Trial (Life Prison: Hell's Messenger #1)


"Compassion's Keeper took his hand off the dagger hilt only long enough to turn a page. '"Sentenced to sixty lashes of the leaded whip. Sentence commuted to a transfer to Compassion Life Prison."' The Keeper raised his eyebrows. 'That's the first time I've ever heard a transfer to this prison described as a commutation. We'll assume that particular phrasing was meant as a joke.'"

The prisoner has suffered endless pain and has raised a rebellion. Now he faces his greatest trial.

For fifteen years, Tyrrell has struggled against odds to better the lives of his fellow prisoners. Now he must start all over again, for he has been transferred to Compassion Prison, reputed to be the worst life prison in his nation. The first signs of trouble at his new prison are brutally armed guards, a probing physician, and a Keeper of mysterious motives. But Tyrrell knows that, when he walks into his new cell, he'll face danger beyond measure:

The prisoners of Compassion, who are waiting to test him.

This suspenseful novella (short novel) can be read on its own or as the first story in the "Hell's Messenger" volume of Life Prison. Friendship, desire between men, and the costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural speculative fiction series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.

Tags: bisexual and gay characters, multicultural, prisoners, guards, wardens, spies.


He lay on the cold concrete in the darkness, cursing in an indiscriminate manner that embraced every guard he had possessed the misfortune to be serviced by. The chill of the ground, combined with his wetness, had set him shivering, and he could taste blood in his mouth where his teeth had caught his cheek as he fell. In an automatic manner, he checked his teeth. They were all there, except for the four he had lost over the years, courtesy of past guards.

He allowed Bailey to pull him onto his feet, and as he did so, he realized that laughter echoed in the dark room. The laughter did not come from either of his guards.

He raised his head. He was in a large, high-ceilinged room. That much he could tell from the echoes and from the fact that he could not see the ceiling. Most of the room was lightless. But in the left-hand corner ahead of him, on a balcony about where he would expect a ceiling to be, sat two men lit by wall-lamps. Both wore dark blue uniforms, and both had their boots resting in a leisurely manner on the low, barred railing of the balcony. Both had rifles in their laps, and both rifles were pointed straight at Tyrrell.

Tyrrell felt his empty stomach lurch. One of the men who had been laughing called across the room, "Mercy's man! What gift do you bring us today?"

"Compassion's man!" Oslo called back in a casual manner that suggested he was acquainted with the other guard. "I have a prisoner transfer for you. Fresh meat for the banquet."

The rifle-bearing guards seemed to appreciate this small witticism more than Tyrrell thought it merited; they hooted with laughter. "Tenderizing the meat, are you?" asked the second guard, who held a cigarette between his lips.

"Oh, believe me," said Oslo, grinning, "I've poked the meat quite thoroughly to make sure it's well done."

Tyrrell rolled his eyes. Even Bailey winced at Oslo's poor wit.

The first guard lifted his rifle and set it aside. "Ah, what a pity we will not be able to feast at length on him at our banquet. But we are somewhat gentler on our prisoners than you are at Mercy Prison. How many fuckings a year do you service each of your prisoners with? One hundred? Two hundred?"

"We're working on raising the number." Oslo's voice held nothing but amusement.

"Whereas we are unlikely to see your prisoner more than once or twice this year . . . if that much." The first guard pulled his boots off the railing and leaned over the railing, remaining in his chair as he scrutinized the scene before him. The wavering light of the gas-lamps on the balcony wall moved shadows across his face, which was thoughtful. "Hard to say from this distance," concluded the guard finally. "Why the transfer?"

"Your Keeper knows. You can probably guess. His name's Tyrrell."

The second guard, who had removed his cigarette from his lips in order to tap it over a spittoon nearby, went suddenly still. The first guard raised an appreciative eyebrow. "Oh-ho!" he said softly. "So that's the way of it. I was wondering how long it would be before Mercy's Keeper lost patience with those riot-rousers he's been housing. What happened to the others?"

Oslo shrugged. "We'll know when we get back. The first decision our Keeper made was to arrange this transfer. Your Keeper seemed willing to take him in."

The first guard shrugged as he leaned back in his chair. "Our Keeper," he said, "has all sorts of grandiose plans for this prison, though whether any of them will come to fruit is another matter. I suppose that servicing riot-rousers is part of his plan. Will you break your fast with us? Starke likes to arrive early for his gunner duty . . ." He gestured toward the second guard. "But I prefer to extend my dawn break as long as possible. You're welcome to join me in the guards' dining hall. The night watch will be coming off-duty soon, and I can introduce you."

"Yes," muttered Bailey through gritted teeth. "Warmth. Yes."

Oslo ignored him. "Good food wouldn't go amiss," he said, smiling. "And I hear that Compassion Life Prison is famed for that."

More hoots of appreciative laughter erupted from the first guard, though the second was busy drawing a long lungful of smoke from his cigarette and scrutinizing Tyrrell with an expression he could not read.

"We promise to feed you only the best," replied the first guard, getting to his feet and reaching toward a hand-sized lever set within a small, red hatch on the wall. "Come to the dining hall when you've delivered your charge. You remember the way, I'm sure."

"I hope I do," said Oslo, beginning to tug Tyrrell forward into the darkness, "but everything may be changed here, from what I hear. Your Keeper seems to want to turn things upside down."

"We'll see," said the second guard as his eyes followed Tyrrell's progress. His voice was barely audible, and his expression was hidden behind a puff of smoke. "We'll see. . . ."

Available as a DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc): Trial.

For more stories like this, see: Dusk Peterson's August 2014 free fiction, bestsellers, and news.


That's All I Read: SOMEBODY TO LOVE (MONTANA ROMANCE) by MerryFarmer

That's All I Read: SOMEBODY TO LOVE (MONTANA ROMANCE) by MerryFarmer: SOMEBODY TO LOVE (MONTANA ROMANCE) Merry Farmer BUY ON AMAZON Anyone who follows this review blog knows that I love Tamara Allen&#3...


That's All I Read: DEATH IN VENICE, CALIFORNIA by Vinton McCabe

That's All I Read: DEATH IN VENICE, CALIFORNIA by Vinton McCabe: DEATH IN VENICE, CALIFORNIA Vinton McCabe BUY AT AMAZON This is a brilliant novel based on Thomas Mann's story  Death in Venice...


WICKLOW'S ODYSSEY by R. Cooper, reviewed by Christopher Hawthorne Moss


R. Cooper

Buy on Amazon.com

Wicklow Doyle is part of a team of operatives in Charleston, South Carolina, during the American Civil War.  His particular job is developing radio communications for the Union army.  It becomes apparent there is a traitor in the team when Confederate soldiers head straight for where he was creating a base for these communications.  The rest of the book is about three things: finding out that the traitor is relationships with other team members, and his growing attraction for their leader, Alexander Rhodes.

First off, radio?  In the Civil War?  There is no indication that this is a Steam punk novel, but it is, according to the author.  Once I had been apprised of this I did not balk at the mention of telephones and dirigibles, the first three of which did not make their appearance until the 1870s and after.  If it weren’t for the fact that a whole string of events that began earlier led to the development of phones and radio I should not have questioned it, but Steampunk is Steampunk, and this is the American version.

This is a remarkable novel with incredibly erotic and evocative sex scenes, complex and credible interactions between characters, and for the plot features a very tense and building effort to find the traitor.  It is this last that ruins the book, since the dramatic lead up to the traitor’s revelation and dealing with him/her happens off screen with little actual complexity.  I kept expecting more but never got it.  Nevertheless, the novel kept me on edge as the team members discover the weapon the South has developed and decides to deal with it themselves.

Probably the best part of this novel is the relationship between Wicklow and Rhodes.  The latter has been taken with Wicklow since he rescued him from execution to become part of his team working for the Union army.  Wicklow has been drawn to Rhodes as well, though with a great deal of denial.  They wind up stuck in a room in a brothel for a few days where Rhodes and Wicklow make the sort of exquisitely slow mutual discoveries about their sexual attraction that is so subtle and beautifully drawn that I was left amazed about it.  I have never read better erotica.

In spite of this the sex seems to be pointing to eventual anal penetration and this never happens.  The book is such a puzzling set of contradictions that I can’t explain it.  For a book so masterfully written to have two such holes in the plot astounds me.

Back to the eroticism, Rhodes and Wicklow have subtle, step by step, and excruciating actions.  Every touch is descried, every kiss, every point of contact in a way that is evocative and loving.
SPOILER: I kept expecting the traitor to turn out to be Rhodes himself, to be discovered when Wicklow is back in Washington DC, but I was wrong.  It turned out the off-camera discovery of the traitor and


That's All I Read: UNDER THE TABLE AND INTO HIS HEART by Rain O'Tiern...


This quirky little story ends up utterly charming.  Two men who work for a sort of mixed gender preference strip bar have a special assignment.  What I mean by mix ed gender preference is that it is a bar where the performers are gay men, but the patrons are straight women.  A small group of these women ask for a private party where two of the dancers make out.  Baily calls dibs since he wants to make out with Jeb, the hot bartender.  He gets his wish, and the two outdo themselves, breaking all the rules to give the women everything they paid for.

But will Jeb get into it?

Find out by reading this perfectly adorable short novel.


That's All I Read: TELL ME I'M HOME by Emily Carrington

That's All I Read: TELL ME I'M HOME by Emily Carrington


Emily Carrington


Two stories about achieving a home, both with a military theme.

BLUE TICKET concerns a young man traveling as far as his train ticket can take him, alone and broke in the middle of New York state after leaving the army, World War II.  He takes a room in a tiny hamlet with a African American man in exchange for work around the place.  Both learn they have something in common pretty quickly, a blue ticket, that is, a dishonorable discharge from the army for homosexual acts.  The two men find love and loyalty in a hostile environment.

In ADESTE FIDELIS it is now and thanks to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a gay officer has his husband  living with him on base.  The "wife" receives the traditional invitation to the officer's wives club to talk about   planning a holiday gathering.  After some tense moments figuring out how he will be taken by the other "wives" and some issues with his husband over his style of decorating, the men find acceptance among their base-mates.

Both stories are well told and hart-warming.  They portray complex relationships, between the men and with others, intelligently.  They are just "different" enough to add that extra compelling tone to the jaded reader.


That's All I Read: THE OSMOTICS by Dycen Alexander

That's All I Read: THE OSMOTICS by Dycen Alexander:


It's 2114 and a group of humans has evolved for their own protection and environmental concerns so that they have gills and can live underwater.  Kevern is an Osmotic who just wants to be a normal young man.  He chooses to travel across the country from Acadia, the Osmotic colony in the New England area, to California.  His journey leads to sexual encounters as well as strange and challenging interpersonal contacts that prove to threaten his life when he has arrived on the Pacific Coast.  Will Kevern come to accept his nature as an Ossmotic and will he even survive?

This is a well thought through story taking Kevern through a life's journey and introducing him to himself and to others who challenge who he is.  The train journey is a clever means to show this.  That Kevern is small and not as far along as an Osmotic gives him credibility as someone who wants out, but he has the sense to maintain an open enough mind to see the good and bad in all persons and to reject what does not make sense.

The author describes a believable future with only one or two unlikely changes, allowing the reader to relax and imagine his own role in it.  There is a great deal to consider ere with the psychologies of all concerned, Kevern's parents, the local townies, the West Coast Osmotics and the group that wants to destroy them all... well worth the read.


Gay Boys - Abstract by Jade