Saturday, August 01, 2009

Military Types Will Love “Soldier Boys”

by LEO E. LAURENCE • Copyright © 2009 by Leo E. Laurence for San Diego News Service

Photo Caption: Retired journalist Tom Turner of San Diego holds a copy of his autobiographical novel about the Army’s basic training: Soldier Boys. Photo by Leo E. Laurence, San Diego News Service

San Diego — Soldier Boys is a candid and deeply personal exposure to Army basic training, with a little touch of the homoerotic challenges facing teenage soldier recruits. But, the story of the development of this book is as fascinating as the book itself.

Soldier Boys really isn’t a “Gay book,” though the title suggests otherwise and it is primarily distributed in a Gay book store in the very Gay Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, the Obelisk.

Is it a Gay book? I asked the author during a private interview. “Yeah,” he answered, with a wide grin and glint in his eyes.

“I thought it was porno” when I looked at the cover, responded Zeek, 26, a Latino acting stu-dent in Hillcrest. And, there are some “saucy” passages, as Turner describes them.

Burt is a novice soldier who had never masturbated.

“Let us show you how it’s done, my friend,” said Whit (actually the author), sitting on a bed with Burt and Wally in a hotel room while on they were on a cherished pass, away from the Army’s basic training.

Wally set his beer down on the floor and pulled out “his already swollen joint through the open-ing in his underwear.

“Burt let out a gasp, but said nothing. He stared at Wally as he began slowly pulling on his cock.

“Whit realized he was staring, too, and that his own cock was swelling. He grabbed hold of it eagerly and began working on it.

“‘Here, buddy, let me get yours started,’ Wally instructed, reaching his left hand into Burt’s drawers and pulling his penis through the opening. Still, Burt said nothing, but took possession of his own cock and began pulling on it as he alternately eyes Wally and Whit.

“Burt’s expression didn’t change as he reached for Wally’s dick with a right hand and Whit’s with a left, bringing moans of pleasure from both …”

Soldier Boys, however, is really more of an autobiographical story of a young closeted, Gay man (then called “homosexuals”) who goes through the Army’s basic training in ‘62.

The author originally wrote over 300 pages that were “kinda dry and dull,” he said in an interview. “I was far from being ‘out.’ I wrote it all down as a novel about a puny college kid without any athletic ability being able to make it (in the Army’s basic training).

“I sent it to agents (and received) nice, polite responses. I got married in ’64 in Olathe, Kansas; divorced in ’76 and the book went on the shelf. At that time, the manuscript wasn’t about being Gay.” (Turner is a retired journalist and editorial writer.)

“My older son, Michael, 32, knew about the manuscript. He’s also a journalist, with the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville,” Turner explained.

“Dad, you ought to pull that book down and give it a Gay theme. That’s particularly timely with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” his son advised. So Turner followed his son’s suggestions.

Soldier Boys is basically autobiographical, which makes it more raw and exciting.

“The basic facts are real,” Turner said, “but the Gay parts are invented. Some of the characters are composites of guys who I actually trained with, but the names have been changed to protect the straights.”

The book’s original title, Every Man’s a Tiger, should have stayed as the title, to avoid the pornographic suggestiveness of the current title.

Soldier Boys is available at Obelisk Bookstore in Hillcrest and online through