Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Haskell Himself by Gary Seigel

Title: Haskell Himself
Author: Gary Seigel
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Publication Date: January 19th 2020

Print Length: 289 pages
Genres: Historical, LGBTQ+, Young Adult

Meet Haskell Hodge. At sixteen he’s already garnered some fame as a former child actor and star of a popular cereal commercial. But that doesn’t do much for him when he’s dumped at his aunt’s house in the suburbs of Los Angeles to face an assortment of neighborhood bullies.

He thinks he might be gay. In fact, he could be the only gay person in the valley, maybe on the entire planet. Even if he does manage to find a boyfriend, their relationship would have to be secret and invisible.

After all it’s 1966. And though Time Magazine claims the sexual revolution is in full swing, the freedoms straight people are enjoying don’t seem to apply to everyone. And as much as Haskell attempts to hide his true self, carefully navigating the tricky and risky terrain of being queer, he’s still taunted and teased relentlessly.

Rather than give in to the irrationality of this hate, Haskell fights back, eventually finding an unlikely outlet to vent his frustration and angst—playing a bully in a screen test for a major motion picture. If he plays his cards right, it could catapult him into Hollywood stardom.

Of course, like most things in life, it comes with a heavy price Haskell’s not certain he’s willing to pay.

Haskell Spins the Bottle

Debra, who had been sitting in a circle with a dozen other students from class, stood and gave me a hug. “I’m so glad you came. You’re just in time. Let’s make room for Haskell.”

At first, no one moved, until finally Sheldon stood up, gave me his spot, and squeezed between Janice and Marcia.

“So, it’s time for the game,” Debra announced proudly. She placed an empty Coca-Cola bottle in the center. We would each have a turn at spinning the bottle and, whoever it pointed to, could either kiss the person or take a drink.

“We did this years ago!” someone complained.

“Come on, Debra. Think of something better!”

Debra raised the Coke bottle in one hand and a rare bottle of Scotch in the other. “We’ll give it a new twist,” she announced, waving the whisky above her head. I saw several kids raise an eyebrow, but it sounded quite exciting. I had never drunk Scotch before, and what better way to get your first kiss than as a bit of inebriated fun?

Soon it was my turn. I spun the bottle, and when it stopped spinning, it pointed directly at Debra. I knew what my choices were, and I boldly chose the kiss. I fell onto my knees and leaned toward the lovely, beautiful Debra with her long hair and sweet perfume. As I kissed her, she quickly pulled back, wiping my saliva off her lips and laughing.

“Oooo. That was so wet. It was like kissing bathroom tile.” Everyone joined in on the laughs, and I rolled my eyes and threw my hands in the air.

Sheldon, who was sitting on my left, whispered, “You’ll do better next time. Don’t worry about it.”

The next time came too quickly. Sally Adler, a girl in last semester’s English class, spun the bottle, and when it landed on me, she chose the kiss. I was quite flattered. This time I prepared myself, hoping my kiss would be more luscious than wet. I swallowed and dried my mouth with the palm of my hand.

“Oh, Haskell! Kissing you is as erotic as kissing a concrete slab.” Everyone got another big chuckle out of that one, too. Of course, she should brag. With the pimples all over her face, she was lucky I kissed her at all. I was so embarrassed. I walked out into the hallway, searching for the room with all the jackets, when someone grabbed my arm and pulled me into the bathroom. He locked the door and pushed me against the wall.

“Don’t say anything,” said the boy. He put his index finger over my lips. I could hardly breathe. I had no idea what would happen next. “I’m Tom, Debra’s brother.”

I had never met him before. I thought he attended film school in Los Angeles, where I was heading.

“That was awful what they said to you. It’s not your fault.”

We were standing inches apart. Our noses nearly touched. I glanced down at his freshly ironed shirt through which I could see his muscles. My heart was beating so fast, I thought it might fly out of my chest and roll around on the floor in delirious circles. All I could do was swallow a few times, I was so nervous.

“You just have to kiss the right sex, and you’ll be fine,” he said, leaning in and kissing me. Though his breath smelled of alcohol, we made out for ages. Okay, maybe only a minute, but it felt like hours, until someone wanting the bathroom knocked on the door and wouldn’t leave.

Tom told the intruder: “This house has six bathrooms, you moron.”

And before I knew it, he was pulling down my zipper. I immediately panicked and threw open the door. My friends were standing right there, staring at me. At my open zipper. Maybe at the bulge in my pants. Who knows? They saw Tom. They saw me. It doesn’t take an A in calculus to piece it together. They discovered a secret even I wasn’t quite sure existed.

Within minutes I found myself running out of the brownstone, heading toward my apartment building, tears streaming down my cheeks. Once I made it inside the lobby, instead of waiting for the elevator—it seemed stuck on the sixth floor—I took the stairs up all nine flights. Breathless, I unlocked the bolts on our front door, flew down the hallway and into my room, slamming the door behind me. Soon, I heard my mom’s door squeak open. She appeared wide-eyed, wearing fuzzy slippers and a pink housecoat. “You’re home so soon.
What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You sure? I’m all ears.”


I had vowed I’d keep my cool before Mom left. Obviously, I was violating my promise.

I lay in bed kicking my feet and hitting my head against the pillow, so frustrated by the humiliation. How could I ever face my friends again? But then I remembered—I may never have to because I was moving. What am I worrying about?

The next morning, I announced I was now glad we were leaving New York City, and I looked forward to living on the West Coast. “I can’t wait. The sooner we leave the better. California, here I come. Haskell Hodge Goes West!”

My mom shook her head as she buttered some toast. “Something really awful must have happened last night. Are you sure you won’t share?”

“I’m very sure! Now, drop it.”

It was not something I would ever share. I would bury that evening’s events deep inside my brain, sequestered from oxygen, hidden from view, and never unearth them. It would be like one of those time capsules, left untouched for fifty years, maybe longer, and I would be dead before my secret ever got divulged.

Gary Seigel was raised in Encino, California where his debut novel, Haskell Himself, takes place. After completing a PhD in English at Rutgers University, Gary taught at several colleges and universities, but his most memorable experience was a brief 12 week stint at the same high school he (and Haskell) graduated from, teaching side by side with some of the same teachers he once endured. Currently, Gary gives grammar and proofreading classes to business professionals eager to write error-free emails. He also has spent the past two decades helping employees control their inner jerk when texting or holding conversations with an impossible boss. His book The Mouth Trap: Strategies, Tips and Secrets for Keeping Your Feet out of Your Mouth, published in 2008, has been translated into over a dozen languages. He is the father of three sons and currently lives in South Pasadena with his partner.

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  1. Interesting synopsis and excerpt. This sounds like a very thought provoking book. Its not my normal type of book but I think by reading it would give insight to how others feel.

  2. Looking forward to Reading.

  3. Another new-to-me author. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. I like that the cover is kind of abstract. Congrats on the release.

  5. thanks for sharing, this sounds great

  6. I really love the cover! Thank you for sharing!

  7. I like the cover. It is very well done with great graphics

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

  8. Thank you for hosting this giveaway and introduction to your books Rosanne rosans4 comcast (dot) net

  9. This sounds like a great book. Love the intriguing cover.

  10. The book sounds interesting. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  11. This book sounds like it would be great for kids who think they are gay or want to know more about being gay.

  12. I'm old enough to remember how the attitudes were in that era. Thank goodness times have changed!

  13. Very interesting cover art. I think the readers of this genre and topic will find this a very intriguing read. Best wishes to the author on the novel.

  14. This sounds like a very interesting read

  15. Sounds like an awesome read!