Saturday, February 10, 2018

Book Review: 'Sutphin Boulevard' by Santino Hassell

New York author Santino Hassel, according to his biographical data, was ‘raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge. He is a writer of queer fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.’

Now with the new approach to same sex relationships (and the very concept of being same sex preference!) is being examined more thoroughly by the social media, politics, television shows (notice how recently the majority of television shows, both drama and comedy, have at least one gay character if not a theme of young gays to elderly gays/lesbians?), authors are less fearful of writing stories whose main characters are gay – and are gaining the respect long overdue for their efforts to show a bit of equality and ‘how the other half lives and thinks’.

Along comes Santino Hassel who writes up a storm and has the flavors of New York solidly translate into stories that celebrates (among other things) the multifaceted ethnic groups melded into a social sector that shows far more respect for humanity than many other writers. His language is solid, perky, street talk, and his characters are so completely realized that we know that we know them form the opening pages.

And Santino can write a cryptic synopsis that pulls the reader in without revealing spoilers: ‘Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been friends for two decades. From escaping their dysfunctional families in the working-class neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens, to teaching in one of the city’s most queer-friendly schools in Brooklyn, the two men have shared everything. Or so they thought until a sweltering night of dancing leads to an unexpected encounter that forever changes their friendship. Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long. When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years.’

This is Book 1 of the Five Burroughs series and if the subsequent books are as finely wrought as this, Santino Hassel is geared for real success! Real, raw, erotic, and with a message (or so…). Grady Harp, May 16 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.