edited by Neil Plakcy
Oh, lovely men of the water! Not that I have anything against the Navy, but what a relief to see that Neil Plakcy's edited collection Sexy Sailors did not solely focus on gay men who were involved in military service. Military-themed erotica is a whole other people-in-uniform subset that one often sees in collections, but this one branches out to include men who know their way around shipping vessels, yachts, basic sailboats, and more. Not every story takes places on an actual boat, but all are tied to the sailing profession in some way. Though the book is a scant 200 pages, most of the stories are quite good and full of fun, hot scenes that should satisfy anyone who likes reading about men who are attracted to each other.
What I think I liked best about this collection is that it seemed to have a sense of humor about the nature of erotica. Yes, we want to be turned on, but like romance, the style in which erotica is written is supposed to be over the top, full of "Explosions! Rainbows! Rockets! All that crappy movie montage stuff[...]" ("Landlocked Squid," Tanner). Many of the stories acknowledge that when we're concerned with feeling physically good, our natural inclination is not to make sure we have a literary vocabulary. Of course, I don't want the writing to be distractingly bad, but excellence in word choice is not necessarily a requirement.
Plakcy — a surname I keep trying to misspell, which I bet he's used to hearing — contributes his own story, "Heat Lightning," and it's a good one. Instead of the hot young things often featured in erotica, he tells the story of a middle-aged man who moves yachts from Caribbean islands to southeastern states so that their wealthy owners can avoid paying foreign taxes. His hired shipmate has just flaked out on him again, so he places an online ad for an experienced sailor to help move the latest boat. Instead of the usual under-30 part-timers, a man around his age answers the ad.
We kept going north, past the mansions and high rises of Palm Beach. I was navigating from inside the Portuguese bridge when Eddie went out onto the foredeck to check the ropes coiled there. He was sweating pretty fast in the warm spring air, and he pulled off his T-shirt, giving me an up close and personal look at his upper body.
It wasn't a bad view. He was stocky, with a stomach that was more round than flat, but his arms were well-muscled. His skin was smooth, with a trail of hair from between his pecs that led down his waistline, and I could just see a tantalizing line of white where his tan died. My dick popped up but I tried to ignore it. I was over lusting after straight guys.
Ah, but he's not straight, and attraction follows its natural progression. What was good about "Heat Lightning" is that it felt so normal. Two normal men in a regular job, with a side of sex. More fanciful erotica is fine too, but it's nice to have stories that are more true to life peppered throughout the book.
And there's nothing wrong with hot young things, of course. Jay Starre's "Croatian Sail," involves Andrej, the hot blond in Dubrovnik, and Grant, who Andrej keeps calling "Mr. Cute American." Andrej gives Grant a tour of the area in his boat, and they spend the night together anchored in a small bay.
Another good, yet knowingly funny story is "Red Alert: Weapons of Mass Erection" by Logan Zachary — I mean, how could it not be knowingly funny with a title like that? Russian sailors are on shore leave near Lake Superior, and Billy and (as far as I can tell) our unnamed narrator would like to have a memorable evening with a few of them. The Russian sailors are known for their intensity, and the resulting story is the sort of debauched fantasy that definitely has its place in a collection like this.
The only story I really didn't enjoy was "Boots For The Goddess" by Connor Wright. Set in some kind of ancient shipping village, two men reunite after one has been involved in a shipwreck. It's not that the story was badly written or anything; it just wasn't for me. Your mileage may vary.
Overall, Sexy Sailors probably has a little something for everybody, with enough specialization to satisfy people with more specific turn-ons. The variety of situations and characters keeps the collection from feeling repetitive, and the writing is better than a lot of other erotica I've read. If having ladies in your imagined sexybusiness is not a requirement, do give this one a look.
Full Disclosure: Cleis Press sent me this book. I thank them for the gesture and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.
This review is part of Cannonball Read V, in which participants attempt to read and review 52, 26, or 13 books in a year. A charitable donation is made for those who complete 52 reviews by December 31, 2013.