SAAL Photo-book Review

A lovely German company sent me a free photo-book, so my partner and I did a review.

We actually blethered and bickered for half an hour, but cut it down to this five minute video.

We decided it was really good and we’ll probably buy another one.


My life as a Gay Man, so far.


pride I only came out as gay about three years ago, and I never had any sexual experience with a man until my late forties. I’ve been married to a woman for most of my life and, despite knowing from childhood that I was attracted to men, I never did anything about it until the last year of my marriage. It sounds ridiculous now but that’s the way it was.

So my take on gay culture, the scene if you like, is different from most. I’m less obsessed with sex than most younger men, and although I have been an enthusiastic convert, I’m almost looking in as an outsider.

I decided that my experiences and the opinions I’ve formed might warrant being written down, partly to help me get my thoughts in order but also because people might be interested. I’ll tackle various aspects and experiences one at a time and see if any patterns or conclusions emerge. I’m not sure myself what my opinions are, and it’s likely that I’ll look at this in a year or two and disagree with.


Hook Up Sites and Apps.

This was my first introduction to gay life. My kids were grown and I was getting old and I could see my life drifting off without me ever experiencing sex with a man, so I looked up the hook-up sites. There are lots: Grindr is the most famous, though I never used it, but there is Fabguys, Manhunt, Gaydar, Onlylads, and a gay bit on all the dating sites. Men sign up, go online and arrange to meet other men for casual sex. Some of the members are extremely promiscuous and are on every site.

A few things struck me as I browsed available gents. First, there are more bottoms than tops. (For the uninitiated, a bottom is what it sounds like – a man who plays the female role and likes to be penetrated) Also, there are lots of married men who state their sexuality as straight, yet want to have sex with other men. Lots of men will refuse to kiss, and deny the need for any affection or intimacy. Frankly, I think they’re fooling themselves.

There is pleasure in the physical experience of being sodomised, once you get used to it: there are as many nerve endings round the anus as on the head of the penis, and the prostate gland is a whole other G spot. It’s rare but possible for men to achieve orgasm purely from stimulation of the prostate. All of that though is only part of the story, and perhaps I only truly understand now that I have a long-term loving partner. Put simply, bottoming is when a man feels most loved. The emotional aspect of allowing your lover inside you is stronger than any physical sensation. It’s setting aside all the expectations of masculinity, relinquishing control, and as well as being pleasurable in its own right, you give yourself to your lover in the most intimate way a man can. It’s also a thing that most straight men never experience.

I think western men are brought up to be strong, masculine, independent, never emotionally needy, when in fact we are just as much in need of affection as any woman. I think  this is what we look for when we go out to meet strangers for casual sex, and why so many of us tire of it quickly. Meaningless loveless sex is a poor substitute for what most men are afraid to admit they want.

So when a profile says “just want fucked”, it means “just want loved”.


Gay Bars

Even after I came out I didn’t go into gay bars for a long time because I thought they would be seedy pickup joints where I would be objectified by predatory men. The reality has been the opposite. Every gay bar I’ve visited has been friendly, welcoming, and completely unthreatening. The only difference you might notice is that bouncers and bar staff are likely to call you darling or sweetheart and perhaps there’s a bit more sparkle in the decor. I have interacted with other patrons and, while some men have been flirtatious, never once have I felt as thought I was being sized up like a piece of meat, the way I imagine women often feel in mainstream bars. It could be that my experience would be different if I were younger and cuter, or if I went to the busy clubs on Saturday nights.

Also, despite being niche, gay bars are the most inclusive places I’ve been in my life. During my first visits I might turn my head at people of indeterminate gender, stereotypically butch lesbians, people in kinky leather gear, anything out of the ordinary. But I soon realised that no one else batted an eyelid. In a single night in a gay karaoke bar I saw a woman in a wheelchair dressed and coiffured as KD Lang and singing one of her songs, a man with learning difficulties getting hugs from strangers in the crowd before and after his turn at singing, and a muscular trans woman singing “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No”. All of these people received warm and genuine applause. There are also typically lots of people who look perfectly mainstream. The cliché that straight women go to gay bars is true, presumably to escape unwelcome attention from sex-crazed straight men.



Perhaps I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve experienced no homophobia at all. I’ve had nothing but support from friends, family and work colleagues, and when I’m out and about holding my partner’s hand, people smile and say hello. Women especially like to talk to us and tell how adorable we are. (We are both middle-aged, bald and rather sloppy dressers but the two jack russell terriers we routinely have in tow may be partly responsible for our popularity.) I read that there has been an upsurge in homophobic and other bigoted attacks recently but we haven’t seen any evidence. We were recently approached in a pub by a heavy-set, shaven-headed fellow who looked like someone on his way home from a building site. He looked us over then told us it was good to see guys like us in “a pub like this” and he was glad that we felt comfortable. We talked about dogs a little then he went back to his wife and his pint. Mostly though, people don’t even mention it.

I’m sure there are still pockets of it but homophobia is no longer the norm. On the other hand, I’m a white gay man, absolutely mainstream these days. From taking to other people I understand that bisexual, trans and non-binary people still suffer rather more than we do, and if you belong to a secondary minority (if you’re black, or disabled, or any number of others) things are more difficult still.


I have a lot more thoughts spinning around but they’re not yet coherent enough to be written down – this will do a first shot at a gay-themed blog. It makes a change from reviewing horror movies.

If you have any comments, or perhaps want to tell me I know nothing, please get in touch.

Short Horror Film, what I did last summer.

Hi folks.

Last summer I wrote and directed a short horror film with some splendidly talented folks round my home town in Ayrshire. We had no budget but I’m jolly pleased with how it turned out. People have variously described it as freaky, creepy and twisted as fuck. One chap commented My girlfriend nearly shit herself.

Please have a watch. And let me know if you like it. I might like to do something similar again – it was frightfully good fun.

Newest news.

Hi folks. I’ve not updated this much recently, but the latest things to happen are:

  1. I’ve just been podcasted on the greatest and most prestigious horror fiction podcast in the universe. Listen to it here.

2. I’ve had another story accepted by More details nearer the time.

3. I’ve been working on a short horror film that should be fit for public consumption in the next couple of weeks. Again, more details will become available in the fullness of time.

Apologies for neglecting blogland.

Book Review: Midway by Nathan Robinson

Midway cover

Sam Berlitz is a team member in an international swimming race across the Atlantic. He feels as though he’s been swimming for longer than his one-hour allocation and realises the boat with his teammates on it is gone.

Alone, afloat in the unforgiving ocean a thousand miles from land his mind starts to create monsters. Or maybe they’re not all in his mind.

Midway is part mystery thriller and part survival horror with a good dose of Lovecraftian weird thrown in. I won’t tell you how it all pans out but the stuff that actually happens is secondary to Sam’s emotional journey. It’s the loneliness, the lack of stimulus, his fear of the dark, sleep deprivation and the tricks his mind plays on him that make this a riveting read. The tension doesn’t let up from about three pages in till the very end. I was furious when I had to stop reading and go back to work.

As well as the anxiety over his almost certain impending death, he starts to dwell on his life and his relationships. He has a fiancée but is having sex with a teammate on the boat. He compares them with each other, with his parents and friends, and with his dog, trying to decide whom he’ll miss, and what he’ll do if he miraculously survives. It’s a touching moment when he realises that dying means he’ll never walk the dog again.

I had some quibbles with Robinson’s prose at the very beginning: there is some extraneous description that could be cut. But I honestly don’t know if it got better or if I was just too engrossed in the story to notice. The prose became invisible and only served the story – a sure sign of quality writing.

Get past the slightly over-written beginning and you’re in for a rare treat. highly recommended.

Book Review. Shadows and Tall Trees 6 edited by Michael Kelly

satt cover


I love short horror fiction. I read lots of it: magazines, ezines, collections, anthologies and single stories, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one.


Editor Michael Kelly obviously likes a certain kind of horror: contemporary, literary, subtle and undefined. There are no zombies, no vampires, no chainsaw-wielding psychopaths. Instead there are expertly drawn characters dealing with terrible things.


There are two main things that make this book special, compared to other anthologies I’ve read lately.


  1. I’ve mentioned the lack of traditional monsters, but it seemed that all the characters here are all dealing with their own ghosts, either unresolved episodes from their past or some inner demon that becomes apparent in the story. Even when there is some outside agency it’s the characters’ action or flaws that attract them. It’s almost Shakespearian.


  1. None of the stories resolve in a satisfactory way. I don’t mean that as a flaw, quite the opposite. Every story here leaves you guessing, either about what actually happened or how we should feel about it. This apparently simple technique means that we keep thinking about the stories after we’ve finished them. I imagine Michael Kelly writing back to some contributors saying See that bit at the end when the monster appears and explains everything – cut that and we’ve got a deal.



Horror fiction can work on many levels. I think of them as

  • Jump/ yuck,
  • suspense,
  • creepy (glancing behind you while reading),
  • making you re-examine how you live your life.


Several of these stories work on that last level, the rarest and most effective of all.



It begins by deliberately unsettling the reader with Eric Schaller’s To Assume the Writer’s Crown: Notes on the Craft. This could be read several ways: as a genuine essay with a good dose of the author’s dark humour thrown in, or as a story told by someone who actually has a girl chained up in his basement just so he can write a good story about it, or a meditation on a writer’s relationship with his characters. I think the ambiguity is entirely deliberate and it makes uncomfortable reading for those of us who regularly use ink as a murder weapon.


And the book continues in that vein. The other pieces are more obviously stories, but that feeling of never knowing what’s going on remains throughout. I enjoyed every story in this book. Seriously, there wasn’t a single piece that I would have cut, but here I’ll only specifically mention my favourites.


Onanon by Michael Wehunt. This might be based on a genuine Scandinavian folk tale I haven’t heard, or it’s just so well told it seems real. Three strands of unpleasantness converge into something disturbing.


Death’s Door Cafe by Kaaron Warren. Taking a cliché and making it literal lets us explore morbidity in a story that seems upbeat but undercuts it and needles the reader.


H. Leslie’s The Quiet Room is about your past coming to get you. A house likes silence, so you can better hear the hollowness of your life.


Shaddertown by Conrad Williams is an apparently simple story that somehow encapsulates everything that modern western adults are afraid of in real life.


Ralph Robert Moore and Ray Cluley collaborated to produce The Space Between, in which a man finds he can spy on his neighbours and it becomes a compulsion that ruins his life. I read this as a parable about Facebook and the like but even without that resonant layer it’s a chilling story.




Shadows and Tall Trees is a truly brilliant book, showcasing the most subtle horror fiction currently being written. Go buy it.

My view on the current (silly) Scottish Independence debate.

I have a problem with politicians, and it’s the same problem I have with deeply religious people or those with any long-standing beliefs.


Anyone who has been absolutely certain of anything for a long time cannot be trusted. If you can believe in anything unwaveringly for decades, whether it’s a political party, your god of choice, that women should (or shouldn’t) wear burkas, or that homosexuality is (or isn’t) evil, your opinion is irrelevant. The most useless people in any debate are the hardliners on both sides.


Put another way, the more strongly you believe that you are right, the less I believe you.


Politicians cherry pick information that supports their existing cause, and ignore or try to discredit anything that might give credence to an opponent. We know this, but we listen to them anyway hoping for a convincing, balanced and well thought out argument that might persuade us. It never appears.


I don’t have a telly, and my radio is not used for current affairs, so my main exposure to the debate is Facebook posts. They tend to be rigidly polarised, most often one side pointing out some error the other side has made and poking fun. I have yet to see either side show any respect or give any credit to the other. I hate that.


They keep telling us it’s the most important decision in Scotland’s recent history. It’s not. No matter what happens next month, in ten years time most Scots will be living where they would have been, doing the same job for the same salary and paying a similar level of tax for a similar level of public service. And complaining about it no doubt.


The Yes campaign keeps bringing up the failings of the Westminster government: dishonesty, corruption and unpopular policies. These are spurious arguments if we examine them singly.


  • The dishonesty I’ve already covered: any member or strong supporter of a political party or cause is inherently untrustworthy. Scottish politicians are no better.


  • The corruption thing is nothing to do with Westminster. Abuse of power happens everywhere, from Putin’s Russia to Troon Community Council. We need stringent laws and good policing but it’s probably impossible to eradicate from a democratic system.


  • Unpopular policies are once again part of the nature of democracy. Our elected representatives will make decisions you don’t like, or I don’t like. If those decisions displease the majority of the electorate, said representatives don’t survive the next election. The scale of government is not important. The current coalition government in the UK is not what I voted for and I have disagreed with some of their policies: others I have fully supported. The same will be true of a Scottish government, and no matter how local the government becomes it will still be true. If three friends have a vote on which pub to go to on a Friday, chances are one of them will be disappointed. The other options are for one person to make decisions on everyone’s behalf, or for each friend to go alone to their own choice of pub.


In the short term, independence will impact negatively on all our pockets – it’s probably cost us already. International investors hate uncertainty and almost certainly there have been board meetings in which overseas companies have chosen not to base their new European operation in Scotland, because anything could happen in the next year or two.


In the long term I think the difference to the Scots people will be negligible.


The Yes campaign’s other main argument is purely jingoistic, and I despise them for that more than anything.


Don’t you dare tell me that I’m any less Scottish than you, or that I love my country less than you, or that I care less about children and potential grandchildren that you do. My feelings about those things are my own business, but nationalism is dangerous because of the implied exclusivity of the word. The thing is, I care equally about friends and family in England, and Wales, and Ireland. I also care about the rest of Europe, and about people in trouble all round the world. Quite a lot of the trouble they’re in is down to petty parochial arguments about what city the taxes should be administered in, or what religion the administrators should be. It’s all shite and I hate it.


I have more to say, but this could turn into a rant and take me all night.


AND I HAVE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO. There are books to read, songs to sing, beauty to be photographed, art to be appreciated. You know, those things that make us human. Please give me peace from all this independence nonsense.