Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody film reviews - the good, the bad and the angry

It's no surprise that my sixth novel, the Queen-infused Now I'm Here, is benefiting from the publicity for the new Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Although I started the novel more than twenty years ago, news of the film's pre-production two years ago gave me a kickstart to complete it.

But with reviews for the film rolling in, I'm wondering about associating myself too closely with what is being criticized by some media as a standard "paint-by-numbers' celebrity drama that misses the mark, specifically without a nuanced approach to Freddie Mercury's life and homosexuality.

First, the good news. My novel continues to hover in the top 100 for several categories on This is despite my recommendations that readers purchase the novel through alternative means, specifically directly from the publisher, and via independent bookstores. Then, you can review it on the corporate websites, thus "playing the game," as Freddie's song goes.

True, the advance screening at the Castro Theatre earlier this month left me giddy with having seen the film. But something wasn't exactly right. Still, that I decided to record the onstage interviews with actors Rami Malek, Joe Mazzello and Gwylim Lee proved smart. I posted the lightly edited clips on YouTube, and it's been viewed more than 8,000 times and received almost 200 likes.

That's due in part to the devotion and eager anticipation of Queen fans, along with my clever keyword usage. You can view it here:

Now that the thrill of seeing the film early and seeing three of the four actors playing the band members has subsided, I've of course been curious to see media reviews. Some are good, some not nice and a few take the film to task for "queer erasure."

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Now I'm There - Symbols and Signs in Los Angeles, and Bookstore Intimacy

The fuchsia Bohemian Rhapsody sign with Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury looking down through the window from across the street at my West Hollywood reading for my sixth novel Now I'm Here served as just one of many signs (that one an actual sign) and symbols relating to the novel's themes and icons.

And although, after months of anticipation, some fine social media boosts from Book Soup, and a nice advance interview in the Los Angeles Blade, the reading proved more intimately attended than I'd hoped, so I learned that such an event is more about the moments enjoyed and the before and after of such a day.

One fun element was driving around with my brother (a filmmaker whose in-development project, Destination Zero, documents the life of little-known Columbus rock singer Ronald Koal). He indulged me by letting me play Queen songs as we drove. 

At one moment, "Now I'm Here," the title song for my novel, played as we arrived in West Hollywood. Only blocks from where I set a few chapters in the novel (spoiler alert: main character Joshua lives there for a short time), the epigram lyric to the book, "Whatever comes of you and me, I love to leave my memory with you..." played just as we passed under a row of palm trees.

I don't know how many other writers imagine cinematic moments in their novels, but this was like stepping into a scene from my book. Of course, I partially captured it on Instagram.

Book Soup is crammed with books, its black shelves almost invisible as book spines and covers beguile in their variety. The staff was friendly in helping me get set up near the front window, where behind a row of plastic pink flamingos the Bohemian Rhapsody billboard glowed as the sun set.

at my Book Soup reading
Dudley Saunders, an award-winning musician, performer and producer, took time out from his busy schedule to join me and perform a few songs in between my reading and discussion of Now I'm Here. Saunders' acoustic version of "We Will Rock you" exposed the sad truth behind the usually rousing anthem. It all made for a lively conversation about art, masculinity, and other themes. 

Among the attendees were author Felice Picano, a longtime champion of my books, and a few of his writing workshop students. Mark Haile, who had booked me years ago at the former L.A. branch of A Different Light Bookstore, also came by, and even brought a copy of my first novel, PINS, to sign.