Title: Better Angels
Author: Wayne Goodman
Release Date: June 4th 2017
Genre: Gay Fiction, Retelling, Historical
Joseph Asten, a handsome, 23-year-old farmer living in the Allegheny River Valley shortly after the Civil War, secretly longed for intimacy and love with other men. He devised a misguided plan to marry a woman who knew of his “dual nature” then his life took some unexpected, fateful turns.
Bayard Taylor’s Joseph and His Friend: A Pennsylvania Story is considered the first American Gay novel. Originally published in 1869 as a serial in The Atlantic, the author could not relate the story openly and had to use suggestive ways to describe his characters’ activities and motivations. In Better Angels, Goodman retells the tale frankly and candidly, free from antiquated 19th Century cultural restraints. This is the author’s second book revivifying forgotten, historically-significant Queer stories. Previously, in Vanya Says, “Go!,” Goodman updated the first Russian-language Gay novel Wings, by Silver-Age poet Mikhail Kuzmin.
Find Better Angels on Goodreads
Available on Kindle Unlimited
Praise for Better Angels:
“A lovely story, sumptuous in language and ideas with a rich ambience. For people who love a love story, it is thoroughly rewarding.” –Vincent Meis, author of Deluge
“Goodman has turned the pallid prose of travel writer Bayard Taylor into a scintillating trip through 19th Century America. Those who loved James Baldwin’s Another Country and Giovanni’s Room will ﬁnd something of value in Goodman’s latest triumph.” – Kevin Killian, author of Tony Greene Era
“Better Angels is a great read and a wonderful glimpse into a story of the 19th Century that has rarely been told. It writes queerness back into literary history, with an anti-racist spin.” – Dr. Ajuan Mance, author of Before Harlem
“A remarkable literary feat of resurrecting the first American gay novel. With meticulous prose and clever dialogue, Goodman offers a fascinating glimpse into love between American men in the 19th Century.” – Elizeya Quate, author of Face of Our Town
“Better Angels takes another obscure, early Gay novel and brings it back to life, updating language, amplifying the story, and presenting love between men and men, and women and women more directly than it could have been presented when the book was ﬁrst published. Goodman performs a historical service, giving readers a glimpse of Gay life lived 150 years ago.” –Richard May, author of Inhuman Beings
All at once, a new face, three or four seats from his own, attracted his eye. The stranger had shifted his position so that Joseph could see him full-on, rather than from behind. The man appeared to be a few years older than Joseph, but it might have been difficult to tell because he had dark, sable skin similar to the men working on the docks by the river. His eyes–deep green, like a polished jadestone–still shown bright with the charm of early manhood. Joseph observed his hands, which appeared graceful without being effeminate, as belonging to someone familiar with manual work, not those of the idle gentleman. Atop his head sat a squat, round-crowned, short-brimmed black hat covering his closely-cropped and oiled black hair. A mustache concealed his upper lip, but the lower one appeared firm and full.
Joseph sensed an immediate attraction to him, not just because of his moderate good looks, but because he sensed a more developed character and a richer past history expressed in those features than in any other face there. He felt sure–and smiled at himself for the impression–that at least some of his own doubts and difficulties had found their solution in this stranger’s nature. As a Colored person, he must have to deal with the fact of his being different every day, if not every minute. The more Joseph studied the face, the more he became conscious of its attraction. His instinct of reliance–though utterly without grounds–justified itself to his mind in some mysterious way.
It didn’t take long before the unknown felt Joseph’s gaze. He turned slowly in his seat and answered it. Joseph dropped his eyes in some confusion, but not until he had caught the other’s full, warm, intense expression. From that momentary flash, he fancied that he read what he had never before found in the eyes of strangers: a simple, human interest, above curiosity and above mistrust. One would usually reply to such a gaze with unconscious defiance, the unknown nature on its guard. However, the look which might convey, We are men, let us know each other! is, alas, too rare in this world.
Win a SIGNED copy of Better Angels and 2x ebook copies
About the Author
Wayne Goodman has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area most of his life (with too many cats). When not writing, he enjoys playing Gilded Age parlor music on the piano, with an emphasis on women, gay, and Black composers.
Links: Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Promotional post. Materials provided by