A review by Nick Thiwerspoon
Don Bellew has been a supporter of Wilde Oats since its earliest days. He has just published five books, so for the first time you can easily access all his best work—the titles and links to where you can buy them are listed below.
His writing has a unique voice—he writes about working class men, who don’t label themselves as straight or gay, but have sex with and fall in love with other men. The gay-shaded narrative is on the whole dominated by those who can write, and that usually means middle class men and women, and naturally, they reflect their own lives. But there are a whole series of chronicles about men who are plumbers or carpenters or just workers at service stations, or in factories, or in shops. And there are few who can reveal their lives, what they feel. Don Bellew is one of those.
His stories are a mixture of simple connection, between two lonely men; or lust, between men who recognise their mutual attraction but could just as easily have sex with a woman; or even (often against their own instincts and deepest feelings) unexpected romance and love. Perhaps the most moving of his stories are those where two lonely men, maybe divorced or widowed, connect and find what some might term friendship but what I call love. Most of the characters in his stories are ordinary blokes, not studs or incredibly handsome men. They’re the kind of men you see on the train or bus each day, bravely struggling against the down sides of life, yet in their own way enduring and even triumphing, men overcoming the competitive instinct to connect with one another and alleviate the loneliness so many men endure.
The best of his stories are deeply moving and often deeply erotic too, stories which resonate and satisfy: accomplished, authentic, real, fulfilling, marvellous. Highly recommended.
The title story follows a young sailor (post Korean War), Charles Shell, as he escorts the body of his fallen friend back home to a small town in Alabama. His cross country trip by railroad and his encounter with the family are by turns heart wrenching and inspiring and touching. Ultimately, this young man leads us through the darkness of fear and despair into a dawning understanding of courage and fortitude. There are another nine more stories that span a varied rainbow of emotional connections, from romantic love to self acceptance to a greater appreciation for the simple love of a fellow man.
Three stories about how men love. All set in the western story tradition. “Where Angels Tread”, “Down in the Valley” and “In My Father’s House” each examines very different expressions of that most human of emotions.
Dramatic stories of male love and attachment without the fancy dressing of romanticism. Real lives, real men, real situations. No lace, no flowers. No veil of idealism. When you strip away all the decorations, what’s left is powerful and strong and inspiring.
The story centers on three men (gay Benny, bi Tommy and straight Sam) in small town, deep south, mid-fifties, central Alabama. Young Ben Adams sets out to cut his momma’s apron strings and become a real man just at the moment when his five year secret romance ends as his closeted boyfriend gets engaged to be married. Thirty something Tommy is a bit confused as to his sexual identity after many years of a career in rough trade and bar room pool hustling, and would like to shed his dark past and find some security. Forty and feisty, Sam, owner of the general store, just wants his darling wife to quit work and stay home and have a baby to complete his dream home ideal. Secrets from the past, an automobile wreck, a lovely funeral, a jewelry store heist and a gang of gay vigilantes on a nighttime quest for justice entwine with an adolescent coming of age and two rapscallion, dirty old men who know everything about everybody, add up to a soap opera with a juke box and many laughs and a few tears. But Love will save the day as it comes to Tyler in various forms.
Don Meadows, early retired gay school teacher, has been searching for his perfect home and finally discovers perfection comes with a few minor problems, like a ghost and a history of secrets and mysteries. The perfect partner is also a surprise discovery, but is he far too involved with the murderous past and his own dark moods? Don sets out to banish the darkness and turn the old house into his new studio in the woods. The plan moves along with help from his best friend, Ray the caterer and fashion show organizer, and Pappy, the one-time nude model for a long missing and celebrated artist back in the sixties, and Phillip, a fiercely gorgeous ex-con with dangerously magnetic charm and a contingent family of odd and strange behavior. Can a Tarot reading psychic help or will she just muddle up the murky mystery?