Well, I feel I've done my fair share of promo for many other people's books and, since my own novel's been out four years and sales have completely flattened out in the past few months, I thought I'd give it one last push of shameless self-promotion.
It's entitled King of Cats and it's about a closeted British rock musician living on NY's Lower East Side and his troubled relationships with the two men in his life. You might enjoy it if you're looking for something contemporary, but dark and a bit different.
What makes a person fascinating? Is it what they hide or what they reveal? Is it who they are or who they appear to be?
A struggling filmmaker believes he recognizes the face of a man in an old painting and becomes obsessed with finding him. On the cusp of his band's success, a closeted guitarist walks out on his longtime male lover to live with a woman he hardly knows. After spending one fateful night in bed together, two youthful musicians enter into a bitter and emotionally devastating power struggle for control over their band and one another. And eight years later, tragedy forces both men to confront the inescapable and bitter legacy of their fathers' influence.
Peopled with vivid characters and told in sharp dialogue, the five stories that comprise King of Cats tell the provocative, sometimes heartbreaking story of luminous, enigmatic rock star Jimmy 'Strange' Lyons. Weaving back and forth through time, from a tenement in Alphabet City to a luxury co-op overlooking Central Park to a semi-detached in North London, Jimmy's life unfolds like a mystery, gradually revealing his secrets and exposing the vast gulf that often lies between what appears to be and what is.
“…this is an intelligent, seductive book.” - Books To Watch Out For
“…[the] characters are fully developed, demanding and believable.” - Stonewall Society
“...[the] characters seem so real that they could jump off the pages and slap you in your face.” - Bella Online
“Vivid characterization brings personal foibles and power struggles to life, and the power of music is a double-edged sword, as is the lure of money in this captivating human drama. An engrossing and intricate parable. – The Midwest Book Review
“Fraina has the courage to show the reader things that we might rather not see…[W]e owe it to ourselves not to look away.” – Lambda Book Report
“Quite unsettling…This will be either a book you’ll treasure or not; you’ll love it or not. I promise there won’t be any in between.” - The Independent Gay Writer
“…by the end, I was in tears at least twice. That is good writing, people.” – Ruth Sims, author of The Phoenix
“I emphatically recommend this engrossing tale of love, lust, loss and tangled relationships.” -Forbidden Fruit Zine
James Lyons and Elliott Carpenter met more than four years earlier, in 1997, during a period when rock music was thought to be dead. At that time Jim was playing in an earlier incarnation of the current band called Diabetes Insipidus. One of Adam’s stupid names. They mostly played covers of obscure blues songs with a couple of very derivative originals thrown in. Elliott starting hanging out at the bars where they played. He always came alone and stood in front of the stage, no matter how crowded or empty it was. He was fidgety, doing odd things like bouncing up and down on his toes with his hands thrust deep into his pockets. Sometimes he would sway back and forth slowly, almost catatonically. He spent an inordinate amount of time staring directly at Jimmy. Jim thought he was on drugs. He was grubby and unkempt. He often had cuts and bruises on his face and arms. And he looked way too young to be out at all hours with such alarming regularity. The boy’s strange fixation on him, his appearance and his odd behaviour were unsettling. Eventually, he began to arrive early to shows, while the band was still setting up. He would sit near Jim while he set up his equipment, prepared the set list, tuned his guitar. He was forever at Jim’s side. He talked constantly, mostly about his tastes in music. He would press Jim to play certain songs and emphatically implore him to leave others off the list. So unrelenting was his enthusiasm and energy that Jim assumed he was a cokehead. But nevertheless, Jim felt responsible for him and tried to look after him best he could under the circumstances.
One day, after soundcheck but still a couple of hours before the show, the other guys went off to get Chinese food while Jim stayed behind to write up the list. Unlike the others, he was organized and liked to be prepared. Nothing was worse than enduring those long pauses between songs as a band without a set list debates over what to play next. Elliott came in and sat on the tatty sofa beside him. He made no suggestions but only watched in silence as Jim smoked a joint and penned the list. It was unusual for him.
“I need to get a packet of fags.” Jim said when he was finally done. It was only a statement, not necessarily an invitation, so he merely rose from the couch and left. Elliott followed after him as Jim knew he would. In many ways, he was rather endearing company. Jim looked down at him and asked, “Who looks after you, Elliott?”
“I’m taking applications, since you ask.” He smiled cheerfully.
“Yes, I can see whoever’s responsible for you now isn’t doing much of a job.”
When they got to the nearest convenience store not half a block away, Jim purchased a pack of Marlboros with a ten dollar bill. As the old Arab behind the counter handed back his change, Elliott clutched hold of it, turned to Jim and said, “I’ll give you a blow job if you let me keep this.” It was all of six dollars. Jim caught more than a glint of disgust in the Arab’s eyes as he backed away from the counter to let them complete their transaction in relative private.
Jim was mortified. “Have it. Take it. I’m not going to…Just take it. Here.” He extended the money at arm’s length to Elliott.
“No. I can’t take it for nothing. But I really need it. Please. I need it.” Jim couldn’t believe they were having this conversation in front of some greasy foreign grocery clerk. He left the shop.
Once they were on the street, he said, “What do you need it for? Coke?”
“No, no. Nothing like that. I haven’t eaten in two days. I swear it. You can come with me when I spend it. It’s for food. Honest.” Jim still held the bills because Elliott had refused to take them.
“Come on. I’ll buy you something to eat. We can have dinner with the guys. Come on.” Suddenly, he felt extremely uneasy. He was no longer comfortable being alone with the boy. He wasn’t entirely sure why.
“No. I told you, I can’t take charity. Please. It’s okay. I’m okay with it. I do it all the time. Please.” He was frantic and had started to cry a bit. In addition to the pot, Jim had been drinking and he felt very muddled. Prior to this moment, he had refused to acknowledge his odd attraction to the boy and now, confronted with this strange proposition, he was disturbed. Tempted.
“Can’t you just take the money? You can load my equipment in the van after the gig. My amp’s quite heavy, you know. How about that then?” He extended the six dollars again. Elliott pushed passed him angrily and walked back toward the club without taking the money. Jim rushed after him. Elliott didn’t stop until he got to the backstage area. He sat on the couch and put his face in his hands. Jim sat down on the sofa beside him warily.
“Where are your folks, Elliott?”
“Jimmy, I like you. You’re nice to me and I think you’re really hot, too. Don’t worry that I won’t like it. I will. Better than the bus drivers at Port Newark. Some days I can go over there and make, like, $40 if I just go down the line of parked buses. I get $5 for a blow job over there. You can give me only $5, if you want. How about it? Please.” He was stroking Jim’s thigh insistently. Jim was confused. He was beginning to think that since the boy was a hustler anyway there would be no harm in it, but knew he was only rationalising what he was about to do.
Elliott crouched down on the floor in front of where Jim sat, placed his hands on Jim’s knees, pushed his legs apart, inserted himself between them and went down on him. Jim made no attempt to stop him. It was evident he was experienced. Jim felt sinful, dirty, conflicted, but only because it felt so good. Just as he came, Adam barged in.
“Jesus Christ, Jim! Jesus Fucking Christ.” He stared just a bit too long before he turned on his heel and marched out, slamming the door behind him.
Elliott, entirely unfazed, wiped his mouth along the length of his sleeve and smiled beatifically up at Jim. He was still kneeling on the floor between Jim’s open legs. “How was that? Good, huh?”
Jim held his head in his hand. It was as if Elliott hadn’t even heard Adam come in. “Fuck, Elliott. Adam just saw us. He saw us.” He gestured toward the door helplessly.
“It’s okay. Hang on.” Elliott went over to the door, opened it and called out loudly into the nearly empty bar. “Hey Adam, we’re done. You can come in now.” Christ, what’s he doing, Jim thought. He was too high to comprehend what had just happened. What was still happening. He hastily zipped his jeans with clumsy, numb fingers.
Adam stalked back in, red-faced with embarrassment and fury. “What the fuck? What the fuck?”
“Please Adam. Not now. I’m in no mood.”
To make matters worse, Elliott went to Adam and said, “I’ll suck you off too. Five bucks, if you want. How ‘bout it? Five bucks?” But Jim noticed, even as Elliott made the offer to Adam, he was glancing back over to where he was still sitting on the couch. Jim may have been drunk and high but he was no fool. He recognized that Elliott was putting on some sort of performance for his benefit. Perhaps he really was in the market for someone to care for him. The proposition, however, only served to further enrage Adam who shoved Elliott away with such force that he fell backward onto the floor.
“Get away from me you motherfucking faggot. You paid this kid to blow you, you fucking loser? You’re a pathetic fucking homo loser, Jim.”
Jim went to Elliott, helped him off the floor and guided him out the door without a word to Adam. He sat Elliott on a stool at the bar. “You can’t be doing this anymore. How old are you?”
“Where are your folks?”
“I’m not going back there.”
“Where do you stay? Do you have a place to stay?”
“Sort of, yeah. But I’m not telling you where it is.”
“My place is very small. If you want, you can stay with me temporarily but I won’t tolerate you bringing strangers over or taking things. It’s hardly ideal, but under the circumstances, it can’t be worse than whatever arrangements you have now.”
Little did Jim know that those arrangements consisted of a comfortable dorm room at Columbia University where the eighteen year old Elliott was being financed by his divorced, middle class mother in California to nearly flunk out of his computer science classes while exercising his talent for tall tales and indulging his taste for rough trade. There was not one aspect of his story that was true. Years later, while watching a documentary on IFC Jim even heard the story of the bus drivers parked at the bus terminal almost word for word. Ironically, the film was about a prostitute on death row who’d murdered a series of johns when they got too violent with her. Elliott certainly did his homework. Time went by and slowly the whole truth came out, but by then it was too late to go back. In for a penny, in for a pound, so to speak. Their “temporary” arrangement had turned into a four and a half year commitment of sorts.
Jim scratched his address on a bar napkin and handed it to Elliott. “Meet me there after the gig. About 3 or so. Leave now. I don’t want to see you back here for the rest of the night.”
Elliott shoved the napkin in his pocket without looking at it. He arched up on the stool slightly and gestured for Jim to lean in toward him, as if he wanted to whisper something to him. Jim complied. Elliott took his face in his hands and tried to kiss him. Jim jerked his head away.
“No,” he said firmly. He left Elliott and went through the backstage door just as Adam was coming out. Adam roughly shoved the rumpled six dollars into his chest.
“Your little junkie boyfriend left his money. Guess you got yourself a bargain huh, asshole?” Jimmy took the money wordlessly, confused.
If you want to check out my Amazon reviews or (bless you) order the book, here's a link: