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Out of print for years this historical wartime romance a precursor to the gay romance genre is finally coming back via Cheyenne Publishing HEROES IN HELLCATS Jack Hardigan's Hellcat fighter suadron blew. Written in 1979 this novel stands alone in the mm genre Written before such low expectations have become the norm Wingmen soars above 99% of what is out there today I d give it 10 stars if I could By contrast it shows how far writing has sunk from the days when books were actually edited and screened before being published This can hold its own with the best of Naval Air Battle booksWingmen is not a true mm romance by today s standards It is mostly a WWII story taking place in the battles of Tarawa Kwajalein and Truk And yet it is a seriously engaging story of two men who find each other and fall deeply in love the old fashioned way They earn it There is a tremendous amount of detail You feel like you are actually in the planes with the pilots and can smell the hot oil deep in the guts of an aircraft carrier The energy and testosterone are palpable The knowledge of the author is obviously first hand On the mm side of the euation this is far of a growing to love story than just a romance Trusteau is the young ensign who is assigned to the older and far experienced Hardigan who has never even considered his lack of interest in women as anything other than simple disinterest Trusteau on the other hand is aware of his gayness but because of the time period is at first unable to define it The story progresses on multiple fronts Trusty becomes the epitome of the Greatest Generation courageous humble and true to his country Skipper is the true leader strong wise and willing and able to do whatever it takes to get the job done Both have the honor code of Navy pilots to uphold both in the air in bed However as their relationship develops from respect to admiration to fatherson to brothers to hidden lovers the tension grows ever stronger Trusty at times is the lovable puppy dog who worships at the feet of the Skipper Hardigan is big and strong and fearlesson the surfacewhile carrying deep inside the realities of death and lossThis is a character driven story yet is mostly action It is a love story yet filled with restraint There are only two intimate scenes in the entire book and both are generally only alluded to yet the love and respect burn to the soulMy only complaint which also has been indicated in other reviews is that the ending falls terribly flat It s as though the author felt compelled to tie up the loose strings at the end Life is a continuum There are always loose strings Often it is best to set a story end naturally and it does at the second to the last chapter If you read this book my suggestion is this Skip the last two chapters view spoilerThe story ends with a bitter sweet ending Trusteau and Hardigan live and love for many years to come We never read of a long romance or have a chance to experience any of the details of that love We just know they did Just leave it at that hide spoiler

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Wingmen By Ensan Case

Loves Jack Hardigan and Trusteau cut a fiery swath through the skies from Wake Island to Tarawa to Truk there to keep a fateful rendezvous with love and death in the blood clouded waters of the Pacifi. If you consider the time this novel first was out 1979 and the period it refers to II World War Wingmen is a daring novel since it allows to its heroes an happily for now ending something that was seldom read at the time Novels with gay themes had sometime made their appearance in the past but most often than not the heroes were not allowed to be able to enjoy their love Even in most notorious novels like Gaywick another release from Avon Books of the 70s the happily ever after was not a 100% one and not all the gay characters had itHaving read From Here to Eternity I can recognize the similar theme but in that novel there was a subtle shame for being gay and those characters who consciously admitted they were gays were seen like weak and needing men beginning sex in exchange of money Love seemed not part of the euation and that is the main difference in Wingmen true there is sex between Jack and Fred even if remember this is the 1979 and set between 1940s and 1960s so nothing is overtly on your face but there is above all love It s a great love story and both Jack than Fred are able to admit they are in love that is not only basic physical desires attracting each otherWingmen is also a good was novel with plenty of details on the war and war setting it s strange because I have always thought to Avon like a romance publisher but that is probably the evolution they had from the 70 on starting to publish the notorious Savage Romance novels Instead Wingmen is as much a man novel as it s a romance able to mix the two elements in a perfect combinationAnd if someone is wondering on the real possibility of such story happening I strongly suggest to read Coming Out Under Fire by Allan Berube re released in 2010 in a 20th Anniversary edition many of the stories in that essay are a replica of what happened between Jack and Fred in the novel and many like Jack and Fred came back from that war changed in many ways and trying to reconnect with a world that was no theirs Some of them managed to be happy forever some of them for a brief period but at least they tried at least they had the courage to fight for their love like they fought for their countryhttpwwwdp1937692086

Ensan Case ´ 8 DOWNLOAD

The Japanese Zekes out of the blazing Pacific skies But a subtle kind of hell was brewing in his feelings for rookie pilot Fred Trusteau As another wingman watches and waits for the beautiful woman who. Now and then among the run of the mill potboilers and bodice rippers in the local used bookstore you come across one so exceptional you wonder why it wasn t released as serious literary fictionEnsan Case s Wingmen is that kind of bookFull disclosure I had an email exchange with Mr Case a few years ago mostly regarding our shared military background he was very gracious Aside from that I have no personal or professionalfinancial interest other than to see a damn good writer get his dueIt has a fascinating back story Case a Navy officer of the late Vietnam era was inspired by a 1960s war novel The Last Tallyho by the then popular Richard Newhafer Provoked by the offensive portrayal of a homosexual pilot as an utter failure in all things manly except his inevitable suicide he set out to write a rebuttal a Hemingway esue wartime romance but one subverted by the casting of two men as romantic leads Unable to find a niche amid the postmodernist satirical war novels or the straightforward actionadventure successors of Newhafer or the angsty coming out tales at Alyson premier gay interest publisher of the era Wingmen fell between the chairs It landed at Avon Books purveyor of tame romances published in 1979 and promptly disappearedOver 30 years later the author did a random Google search and found his forgotten youthful effort was enjoying a long half life on the interwebs as an elusive collectors item He secured the publishing rights from Avon and Wingmen was reissued by Cheyenne Press in the spring of 2012 nearly fifteen years after Brokeback Mountain ran in the New YorkerThe times had finally caught up with Ensan Case though ironically he s bound to be compared to Annie Proulx and not vice versa especially as there are parallels that suggest that her seminal tale has some DNA from Wingmen in its ancestry Aside from the American Archetypal characters and setting far from the gay subculture and a hero named Jack there s also a postmortem revelation of the depth of one lover s devotion to the other easily the eual of Ennis del Mar s discovery of the shirts in terms of its impact However this is not Brokeback Aircraft Carrier Much of the power of that short story and film came from its rare realistic unromanticized depiction of rural poor white men Though they meet 20 years before Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar Case s naval officers have far options in life than the star crossed ranch hands no wives or children but there is a love triangle of sorts which shadows the men s future Which is to say they have one not the unalloyed HEA some of the readers seem to want but not the forgone bleak conclusion to which Proulx brings her charactersBoth authors set out with thematically different goals Proulx is succinct that Brokeback is about destructive rural homophobia Case is eually clear that Wingmen is a simple love story As such he had the greater task because it s almost the hardest kind of story to tell many a writer has set his prow at the shores of profundity only to wreck on the shoals of corn porn or worse unintentional comedy Case succeeds by employing a spare plainspoken voice free of belletristic flourishes or trendy literary devices Maybe because the premise was radical for the time Case took the safe path of focusing on a handful of lives set against the mammoth apparatus of war It s been done many times Saving Private Ryan et al but seldom are fictional characters woven so seamlessly into history that never feels like history to the men who are making itIn Pearl Harbor in the summer of 1943 Ensign Fred Trusteau reports to Fighter Group VF 20 aboard the fictional USS Constitution under LCDR Jack Hardigan Two dozen or so young aviators are thrown together and learn or not how to be a unit Case deftly captures the peculiar rhythms of shipboard life euipment problems managerial clashes training snafus boredom bickering cameraderie and then abruptly combat and the randomness of deathThe aerial combat seuences are among the best I ve ever read edge of the seat cinematic The characters are vivid without the author trying too hard to make them colorful the officious Air Group Commander hellraising LT Brogan an uptight deck officer a grizzled crew chief the division yeoman even Admiral Nimitz in a cameo there s not a cardboard one in the bunch and all of it related with believable dialog and great military humor I suspect Case kept notes while he was on active duty Fred s drunken night on the town with Brogan and the wardroom etiuette briefing are classics and to this day I have a hard time keeping a straight face when I meet anyone named Sweeney I want to make note of his female characters this is very much a men s story in which women are peripheral with one exception Eleanor Hawkins widow of a pilot killed at Midway lately enad of Jack pursuing him with a lusty confidence just this side of brazen Yet the portrait never stoops to Sadie Hawkins caricature or moralizing Other women only briefly appear but all receive the same nuanced handling Case also manages to impart a lot of historical and technical information without it seeming nakedly expository or spinachy As he tells the story of VF 20 he also tells the larger story of stepping stones across the Pacific and the defeat of the Imperial Navy It s a high wire act sweeping and focused intimate and epic and at its heart are three men Fred Trusteau is 21 adopted son of a San Jose storekeeper a college student when war broke out Jack Hardigan is about 30 the son of a Maine banker a career Navy officer veteran of Guadalcanal and Midway Neither man fits the gay lit trope of hero as alienated sensitive misfit They are conventional products of their time and place small town Depression era America Both date women from expectation than enthusiasm both are baffled by their shipmates boundless energy for female pursuit Both are well liked and respected by their peers but harbor an internal sense of apartness which is not expressed in their interactions with the other pilots Fred puts it down to his intelligence and orphan status the insecurity of one who s always been an outsider to some degreeJack s sexuality is not so much repressed as sublimated working in an all male environment a bachelor married to his job His life has heretofore clicked alongon hidden paths doing what s expected from a man of his background but the experience at Midway of death on a monumental scale created a schism with his previously unintrospective existence He realizes how lonely he s been and finds himself craving human connection uncoincidentally he s new to command and at an age where his confreres are pairing off and starting families The apartness is something they seem to subconsciously sense about each other behold the power of gaydar in other words and they gravitate to each other seeking each other out despite differences in age and rank and soon become close friends Impressed by Fred s professionalism Jack selects him as his wingman an office the younger man discharges with Theban Band like fidelity Both men are charmingly clueless about their friendship though the self possessed Fred is a giddy schoolboy in his skipper s presence and the dashing Jack never seems to miss a chance to ruffle the young man s hair or drape a comradely arm around his shoulders The light bulb comes on sooner for Fred privately with no real hope of reciprocity expressed outwardly in a puppy like anxiousness to please Not till Fred is almost shot down in the first combat action does Jack realize the real nature of his feelings which disturbs him and he reacts by avoiding Fred causing the other man anguish It takes a second near loss to jar him out of his denial and allow the relationship to progress to its consummation but he can t call the thing by its name knows instinctively if you name it you claim it and it in those days presents as great a threat as the enemy if the other pilots got wind of the relationship They re oblivious except for one Duane Higgins Jack s wingman circa 1941 till they were separated after Guadalcanal now serves as the executive officer of VF 20 but the two former best friends no longer share the same closeness to Duane s confusion and hurt The Last Tallyho depicted its fighting men in a dichotomy of 110 percent heterosexual heroes or cowardly deviants In reality situational homosexuality has always been part of single sex environments and Case addresses this obliuely through a character who falls in the hard to pin down gray area There s little background on Duane beyond his working class Catholic upbringing but he s complex in many ways than Fred or Jack He carefully cultivates the image of a boozing skirt chasing gambler yet he s thin skinned with a puritanical streak His interest in women seems genuine but he often has to make an effort not to be put off or even repelled by them Ironically Duane pings gayer than Jack or Fred to whom he takes an early dislike and whom he jealously senses has replaced him The relationship between the skipper and his wingman unfolds through the lens of Duane s covert and increasingly hostile scrutiny His fixation comes to mirror that of a stalking jilted ex lover literally listening at doors He romances Eleanor Hawkins initially to discover the nature of her relationship with Jack then falls for her himself though the fact that she was previously Jack s is an undeniable component of his attraction The snooping campaign comes to a head in a showdown with Jack and a loss of situational awareness at a critical moment the repercussions of which echo through the lives of all three men long after they part ways MAJOR SPOILERS FROM HERE ONOver 35 years later Wingmen has traveled better than most of its contemporaries many of which are extremely dated or read like cultural curios Social change and the fluidity of electronic media have enabled it to reach a new audience reception has been almost universally positive if the 5 star reviews here and around the web are any indicator What criticism there is seems to reflect current tastes rather than literary merit I mention this because most of it concerns three aspects of the book the lack of an uneuivocally happy ending the absence of explicit sex between the two main characters and the inclusion of the Scrapbook sectionIf the subject matter were anything else I would dismiss the objections as irrelevant to its artistic validity but a tragic end for gay characters was de rigueur until uite recently and on the surface Wingmen would appear to be another link in a long dreary conga line bringing up the rear behind The Children s Hour Reflections in a Golden Eye The Sergeant et depressing cetera But in the above examples the implication is that nothing but death or eternal solitude is possible for such warped pitiful creatures That s a far cry from a man dying of a heart attack to which he may have been genetically predisposed after 25 plus years of marriage in all but name Those years spanned a singularly oppressive period for gay people read Richard Brooks The Brick Foxhole for some insight into what they were up against Case couldn t not address it not without propelling the story into the realm of science fiction or fanfiction Case grounded his story in reality not make believe the reality of two men trying to make a life together in a society both antagonistic and increasingly perceptive In 1946 two war buddies batching it while they built a business wouldn t have raised any eyebrows By 1969 a pair of middle aged never married men living together for over two decades would have looked like exactly what it was Toward the end at least some people would have known or speculated about them The precariousness of their position would only have grown with time as would their awareness of the same Fred wasn t about to tell Higgins what it was really like for Jack the ever growing paranoia Jack s fear that he and Fred would be found out ridiculed cast out The creeping mental confusion brought about by the continual battle between his love for Fred and the knowledge of the danger that that love represented and how in the last years that confusion had reduced Jack s sharpness and wit and decision making abilities to a constant state of apprehension always looking over the shoulder to make sure he wasn t followed Fred suddenly realized that in all their years together they had never taken a vacation with one another Wingmen is not expressly political but there is a blistering indictment of the corrosive effect of homophobia in that one paragraph than in the entire collected works of Larry KramerIt s a bitter end after 400 pages but there was a lot of sweetness too They got a happier ending than most considering Hemingway wrote that all love stories end tragically someone has to go first I would add that the great love stories also tend to be the sad ones because conflict is the essence of drama Wingmen would still have worked if Case had left Jack and Fred as contented retirees on a golf course in Palm Springs That s a nice parting image but one with the false note of a wish fulfillment fantasy Instead he took the unflinching route of leaving Fred alone watching the sun sink into the Pacific THAT image is devastating but it s also one that will resonate with the reader for a long timeThat bitter last image might be palatable to some readers if they hadn t had to use their imaginations uite so much to envision the sweet which brings me to criticism 2 the sketchy presentation of sexual intimacy between Jack and Fred especially when heterosexual relations are rendered comprehensively and fairly graphically My writer s instinct suggests that the first encounter between the men would have been framed as a mirror of the opening scene between Fred and his date but this time with feeling intense emphatically different feeling I have no idea if Case wrote it and it was cut so as not to offend 1970s readers or if it was never included to begin with Modern readers who object to its omission on the grounds of double standards are missing two points in the 1979 publishing world there absolutely WERE double standards governing that sort of thing and it s a lot easier to write about bad sex than good sex Case may have been stymied like many writers before by the limitations of language to convey what can be the most transcendent of human experiences Rather than aiming for the stars and hitting the garage door he may have opted to let the readers to fill in the blanks and in another sense the characters as wellThough told from a third person omniscient POV Wingmen is Fred s story Events are related from Jack s perspective but time is spent in Fred s head much of which is consumed by brooding on Jack s feelings for him As such we experience the development of those feelings at a remove like Fred himself does To have the moment where uestioning becomes certainty occur offstage and literally cut to a shot of blowing curtains could be viewed as weakening the narrative but by leaving it offstage Case allows an element of UNcertainty to serve a poignant function For this is a relationship in which a great deal is left unsaid Jack s resistance to acknowledging the nature of his attachment their jocular pillow talk the heartbreaking innocuousness of their letters it s plausible the word love was never spoken between them and that that early uncertainty might always have sown doubt in Fred as to the mutuality of Jack s feelings foreshadowing the epilogue Objections to the inclusion of the epilogue criticism 3 center on the rescue of the two pilots after the battle of Truk as the emotional peak of the novel and ergo the logical endpoint beyond which anything else is an anticlimactic wrapping up of loose ends I suspect the real reason is that they wished Case had left Jack and Fred on the sub so they could imagine a gauzy happy ever after but many if not most gay men in postwar America didn t get a happy ever after Leaving them picked up from the seas off Truk opens the door to a vision of a far less happy future of closets and cover marriagesScrapbook is where we learn their love endured the chance taken lasting union Between the lines of letters and newspaper clippings is the chronicle of their emotional reunion in Pearl the blissful early years together the successful business the house Jack s book the milestones of a life that was in the balance far sweeter than it was bitter But there also is the chronicle of the encroaching threat of postwar social attitudes and the slow erosion of the haven they created and the reentry of Duane at the point where the events for which he was largely the catalyst come full circle at Jack s funeralWhat happened after Jack s post Truk return to the Constitution is left unsaid but there can be little doubt especially after the fiasco at Kwajalein Jack would ever have believed Duane s leaving him and Fred alone to face the Japanese at Truk was an accident and this was the definitive end of their friendship For years he s been a few hours away in Santa Barbara but only after Jack s death does he approach Fred in the penultimate scene of the novelA lesser writer would have made Duane a villain but Case allows some sympathy for this conflicted contradictory character who with no real malice did so much damage dread of exposure by Duane may have inhibited Jack at Truk when his decision to stay with Fred or leave him to his fate seemed to rest upon the absence of witnesses and haunted him long after the two men were rescued But through his monologue in the bar after the funeral when it never occurs to him to express condolences to Fred Duane blunders into a kind of redemption when with characteristic obtuseness and purely selfish motives he asks Fred at the lowest point in the other man s life to settle the uestion that has been nagging at him for a uarter of a century Jack left the target in aflyable aircraftdid he ditchbecause of you and inadvertently gives Fred a priceless gift the knowledge that Jack would have rather died with him than lived without him Duane gives Fred certainty at last of the depth of Jack s love for him but it s a gift with a sting in the tail because that s a conversation they will never get to have For you get the feeling that this was a very insular relationship and when Fred loses the man with whom he s spent most of his adult life his isolation is total The decisive tragedy of Wingmen isn t that Jack dies or that his death was probably hastened by the stress of negotiating between his public and closeted lives It s not even that Fred is left alone It s that after the life they built together after all they did and sacrificed to be together as far as the world is concerned their relationship never existed at allAnd ironically the only person who knows what Jack really meant to Fred is Duane HigginsWith no one to talk to he asks the silent uestion to himself Oh Jack did you really do that Why didn t you tell me But it s a uestion for which there can never be an answer Jack Hardigan now belongs to the pastThat s Ennis del Mar finding the shirts in Jack Twist s closetThat s Jack I swear That s why the Scrapbook isn t superfluous it s crucialThat s where Wingmen goes from being a good novel to being a great one


10 thoughts on “Wingmen By Ensan Case

  1. says:

    Written in 1979 this novel stands alone in the mm genre Written before such low expectations have become the norm Wingmen soars above 99% of what is out there today I'd give it 10 stars if I could By contrast it shows how far writing has sunk from the days when books were actually edited and screened before being published This can

  2. says:

    45 stars for the audiobook version of this book I haven't read all that many historical fiction books but the ones I tried were really good and this one is no exception I was provided a review code for this audiobook and listened to it while I was working on folding 17000 letters It's the kind of work you don't need to concentrate on and it would have been very boring were it not for this bookIt uickly sucked

  3. says:

    35 starsFirst thing's first this is NOT a romance so anyone reading this as a romance is going to be very disappointed This is a war story with some romantic elements but those elements make up a very small perce

  4. says:

    OMG this book was great Just awesome I loved every page of it and I suffered with Jack and Fred The precious moments between them were so sweet so touchingI also loved the history in this book and the detailed description of the maneuvers it was exciting and it reminded me of the cruelty of this horrible war I also felt sad and in the end I cried for both of them my feelings were mixedThis book is uniue

  5. says:

    Now and then among the run of the mill potboilers and bodice rippers in the local used bookstore you come across one so exceptional you wonder why it wasn’t released as serious literary fictionEnsan Case’s “Wingmen” is that kind of bookFull disclosure I had an email exchange with Mr Case a few years ago mostly re

  6. says:

    Nothing wrong with it Just realized that I can't do with just It's romance but not really type of book I need my good dose o

  7. says:

    Re read on 2019 I'm glad i revisited this book this weekend it was the kind of book i needed to just get by I was glued to the pages as if it were the first time i read it wanting so bad to know what happens next Godwish i had the three editions in paperbackOriginal review sums up what i like about the story view spoilerPS Duane H

  8. says:

    If you consider the time this novel first was out 1979 and the period it refers to II World War Wingmen is a darin

  9. says:

    Gerry B's Book Reviews may have noticed I have a passion for WWII vintage stories and have reviewed several in the past I like the era in general It was a time when the free world was drawn together by a war in two theatres and men

  10. says:

    I was very pleasantly surprised by Wingmen From the cover and the summary I was afraid I was wading into schlocky romance territory but the story had a lot of depth and I couldn't put it down I like a good slow burn and Fred and Jack's relationship does take a while to build but I was uickly hooked and soaking up every delicious detail and scene along the way The novel was just so very believable the relationship and t