Beach Reading, the series, follows the adventures of Tim Snow and his friends, neighbors and boyfriends as well as his co-workers at ARTS, a fictional piano bar/ restaurant on the 500 block of Castro Street in San Francisco.
Tim’s landlords around the corner on Collingwood are also the owners of Arts – Arturo and Artie – who met in Vietnam. Arturo is the restaurant’s chef and Artie tends bar, although he is a frustrated performer at heart, having been a celebrated drag queen at Finocchios nightclub in its heyday.
Tim also remains close to his Aunt Ruth who took him in years ago in high school when his parents threw him out. He barely remembers his psychic grandmother, whose picture he keeps beside his bed.
Tim still has dreams that hold meanings he doesn’t understand, but he grew up hoping that his own “clairvoyance, like his first excitement around other boys at the swimming pool, was something that would just go away if he ignored it hard enough.”
Beach Reading excerpt:
San Francisco dazzles most people who visit, but only some get trapped here. You might wonder if they’d turned their heads a moment sooner, like breaking their concentration away from the hypnotist’s swaying bauble just in time, they might be able to go back where they came from. Tim Snow could never leave, but he enjoyed being caught here. He almost felt normal in San Francisco. He had longed to be normal ever since he was a boy and started seeing things the way his grandmother did. Tim hoped from those early inklings that clairvoyance, like his first excitement around other boys at the swimming pool, was something that would just go away if he ignored it hard enough. His grandmother had called it a gift, but it wasn’t a present he’d asked for. Sometimes he tried to treat his unwanted psychic ability the way a handicapped person must learn to just get on with his life. So this is mostly Tim’s story…
From InsightOut book club (https://www.facebook.com/InsightOutBooks/):
After years of contributing nonfiction pieces to Christopher Street and Gay Sunshine, Mark Abramson has turned his witty self over to gay fiction—and his books are as much fun as the mega-dance pier parties and the “Men Behind Bars” AIDS benefits he’s famous for co-producing in San Francisco.
Bob Lind of Echo Magazine says Beach Reading is “absolutely the best gay mystery series to come along in at least a decade!”
Wayne Gunn of Lambda Literary Foundation enthuses: “Without ever seeming derivative, the series clearly is indebted to Armistead Maupin. The author has great fun with his characters; so does the reader.” Fun it is—and woe to any critic who tries to pigeonhole Beach Reading: Yes, it’s gay fiction. It’s also gay romance, gay mystery, and, according to The Bay Area Reporter, a whole lotta “zany, madcap frolicking (and murder)…which gets better with each installment.”
In an interview in The San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Abramson himself says it was his search for “the next Armistead Maupin” that led him to create Tim Snow, Aunt Ruth and the quirky cast of characters in his colorful gay romance series. “I wanted to find a book where I was so familiar with everything that I wouldn’t have to think too hard, that I would just be entertained.” Fun, sexy and mysterious, Mark Abramson has scored with these offbeat tales from the Castro. Because “If you’re going to read beach reading,” he points out, “why shouldn’t it be good?”
Reviews from Amazon.com:
I had heard of Mark Abramson’s Beach Reading series and decided it was time to read one. I started, of course, with #1, which is called, also of course, BEACH READING. It’s set in San Francisco of the 1980’s or 90’s, after AIDS has become for many sufferers a manageable disease. But this is not an AIDS book. Parties are still wild and sex frequent, just safe. At the center of the story is Tim Snow, an immigrant from Minnesota, rejected by his family except for his Aunt Ruth, still back there in MN. Tim has just lost love and is pining for a replacement. Whether he’s going to find it in fast and easy sex is debatable but he’s having a good time finding out. You have a good time keeping track.
I quickly became involved and a part of the lives of the multiple characters who live in that San Francisco, maybe as involved as they were in each other’s lives. I certainly felt like they became friends; I became concerned about them. I wanted Tim to get over Jason and find love. I wanted the same for his straight female upstairs neighbor of the prodigious margaritas. I loved the look at survivors of the 60’s, another wild time that seems like ancient times now.
BEACH READING is a fun read. Reminds me of the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. If you enjoyed following the lives of Mouse and Marianne and all the rest, you will love this book. I’m buying more books in the Beach Reading series. I miss my new friends already.
Beach Reading and Other Gay Goodies
May 27, 2009
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).
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 “Pier Pressure.”
Abramson has also written for once famous but now defunct publications Christopher Street, Fag 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.
San Francisco Chronicle Best-Sellers Jan. 18, 2009/ PAPERBACKS Bay Area:
BEACH READING, Mark Abramson (Lethe; 196 pages; $13):
A barhopping waiter in the Castro and his activist friends battle an anti-gay organizer.
“Bret Harte—the writer, not the wrestler—helped found the literary convention of local color while living on the California coast. 150 years later, Mark Abramson—the writer, not the producer—makes his own contribution to that rich tradition by applying his verbal pointillé to San Francisco. In this first novel of an upcoming series, lovelorn Tim Snow becomes collateral damage after the collision of politics and partying… and love’s rôle in both. Clever and sexy with a ton of heart (and Harte).”
— Instinct Magazine
“Abramson’s first in a series of books to come, this charming tale takes place in that shining homo beacon in the bay–San Francisco. Whether it’s celebrating disco queernery, battling homophobia or getting over that pesky ex, this book’s got you covered. And who ever said that protests were unflattering? Provocative yet short, its title says it all–only wait much longer and it may be more like Subway Reading.”
— Brandon Aultman, HX Magazine, New York, NY
“Full of lively characters and wacky coincidence, this page-turning series aims to become the Tales of the City of the new millennium. In the popular imagination, the heyday of gay life is long gone, washed away by AIDS. But in this love song to San Francisco, Mark Abramson gives the lie to that myth, revealing the joy that still inheres to life in the City by the Bay. The quirky charm ofSan Francisco is alive and well, and living in the pages of Beach Reading.”
—Lewis DeSimone, author of Chemistry
“The first volume in Mark Abramson’s Beach Reading series pits a brokenhearted, barhopping Castro hero against a seething homophobe, set against the backdrop of a colossal dance party honoring 80s music legend Sylvester. Call it literary levity on overdrive, but it’s also a sunny, campy, quick-witted gem, and a sheer delight…Tim Snow, a waiter and a regular fixture in Castro and South of Market bars, lives a semi-normal life in his beloved Upper Market abode, with the exception of getting stoned too often and attempting to circumnavigate his ex-boyfriend, who keeps popping up. The gay community is abuzz with anticipation for the star-studded Sylvester tribute party, but a nasty anti-gay organizer is planning a protest nearby that same night. Counterintelligence is carefully planned with Tim and Company, with a few subplot surprises thrown in. Forthcoming books in the series will focus on contemporary subjects such as gay marriage, the side effects of HIV anti-retroviral drugs, identity theft, and open relationships. But Abramson intends on keeping everything on the lighter side. ‘In spite of touching on serious issues, I think it’s very important to keep them fun to read as well. They’re just beach reading, after all!'”
— Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter
“I just finished reading Mark Abramson’s ‘Beach Reading’ and the only word I can think of to describe it is ‘WOW!’ It’s a short book – only 193 pages – and each of those pages is a pleasure… ‘Beach Reading’ is a ‘love song to San Francisco’ and I felt like singing along as I read it. It seems that city on the bay has been the center of gay life forever and after reading this you will understand why.”
— Amos Lassen, Eureka Pride
“The first installment in Mark Abramson’s Beach Reading series from Lethe Press 2008… is a tale firmly invested in San Francisco’s gay culture, and has a charm because of this that is evident from the first lively page to the defiant last.”
— Steve Williams, Suite 101