The original impetus for entering Boystown was the press release announcing the introduction of a transgendered character into the sixth book or, as Boystown calls it, "Season Six." My plan was to skim Boystown Season One and then skip ahead to Boystown Season Six to glean the newsworthy bits. The best laid plans . . .
The Boystown series began as monthly episodes released online, each ending in a cliffhanger. Author Jake Biondi cites Charles Dickens as inspiration but, owning a marketing as well as a literature degree, he freely admits that Dynasty, Knots Landing, Dallas and Revenge were/are influences. Not knowing either of those tidbits when diving into Boystown Season One, I came up with my own theory of influences: Boystown is like the unholy love child of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and Passions.
Tales of the City was a life-changing series of novels for me and, I suspect, many who read them close to the time they were published. The plots were intricate, unabashedly romantic and human, but the Tales were also unapologetically gay (and featured, to my knowledge, the first trans character who was defined by her personality and heart instead of shock value). For the first time, in my experience, I was reading about my life and my issues affecting characters in a very specific milieu that made them universal. Gay, and more importantly gay sex, were just a fact of life, a given, and the Tales were tales that reflected that.
The characters in Boystown are even less concerned with gay as a source of angst or agony. Their problems are all of the romantic - with the occasional murder, blackmail, act of revenge, etc thrown in - variety. Love rules in Boystown. Characters switch partners at a dizzying rate, but each time it is true love, true love with that traditional trope of marriage as the reward (rings, engagement and wedding, are a constant as plot devices and a thematic overlay). The exchanging of hearts is made easier by the vague differentiation between the characters: there is not a lot of descriptive help - one character is defined by the fact that he appears to be the only one with a sprinkling of chest hair - and I frequently found myself flipping back trying to remember just who someone was.
All the characters are originally defined by their initial relationships and then are re-defined in terms of the next, and the one after that, relationship. A proportion of the characters are stated to be black, but like homophobia, job insecurity and weight gain other than muscle, race does not appear to be an issue or of any concern. But does that matter when the characters are mainly beauties to be moved about on the page and set into mortal peril for our amusement?
A good soap opera, and I still give Passions the top prize for its supernatural and camp elements, is about power, family and the ecstasy of true love and great sex. The plots are crazily convoluted and the cliffhangers are constant, as teasingly blatant as a slot machine. Twins, previously unknown bastard children, adultery, misunderstandings, party planning, dark secrets and sordid revelations are all standard plot devices. Boystown has all of them. On steroids. When the vaguely mafioso family - rich and powerful vineyard owners with handsome oversexed twin brothers and a seething need for revenge for a past sexual indiscretion - first appeared, I laughed out loud. But I laughed with sheer glee.
I didn't skim Boystown Season One, I read it all the way through. And instead of skipping to Boystown Season Six, I immediately started Boystown Season Two. I had to find out who lived and who died in the shootout after the kidnapping and rapes.
That is a recommendation.
Given three days on a beach and I would be clamouring for Boystown Season Seven.
The marketing of the Boystown series is as clever as the ever expanding plotlines which frequently achieve the level of farce with near misses and barely avoided collisions a constant. Biondi has teamed up with photographer James Franklin to create covers featuring air-brushed near-naked gay porn stars. They are undeniably eye-catching and enticing. But, like porn stars, Boystown is unrealistic. All of the characters are good-looking with chests that are either hard, muscular or tight. They all appear to be versatile, masculine, well hung and cum explosively after a few thrusts. The sex scenes, one every few pages, are a little rote and when there is a novel twist - a domination scene involving condom juggling is very memorable - it stands out. Like the cover models, the sex in Boystown is hard core-lite, titillating but too stylized to inspire jerking off.
I don't for a minute think that Biondi is trying to reflect reality or plumb the depths of the human, or the gay, condition. Dickens wasn't writing literature, he was too busy making a living and being as entertaining as possible. Value judgments will have to be left for scholars in the future. Call me shallow but sometimes a little fantasy - Chicago should give Biondi, the tourist board must love him, a medal for his depiction of the city's famed Boystown - is a good thing. And it is certainly a highly entertaining and addictive one.
The six seasons of Boystown are available in multiple formats (digital downloads, audio, print) and editions. And there are plans for a TV series. I hope it happens. And I hope they cast gay porn stars because, like Passions, it is going to be more important how they look with their shirts off and in high emotional states, than if they have any subtly or range. Nothing is more fascinating to watch than a porn star acting (though porn stars fucking does have its own appeal), unless it is reading the adventures of an idealized gay world, a Boystown, that we all dream of being a part of.