We have Elliott Mackle at Sinfully HQ talking about his writing and books. I just love the Caloosa Club Mystery series. Check out the review and don’t forget to enter the draw for you chance to win a copy of……
On both sides of my family I was the only pre-World War II baby and that conflict was the backdrop for the first five years of my life. My father was a government contractor–starting in 1942, he rebuilt the Key West Navy Base–and his two younger brothers became Seabees, serving in the Navy’s construction battalions. The Seabees operated primarily in the Pacific theatre and my interest centered there. Before beginning to write the Caloosa Club Mysteries I had visited a number of Pacific Island battlegrounds, including Guam, Peliliu, Guadalcanal, Iron Bottom Sound and Pearl Harbor. That backstory was the basis for creating my two very different veterans of the war, the lovers Navy Lieutenant Dan Ewing and Marine Sergeant Bud Wright.
Technically, my novels don’t fit into any one genre. Depending on what I’m trying to do with the narrative, there are elements of adventure, mystery, history military operations, romance and noir. The literary models for the military works–my output also includes Vietnam-era Air Force novels, the Joe Harding trilogy–differ considerably with top calls going to “Wingmen” by Ensan Case, “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones, “Goodbye, Darkness” by William Manchester and “Tales of the South Pacific” by James A. Michener.
I probably shouldn't confess it but I've read neither Agatha Christie nor Arthur Conan Doyle. Insofar as I have mystery mentors they are Dorothy L. Sayers (particularly "The Nine Tailors"), John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series and Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter mysteries–with a touch of Carl Hiaasen's capers thrown in, particularly "Native Tongue" and "Tourist Season." Not to mention Edna Buchannan's delicious memoir, "The Corpse Had a Familiar Face" and her resounding mystery, "Nobody Lives Forever," which I mention in my author's afterword as an influence on "Sunset Island." Hiaasen and Buchannan were star reporters (he still is) for the Miami Herald, the town where I grew up.
All of the modern novels noted above include romance and/or sex, though with varying heat levels.
My favorite romances of earlier centuries? “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell and “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville. I have read both at least six times. Favorite m/m historical other than “Wingmen”? “False Colors” by Alex Beecroft.
Finally, the Caloosa Club and Hotel is very loosely based on several South Florida hotels, including one operated by my family. For discreet, well-behaved insiders who could pay for what they wanted, all but the most outrageous requests would be filled.
Misbehaving individuals, such as the unhung baseball hero who appears in “Sunset Island,” were shown the door. Or worse.
SUNSET ISLAND by Elliott Mackel
Title: Sunset Island
Author: Elliott Mackle
Release: 13th December 2014
Publisher: Lethe Press
Genre: M/M (historical / mystery)
February, 1950. Lee County, Florida. In the freewheeling, celebratory aftermath of World War II, survivors and veterans are starting new lives, resuming old ones, or just picking up the pieces.
Former Navy officer Dan Ewing feels safer than any gay man might expect in a segregated, dry county where the Ku Klux Klan is still strong. Managing an ultra-private club-hotel in Ft. Myers with a mixed-race staff, untaxed alcohol, high-stakes card games and escorts of both sexes, he’s been acting like he has nothing to lose: business is good and his romantic life is better. Lee County Detective Bud Wright, a former Marine sergeant and Dan’s secret lover, is outwardly strong and brave, but uneasy with the knowledge that, every time he and Dan get naked together, they’re breaking laws he’s sworn to uphold. It’s nothing that a few drinks can’t get him past, especially when moonlighting as security for Dan’s hotel. Both men have their work cut out for them, however, once a hurricane evacuation brings to the hotel wealthy, well-connected non-members who happen to own Sunset Island, a secluded resort fronting the Gulf of Mexico. Their arrival sets in motion a turnover of hotel staff, sensual and sordid seductions, brutal assaults, the discovery of looted art from Holocaust victims, and, of course, murder. After drowned men start washing ashore on nearby beaches, Dan and Bud must set to work unraveling war-related mysteries and exploring the implications of a rapidly changing society in those postwar years.
Elliott Mackle—who has been called “the Tom Wolfe of gay fiction” and “the gay Pat Conroy”—is also the author.
This is the third in the series of Caloosa Club stories, which follow the developing relationship of Dan Ewing, the club manager, and his detective boyfriend, Bud Wright, against a backdrop of murder, mystery and social commentary.
During the second World War, Dan had spent part of his service managing a classy officers-only geisha house in Japan. War over, Admiral Asdeck, his commanding officer, opened a similar establishment in Florida, and co-opted Dan into a similar role.
Quite a lot of the relationship conflict within the books stems from Bud’s uneasiness at his own law breaking. Homosexuality was savagely punished during the post-war period so Bud feel a great burden of guilt both in his loving Dan and in his association with the Caloosa Club. It is located in a dry county yet has an extensive selection of top class alcohol available to its discerning patrons. The waiting staff are well trained, attractive and attentive, but are also available for more unusual activities after the dining room closes. Nothing is off limits to those who can afford it. The cheerfully libidinous Admiral even takes part in the shows himself if time and his schedule allow. But the day to day running of the club is left to Dan, with the assistance of Bud, who by this book in the series has agreed to take a paid security role at the club in addition to his official work, and we are shown everything from anxiety over the quality of booze to the process of hiring a new ‘waiter’.
I really enjoy Dan’s narrative voice. He is dry and witty and absolutely honest – about his un-stated love for Bud, his attraction to other men, his devotion to the Admiral – he has no illusions about himself, and few about other people. Not that he’s a cynic, he just sees people for what they are and accepts that sometimes in a conflict between what’s best for them and what’s best for him, or the Club, he has to put his foot down. Dan gets the job done.
This gives the story a great feeling of solidity. The Club is the base to which Dan and Bud can retreat when the going gets tough, and it does get tough after a wealthy family takes shelter there during a hurricane and a member of staff causes a scene that almost leads to the exposure of Dan and Bud’s relationship.
Then a drowned man is found on the sea shore with fresh water in his lungs and a concentration camp tattoo on his arm and they are off on another murder investigation, complicated by the involvement of the same fabulously wealthy family and their retainers, the treacherous member of staff, an athletic Dan-double and Bud’s aching grief over the death of a man who was more than a father to him.
The mystery is satisfying, the murders keep coming, there’s international connections and interference, and Bud and Dan get a new playmate but by the end of the story their relationship is stronger than ever. It’s a terrific read but should be approached as part of a murder mystery series rather than as a romance and I would advise new readers to start at the beginning with It Takes Two. Highly recommended and I hope we hear more from Dan and Bud.
Meet Elliott Mackle
Elliott Mackle served four years in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam era, achieving the rank of captain. He was stationed in Italy, Libya and California, the latter the setting for Welcome Home, Captain Harding, the third and final novel in the multiple-award-winning series that includes Captain Harding’s Six-Day War and Captain Harding and His Men. His first novel, It Takes Two, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. The sequel, Only Make Believe. was named Best Gay Mystery / Thriller of 2012 in the international Rainbow Awards competition. Sunset Island, third in the Caloosa Club Series, was published in January, 2015. Hot Off the Presses, a romantic expose of the racial and sexual politics surrounding the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, is based in part on Mackle's adventures as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Then an AJC staff writer, he served as the newspaper's dining critic for a decade, also reporting on military affairs, travel and the national restaurant scene. Mackle has written for Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, the Los Angeles Times, Florida Historical Quarterly, Atlanta and Charleston magazines and was a longtime columnist at Creative Loafing, the southeast's leading alternative newsweekly. He wrote and produced segments for Nathalie Dupree's popular television series, New Southern Cooking, and authored a drama about gay bashing for Georgia Public Television. Along the way, he managed a horse farm, served as a child nutrition advocate for the State of Georgia, volunteered at an AIDS shelter, was founding co-chair of Emory University's GLBT alumni association and taught critical and editorial writing at Georgia State University.
Connect with Elliott
Elliott will be giving away one ebook copy of Sunset Island to one lucky winner. Just enter the rafflecopter draw below. GOOD LUCK!