Jensen, Michael. Man & Monster (The Savage Land Book two). Smashwords Edition. Seattle: BK Books, c2017. 307 p. Kindle ebook. $5.99. ISBN 9781370947263. Previously published by Alyson Books under the title Firelands. This edition has been revised.
The main theme of this historical novel is monsters rampaging through the wild frontier of Ohio around 1800. At least one of these monsters is man-made by the main character’s evil brother, Gerard, who wants to chase all the settlers away so he can find and claim gold in an abandoned French fort. The local Delaware Indians claimed there were also real super-natural monsters. Perhaps there were.
The gay theme is a subtext. This subtext features Gerard’s brother Cole, who is attacked by a monster and is rescued by the Indian Pakim. Cole flees an engagement to a beautiful woman in the East, something he was not ready for. He is cared for by a gay couple who are deeply disliked by settlers in nearby village of Hugh’s Lick. The monsters gradually drive everyone away and attack Cole and his friends, who finally prevail in the end with Pakim’s help. Cole finally acknowledges his love for Pakim.
Skilled author Michael Jensen has written several similar novels. This one is a Lambda Award finalist. His multitude of characters are well drawn and their dialogue and thinking (mostly agonizing) are convincing.
This novel will be enjoyed by folks who like horror movies, less by those who are more interested in the development of gay relationships. The book concludes with a sizable bibliography of sources, indicating that the author has done his homework about the Western frontier of 1800.
James Doig Anderson
Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University