Before you head to the beach, grab these great entertainments

TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER  | Contributing Writer

In My Father’s House by E. Lynn Harris (St. Martin’s Press, 2010) $24.99; 297 pp.

Once you’ve left home, can you ever go back again? Sure. You can spend a night or even a week at the old homestead. You can sleep in your childhood bed with your Steve Urkel posters on the wall and a sixth-grade basketball trophy on the shelf. Everything is the same — except you.

In E. Lynn Harris’ final novel, In My Father’s House, Bentley Dean III can’t go home either — his father won’t let him. If he were willing to live a lie, he could have everything a man could ever want. His legacy as his father’s only son would include money, leisure, houses, travel … and more money.

But Bentley, gay and in love with another man, couldn’t pretend to be someone he wasn’t. So when Bentley broke up with Kim, his beautiful fiancée, to be with Warren, Bentley’s father disowned him.

Years later, Bentley co-owns a modeling agency in Miami. Money was tight for everybody, so when an older man dropped by the agency and asked for 15 gorgeous “gay-friendly” male models for a party, it was a lifeline. Even though the party sounded sleazy, and though Bentley was a legitimate businessman whose internal alarms were screaming, he needed the cash.

Just as he feared, the party turns out to be anything but tame, and the nondisclosure statement each boi had signed made perfect sense: Seth Sinclair, one of the most powerful men in the world, was the host of this soiree and if word got out, his empire would topple. There was nothing Sinclair wouldn’t do to keep that from happening.

When one models backs out at the last minute, Bentley is forced to hire his naïve young friend, Jahron, to fill in. Jah is just 18 and as green as they get, so when Seth Sinclair flashes real green and speaks of the future, he practically owns Jah for good. And Sinclair isn’t about to let the boi go.

Got a pair of those long oven mitts hanging on your grill? Go get ‘em. You’ll need them when you start In My Father’s House because this book is hot.

More than many of his other works, the late author got a little nasty in this novel of money and intrigue but those scenes, though definitely on fire, aren’t gratuitous. Harris always had a way of making you care about the characters in his books, too, and Bentley is no exception. Trust me, that care will have you burning through the pages quick as flames.

If you’re looking for something a little down and dirty, this is the novel to find. For you, In My Father’s House will blow the roof off.

Where’s My Wand? by Eric Poole (Amy Einhorn Books, 2010) $24.95; 263 pp.

Who didn’t want to be Betty Rubble? Betty was the cool one, the one whose giggle said “fun!” and who always seemed to know the score. If you couldn’t be her, then you wanted to be her best friend.

Or maybe you wanted to be MaryAnn or Jeannie, Denise or Victoria Barkley or Wonder Woman or any one of a zillion other TV characters whose shows you couldn’t possibly watch enough.

When he was a kid, Eric Poole wanted to be like Endora on Bewitched, and in his new book Where’s My Wand? he conjures up his story.

It starts on a muggy St. Louis night in 1969. Eight-year-old Eric had just left his sister’s bedroom, where the two had huddled, listening to their mother scream at their father. There was nothing new about that, but everything else was up-in-the-air that night. The family had just moved to and Eric had gotten a “gift-with-purchase” at his new school in the form of a bully named Tim who, together with the third-grade teacher, “conspired to inflict as much emotional damage as was possible… obviously assuming there were prizes involved.”

That was bad enough. Then Eric’s father stormed out of the house.

Something had to be done. Eric admits that he worshipped Bewitched, in particular, the show’s scheming matriarch. She, of course, wore wonderfully voluminous gowns and waved her arms as she cast her spells. And if Endora could do it….

Eric found an old white chenille bedspread. He draped it over his body and hocus-pocus’d. The next evening, his father was home. A parental truce was declared. The spell obviously worked.

Such potent potions weren’t needed often, but Eric was secure in the knowledge that they were available in a pinch. But as he grew, he discovered that the powers didn’t come from him. As a good church-going Baptist, he learned that God was all-powerful, liking other boys “that way” was a mortal sin, and that sometimes, a bedspread cape was just a bedspread. His illusions dashed and his social life a mess, Eric stopped believing in almost everything.

But then, just as he was about to lose his beloved sister to adulthood, Eric Poole discovered faith and a strong sense of belief — and they came from a very surprising place.

Using gently, droll sarcasm and large amounts of an imagination that obviously got a workout over the years, Poole tells the story of everyone who ever experienced the Great Trifecta of Misfortunes: social unpopularity, familial quirkiness and chronic geekdom.

There’s humor in Where’s My Wand? and plenty of charm. I loved the way Poole breaks his readers’ hearts, then elbow-nudges us into laughing about it. Without spoiling the ending, the closure he allows us is wonderfully rendered.

If an enchanting memoir is in your cards, you’ll be captivated by this one. Grab Where’s My Wand? and sit a spell.


Wedding bells?

Making It Legal by Frederick Hertz with Emily Doskow (Nolo Press, 2009) $29.99; 269 pp.

Your niece on the other side of the country is getting married. So’s the neighbor’s son and three people at work.

But you’re gay and live in Texas. It may never be your turn.

Marriage for gays, lesbians and transgender people may be more possible than you think, as attorneys Frederick Hertz and Emily Doskow discuss in Making It Legal. Wedding bells may be in your future.

Public relationships between same-sex individuals were unthought-of until a few decades ago. In 1969, two Minneapolis men went to city hall and applied for a marriage license. They were turned down.

Twenty-five years later, the city of Berkeley, Calif., enacted the first domestic partnership ordinance in the U.S. In 2001, The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

But none of that matters to you if you don’t speak Dutch and wanna get hitched. How can you make sure that union is legally recognized?
The authors acknowledge that making your dream real will take a lot of legwork. As individual states and nations continue to sanction same-sex marriages, the options are expanding exponentially.

Equally important, though, is what happens if the union dissolves. Even in states that don’t recognize gay marriage, that doesn’t mean you can blithely walk away scot-free. You’ll need to go through the proper channels. If there are children and real estate involved, it gets even more complicated.

While Making It Legal can help ensure that your marriage is formalized, because laws seem to change almost weekly, this book may be dated before you pull it off the shelf, so the publisher offers legal updates on its web site. It’s unfortunate Hertz and Doskow dwell on the dissolution of marriage, but since getting out of a union may be more complicated than getting in it, it helps to know if marriage is right for you.

While not exactly light beach reading, if you know someone planning a romantic ceremony this summer, Making It Legal would make a nice wedding gift.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.