relaxed. Australia looks to both the UK and the US for cultural input, apart from creating its own home-grown, and it is also a very multicultural country. There would be much that Mitch finds familiar, but also things that would seem odd. I know from my own experiences how unsettling it can be to not even manage an ordinary conversation about lorries / trucks or anoraks / parkas, without being boggled at and asked to explain yourself. Divided by a common language, indeed!
Vitally, I think, living in another country gives you the chance to realise what is actually important and what isn’t. It shakes you out of assuming that something always has to be this way rather than that way; that maybe the important thing is simply that it does happen rather than how it happens; or that maybe it wasn’t so important as all that after all.
How that might apply to Mitch’s story, I shall leave you to discover, Dear Reader, if I may so presume.
Mitch Rebecki Gets a Life by Julie Bozza
Title: Mitch Rebecki Gets a Life
Author: Julie Bozza
Publisher: Manifold Press
Release: 1st February 2015
Genre: M/M (mystery / thriller)
Investigative journalist Mitch Rebecki loves his job and loves New York. He doesn’t mind making enemies, either. When a crime boss threatens retaliation, Mitch’s editor sends him out of harm’s way to Sydney. In exile and resentfully working on lifestyle pieces, Mitch is miserable. But he makes a friend or two, meets a man … and discovers that Australians do organized crime, too, in a small way. Mitch soon finds himself in too deep on all counts, and trying to head home again seems the only solution.
I feel the most important thing to say upfront about this book is that it’s not a traditional M/M romance. It’s there but really only plays a very minor background role in the overall story. Knowing this beforehand then you can sit back and enjoy the story for what it is; a story about investigative journalism and how Mitch has a nose for digging up the dirt on people no matter where he lands up.
This is what intrigued me and I have now read a number of books where the MC(s) are gay but that’s it; they just are. One such book was The Dark Tide by Greg Herren, another super mystery thriller but doesn’t wave the rainbow flag as a book. This makes it for me personally refreshing to read a story that doesn't focus on the MC(s) “gay love life” with all it’s trials and tribulations that come with being gay but more their general life, events, circumstances and normal, everyday, goings-on. You know Mitch is gay; end of story.
Mitch is an investigative journalist and likes to stick his nose in where it’s not wanted and obviously gets him to trouble. So much so that his life is threatened in NY city by a gangster and organised crime boss, Cicioni. Until he is indicted Mitch’s editor who is Australian sends him to Sydney under a witness protection programme to work for an Australian newspaper whose editor is Tom’s cousin, Eva. His name is now Martin Delmonaco and he immediately awakens the suspicions of the Australian police and their curiosity. Especially after immigration at the airport when they can’t really find any history on him. Well of course not, it’s all been covered up by the FBI for his own safety.
The thing that fascinates me about such stories are the cultural aspects. Being an expat myself I could really appreciate Mitch’s culture shock. One brash, arrogant and mouthy New Yorker goes Down Under. Well, they may speak the same language there but culturally they’re worlds apart. I really enjoyed this whole aspect and made it for me one of the most entertaining things about it. At first he arrives with a whole load of resentment for just being there and is also being the typical “Yank” with a huge New York chip on his shoulder, at least from an Aussie point of view. We are all prisoners of our own cultural and cultures also rub off. I never thought I was typically English until I came to work and live in Germany and then you start finding yourself doing and saying things that meet all those typical English stereotypes that have you cringing and reflecting. After being here for well over twenty years my British friends are now saying that my behaviour is very German at times - lol! You see assimilation has taken over and rubbed off. By the end of the book the transformation has taken place with Mitch too, he has more or less settled down and found a life in Sydney, found friends, not to mention a lover and has acclimatised. Looks like Australia wasn’t as bad as he thought when he first arrived. Of course you have to be careful with stereotyping as we are all individuals, but hey, no smoke without a fire and stereotypes wouldn’t exist for no reason either.
Mitch has been put in a “parking position” career wise. Has been told to keep his head down, report on the local elections, do some lifestyle articles to send back to NY and basically remain a good boy. Well, this is Mitch we’re talking about and that is not going to hold for very long. And it’s not long before his nose smells a rat and he is digging around for the dirt once again. Although he is essentially the good guy and just wants to do his job which means getting to the truth for a story. He is assigned a photographer, Cody, and together they make a great team if not a rather unlikely one. Guess Eva knew what she was doing there. Mitch’s probing means that he gets to meet one of the hottest guys in town. An architect with star status, male perfection in motion, Mr Sex-On-Legs, Rory Pierce. Cody has always had a thing for him at least a bit of a photographic crush through the lens.
However, when the fantasy becomes reality I guess it puts a whole different light on the situation. Now here is where I had a small problem. I just couldn’t work out exactly why Cody did what she did. I know it was tragic, but it seemed to come completely out of the blue with no warning. I really would have liked a little more background on this or at least more on why and what Cody was feeling / thinking to make her do what she did. It really did leave me with a bit of a question mark over my head to say the least. Mitch is really the one who scores and I guess that Rory is actually quite lonely in his superstar status and then soon form a friendship that leads to more.
This book would have been 4.5 or 5 for me if there had been a little more character development regarding the dynamics and their relationship. I know this was not the main focus of the book but there were a few times I was left with questions with the direction their relationship took. It’s fine if the MC(s) are not involved romantically but in the case of Mitch and Rory just a little bit more of what they were thinking or feeling would have been nice. It was like one minute they are talking to each other and in the next paragraph their waking up to each other in the same bed and in between there was a tear in the film somewhere with a total blackout. It felt like I wanted to shake my Kindle upside down just to make sure that there weren’t any pages stuck together that I had missed something.
The other thing I feel I need to mention is the smoking. Yes, Mitch and Eva smoke like trains. I could imagine some might have their problem with this, understandably. However, for me it was no problem. Actually, it was a change to read about something that has almost become a taboo today. I think this must be the first book I’ve read in goodness knows how long where the MC smokes. If someone smokes, whether you like it or not, it is and does become part of that person’s persona. So Mitch is a high-flying journalist who smokes, a lot, but it’s part of his persona and you just can’t write about a character who smokes without writing about the smoking part.
So if you’re expecting a smouldering M/M romantic thriller with huge amounts of M/M sexual tension and sex scenes that will burn a hole in your Kindle then maybe this book won’t be for you. However, I enjoyed this book a lot purely for what it is and that for me was a story about investigative journalism, journalist helps cops to solve crime, end of story. If you can go with this then you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did I’m sure.
The next morning, Mitch arrived at work to find a note on his desk – in Tom’s own handwriting – directing him to Tom’s office ‘ASAP’. This was followed, in the typically understated Australian way, with three exclamation marks. Mitch shrugged, put his satchel down on his desk, and went to obey.
If Mitch had expected Tom to be angry and concerned about the bomb that hadn’t after all been a bomb, he was disappointed. Instead Tom seemed to be bubbling over with excitement. His eyes were sparking, so much so that Mitch worried vaguely about electrical fires. Tom even stood from his desk, and came to usher Mitch to a seat, before closing the door.
“I’ve got an idea,” Tom announced. “A great idea, a wonderful idea …”
Mitch was too numb to respond in kind. He nodded, indicating he was willing to hear what Tom was obviously dying to tell him.
“I really miss home,” said Tom, rather unexpectedly. “You’ve never been to Australia, right?”
Mitch shook his head, wondering where the fuck that came from.
“You should go. The people, the sunshine, the beaches, the splendor …” Tom looked about him at the artwork, the postcards, as if seeking inspiration. Which he must have found, because it then spilled forth: “The soil in the Outback can be as red and rich as blood, like the land is bleeding. The ocean’s an opal come to life. The sand’s either thepurest white or gold–dust, and –”
Mitch so wasn’t in the mood. “Very poetic. But I’m not interested in a vacation, Tom.”
“I’m not talking about a holiday, mate,” Tom replied in more reasonable tones. “I’m talking about you going underground for a while, keeping your head down until it’s safe here. You can work for my cousin Eva, she’s editor for the Herald in Sydney.”
Not a chance in hell. “I don’t think so,” said Mitch.
Tom, of course, sailed right on. “You’ll need to be clever about this, it’s like going undercover. You can write under a pseudonym – and leave the investigative journalism behind for a while.”
“What? But that’s all I –” He only just managed to stop himself in time. That’s all I have. That’s all I know. Mitch gathered himself, and came up with an argument that he could live with, that any New Yorker would understand. “Yeah, great, Tom, but the fact is I can’t afford to pick up and go live overseas. My rent swallows up most of my salary, and you can’t expect me to let a Manhattan apartment go.”
Unfortunately that just made Tom’s eyes spark again. It was as if he were in love with his own idea. “I thought about that.”
“You work part–time for Eva, and she’ll pay you accordingly. Plus you write weekly lifestyle pieces about Australia for our Sunday magazine –” Tom waved a sample of the glossy supplement, as if Mitch hadn’t thrown it in the trash a thousand times already – “and I’ll continue your salary. I’ll even pay your airfare and some of your living expenses.” He concluded triumphantly, “What d’you think about that?”
Mitch rolled his eyes at the sheer indignity of it all. “Lifestyle pieces, my God … I’m better than that, Tom. I’ve always been better than that.”
Tom sagged just enough to acknowledge the assertion. “I know, I really do, but that’s not the point. I’ve cleared it with Gail – she’s editing the magazine now. She’s okay with you contributing –”
“Okay? She should be flattered! But you wanna exile me from everything that’s civilized? I ain’t ready for a sabbatical, Tom!”
“Do you even have a choice right now? Don’t tell me you’d rather get your head blown off, and let Cicioni walk away scot–free.”
“I can’t walk away from this,” Mitch insisted. He leaned forward to add, “I can’t walk away from what I do. You should know that, Tom.”
“Mitch, it’s just getting too dangerous right now.”
“All the more reason to see it through!”
“It’s not like you’re a cop on a case,” Tom argued.
“No! I’m a journalist on a story. A serious journalist on an important story.”
“The story will wait!”
Mitch stared at the man. “Said no editor ever.”
Tom shot him a grumpy glare. “Let Special Agent Danes do his job.” And then he cried out in frustration, “Leave it alone, Mitch! Go to Australia. Try something new. Oh, yeah – and while you’re at it – get a life!”
Meet Julie Bozza
I have been writing fiction for over thirty years, mostly for the enjoyment of me and my friends (that is, fan fiction!) – and writing is my love and my vocation, so of course that’s where my dreams and ambitions are. In the meantime, technical writing (mostly eLearning) helps to pay the mortgage.
I was born in England, and lived most of my life in Australia, before returning to the UK a few years ago; my dual nationality means that I am often a bit too cheeky, but will always apologise for it. I love the Australian lifestyle, but I also love Britain’s very real sense of history, and it’s so wonderful to have the rest of Europe so close by. We enjoy roaming ruined castles and Tudor mansions, and I am delighted to visit (and even occasionally work!) where John Keats and other literary heroes lived and worked.
I am fascinated by film and television, both the product and how it’s made. I have been greatly enjoying the BBC’s most recent take on the Arthurian legends. These interests, along with my love of the English and Welsh (and indeed French) countryside and castles, have combined to form the web site Merlin Locations.
Two bits of paper I’m particularly proud of are a Diploma of Communication and Media (multi–media strand) from the Canberra Institute of Technology (2004), and a Certificate in Social Sciences from The Open University (2006).
You will have gathered by now that I have fun with photography, web design, reading, and watching film and television – but no list of my interests would be complete without knitting and the imbibing of espresso.
Connect with Julie
Julie will be giving five lucky winners the chance to choose any ebook or paperback book from her backlist. Just enter the rafflecopter draw below.