Richard Labonte, San Francisco Frontlines, November 1997
Victor Terry, CHECKMATE #21, November 1997
Leif Wauters, BEAR Magazine, Issue #42 February 1998
Harold Cox, CHECKMATE, #22 March 1998
Tim Brough, VULCAN AMERICA MAGAZINE, #2 April-May 1998
Nancy Sundstrom, INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER, Vol. 16 #4 July-August 1998
John F. Karr, MANIFEST READER, #36 October 1998
San Francisco Frontlines, November 1997
A DIFFERENT LIGHT BOOKSTORE: STAFF RECOMMENDED:
San Francisco CA, USA
By Richard Labonte
The 20 years of work collected in this rowdy, bawdy anthology, mostly fiction with some poems, is proof that gay porn writing can also be rousing good literature, stimulating the mental as much as it does the physical. Author Fritscher, who wrote the first and best book on Robert Mapplethorpe several years ago, laces his rough-and-tumble erotics with supple brawny prose; he's a master wordsmith, crafting his tales of muscle and passion and really long, um, members with an imagination rare for the milieu.
Copyright: Richard Labonte
CHECKMATE #21, November 1997
I am biased about this book because Fritscher asked me to read the manuscript and to make suggestions. I don't know if he made any changes after I read the manuscript since the book was published after CM's copy deadline.
By Victor Terry
These stories go into territories unexplored and unimagined by others. Some were published first in MAN2MAN. Several have extreme violence and brutality as their key note. War, peace, action, torture, discipline, corporal punishment, bondage, passion, lust, love and SM are here in raw power.
Copyright: Victor Terry
BEAR Magazine, Issue #42 February 1998
Jack Fritscher has built fame communicating in three forms. Actual man-to-man sex came first. Then came the journaling of his fantasies on film (through Palm Drive Video). But his most gourmet fashion has proven to be putting those fantasies on paper. His most recent literary offering, Rainbow County and Other Stories--a collection of Fritscher's previously published erotica--is a look from beyond the outer limits of unbridled man lust. In Rainbow County, poetic odes to dark desires throw left punches to the right jabs of the narrative stories themselves, delivering adrenaline forced jism for the reader to writhe in.
San Francisco, CA USA
By Leif Wauters
Fritscher is unlike any other chronicler of masculine perversion. His stories are not about adventuresome helium-heeled youngsters, nor do they portray, as one might expect, the action in San Francisco's leather playrooms. They are about growth, limits, expansion of the mind...and the nuts. To do where no man has gone before (or dared to admit in writing) seems to be the mission of these stories--some of which were first published over twenty years ago.
The first tale, "The Shadow Soldiers," sets the tone of the entire collection: the breaking of the man. This story lunges blood--first from the grave of unknown soldiers, detailing their last possible flashes of love as they collapse into each other's arms. Whether breaking the mind, the body or the spirit of innocence, Fritscher's stories throw on the lights within his "heart of darkness," and bring the sacrificial limits of masculinity to slaughter.
To detail all the cock pounding, tit gripping, ass pumping and load gulping that fills Rainbow County would understate its artfulness. If you can picture yourself reincarnated as your once-lover's sperm, successfully rushing to fertilize a female egg, and finally emerging as his son, then you will grasp some of the complexities in this engrossing digest. But not all the stories are as far-reaching. And I'd be lying if I didn't mention that the garish details of dismembering rituals didn't force me to pause and rest my imagination once or twice. Other sections found me foaming cock drool and licking if off my fingers before turning the pages. It's a good book that works on many levels.
Copyright: Leif Wauters--BEAR Magazine
CHECKMATE, #22 March 1998
By Harold Cox
Rainbow County and Other Stories, by Jack Fritscher, LT Publications, Beverly Hills, CA, 1997, $14.95. This is a collection of 12 stories and seven poems written by Fritscher and originally published in various locations over the past 20 years.
Fritscher has been described as the inventor of the South of Market prose style. He is also its chief exponent. Fritscher's writings are a celebration of macho culture and of manhood.
Fritscher's writing style is difficult to describe. Indeed, it can be argued that Fritscher is not an author at all, but a painter; one who paints with words. He is a master of imagery as he pursues the objects of his imagination and his sexual drives across the printed page.
And the sexual drive is not subtle. The writing oozes sex from every sentence, either overt or implied. "I...jammed our bellies together, grinding meat into meat, sportfucking, challenging for the kill, hands pulling the other's dick, gun barrels jousting, ramming cockheads and long shafts between sweaty thighs, fucking slick dick between hot legs, balls bouncing, big dicks slamming, ready to burst, rocking with the roll of the train." We got as tired reading it as we would have doing it.
Fritscher's male fetishes are catholic. The stories in this book deal with soldiers in combat, an SM-based future world, gyms and football players, cowboys, and gay denizens of San Francisco. He writes lovingly of sexy muscular men, but one gets the impression that the noun is more important than the adjectives. As those who have seen Palm Drive videos know, Fritscher is more interested in masculinity than sculptured skin-deep beauty, and this interest is evident in his writing.
The majority of these stories were written before the coming of AIDS and many reflect the social customs of the 1970s when gay males were exploring their new freedom by testing the limits to which lust and sex could be taken. Fritscher explores these limits with enthusiasm. Many of the stories are violent, particularly "The Shadow Soldiers" and "Rough Night@Sodom.Cum," a sort of 1990s update of the old Conan books.
Fritscher never loses sight of his primary fetish--masculinity. "This was corporal punishment, pure and simple: the uncomplicated beating of a man by a man." However, unlike many gay writers, he never expresses his interests twice in the same way. There is lot more to Fritscher's stories than boy meets boy; boy fucks boy; boy sucks boy, etc.
I recommend this book as an example of what South of Market prose is all about, and it's difficult to describe. What better source than from the originator?
You may not approve of every sentiment or like every story. You may not even understand some of them, but I doubt if you will ever be bored.
Copyright: Harold Cox, CHECKMATE
VULCAN AMERICA MAGAZINE, #2 April-May 1998
By Tim Brough, Editor
HEADLINE: RAINBOW COUNTY AND OTHER STORIES
"NEW HOMO FICTION FOR MEN WITH HEADS AS SMART AS THEIR DICKS"
**** "...4-star bedside companion"
Is erotic writing literature? Jack Fritscher is notoriously famous for his dozen books and hundreds of stories in many gaymen's leather/bear magazines, as well as for his gritty masculine photography in those same mags, and for his Palm Drive Video company. He has more pages in print than almost any other gay American writer. This third collection of his fiction, Rainbow County, is an anthology of twelve Fritscher stories. Ten time-tested stories have appeared in popular gay magazines over the years, and two of the stories are brand new: "RoughNight@Sodom.Cum" and the title story, "Rainbow County." I can only pay them all my compliments. You could read through these tales and never guess that they were all written by the same man. Because of that erotic diversity, Rainbow County is a 4-star bedside companion. I'll also give it a second compliment. The new story, "RoughNight@Sodom.Cum," shocked me so much that I had to put the book down and catch my breath. I won't give anymore of the story's futuristic cyber-sexual SM plot away than to tell you that you'll never think of the phrase "Mind Fuck" in the same light after reading this one.
At the same time, the very contemporary Oliver Stone/Quentin Tarantino feel of bloody brutality in "RoughNight" contrasts so sharply with the book's tensely sexual title story, "Rainbow County," that Fritscher's genius as a writer is stunning. In "RoughNight" you have a William Gibson/James Cameron sadistic, fascistic future gone so berserk it redefines "unsafe sex." In "Rainbow" the slow circling of a sexwolf around his prey is absolutely urban brutality that should frighten the bejesus out of any man who ever let a hustler into his lovely home. It's sadistic without a single blow struck, frightening without a single threat uttered, and suspensefully sexual in a style of edgy dialog that echoes Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Can the stage/screen version of "Rainbow" be far behind?) At the crosshairs of 18th and Castro, the heart of the mythic Rainbow County (where all gay people live metaphorically), two men lock into a dance; one, a barber from the old days of San Francisco's Castro, and the other, a rough young buck--a serial fucker, at least--on his mission to find the face of God. There is penetration, but no fuck. There is sadism and its siamese twin, masochism, yet no marks. Just long sexual burn and sexual panic.
The individual stories, "Rainbow County," "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home," and "S&M Ranch," like this whole collection itself, redefine masculine writing with an artfulness that is a far cry from most of the usual hard-core SM writing that loses itself in meaningless dicks in faceless dark alleys and Martha Stewart playrooms. Actually, most of these wonderful stories are not even SM, but are erotic tales of homomasculine sexuality taking place in gyms, railroad cars, gambling joints, prisons, ranches, Air Force bases, college wrestling camps, and anonymous hotel rooms where men live men's lives. The story "Wild Blue Yonder," raises the daddy-son-lover plot to a brilliant new myth! "Father and Son Tag Team" is a sex-comedy of mistaken identity at a wrestling camp. "Big Doofer at the Jockstrap Gym" is a very flexed four-way between big, bear bodybuilder lumberjacks and the cocksucker who stays behind when the gym door is locked at 10 PM. "Doofer" is gym slang as in "What exercise do you 'do for' your biceps?" As a wordsmith, Fritscher has a catchy, accurate ear. As a storyteller, he is always freshly perversatile.
Don't try to read Jack Fritscher's Rainbow County and Other Stories in one sitting. These stories will remain in your mind long after that cumtowel you toss to the floor tonight dries crusty tomorrow morning. Pace yourself to absorb and savor these characters, plots, and writing style. From the brutality starting the book with the torture of American pilots in North Vietnam in "The Shadow Soldiers" to the final fisting and bar-buddy eros of "Sleep in Heavenly Peace" this writing is too fine a vintage to read too fast. Stop reading when these stories make your head and/or your dick cum. The fine wine of these stories is guaranteed not to spoil over time. Warning: pages may stick together. As point of information, the two collections of Fritscher's fiction prior to this third collection are: Titanic: Forbidden Stories Hollywood Forgot and Stand By Your Man; both books are available in new editions from Prowler Press, London, 1998. He is also the author of the classic epic novel of the 1970s sexual revolution in San Francisco, Some Dance to Remember, whose 562 pages have been called "The Gay Gone With The Wind."
© TIM BROUGH
INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER, Vol. 16 #4 July-August 1998
By Nancy Sundstrom
Describing Jack Fritscher as a writer of gay fiction is something akin to calling Duke Ellington a composer or Fred Astaire a dancer. With his new collection of 20 short stories, Rainbow County, Fritscher proves again why he's been hailed as "epicentric to gay literature" and the "Pynchon of porn"–this is a writer whose range, heat and intelligence stir both the mind and the body, and whose wit is virtually unsurpassed in the genre.
Rainbow County is the third collection of gay fiction by the prolific Fritscher, who has also written the novels Some Dance to Remember and Leather Blues, Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera, a remembrance of his relationship with former lover Robert Mapplethorpe; and has a book of photography, Jack Fritscher's American Men, to his credit, among countless other works. His trademarks are his erotic, inventive use of language, finely chiseled characters, and loading a 40-proof blend of pop culture references and insight into his diverse story settings.
The new book features works spanning the last 20 years, and it's striking that some of the earliest, like "The Shadow Soldiers" (1981) and "Foot Loose" (1979) are among the most powerful and timeless pieces. Others, such as "RoughNight@Sodom.cum," an over-the-top homage to the erotics of death played out in the pages of cyber-punk comic books, feel about 20 minutes old. Fritscher excels at depicting rough, hot, and extreme gay sex in stories like "Big Doofer at the Jockstrap Gym," "Father and Son Tag Team" and "S&M Ranch," where he takes the reader down some of the furthest and less-traveled roads of sexual exploration. But he can also write with enormous tenderness, as in "The Assistant Freshman Football Coach" and the closing poem "Sleep in Heavenly Peace." "The Real Cowboy" and "Wild Blue Yonder" pay tribute to manly men, a subject for which the author seems to have endless fascination and affection.
A testament to the varied terrain of Rainbow County can be found in its center-piece, a 35-page story of the same name. A mentally seductive, two-man pas-de-deus that reads like Waiting for Godot and begs to be filmed by Quentin Tarantino or Sam Shepherd, this striking piece features no physical sex at all, and its heat fairly rises off the pages. It's a stunner, and even richer with repeated readings.
Jack Fritscher is undoubtedly a masterful writer of gay fiction, but he is first and foremost an extraordinary American writer. He deserves a broad-based audience because his powerful and original voice rings in one's head long after the book has been completed.
©Nancy Sundstrom, Independent Publisher
MANIFEST READER, #36 October 1998
By John F. Karr
RAINBOW COUNTY, AND OTHER STORIES is the third volume of Fritscher's collected short stories, following, after a long interval, the seminal Corporal in Charge of Taking Care of Captain O'Malley (1984 & 2000), and Stand By Your Man (1987 & 1999). Since my reviews of the earlier volumes are quoted all over this one, I ought to re strain myself here. But I was right when I hailed Fritscher's stories for their creativity, insight, and intensity. Fritscher has carved out a niche in the world of short story sexual fiction that is hard to match. To my taste, he stands as unique and memorable. This is swell friction fiction in the best Fritscher manner, these stories cause as much mental as masturbatory friction. What an unsettling, surprising, and scandalously sexual writer of short fiction Fritscher can be. The volume, which includes a dozen stories collected from a variety of frequently obscure publications.
©John F. Karr, Manifest Reader