Tue. October 3, 2006 12:00 AM
by Chad Sosna

Book: Hard
Author: Wayne Hoffman
Review: 2 stars (out of 5)
Hard to get excited about

While not bad, if you're looking for a gay novel that has a refreshing theme or unusual characters, this isn't it. It is presented as a book about gay life in the late 1990s, but it sounds more like contemporary than a look back at a particular slice of time.

This is the story of Moe Pearlman, who loves finding men online for hookups, and initially the book is about his political battles with others in the gay community regarding safe sex prevention vs. responsible freedom. Later in the book, however, as Moe gets a newspaper job, the politics fade away.

Moe is entwined with his long-time friend (and ex) Gene Macintosh, whose concerns center primarily (and uninterestingly) on his travel agency job and finding a new man. There's Aaron, a massage therapist, whose relationship with Kevin, a young photog who turns out to be a hustler, is fairly watery. Frank DeSoto is supposed to be the antagonist to Moe, but his constantly-fueled anger at his own gay community and his witch-hunt newspaper antics don't seem authentic. There's Max, a hot guy Moe meets and falls in love with; Dustin, a guy who falls for Gene; Carolyn, Moe's co-worker, and on and on.

Some of these characters only seem to move the story forward mechanically. Fewer characters with more distinct personalities and events would have given this story a lot more punch. These characters seem to thrive only on sex, finding romance, and enjoying Chelsea and Provincetown. Jobs and any other interests pretty much take a backseat, though health is an issue that rises from time to time.

If you're looking to read something erotic, however, this book will suit, because sex oozes from almost every page. Moe is known for his oral skills, and there is plenty of that along with acts of all types throughout the book.

Author Wayne Hoffman has written for prestigious publications, and Carroll & Graf is a wonderful publisher, so perhaps in my expectations I raised the bar a little higher than normal. As I see it, this book is just another easy-reading, steamy gay romance novel.