Adam is dead, but that’s not his only problem. His husband, Wade, is still alive and sleeping with losers. His guardian angel, Guy, has grown fond of the liquor cabinet. And Adam suspects his demise was the result of foul play.
Meanwhile, in the depths of the Afterlife, the devil forces Adam to put on a play for the sinners. If he fails to entertain them, Guy’s parents will spend eternity in the Underworld.
As he gambles with the freedom of the damned angels, Adam comes to terms with infidelity, friendship, and the reason why he was the victim of a double murder.
- WINNER in Fantasy Category at Rainbow Awards
I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. I visited Wade without my angel guide. Somehow he looked older. About three years older.
A young dark-haired man was let into our home by my gentle widower. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-five, but his rebellious jacket and torn jeans looked like he was about to cruise some back room.
“You said your name was James?” Wade asked.
“That’s close enough,” the young man replied.
“And the cost is two hundred dollars?”
“Yes, paid up front.”
My husband had hired a rent boy. What a strange thing to do. So out of character for the man I’d spent eighteen years with. I’m dead for a moment and he’s calling up the candy shop! He led this plaything to our bedroom.
“I’ve never done this sort of thing before,” my old man admitted.
“Neither have I.”
“No, I mean I do this all the time. For money, I mean. Not that I don’t do it for no money. But while I’m at work, I do it for money.”
“James, you’re a newbie.”
“Well, it’s not like I haven’t had sex before.”
“Yeah, but I could’ve picked someone from an internet singles site if I wanted just anyone. Today I was going to treat myself.”
“Please don’t send me back to the agency. I’m really good at it.”
“At what in particular?”
“At anything you want, big boy.”
Wade screeched with laughter. So did I. Fortunately no one here could hear me.
“Sir!” James shouted. “I’m ready and willing. At your service one hundred percent.”
Wade laughed louder.
“Mr. James, you’re selling yourself too hard.”
“I always believe that I should give my all.”
“Looking at you, sweetheart, half of what you’ve got on offer is enough for my two hundred dollars.”
“What is it you’d actually like me to do for you, Peter?”
Peter? My Wade had a fake name for this occasion? If he had to have a pseudonym, surely he could have come up with something better than Peter. Trojan, perhaps? Conrad or Miles. But Peter?
“James, I think I need a spit and polish.”
Oh please! He might have given himself a lame name, but his dialogue was straight out of forgotten VHS porn. Long live Jeff Stryker.
James undid Wade’s belt before leisurely unbuttoning his fly. I should have picked my visiting hours more carefully. Maybe when Wade was brushing his teeth or at work. I would have preferred a killer hangover to watching the man of my life “getting it on” with someone earning money to pay his university fees.
“Yes.” James drooled. He lingered on the middle vowel for added effect.
No. I watched him slobber over his lips. I left the vulgar scene and made my way to the lounge room.
A bit shabby. New furniture was scattered here and there, but none of it matched our old lounge suite. My favorite framed movie poster, which usually hung above the armchair, was replaced by some abstract monstrosity.
There was, however, a few Modern Living periodicals in a pile on the characterless coffee table. Featured on the cover of the magazine sitting on top was a kitchen to die for, if that was at all possible in my current circumstance. Dark red cupboard doors with knotted wood benchtops. Divine! I crouched to take a closer look, only to notice the mysterious date. This edition was published a year and a half after I’d died!
From the bedroom, Wade sounded like a soprano aiming for a note he couldn’t reach. I snuck back to have a look. I knew every expression on his face. Bliss. Delight. Ecstasy. He was moving on with his life without me.
“Wade, I know you can’t hear me, but maybe in your mind, you can. I still love you very much. And I miss you.” They kept bonking. “I’m with Guy, and even Mannix is here, but… What’s James doing? Really? Wade, I never knew that was a kink you were into. You should have said something. Anyway, I’ll ignore the riding crop and the leather horse head. No, don’t neigh as well. It’s not the way I want to remember you.”
“Ouch!” my husband shouted.
“Sorry,” said James.
“This was a silly idea.”
“I can leave if you want.”
“No. Stay. I meant the equine paraphernalia was a silly idea.”
“What made you want to use it?”
“I borrowed it from a friend. He’s into all that weird shit. He said I’d like it.”
The rent boy helped my husband take off the ridiculous mask. But soon he was in rhythm again, taking my old man for a spin.
“If I could take back anything, it would be you,” I mumbled. “My week without you has been hard. But here you are more than a year later without me, coming to terms with things a bit too effortlessly for my liking!”
I took a deep breath and turned my back on the sordid scene.
“I miss you. I miss you with me, and how you made me feel. I miss making you the most important human being on the planet. James, stop moaning, I’m trying to have a private moment here. Wade, most of all, I miss the synergy we had together. It’s hard without you. So much harder without you in the Afterlife. Or me here at home with you. I’d give anything to be mortal again.”
I turned to the bedroom door, still not facing their lovemaking.
“What I really want to say, Wade, is that I’m still madly and deeply in love with you. I hope you still love me too.”COLLAPSE
Amos Lassen on Amos Lassen Reviews wrote:
“You have to work out what happened for yourself, Adam. It will start coming to you. That’s the way things work here.”
Here we are, back again…wherever we are. Once again Adam finds himself in the Afterlife, only this time it looks like it’s for keeps.
Once more, Kevin Klehr’s magical realism (or existential surrealism) sucks you into the story immediately, filled with affectionately snarky banter that smacks of dialogue from “Will & Grace” (only actually a lot gayer). Right away we’ve got Guy, Adam’s guardian angel, and Mannix, a friend of Adam and his husband Wade’s, as well as various other figures who step off the conveyor belts that bring the newly arrived to meet their greeters.
Conveyor belts? Yeah. A lot of people are arriving and they had to control traffic somehow.
There are a number of interconnected stories included in Klehr’s swirling narrative, including another play-within-a-play for a very different audience. Questions must be answered. Attention must be paid. Why is Adam dead? Where are Guy’s parents? Why won’t Joshua sleep with his boyfriend? And how did that old-school fundamentalist Christian woman get in here?
For all the light-hearted comic tone that Klehr deftly maintains throughout, there’s some serious stuff here. This is a tale of great love and profound loss, infidelity and insecurity, and the power of past lives in shaping our destiny. There is genuine heartbreak here, and there are tragically bad choices. But there’s also redemption and understanding and forgiveness and truth.
“Behind the veil, between the lesson and the eternal,
is where the mystery unfolds and the truth is told.”
There is romance in this story, but it is not a romance. It is very funny, but it is not a comedy. This book did not make me cry, but there were tears in my eyes any number of times, when its absurdist plot touched something that, as a 62-year-old gay man who’s been with another man for 42 or those years, resonated deeply with my own anxieties and confusion about the nature of life, love and forever.
Book Three in Kevin Klehr’s “Actors and Angels” series is out and it is great fun. However, I have a bit of a problem reviewing it because anything I might say could ruin the read for others. Therefore I will be very careful with my plot synopsis but very rabid in telling you that you really need to read this. It seems to me that it has been a very long time since we have had anything new in gay fiction that when we do it often goes by unnoticed.
Klehr takes us back to our drama queens and we learn that Adam is dead but his husband Wade who is still alive and has begun to have sex with loser after loser. Guy is his guardian angel but he is more into alcohol than he is into helping Wade. Adam, though dead, suspects that his death was the result of foul play. Moving to the afterlife, the devil gets Adam to produce a drama for the sinners on earth with the caveat that if it is not entertaining, the devil will see to it that Guy’s parents will spend eternity in the Underworld. While preparing the dramatic spectacle, Adam comes to understand the meanings of friendship and infidelity and that he was the
victim of a double murder. You might want to read that sentence again, scratch your head and ask yourself what this all means. The only way you are going to find out is to read the book and enjoy every page.