Book Reviews (3)

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This month's selection included a variety of fiction - along with an art/photo volume from last month's wet-look dvd supplier, an anthology of Victorian erotic writing and a ground-breaking erotic memoir. Like the man says, 'You pays your money and you takes your choc-ice...'

The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker
Author: Suzanne Portnoy, Published by Virgin Books, 218 pages

This erotic memoir charts the progress of the authoress, Suzanne Portnoy, from bored, early-forties, overweight wife with no sex-life to, one might say, 'raving nympho' in quick and easy steps. As a memoir it's assumedly true, with just some names changed to protect the participants - and, given the often rather unflattering light in which it shows our heroine, I suspect it's not just true, but rather represents the tip of an iceberg... Since you're reading this magazine, you'll need no reminding how the internet has revolutionised swinging, and the memoir is a monument to internet accessibility. Anyone could sympathise with Suzanne's home life - husband so uninterested as to make her doubt her ability to attract anyone else - and she dips her toe in the water with a harmless 'pen-pal' relationship with a man in America. Months later, she is tempted across The Pond to meet 'Frank', to embark on a carefully concealed transatlantic liaison. Distance - and other reasons I won't go into here - doom the relationship to disaster, along with her marriage thereafter... but Suzanne had discovered the internet. Certainly, for a North-London dweller, the places where Suzanne meets her dates are resoundingly familiar - including her West End haunts, where, she confesses, she regularly turned up 'on spec', dressed to get laid. Footloose and divorced, she works on her image and figure, and uses her freedom as a company director to arrange lunchtime meets, visits to the Rio club, in-car trysts and encounters anywhere that's handy.

The prose is disarmingly frank. Having done the 'relationship thing', she's not after a boyfriend, but simply sex - and to her, size definitely matters - as does convenience. Determined not to waste her limited leisure time when her children were not with her, she advertises (on the Swinging Heaven website, actually) for 'Big Cock, London'. Among the numerous one-offs, a failed 'livein', and a couple of near relationships, she eventually finds her ideal swinging partner for parties, clubs and sex to order.

However, it's not all plain sailing. There's a down-side to all this sexual variety, including a visit to an STD clinic, where her frank confession as to recent numbers and frequency prompts the doctor to ask if she's 'working' ... then there's the concern of friends and the possible loss of respect among her staid Jewish circle. One girlfriend asks incredulously, 'How do you keep track of them all? I barely have time for one guy, let alone four.' To which our girl replies, 'Four guys is nothing, I have a diary. I slot them in.' And to all intents, she's dispensed with all the irritating nauls, hang-ups and anxieties of boyfriends - and has gratification to order. And the order was... 'Cock came first. Face and body were next, followed by brains and personality.' She found a pleasing honesty when first venturing on to the SH website: 'The focus was on sex. No pretence about wanting to find a lifelong partner, fall in love, live happily ever after.'

Unlike erotic fiction, where the author cranks up the sexual tension for all it's worth, Portnoy is explicit, gritty and unashamedly frank - no frills. One can be turned on by her encounters, and perhaps also feel 'I told you so', when she comes a cropper (yes, pun intended), but she sets out her journey and tells it straight.

The book's back-cover blurb says her tale is 'shocking and heart-warming in equal measure', but I'm not sure about either. Yes, it's a bit startling (one can only admire her bare-faced cheek), but 'heart-warming'... I don't think so. If she'd been any ordinary 'spare-time' swinger, the memoir would probably not have been worth writing - so we're invited to marvel at her single-minded pursuit of sex to gratify her voracious appetite. I don't think I warmed to her - but you decide for yourself.

One gets the picture of a self-seeking, greedy girl when, during one meeting with her regular 'big-cock London' partner he goes uncharacteristically limp on her. He owned to being tired, as she was his second meet of the day. Accepting that he serviced other women, she'd never for a moment thought that she wasn't his number one. She was deflated: 'Sure we were fuck-buddies, but I wanted to feel at least a little special. I didn't want to be Friday's number two.' This despite the fact that she herself could pack 'em in, back to back, so to speak.

No, I didn't warm to her, but I have to take my hat off to her...

I'd give it 7 out of 10 - it IS very readable...

Moving Pictures
Author: David Wilkey Published by Artscene Publications, 64 pages

In this issue of SHM we've reviewed a couple of latex-driven films from Artscene that include elements of wet-look and messy, although the emphasis is on latex. In Issue 2 of SHM we ran an article on wet-look. The pictures that accompanied that piece were supplied courtesy of David Wilkey. And after studying this title, first published seventeen years ago, we realised that we really didn't do the man justice.

There is no doubt about David's passion for the wet and messy look as a sexually stimulating and arousing vision. It's a context in which water becomes the carrier of desire - embracing, enveloping, holding and complimenting the beauty of the woman beneath the clothes.

What Moving Pictures offers is pure eroticism. This is not modern porn but more akin to the images of Victoriana - you know what's going on beneath, and you don't have to have it thrust in your face. This book is not simply about photographs of attractive young women getting wet - although there are plenty of those and very stimulating they are, indeed.

It is about David's artistic talent. There are reproductions of seven paintings - oil on canvas 4 x 3 feet - painted from the original photographs that he shot. To some people's minds, this might not be 'great art', as the paintings too closely mirror the original images - but if you look closely, you will see how the artist has captured that little something special that was missing in a mere photo. I draw your attention, especially, to page 50 - 'Liz and Maree at Bournemouth'.

Certainly this is a book about sex, but it is also a book about eroticism and the artistic beauty of the wet female form. I venture that it could become a collector's item one day in the distant future.

I give it 7 out of 10 - in a hundred years time someone will give it 9+!

Still available from

Wife Swap
Author: Amber Leigh Published by Nexus Enthusiast, 239 pages

The subtitle of this novel is 'An Epic Journey through the Swinging Scene' - and if by 'epic' one means packed with 'adventure' and with a cast of thousands (well, quite a lot of people), it may indeed be appropriate. It's certainly a journey - an initiation for a couple of would-be swingers, Anne and Mark, who meet their next-door neighbours, and are caringly 'broken in'. Their sponsors, Lisa and Johnny, are old hands on the swinging scene - parties, dates, clubs - and after their first tentative forays, Anne and Mark get their sea-legs, so to speak. The four cautiously establish an unusual relationship that's more than a frank and exciting sexual dalliance - it's more a perfect foursome based on friendship.

That's one thread to the story, but the plot - for there is one - involves some other interesting cameos. There's Johnny's frankly nympho secretary to whom he poses the 'convert to pussy' challenge; the dastardly and jealous party hostess, Becky, with her self-effacing submissive acolyte, Tara, and her even less consequential husband (whose name escapes me!) - along with venue rental man who wants in on the party.

Our 'goodies' (Lisa, Johnny, Anne and Mark) present an unconventional quartet - but as the author is at pains to point out, their relationships are rock solid, and there's always the reassurance that no-one does anything they're not comfortable with. (Believe me, there's very little semblance of hesitancy once things get going - it's pretty much no-holds-barred.) They're responsible swingers - devoted to each other while finding their relationships enhanced by the variety and excitement - and when they all unite to rescue the major swingers' party that Lisa is to host, there's a sense of jolly team spirit. I could imagine an Enid Blyton classic, 'Four Go Swinging in the Suburbs'... 'The Famous Four Rescue the Party'. The baddies had better watch out...

Seriously, though, there's plenty of action with some imaginative and titillating scenarios, described in detail but without resort to using coarser vocabulary. It's good, horny fun for our friendly foursome - they're sensitive, clever, loyal, resourceful, and they look after each other... I wouldn't be surprised if a sequel came out - 'Four Go Swinging in Florida'... a holiday foray with a new cast of American extras. The possibilities are endless...

I'd give it 6 out of 10

With thanks to LoveHoney -

Spank Me
Edited by: Cathryn Cooper Published by Accent Press Ltd, (Xcite Books), 195 pages

Like the previously reviewed Five Minute Fantasies volume, this 20-story collection covers a wide range of different 'encounters', but as its title suggests, there is an underlying theme of discipline and punishment. Having said that, though, the situations and time-settings vary widely, giving a pleasing sense of contrast. So if, rather than open at random for a spot of spicy entertainment, you choose to read straight through, there's plenty of distinction between the stories.

The different authors explore widely varying relationships: servant-master, landladytenant, married couple, teacher-pupil, shopper-client... and more - with some biaction, voyeurism and exhibitionism mingled in among the expected dominant-submissive interaction. These collections appear to be targeted predominantly at female readers - which may account for there being no gay contribution - but otherwise I'd say there was something for everyone here. I noted with interest that one of the stories was written by the editor - and she demonstrates her appreciation of the genre with a skilfully-unfolded and thoughtprovoking tale - but I'll go no further at the risk of spoiling the story...

Spank Me is accompanied by two other titles - Whip Me and Tie Me Up, and if you enjoy these collections, Xcite Books offer a subscription deal whereby a new twentystory volume will land on your doormat every month - check out the deal (which includes three free titles over the course of a year) on the website - details below.

A really good and varied selection - 8 out of 10

With thanks to:

The Collector's Edition of Victorian Erotica
Compiled by: Dr Major LaCaritilie Published in the US by Magic Carpet Books, Distributed in the UK by Turnaround Books, 608 pages

As the introduction explains, this collection embraces not just fiction and poetry, but also 'dramas, sex guides and books of perversion'. This, according to the compiler, only claims to scrape the surface of the underground culture of Victorian erotica. In keeping with the convention, all thirty-four contributions are anonymous. This is probably appropriate - some of what passed for erotic in Victorian times would make PC pundits of the 21st century very hot under the collar ... and that in a distinctly non-sexual way.

However, back to the 19th century. On the surface was the veneer of the straightlaced, bourgeois mores of Victorian society - and beneath there bubbled an erotic subculture which both titillated and shocked the Victorians themselves. (Let's remember that these were people who, out of deference for their bereaved monarch, embraced a convention of draping the legs of their grand pianos in fabric - to dress these overtly suggestive wooden limbs in some sort of modesty befitting a nation in mourning. One can only speculate as to what erotic stirrings piano legs might provoke...)

Flouting this starchy moral convention, sadomasochism and flagellation are recurring themes, but if this collection is representative of the ethos, there were unusual standards of feminine attraction at work.Voluptuousness and well-rounded curves one can readily understand - but excessive hairiness tends to be a quality most of us go to some lengths to avoid. The 'tribadic' pairings (and threesomes, foursomes, etc) are not represented as lesbianism, but rather as enthusiastic appreciation of and indulgence in other women's bodies. Groups of girls, with or without a single man, are common scenarios - even mother/daughter pairings, often with one 'procuring' or luring the uninitiated into the delights of their own bi-sexuality.

Master/servant themes also recur, with a robust smattering of voyeurism, spanking, restraint, humiliation and deflowering of virgins - however, it's notable in the latter case that even the most religious and modest of ex-virgins emerge pink-cheeked and grateful, no matter how reluctant their original submission. In one tale, the principal of a ladies' college supplies a virgin student as a 'secretary', who is instructed by her master in 'obedience', and eventually unburdened of her maidenhood - as she, as procuress, and several paying spectators watch the spectacle concealed behind a twoway mirror.

In modern erotic/pornographic literature there's an accustomed vocabulary to portray sex graphically in all its forms - and these Victorian writings are the same - but the glossary is quite different.Words long out of fashion - 'coynte', 'cunny', 'bubbies', 'quim', 'tribadic', and, most spectacularly, the unwieldy 'gamahuche' (not in the current Chambers, but obvious in meaning through context) appear throughout. To one accustomed to the modern erotic terminology, these can seem rather quaint, but are an essential element of the Victorian erotic ethos, which also extends to include the ribald, satiric and even the comedic, as the protagonists cavort and copulate. Sex outside the conventional bounds of marriage wasn't so much furtive and illicit as essential recreation ... and why not, eh?

There are widely ranging settings - Paris, Ancient Rome, girls' schools/convents - and there are dominating women, rampant and rapacious men exercising their droit de seigneur over their servants, girls in groups - and the one impression left by all this enthusiastic rumpy-pumpy is that the leisured Victorians spent one hell of a lot more time that we can spare today in indulging their lusts and peccadillos and acting out their fantasies.

A fascinating insight into the underground culture of a bygone age with some unusual (and some quite unpleasant!) tales - an interesting 'dip-in-and-out' read.

I'd give 6 out of 10 - quite a specialist read!