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‘Hard at Work’ by Brad Saunders

‘Hard at Work’ by Brad Saunders

Author: Chuck Forester

December 14, 2010

Hard at Work (Kensington Books) is a collection of erotic stories written by Brad Saunders, the author of Men I Might Have Known, a similar collection of missed connection stories.

The stories in Hard at Work are classic tales of lust based on the writers’ personal experience. Each involves sex with men who work as pastry chefs, hoteliers, realtors, porn stars, etc., and one who is a shy student. Don’t we wish?

His “victims” (his term) are always handsome and well built, and the narrator is always fit with a gym body. The sex is lurid and steamy. All the pieces are in play. Let the games begin.

If you want a quickie read when you come home from work feeling pissed that the hot guy in the next cubicle won’t go to lunch with you, there will be a chapter in this book to let you forget it and think hotter thoughts.

After reading the first three chapters however, I knew the trajectory of the stories that followed. While the author describes the particular situation in detail and how he got there, we never know much more about him. Was he abused by an alcoholic father? Fucked by his Scout Master? Sent to live with relatives when his mother was arrested for selling crack?

Similarly, we know little about the men he has sex with except for their obvious physical attributes.  Without that kind of detail, the result is a series of one-dimensional portraits of sexy men with hard dicks and sensuous lips.

Good erotic writing should be as credible as it is hot. Reading Saunders’ stories requires a suspension of disbelief.  For the purposes of fantasy, we have to believe the author had all the experiences in the book and they occurred as he describes them. I like accuracy, so I was put off by a chapter about interviewing a porn star when the author says the actor slapped his chest with an open hand, “leaving a red mark on one of my pecs.”  A slap with an open hand isn’t going to leave much of a mark, maybe pink for a few seconds.

The best erotic literature engages both the mind as well as the crotch. I want writers like Saunders to take us deeper into his characters’ minds and emotions, not just their assholes. I want to see men having sex with other men who are not victims, but grateful players.

Surely, the author has known men who’ve struggled to survive and experienced honest passions and rejection. Men like that get hardons and fuck each other; there’s just more to them than what’s on the surface.

Clearly there are not enough synonyms in the English language for fuck, or suck, or quivering asshole, so erotica writers have to create situations and use words in new ways to show readers that we are masters of the craft.

For some of us sex is easy to come by, that doesn’t mean writing about it is easy. Erotica requires emotional intensity that evokes not just our libidinous thoughts but also their consequences. If getting laid takes no more than smiling at a stranger, who cares?

Great sex is hard to come by and takes a lot out of us. When I’m reading about it, I want to experience everything about our lives as cocksuckers, bottoms and tops.

Most of us have had so many dates where we barely remember what happened much less the name of the man we fucked with. But each of us has known moments when the earth shook, and those are the stories I want to read. Those are the myths we can pass on to future generations.  I’d love to read Brad Saunder’s next book and find myself eagerly turning to the next chapter because the last one surprised me.
by Brad Saunders
Kensington Books
Paperback, 9780758246271, 352pp.

Chuck Forester photo

About: Chuck Forester

Wisconsin raised, east coast educated, San Francisco resident since 1971 and HIV+ since 1978. Worked for three SF Mayors, early board chair of HRC, and led fundraising campaign for the Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the SFPL. Currently a writer of poetry memoirs and fiction; wears T-shirts and jeans.

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