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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling, but powerful debut.
If you're looking for a heart and flowers gay romance, you're barking up the wrong tree with "The King of Cats." If you want a well written, disquieting, ugly, beautiful life story, then Jimmy Strange is your man. Only, it won't be easy to get to know him. It will be a painful struggle, much like his life. He's charming, he's gifted, he's elusive. All part of the...
Published on October 3, 2007 by Jem

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a matter of taste
As an avid reader of gay-themed books, always complaining in my reviews about the lack of quality in most of the stuff I read, I was asked by the author to read and review this work.

Truth to be told, quality did I get, definitely, but I still do not deem myself satisfied.

The novel's structure, as already underlined by other reviewers, is peculiar:...
Published on November 27, 2011 by Furio


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling, but powerful debut., October 3, 2007
This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
If you're looking for a heart and flowers gay romance, you're barking up the wrong tree with "The King of Cats." If you want a well written, disquieting, ugly, beautiful life story, then Jimmy Strange is your man. Only, it won't be easy to get to know him. It will be a painful struggle, much like his life. He's charming, he's gifted, he's elusive. All part of the author's devious plan to unravel a life.

The structure of this novel is very unique, and can be difficult to adapt to at first. Five novellas is a trifle misleading. Each is a chapter in the life of Jimmy Strange, but they are not chronological, nor are they always directly about him. Often, we learn more about a person through the people they know and Fraina makes good use of this. The first novella takes place in 2002, where we meet a not very likeable British chap who starts a liaison with a young man named Elliott. Elliott is not all he appears to be and I quickly felt like I had fallen down the rabbit hole. To top it off, Jimmy doesn't even appear until the last couple of paragraphs. But, what we learn about Elliot is integral to understanding Jimmy. Each novella does the same in a different way; introducing first Elliot, then Lisa, then Adam, in a weaving path to get to Jimmy. It begins in 2002, jumps to back to 2001, then further back to 1995 before ending in the "present" of 2003. But, we are not left there. The last novella gives readers what most biographies give us in the beginning - the beginning. In 1987, we finally learn the uncomfortable story of Jimmy's childhood and how it shaped him. And, the impact will leave readers stunned. Sure, this book could have been put in chronological order, but that is not how we meet people in real life. We learn about them from themselves, we learn about them from others, and rarely in sequence. So, the style is ideal and implemented flawlessly.

There is sex in the story. How could there not be? Sex, drugs and Rock n' Roll. Jimmy is a musician and he has the stereotypical musician's life, at least on the surface. But, the sex is not gratuitous. It has an influence on this story, on this life, and it is often not the least bit erotic. It can be hot, but more often leaves the reader feeling unsettled. As happens to people who aren't certain about the sexual choices they've made, like Jimmy.

The writing in the book deserves five stars, hands down. It was obviously edited with care, and the writing was smooth. I continued to think about the book long after I finished the last page. But I gave it four stars for a reason, albeit a personal one. Jimmy Strange's life is almost too real. This is not a feel good book. There is no happily ever after, there is only living. So, while the book was incredibly engaging and undeniably genuine, I was not satisfied at the end. I was left sad, because this life may very well exist for someone out there, and I want them, wanted Jimmy, to be happy. I highly recommend "The King of Cats" to those looking for a thought-provoking, sometimes harsh, sometimes disjointed, but always honest look at life. I'm glad I read it. But, those that need a happily every after will be quickly disillusioned.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The elusive nature of attraction, October 9, 2006
This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
In this incredibly refreshing and thought-provoking début novel, Blake Fraina delves into the quintessential nature of human attraction, and the primordial struggle for dominance within a relationship.

'King of Cats' is described as a 'life in five novellas'. It concerns the interweaving relationships between two members of a New York rock group (Jim and Adam) and their younger sometime-roadie, Elliott. Jim is the embodiment of that elusive quality, 'allure'. Exquisitely handsome, enigmatically sultry, desired by all; he is alternately brutish and tender - but behind the façade he struggles to deal with the events of his childhood. Adam is a long-time fellow band member, a product of rich yet bland and disinterested parents. Elliott is...a mystery. Pitiful, childlike, manipulative, violent and passionate - like a mistreated stray dog, you can never predict his response.

The fluidity of Blake Fraina's prose combined with an 'advance then retreat' style of slow revelation succeeds in creating a captivating work of fiction that is at times startling, tense, erotic, frustrating and, above all, true-to-life. What is lurking in Jim's childhood? What is the inexplicable bond that intermittently draws Jim and Elliott together and pushes them apart? What does Adam seek from each of Jim and Elliott? The intrigue surrounding each character exemplifies one of the major themes of this very human novel: what is it the attracts one person to another - the other person's actual character, or just what they superficially appear to be? Is following the seductiveness of the unknown a means or an end in itself? What happens when that attraction is requited - 'all's well that ends well', or just the beginning of an intense struggle for dominance and the enactment of self-destructive desires? Must it turn out this way, or can people take control over their unconscious desires?

The underlying themes of 'King of Cats' are universal, rising above issues of sexuality, environment or contemporary society. Accordingly, do not expect any fairytale resolution to the characters' lives (though when you get to the end, and are desperate to know more, check out the author's website for some 'deleted scenes'). The questions evoked by this work will stay with you for a long time - just be prepared to re-examine your own motivations. With this début novel, Blake Fraina has created a timeless piece (and, incidentally, a natural candidate for a film adaptation - Gregg Araki??) and is certainly a name to watch....
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars King of Cats, January 30, 2007
This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
King of Cats: A Life in Five Novellas

by Blake Fraina

An interesting, well-written story told through five different stories, each set in a different period of life of the musician Jimmy "Strange" Lyons. The basic question Fraina asks is, what makes anyone interesting. Is it what is revealed, or what is hidden? In truth, both add to the complexity of the human being so one without the other would be like a turtle without a shell. What we reveal shelters us from what we would prefer to hide.

I wasn't sure if I would get into this tale (I'm not big on rock n'roll stories), but this one grabbed me. Fraina has a very easy style. It sweeps the reader along at a good pace. The dialogue is used sparingly; only when needed. Otherwise, it's as if we are watching the characters like subjects. Which goes well because we are first introduced to Jimmy in the first novella through the discussion of a two-dimensional painting.

I can see this book gathering a cult following if it got enough attention. It's a bit off-putting at parts (the characters seem to switch from like-able to hateful to absolute pricks in the course of a few pages, and then back again), but that makes perfect sense in this instance. These are damaged folk, and damaged folk can fall to pieces at any momnt. One can only understand the subject in front of them if they study the trail behind.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swingin' "King of Cats", January 2, 2007
This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
Don't let the structure of this story, in "five novellas," affect your judgment before you pick up this excellent book.

The five interconnected stories center on Jimmy Lyons, an English rock guitarist. A la Tarentino, these stories are out of chronological order on purpose. The sequence ties the stories together with their organic emotional progression.

Based on the idea that "our secrets define us," this story of relationships and self-discovery starts with others peripheral to Jimmy. Subsequent sections reveal when Jimmy joins a band, the Bogs, is bedded by band leader Adam, then finds musical success with the group.

The last section is the most disturbing and perhaps the most revealing, as it covers the rough terrain of Jimmy's childhood.

The author, Blake Fraina, has crafted a tale of of what drives attraction and the back-and-forth of power in a relationship. It's a gem that deserves a larger audience, and I suspect the name Blake Fraina will loom much larger in the future.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Coffee, Cigarettes and ... Chocolate.", January 17, 2005
By 
Akethan (Arlington, VA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
Blake Fraina joins a list of authors I would read anytime, keeping company with Charles de Lint, Patricia A. McKillip, et al. Fraina writes in the style of an updated urban fairytale - stitching myth and reality into the lives of real people.

Fraina carefully weaves a purposeful rearrangement of time and place to slowly unfold his musician, Jimmy, whose life is a sum of all of its experiences. All of the characters in KING OF CATS strongly step from the pages - each with his/her own crisp personality and more specifically, their own needs and history.

As when I read Charles de Lint's DREAMS UNDERFOOT, I avoided reaching the end of the book, not wanting to leave the characters behind. I fell in love with Jimmy, Adam, Amy ... and hope to see their futures and pasts appear again in Fraina's writing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating character study, October 12, 2007
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This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
"King of Cats" is a masterful piece of writing. It is divided into five novellas, each parcel a slice of the life of rock-musician Jimmy Lyons. The novellas are not presented chronologically and therein lies the genius of Blake Fraina's diverting design - each segment augments the preceding segment, fitting together like pieces of an intricate puzzle. The author has stated that the novellas are self-contained stories that may be read in any order the reader chooses, but the order they are presented works best as the enigmas in earlier segments are deftly revealed in later ones. The characters are well developed, the descriptions vivid, and the dialog is authentic. At first American readers may think there are typos and unusual word choices, but Fraina has chosen to have the narrator's voice reflect the British vernacular to blend with the viewpoints of the two British characters. I've read many a good book that was still a chore to get through. Not so with "King of Cats." It's a quick, captivating read, and all five stories, each unique and different, demonstrate how a life can evolve yet is never quite free from the ties of its past.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book full of recognizable behaviors.., March 18, 2006
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This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
This is no beach book - it a well written book that pulls your emotions in many different directions. I am really dazzled by the skill with which Blake Fraina weaves this novel and it's characters. You will feel the pain of all the characters, yet retain sympathy for them as well. This is a stand out book that should not be missed.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars King of Cats - A New Twist on Gay Writing, December 29, 2005
This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
Blake Fraina... does that name ring a bell? No? Well it should very soon. Soon the GLBT community will be singing his praises and wishing they had found him sooner. The bell towers will be singing forth the harmonious melodies that echo throughout this freshman writer's creation creatively titles King of Cats.

So what is so special? Why all the fuss? That is an easy thing to answer. From the moment I gave this book the time of my busy collegiate day, I was hooked. I was pulled into this lovely book from the very first sentence in the very first story. You see, King of Cats is not your average gay novel. In fact, it is not even a novel. It is a collection of short stories surrounding the life of one man... Jimmy Lyons. And what also makes this not your typical gay love story is that it isn't all roses.

Blake breaks out of the proverbial gay mold by not making his characters muscle-bound, gym-addicted, largely endowed, over-sexed, ultra-str8-acting, go-go dancing, circuit boi freaks. The characters are real. They have real influences on their lives. There is not one thing in this book that the reader cannot relate to in some fashion or another. It is very... simply real!

So why get all hot and bothered over it? Why not? All you have to do is to read the story. Read the life of Jimmy. See how his father influences him in more ways than none. See the struggle to be accepted, yet at the same time wishing you were not so out there. See the struggle to love when you cannot seem to love yourself enough. See how a relationship that seems like it is perfect can shatter in a heartbeat and make you break.

The way Blake makes his characters seem so real that they could jump right off the pages and slap you in your face are outstanding. The way he is able to capture the subtle nuances and present them in a way, which is unmistakable, just knocks my socks off. However, do not be fooled... this is not the type of character that everyone is going to love. In fact, you might come away from the story hating some of the character... I know I did! But that is what is great about Blake's ability to capture the essence of those characters, and his willingness to write using REAL characters and not the typical gay studs.

And to think all this is coming from a freshman writer. A not so well know writer. This is a shame.

So if you want to discover just how un-cushy your life is compared to what happens to others... read this book. If you want to explore the other side of the coin... read this book. If you just want a deep, powerful, and very addictive story... read this book.

Discover some very emotional things that happen which center around how our father can really influence us. Past, Present, and Future.

Explore themes, which emanate from every single page turning line. Despair, Abuse, Neglect, Passion, Joy, Pain, Sex, Misery, Betrayal... just to name a few.

Finally Live through the eyes of Jimmy and a whole host of characters that show just how real and unreal life can be.

Is it real... or just a figment of your imagination? YOU CHOOSE!

I give this a 5 out of 5 Triangle rating and suggest everyone buy a copy and fall in love with Blake Fraina's King of Cats just as I did!

Jase ;0)

Jason P. Ruel

Editor, Gay Lesbian News
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnificent Story of human bondage,fraility, beauty...., October 9, 2007
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This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
What makes a person more fascinating? For me, it was the real truth hidden behind each of the characters. What one person perceived as opposed to what the other was really thinking,& feeling.

For me it was what was hiding, lurking and tormenting one of the main characters..Jimmy Strange or Jimmy Lyons. An emotionally, sexually & physically abused young man whose beautiful face left men and women desiring him and his body. What people perceived as brooding, sexy, cool was hiding his gayness,his torment,his self-doubt,his anger, his shyness, his scars. They loved his 'look' and he thought they loved him. He didn't know how beautiful he was until he discovered he could use it as a weapon.
Eamonn, his cousin, was obsessed with Jimmy's body.
Adam was a man who was given everything money could buy except love from his father. He was obsessed with Jimmy.
Elliott an enigmatic man/child who was a manipulative sub. Got whatever his wanted. He got and wanted Jimmy.
Cass, Amey, Lisa all were mesmerized by Jimmy's looks and his perceived sensitivity. They all 'wanted' Jimmy. He wanted their love.
Sometimes it felt like they hated Jimmy for creating the lust and desire for him that no on could quench!
The relentless story of the love/hate relationships that became Jimmy's life. Each chapter captured the feelings of this closeted beautiful gay man, looking for love...always looking and hoping for a true love.
A wonderful novel of subtle eroticsm, sensual desires, gripping lust,angry love, sad realizations, shattered lives...Of course, I am wondering is Jimmy Lyons the king of cats? This book left me satiated for another story for a few days.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blake Fraina, I promise to buy your next book., July 15, 2006
By 
seana (cleveland, ohio) - See all my reviews
This review is from: King of Cats (Paperback)
I actually bought this book about a year ago, but I just reread it and remembered how much I loved it. I could say a lot of things about it, and summarize the plot, but other customers have already done that so I won't bother. But I will say that this book does exactly what a great book should do: it affects you, and it leaves you thinking about the characters long after you're done reading. (Plus it makes me cry.)
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King of Cats
King of Cats by Blake Fraina (Paperback - February 25, 2004)
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