James Lear and The Hardest Thing

Earlier this summer I came across the chance to read James Lear’s fascinating novel The Hardest Thing (Cleis Press) about Dan Stagg, a tough ex-Marine who ran into Don’t Ask Don’t Tell when his lover died in action. Dan’s tears told and he was dismissed, left to pick up the pieces of his life as a civilian, taking jobs better left unquestioned. Paid a fortune to protect the young male secretary of a powerful real estate developer (said developer’s obvious boy toy), he found a young man he couldn’t say no to despite the danger that followed.

Ecstatic is an understatement when I found out James planned to stop by my humble blog and introduce himself to my readers, make everybody want to read his pages as much as I do. He wrote:

Like most novel readers, I spend a good deal of time speculating about the sex life of characters in fiction. In my favourite books, there’s a lot of sex going on between the lines – implied, desired or just something I’d quite like to see. That’s what got me started as an erotic novelist: I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s masterpiece Kidnapped, and couldn’t stop thinking about the sexual tension between David Balfour and Alan Breck. That resulted in The Low Road, my debut, which was a sexed-up reworking of Kidnapped. It was a success, and that got the ball rolling, so to speak.

Since then, every James Lear novel has taken one or two solid literary precedents and added a lot of gay sex to the mix. The Palace of Varieties was inspired by Du Maurier’s Trilby and Balzac’s Pere Goriot. The ‘Mitch Mitchell’ trilogy, which started with The Back Passage, is a homage to my beloved Agatha Christie: ‘cosy’ murder mysteries with a lot of cock and arse. My American Civil War epic Hot Valley was, of course, inspired by Cold Mountain. And that brings us to The Hardest Thing.

I wanted to write something with a contemporary setting – everything else has been period – but most contemporary fiction has about as much erotic potential as a dead haddock. Then I read the ‘Jack Reacher’ novels of Lee Child – great big ballsy macho thrillers in which butch men beat the shit out of each other and go a bit mushy over gutsy women. I had a hard-on nearly the whole way through, and like everyone else I wanted Jack Reacher to ravish my lilywhite body. So I invented Dan Stagg, an equally butch, equally violent version of Reacher who prefers men to women. I gave him the physical attributes of a guy I see at my gym (bald, strong, hairy) and set him off on an adventure in which he has to beat people up and fuck them in equal amounts. I think it’s a heady mixture.

I don’t imagine Lee Child – himself a sexy, butch baldie – will ever find out about my strange little homage to his work, but I do find it satisfying to know that you can create an incredibly masculine action hero with all the usual flaws and foibles and make him 100% homo. It would make a fabulous movie, if Jason Statham or Hugh Jackman fancies a change of direction.


Yeah people, this book is red hot, filled with lots of sex, action, and romance. If his words haven’t seduced you into buying, maybe this sample will.

I slept late on Monday morning, waking to feel the sun on my body. My mouth dry and my eyes full of crud, and the hopelessness of my situation weighed so heavy I could barely haul my ass out of bed. I sleep naked, with just a sheet to cover me; the AC in my apartment is an antique window-mounted unit that’s so noisy I prefer the heat. So I lay there for a while, watching the bars of sunlight moving across my legs and torso, and I thought about that little prick of a college football star and just what I’d do to him if he were here right now. Perhaps if I could come, I’d sleep again. I had nothing else to do with my day. No point in looking for a job. Recent experience, Mr. Stagg? Well, sir, just last Friday I nearly killed an innocent member of the public with my bare hands. Thank you and goodbye.

I’d just spat into my palm and was slicking up my dick — it felt good enough to take my mind off the bad stuff — when there was a knock on the door. A knock: an actual physical rapping of knuckles on wood, not a phone call, not a letter, but a personal caller. Two minutes later and I’d have answered the door with cum dripping off my hairy belly; as it was I wrapped a towel around my waist, maneuvered my cock into an unobtrusive two o’clock position, and opened the door a couple of inches.

“Who is it?”

“Dan Stagg?” A man’s voice, local accent.

“Who wants him?”

“Ferrari. Enrico Ferrari.”

I nearly said like the car? but thought better of it. “What do you want, Ferrari?”

“Got a proposition for you.”

“Yeah?” He was well dressed in a clean white shirt and charcoal grey pants, thick black hair combed into a perfect side parting. He looked like a movie star. I opened the door a little more.

“Can I come in?” His head tilted enough to see what I was (or wasn’t) wearing. “Or you wanna come out?”

“What kind of proposition?”

“A lucrative one.” Another inch. “Interested?”

“Come in.”


All hot and bothered yet? Let me spice it up even more. Free copy of The Hardest Thing to one lucky reader. Leave a comment below – send a thank you in honor of all our military heroes, male or female, straight or gay, tell the stories of the ones you know personally or just shout out the names of those in uniform that do us proud. I’ll pick a random winner next Wednesday, August 31, 2013. Good luck and happy reading!