Back in the 1970s, in the age of Harvey Milk and the singer Sylvester, a
young man named Mark Abramson moved from his native Minneapolis
to San Francisco.
There he became part of a generation of gay men who populated Castro Street and
changed gay life forever, joining people such as John Preston, Randy Shilts and
Al Parker (all of whom he befriended).
Photo credit: bastique
Abramson has since survived the AIDS epidemic that decimated the city’s gay
community and the yuppification that put San
Francisco out of reach for all but the most wealthy. Abramson
owes much to San Francisco; but he has also given that city much in return, as
producer of gay circuit parties and mega-events including “Men Behind Bars” and
Abramson has also written for once famous but now defunct publications Christopher
Rag, Gay Sunshine and Mouth of the Dragon.
Mark Abramson’s love for San Francisco is most evident in his “Beach
Reading” series; a gay valentine to the City by the Bay that promises to be the
best book series of its kind since Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.
The title of the series – also the title of the first book in the series -
indicates that the books are meant to be light reading, perfect for a lazy day
by the sea.
The hero of the series is Tim Snow;
like Abramson, he’s a refugee from Minnesota
who found freedom and opportunity in the Gay Mecca. Possessing great looks, a
hot body, a winning personality and a still-undeveloped psychic gift he
inherited from his grandmother, Tim makes ends meet in the Castro by working as
a waiter at a restaurant owned by a middle-aged gay couple who are also his
landlords while trying to find true love amidst all the sexual opportunities
that come his way.
The first book in the series, Beach Reading (Lethe Press; $13), is
a slight book, with no overriding goal except to introduce the series’
characters and give us a little fun along the way.
San Francisco, we are told, is readying for
the “party of the decade”: an all-star tribute to Sylvester at the Moscone Center. As if that wasn’t enough,
evangelist Arlo Montgomery is bringing his anti-gay crusade to San Francisco that very weekend. How Tim gets
involved in all this, and what he does to put a stop to Arlo Montgomery’s anti-gay
agenda, is the plot of Beach Reading.
Though there is not much depth to Beach
Reading (the book lives up to its name), the plot and characters are
interesting enough to carry the reader through the first book and prepare him
for the second one.
The second book in Abramson’s Beach Reading series, Cold Serial Murder (Lethe Press, $15), is actually better than the
first one. This one introduces Tim’s Aunt Ruth, who took Tim in when his
parents disowned him for being gay.
Ruth is an interesting character in her own right and adds an outsider’s
perspective to the often-inbred Castro gay community. There is also an element
of mystery in this volume, involving a murderer who kills Tim’s ex-lover Jason as
well as other men.
Tim and Ruth make a great team and their joint efforts to find out who the Cold
Serial murderer is promises us more such efforts in the future. Mark Abramson
and Lethe Press are already working on several additional volumes in their
beach reading series, promising more exciting adventures for Tim, Ruth, their
friends and, of course, continuing their author’s enduring love affair with San Francisco.