Review: Whistle Pass by KevaD

On the battlefields of WWII Europe, Charlie Harris fell in love with Roger Black, and after the war, Roger marched home without a glance back. Ten years later, Charlie receives a cryptic summons and quickly departs for his former lover’s hometown of Whistle Pass. 

But Roger Black isn’t the lover of Charlie’s dreams anymore. He’s a married, hard-bitten political schemer who wants to secure his future by destroying evidence of his indiscreet past. Open homosexuality is practically a death sentence, and that photo would ruin Roger and all his wife’s nefarious plans.

Caught up in foggy, tangled events, Charlie turns to hotel manager Gabe Kasper for help, and Gabe is intrigued by the haunted soldier who so desperately desires peace. When helping his new lover places Gabe in danger, the old warrior in Charlie will have to take drastic action to protect him… or condemn them both

Review by Elliott Mackle

The set-up and first chapter of this caper historical are so convincing and cleverly done I thought I’d stumbled onto something wonderful. Unfortunately, eight fast-moving introductory pages do not a successful, or even a comprehensible, novel make.

The hook: Charlie Harris, a lonely bachelor lumberjack, spurned by his army lover at war’s end, receives a two word message: “Need you.” In the past, these words were the signal for sex between Charlie and his battlefield body-buddy, Roger Black. Now, ten years later, assuming the note is genuine, Charlie drops everything and takes off for Roger’s home town, Whistle Pass, Illinois.

The setting is small-town Midwestern America, 1955. The narrative tone, descriptions of landscape and criminal and political shenanigans, however, are more reminiscent of shoot-’em-up western frontier fiction and cowboy movies set a century earlier. Like most such genre confections, much of the action and dialog are overdone and forgettable.

The gist of the novel is a cascade of bloody fights and violent confrontations, faked battles, misidentifications, truck shootings (they shot horses, didn’t they?), empty threats (Roger’s wife Dora proposes to kill someone who’s already dead), a daring escape from a homophobic mob and assorted, mostly unconvincing homo- and heterosexual love scenes. Finally, the fade-out that unites the new lovers, macho lumberjack Charlie and prissy, closeted, beaten-to-a-pulp hotel manager Gabe, comes off as almost a parody of every HEA ending ever written.

Better editing might have helped. Abrupt changes in point of view are distracting. “LT” for Lieutenant (not once but several times); an incorrectly composed newspaper headline, and occasional metaphorical howlers (“Gabe’s heart thumped like the leg of a rabbit in heat.”) suggest that more care might have been taken in the preparation of the finished product. On the other hand, misspellings are few and some of the characters’ voices are lively and distinctive. The cover art, which suggests little about the novel itself, is attractively dreamy and masculine.

Author’s website

Buy at Dreamspinner Press   Amazon UK  Amazon USA (available as print and ebook)

4 Responses

  1. I read and reviewed “Whistle Pass”, and have to wonder if we read the same book. While I appreciate your point of view, the tone leaves me wondering, seriously, if we each had the same book.

    I found the story entertaining, the characters well-developed, the pace excellent and the overall book very well done. I really take exception to the dubious classification of this wonderful book as “like so many of such genre confections…overdone and forgettable”.

    While it may not be to everyone’s taste, I believe this books deserves a little more consideration than to be dismissed so out of hand.

    I respect your opinion, this site, and your absolute right to not like the book, but the overall tone of this review and some of the facts (truck shooting? not in the book I read) leave me wondering…what happened?


    • It amuses me that we only get complaints when we give a mark lower than three, no-one ever says “you overmarked this book.”

      I don’t believe that Elliott, who always reviews fully and fairly, or he would not be reviewing for me, dismissed it “out of hand” – he gave full reasons why he found the book not to his taste. And I must say that I was actually writing a review for this book when Elliott turned in his review – I’d forgotten I’d given him the assignment – and I agree one hundred percent with what he said. I may have given it a 3, but that’s the only difference. I disliked whining Gabe a great deal and the plot was so confusing I had to read it twice to work out what was going on. There was, as Elliott points out, a tremendous beginning, which, like him, gave me a feeling of great promise, but it disappointed from then on in.

      I appreciate your views, but you have to remember that not everyone likes the same things, because that would be dull.

      • Erastes,

        Thank you for all you do with your site. It’s not known as a popular and insightful place to come for us readers to check out reviews of all sorts of wonderful books. The fact that you actually listen and allow discourse – so wonderful!

        If we all agreed on things, it would indeed be a wonderful world. I don’t expect nor encourage that on my own blog. I tend to take a different approach, maybe, and write about the strengths of works and stay away from anything less than constructive, but it takes all colors to make a rainbow.

        I remember Mr. Mackle from his days as a food editor here in Atlanta, and how much I enjoyed his reviews for many years. I let it guide me to many great experiences in cuisine. He’s usually very fair, I agree. However, I must still take issue with a fact I cannot reconcile. There is no shooting of trucks, or horses for that matter, in this book. I also felt the description of this, and many other works in the M/M genre as “confections” downplays the many wonderful writers, you included, who make us the fantastic world of books I so much enjoy.

        I try to take away at least one good thing from every book I read. I’m sorry we don’t agree completely about “Whistle Pass”, but it would be a sorry world if everything I liked was all that matter. Or, conversely, those books you and your reviewrs liked the only ones that mattered.

        I’ll be certain to watch for something here that I feel overmarked! That certainly would be something, wouldn’t it? Same as on my site – we only seem to get up any steam when it’s something we want to be appreciated more!

        Again, thanks for your patience, and all that you do for the genre.


  2. I apologize for a typo above! The first sentence should say – It is NOW known as a populat and insightful place…

    The weather here in Atlanta is cold this morning and my fingers are a little slow!! Thanks for forgiving me in advance!!!


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