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Preview “ordinary whore”—excerpt

ordinary whore
Dieter Moitzi

The still black water accepts me like an old friend. It feels warm and cosy.

Afterwards, I sit on the beach, shaking with cold while the scarce wind dries my skin. How alive and peaceful that makes me feel! 

My teeth clatter so much that I don’t hear the discrete footsteps in the sand. I leap up with a start when someone drapes a bath towel over my shoulders.

Rachid, the young man I recruited some hours ago, stands behind me. He is dressed in white. 

“Sorry! I didn’t mean to frighten you. But I saw you shivering, so I thought you might need this,” he says sheepishly. He picks up the towel, which has slipped down when I jumped to my feet. He drapes it over me again and rubs my arms.

I step back to look at him, dazed. “It’s all right,” I finally say. “You did frighten me. But it’s all right now. And thank you for the towel.” I let myself fall down on the ground again.

Rachid looks at me, not knowing what to do.

“Come on,” I pat the sand beside me. “Sit down.”

“I thought you wanted to be alone.”

“Even if you stay with me, I’ll feel alone,” I murmur. Then, louder, “I don’t mind your company. Come on, sit.”

He obeys. 

We gaze into the distance above the sea where the faint morning light increases almost imperceptibly. A comfortable silence settles down between us. 

He breaks it after a moment. “You’re still cold,” he whispers. “Don’t you want to get dressed?”

“My clothes are in my room,” I whisper back, careful not to destroy the magic of the early hour.

Rachid considers this. “Do you want us to… to make love?” he asks. “It will warm you.”

Caught unawares, I stare at him. Then it dawns on me. Of course, this is what he is meant to propose. “No,” I say. “No, I don’t want to… how did you call it? Make love? No, definitely, no.” I smile. “Thank you, though.”

“You shouldn’t stay here,” Rachid murmurs. He starts to dig one hand into the sand, then lifts it. The fine grains run smoothly down between his slender, tanned fingers.

“What?” I ask. For a second, I believe this is another of the strange warnings I’ve been getting.

“You shouldn’t stay here. You’ll catch a cold,” he explains.

“Hm,” I say. “Come here.” I pull him closer. “Put your arm around me. That’ll warm me.”

He snuggles up and wraps his arm around me. I sense his body heat, his breath on my neck. The hug feels good, almost motherly.

“Sir?” Rachid asks. “I was wondering…”

“Call me Marc. What is it?”

“Oh, no. I can’t ask you that.”

“Yes, you can. Don’t be afraid.”

“But… you’re my boss.”

“Good Lord, no! Michele is your boss. Maybe you consider me a bit higher up in the food chain, but I don’t think I am. We’re colleagues, somehow. So, go ahead, shoot.”

He ponders this. Then, “I thought you were Madame Di Forzone’s… husband?”

I stifle a laugh. “Not at all! She pays me for my… uhm, services. Just like you’ll get paid, you see?”

“Really? But with your looks, you don’t need… I mean, why do you do it?”

“You need money to live. I do, too.”

“But… but you’re French. Surely there are other jobs for you in France.” Rachid shakes his head, unbelieving.

“Surely, yes. But this suits me.” 

“How did you… get involved in all this?” 

“Chance. Life. I had the choice: whore, or criminal, or politician. Which is more or less the same anyway. My father was a politician, you know, and I never wanted to become like him.”

“Okay. I see,” Rachid lies. He gazes at me, a vulnerable young guy who looks like Kate Bush’s Man with the Child in His Eyes.

“Hey,” I propose. “Let’s go for a swim, shall we?” I jump up again. The towel slides to the ground like a veil. Anything is better than to discuss my lot. Worse, Rachid has shown me the unharmed, innocent part of him. I don’t want to be touched by his vulnerable eyes, his pertinent questions. “Come on.” I help him stand up. “And get out of these!” I playfully tug at his clothes.

Rachid undresses. His delightful young body glistens in the dawn’s early light. He smirks at me. 

I slap him on his buttocks, then run.

“You’ll pay for this!” he shouts, grinning, and runs after me.

We race into the balmy waves, gloriously naked, shrieking, splattering, two playful kids, two boys unspoiled and unsullied by life, while the sun comes up behind the horizon.

“I was always a storyteller” | Interview with Josh Lanyon

| English |

This interview was originally published in two parts on Gay Book Reviews in 2019. Since the site was closed at the end of that year, I’ve decided to re-publish it here. Please note that you can read the French version on and that there is even a Japanese translation with additional questions and answers (both in Japanese and English).

Great news! Some days ago, I sent Josh Lanyon an email asking her if she’d accept to be interviewed on Skype, and she replied straight away saying she’d be delighted. Here I am now, fiddling with the button-down shirt I’ve donned for the occasion. I know I’m not going to have high tea with royalty, but shoot me—in my eyes, Josh is somehow like Male/Male murder mystery royalty, so I felt I had to dress up a bit. I realize I could have—should have—ironed said shirt, but anyway, it’s too late now; the Call-button has been pressed. When the connection is established, I see a sunlit scenery, and the woman I only know from her writing and the odd photograph you can stumble upon on Internet is sitting near a sparkling pool, a warm smile on her face and what looks suspiciously like a glass of Irish coffee in her hands. It is Irish coffee, as she admits in an aside during our interview. A nice little breeze is stirring some chimes I can make out in the background. Their soft cling and clang will pleasantly accompany our entire conversation.

ParisDude (all smiles): Hi, Josh. How amazing to finally be able to see you in the flesh—well, as much as our cam-to-cam get-together can be called “in the flesh”.

Josh Lanyon (with a little wave): Bonjour, Dieter! Ça va?

PD (surprised): Ça va, merci. You speak French?

JL (chuckles): Oh, un peu. A very little un peu. It’s one of my ambitions. To learn French. But I’m practicing my French for next year’s Salon du Livre (the Paris Book Fair that takes place every year in March, note from PD). I’m sorry it took me so long to get to the interview, but here we are. And (laughing) please, let’s pretend I can be coherent when I’m in the homestretch of a book.

PD (nods): I can’t even imagine how busy you must be at the moment. And I’m all the happier you found the time to squeeze our little talk into your schedule. (Thoughtfully). You know, for quite a while, you’ve been something of a mystery to me, mostly because your bio on the French amazon site presents you… as a guy! They even call you John in one place…

JL (pointing at herself and laughing): Well, I identify as female (she/her), but I suspect my publishers are being super-extra careful not to offend by assuming anything. Which of course I appreciate. As for John…? (With a wink). Well, I’m sure John appreciates it, too.

PD: So, I take it Josh Lanyon is your nom de plume. How did you come up with that name?

JL: The Josh is a bit personal, so I won’t go into that, but Lanyon is from Mary Renault’s classic novel The Charioteer. I read the novel in college, and to say that it changed my life would not be an exaggeration. And this is what we always hope as writers, isn’t it? That something we write may actually change someone’s life. Or at least make them think a little.

PD: I can only agree with you. Tell me, Josh… I surmise that you make a living out of your highly successful books. But if you weren’t writing, what would you be doing today? Jobwise, I mean?

JL: I would probably be teaching at a small private college somewhere. Oh! And possibly solving the occasional murder on the side! (chuckles playfully)

I must say I’m very relieved Josh is such an easy-going person. I tend to be shy and taciturn on first sight, but she simply makes me feel at ease, as if we’d known each other since time immemorial.

PD: I’m curious—what made you start to write in the first place?

JL: I’m that weird, rare thing. A born writer. And I was very fortunate in that I always had teachers, all the way from second grade through college, who encouraged and nurtured my writerly tendencies. By fourth grade I was certain I would be A Writer. (You can hear the capital A and W here).

PD: I’m wondering what wee Joshy might have been like… a whirlwind? A Shirley-Temple-cutie-pie? Or, like me, a quiet and shy bookworm?

JL: A skinny blonde little twerp with—now-embarrassing—imaginary friends. I was a mix of shy and bossy—and am legendary within my family for frequently dragging my kid sister into trouble.

PD(laughs at that): Ha! Almost hard to believe. What did that little California girl dream of becoming? Did she already know she’d be a famous writer one day? And how many of her dreams have come true?

JL: I thought I’d own more horses, that’s for sure (winks at me). Well, the truth is, I was always a storyteller. According to my grandmother, long before I was old enough to read, I would pick up books and explain what the story was in baby talk. And then once I had graduated to coloring books, I would spend the entire coloring session telling my sisters and friends the story of whatever it was I was coloring. (As an aside). I was clearly competing for Most Annoying Child on the Planet award.

PD: Well, let’s talk shop a bit, shall we? On our French site,, we’ve just been discussing your Adrien English-series, so I’d love to know: how did you come up with the idea of creating the two main characters, adorable Adrien and tortured Jake? And where did you get that highly effective idea from, you know, the one that has them pine for each other without even the slightest hint of an eventual HEA almost till the very last paragraph?

JL: May I just say that I think it’s so terrific you have this site. Wonderful! When I first started publishing gay mysteries and M/M Romance, there were NO sites like this. (Thinks it over, then shakes her head). Well, to be fair, blogging and the internet didn’t exist when I was first published. But it’s amazing to see how the world of LGBTQ genre fiction has evolved in some twenty-plus years.

Anyway, thinking back to Adrien and Jake… I’m going to disappoint you, but I don’t remember exactly how I came up with those two particular characters. Before A&J I started many stories with gay male protagonists—a number of those stories were later finished and published as M/M Mysteries—you know, I Spy Something Bloody, Cards on the Table, The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks… But at the time those were simply for my own amusement. I had no idea there was any kind of market for them (in fact, there wasn’t).

I can tell you that when I create characters, I tend to create them in pairs. I believe I instinctively come up with two people who are compatible and incompatible in key ways. That creates a natural, organic conflict—no insurmountable obstacles, but realistic, legitimate challenges that would have to be overcome. My personal experience is that most relationship difficulties—and I include all human interactions in that—stem from the inability or unwillingness to communicate.

(Laughs). Now I’m forgetting the question!

PD (prompting): Adrien and Jake, and their complex love-story…

JL: Right. With Adrien and Jake, they fall for each other almost at once—and against their better judgment—but they do have genuine obstacles. Jake starts the series a very different person with different biases and attitudes from how he ends the series. And it is his relationship—really, his friendship—with Adrien that makes that character arc, that change of heart possible.

I think that’s how it works in real life. We meet people along the way who shape our views and change our attitudes. Or at least, that’s how it works for those of us with the ability to grow and evolve. (Sends me a meaningful gaze, both playful and serious). Not everyone has that ability.

As far as the emotional impact of the story… I think by writing in first person, I was able to write with more emotional immediacy? Intensity?

PD: Yes, I get that. (Putting a finger on his lip in thought). What I always find amazing is how much you as well as many other female writers seem to know about the gay male psyche… Is it merely amazingly empathic guesswork, or do you have a bunch of gay friends you can cross-check that aspect with?

JL: I’ve always had close, positive relationships with the men in my life, which helps, I’m sure. And I’ve worked in male-dominated industries. Most of my mentors were men. And good writing is a blend of experience, education, and empathy. You need all three to tell any kind of meaningful story. IMHO.

(Leans forward). Here is a very weird thing, and I have no idea how to explain it or why it would be true. For some reason the books I wrote about gay men were ten times more “real” (makes quotation marks in the air) as far as the characters and their relationships, than the novels I wrote about female protagonists. Maybe I feel pressure to create a certain type of female protagonist? Whereas, writing gay men allowed me simply to observe and relate—you know, relate as in report what I saw in the world around me, but also as in… connect with emotionally?

PD: I see. But there’s also the physical, bodily side… I mean… (winks)… the “mechanics” are not that hard to figure out, I guess, but all the rest? Sensations, emotions, thought processes during the carnal act? Not for all the world could I imagine what a woman experiences when making love. How come you seem to know so well what goes on inside us guys? (Chuckles). Are we really so easy to read?

JL: A certain type of writer—and men and women are equally guilty of this—focuses on the mechanics of sex, but when you’re having sex, you’re not focused on the technical aspects. (Jokes). Correction, maybe the very first time—AM I DOING THIS RIGHT???—but after that…no. (Grows serious) So, this…preoccupation with plumbing misses the very point, the very power of the sexual experience.

Sex is a very personal, intimate thing. But certain human experiences are universal. Our need as infants for touch, for example, and how it affects emotional and psychological development if we don’t get that. So, I try to always make sure my scenes are A – true to the characters—and every character has a unique history and their own psychological profile, and B – true to recognizable and relatable human experience.

(Laughs and winks). Okay, and yes, of course, I’m a grown-up sexually active woman who is reasonably experienced and reasonably observant!

PD: I always think of you as the Britishest US-author—sorry for that word—because your writing reminds me of Agatha Christie, E.F. Benson, or your fellow countrywoman, Elizabeth Peters, especially your pitch-perfect dialogues and the wry humour you show in, say, the Adrien-English-series or Séance on a Summer’s Night, for example. Did you read much British authors?

JL: My family background is what they used to call “Scotch-Irish”—(air quotation marks again, accompanied by a laugh)—which is accurate, given the amount of drinking that went on—with a bit of French, Italian and Welsh thrown in for emotional variety. I grew up in the Southern California Scottish sub-culture. (Seeing my amused expression, she adds) Yes, that is a thing!—My sisters and I learned highland dance, country dance, I studied Gaelic, and we’ve been in a Celtic folk band for just about thirty years. I grew up surrounded by Brits—Scots in particular—so yes, I grew up reading British crime writers. I read writers like Georgette Heyer, Ellis Peters, Agatha Christie, and all the Golden Age greats long before I got around to American crime writers like Chandler, Hammett, Hansen.

PD: Do you still have time to read?

JL: I’m trying to find more time to read this year.

PD: What genres do you prefer?

JL: Mystery is definitely my preferred genre. Before I published Fatal Shadows I had literally read every single gay (and most lesbian) mystery published before 2000. My preference is actually vintage mystery. Particularly those written in the 1940s. In fact, my husband—the writer/critic Kevin Burton Smith—and I are working on a non-fiction book tentatively titled Mr. and Mrs. Murder about fictional married sleuthing couples prior to the 1960s.

PD: Oh, such as Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford! Just love those characters.

JL: Correct! Yes. Very good!

PD: Now to something completely different. In early August, your latest novel, Mainly by Moonlight, will be released. If I’ve counted correctly, that’ll be the fourth novel you publish this year—to say nothing of your participation in the M/M Mystery Romance Anthology Footsteps in the Dark. How do you manage to be so prolific? Do have you have a special writing schedule? When do you have time for your hobbies—I gather you do have hobbies?

JL: In theory I do have hobbies! I love to garden, swim, watch classic film noir with the SO, chase my crazy little dog around the house and yard. (As a matter of fact, her dog, which she tells me is called Marlowe the Mutt, is currently curled on the back of her chair, snoring into her neck). I would love to read more. (Her expression becomes somewhat longing before she shakes it off.) I’m having a productive year, yes, but this is the most productive year in a very long time. I had a serious burnout in…God. When was it? 2012? I had done fourteen projects the previous year—three for mainstream publishers—and I had a spectacular crash and burn. I couldn’t bear to think of writing. Anything. At all. It was frightening. And it’s taken me this long to get back to what I consider a healthy and reasonable full speed.

PD: I also noticed how well edited and almost typo- and error-free your novels are, not counting the tiny errors the good old “shit happens”-ghost sprinkles any written work with. Do you proofread your work yourself, or do you have a special someone who does it for you? If it’s the latter, a big kudos to her/him…

JL (lights up): Merci! I’ll pass your compliments to the chef (winks at me). I use Keren Reed for editing most of the time. I can also recommend Deb Nemeth (she does all my Carina books) and Dianne Thies for copyediting.

PD: What are your next writing projects? Any chance we might get a sequel to the Adrien English-series? I guess I’m neither the first nor the only one to ask that question…

JL (with mock surprise): WHAAAA??? I NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT!!!! I don’t currently have another AE novel in me. However, next year is the 20th anniversary of Fatal Shadows, so there will certainly be some kind of AE fiction happening. Most likely codas, but perhaps a short story or a novella. We’ll have to see.

PD: Mmmh… Can’t wait to be there and read it! By the way, my boyfriend is frustrated so little books have been translated into French. Do you have any projects in that sense? You’d make one man exceedingly happy as it is…

JL: MxM Bookmark does plan on translating the Art of Murder series and the Holmes & Moriarity series, so that’s good news, I hope. Of course, they can only publish so much, so I am open to working with an additional French publisher should one come along. I do have a lot of books out there needing translation.

PD: Have you already visited France? Or my home-country, Austria?

JL: No! Next year will be my first trip to France. I’m very excited. Sadly, I’ve never been to Austria. It always looks like a fairy-tale kingdom to me.

PD: It’s worth a trip, I can tell you. And I’m not only saying this because it’s my home-country… (Looks at his list of questions). Tell me—if you were to name only one, what would be your Favourite Book Ever, you know, with capital F, B, and E?

JL: I know some people can answer this, but I’m not one of them! Different books have meant different things to me at different points in my life. Sometimes these books stand the test of time, sometimes they don’t, but they all “do their work” (air quotation marks) as it were. I can say that the book that most influenced me was, as I mentioned, The Charioteer, by Mary Renault, but I’m not sure even that book would be my single most favorite book.

PD: Sometimes, we read a book and can’t help musing, ‘Darn—why haven’t I written this!’ Is there any such book you can think of?

JL: Ack. Again, I’m going to disappoint you. I’ve never read anything that I wished I had written. I’ve read things so good—and so bad!—I found them inspirational. I’ve read things I’ve loved and things I’ve thought, ‘Hm, how can I capture that feel in my own writing?’ Maybe when I was very young. I remember reading The Egypt Game and thinking it was the most fantastic book.

PD: Your upcoming release, Mainly by Moonlight, seems to be a murder mystery with a witchy twist (claps hands with excitement). Just for the record—two of my favourite genres! Now, I remember the first time I came upon that mix—murder mystery cum paranormal—in your writing when reading The Darkling Thrush. What made you stray, if I may say so, from your usual path?

JL: Well, you know as much as I love mystery, it’s fun to try different things. Also, it’s good to learn new things, to stretch those creative muscles. It keeps it fresh for me, and it attracts new readers. I like writing romantic, funny holiday stories too—and I try to do one each year. One of the best things I did—though maybe one of the least popular—was the Edwardian mash-up Curse of the Blue Scarab. There are some projects worth doing simply because they test you, which pushes you to be a better writer.

PD: Mainly by Moonlight is announced as the first book in a series called Bedknobs and Broomsticks. May I be so bold as to ask you if we can get a glimpse of the future instalments?

JL: I love, love, love this new trilogy. It’s—at least I hope!—funny and romantic and poignant and, yes, mysterious and magical. But at heart it’s an exploration of what it means to love. The story begins with Cosmo, who happens to be a witch, falling in love at first sight with John, who is non-magical and, worse, not terribly romantic. But Cosmo’s best friend—unbeknownst to Cosmo—casts a love spell on John. So, we have a relationship that starts out based on a false premise. By the time the spell is removed from John, he thinks he’s in love—maybe he is in love?—, and their wedding is two days away. Oh, and Cosmo is suspected of murder. So… it’s complicated. And in the second book, due out later this year, matters get far more complicated when John learns that Cosmo is, in fact, a witch. That’s when all hell breaks loose—though hopefully not literally. (She laughs at that).

PD: You’re very successful with M/M murder mystery romances. Is there another genre you’d like to explore?

JL: Eventually, I’ll probably transition to non-fiction; I see that as a natural progression. But for whatever reason, right now I’m experiencing a kind of creative renaissance, and I’m full of ideas and stories. The challenge is finding time to actually write everything buzzing in my brain.

PD: Speaking of time—my gosh! I didn’t see it fly by! I guess I should let you do some more writing. Again, a huge thanks for talking to me!

JL: Thank you so much, Dieter, for such thoughtful and entertaining questions. I enjoyed chatting with you!

Update December 2020: Many things have changed, as you can imagine, since this interview took place in 2019. For one, Josh was supposed to come to Paris in early 2020 for the Salon du livre, which, because of the pandemic, was cancelled. Therefore, the drink she and I were meant to have didn’t take place either, alas. Let’s hope we’ll be able to have it in the near future. On a more positive note, Josh released the first two books of a new cosy murder mystery series, Secrets and Scrabble, and plans to release three more books next year, for which I and all the other Josh Lanyon-fans are waiting with bated breath.

For more information and updates about Josh Lanyon, please visit her website.

Poem / poème

Feeling honoured—one of my as of yet unpublished poems has been published on the website of the Club littéraire du Marais (in English and French) | Très honoré – un de mes poèmes pas encore publiés a été mis en ligne sur le site du Club littéraire du Marais (en anglais et français)

Discover it on | Découvrez-le sur

Guest posts & reviews

I’m honored to have been asked to write guest posts for two more blogs. If you want to find out why my new novel is set in Egypt, please check out “Why Egypt” on The Blogger Girls.

On Love Bytes Reviews, I’m talking about how I fell in love with Raphaël and Stefano, the two main characters of “Till Death Do Us Part”.

MM Midnight Café hosts my post about how I was thinking I’d become an ambassador or a scholar when I was younger, and how I ended up working as a graphic designer… and a writer in my spare time.

Oh, and btw, Crucify My Love as well as Sinfully Good Gay Book Reviews have written two reviews of my book

Guest Post on Lily G. Blunt’s Blog

Today is the Big Day—my new novel “Till Death Do Us Part” is finally released in English. For the occasion, I’m proud to announce I’m hosted by Lily G. Blunt as a guest blogger, telling you how I “stole” the two main characters of my novel, Raphaël and Stefano… Check it out here

“Till Death Do Us Part”

Dear readers, dear friends—my new cosy M/M murder mystery “Till Death Do us Part” will be released on June 24, 2020. Its French version has already been warmly welcomed by my French-speaking readers, so I hope you’ll also enjoy it. In order to make your mouth water, here’s a little excerpt of the first chapter…

By the way, you can already grab your copy by pre-ordering on Amazon or Kobo


CHAPTER 1 – Raphaël

How’s the SITUATION? Number one: I’m alive, which means the plane hasn’t crashed. A plus point. Number two: I’m dead on my feet. That’s so-so, even though being up and about at this time of night is rather normal for me—I rarely go to bed earlier.

Number three: the bed. Wait a second, let me do a bounce-check. Okay, not bad. The mattress is firm without being reinforced concrete; the bed is clean and not too dreadful, despite its, er, let’s say indefinable style. A bit worn and dated, like the rest of the ship.

Oh, yes. Here’s a scoop. I’m not at home, in my bed. No, I’m on a ship. The Queen of Egypt more precisely. I’m tempted to groan, “AT LONG LAST!”. For weeks Auntie has been talking about nothing else. The Queen of Egypt here, the Queen of Egypt there, and yadda yadda yadda. She was driving me mad with that patter. When Auntie has her mind set on something, she’s like a broken record. Her tune spins, clack, starts again; spins, clack, starts again. Makes you want to do yourself in after a while.

So. Basically, everything is fine right now. I’m alive, I’m on vacation, I’m lying on a comfortable bed. And my body is whining, “Let’s have a nap!” Indeed, I should get some sleep, maybe an hour or two. After all, it’s only four in the morning, for Christ’s sake.

But my little brain cells must be on standby because they don’t process what my body wants. They prefer flooding my head with random thoughts and odd memories. Even Jordan briefly appears in this merry-go-round. Very briefly, because faster than you can say “Loser”, I expel him from my thoughts.

You see how tired I am, though? Because Jordan! Jesus Christ!


I’m WEARY OF fidgeting on my bed. That’s why I stand up two hours later. If sleep doesn’t want to do me the honour, I can’t force it.

I open the thick curtains. The first sun rays are hesitatingly groping the country as though they wanted to check if the morning was ripe. The big, empty parking lot beneath my window still lies in semi-darkness. A lonesome man in black pants and a white shirt is smoking a cigarette on the gangway. Behind him I glimpse the steep bank and its dried-up lawn. Palm trees and bougainvilleas hide the road where we arrived.

I take a shower, grumbling all the while. I’m not a morning person. At all. I’m not a ship person, either.

I get dressed. Shorts, a short-sleeved button-up shirt with a Hawaiian print, flip flops.

With my fingers, I try to tame my curls. In vain, of course; they never do what I want them to do. I finally pull them together in a tight bun. There—that’ll teach them. Before leaving, I also grab my stuff—sunglasses, mobile, notepad, and a pencil.

I leave my cabin, now definitely in appropriate discovery mode, feeling like a little boy on the first day of his summer vacation in Boondocks-upon-Boredom. Appropriate. Because vacation, of course. Because Boondocks-upon-Boredom, too; in my eyes, anyway. One week of walking around with old codgers while staring at old stones—my, cheers, exactly my idea of having a ball! Last but not least, despite my passport proving the contrary, I don’t think I can call myself “adult”. Not too often, in any case.

The thick, red carpet in the corridor swallows the sounds of my steps. Fake candlestick wall lamps shed a pale light.

Before reaching the main stairs that connect the lower decks, I come across a swing door. It leads to the Amun-Ra Sun Deck. The fancifully named upper deck, that is.

I push the door open. And—gasp! Holy cow, this heat can’t be legal! Of course, what would you expect on a June day, especially in this country? Problem is, the ship is so heavily air-conditioned that you easily forget about the temperatures outside.

I’m standing at the foot of a spiral staircase. After unbuttoning my shirt, I slowly move upstairs.

The Amun-Ra Sun Deck is empty. Relief. My first meeting with the old codgers seems temporarily postponed. Birds are softly chirping in the trees on the bank, the river waters lapping against the hull of the ship. On the other side of the deck, I discover a bar, still draped in enigmatic shadows. To the right, several tables and chairs are dozing; to the left, there are four long rows of deckchairs. The whole deck is covered by green sunshades.

Of course, my pleasant loneliness doesn’t last long. That would have been too nice. I’m still enjoying the silence when I hear a swishing noise behind me.

I turn around.

At the foot of the stairs I discover a man in his thirties. He’s skinny, almost frail, and wearing a tracksuit. A pink one, if you please. Neat colour—give pink a chance seems to be the motto. The guy stares at me. He looks like a little mouse: a bit grey, a bit shy, a bit weaselly. His fine hair falls dolefully down to his shoulders like overcooked vermicelli.

We stare at each other for a moment, me from above, him from below. Finally, we smile, that’s what polite people do, and the man starts to climb the stairs.

I don’t want to exchange the usual commonplaces, so I slip away to the rail on the other side of the deck.

And finally, I get a panoramic view of where I am.

Holy fuck!

I admit, I’m dumbfounded. Before me, below me, right and left: the Nile.


Cobalt blue and wide, the river is flowing languidly towards the distant sea, its movement barely perceptible. The rising sun tints its waters orange and yellow, highlighting the low mud houses on the faraway shore. They look like tiny, rectangular blocks randomly piled up here and there. Their shadows throw long, precise shapes over each other’s walls. Several white or yellow buildings stand out from this cluster of cubes: mosques with filigree minarets pointing up to the sky. Some trees brighten up the brownish labyrinth with dusty green specks. Behind the city, the morning haze covering austere and rocky desert mountains makes the landscape look even more chimeric.

I flop into a chair and take a deep breath, completely overwhelmed.

This is Egypt! Egypt, damn it, right before my eyes!

I mean, I’ve seen documentaries and photos; I’ve even travelled to Morocco and Tunisia. But that’s nothing compared to what I’m currently taking in—and what I’m currently taking in looks like a fairy tale.

Fancy my lack of enthusiasm when Auntie told me, “Guess where I’ll take you in June? To Egypt!” Instead of saying, “Why, thank you, Auntie, you’re the best Auntie ever”, I pouted, because I’m an ungrateful oaf. I’ve actually been pouting—discreetly, mind you—until a minute ago. Fortunately, Auntie isn’t easily impressed by my antics.

I sigh with ease. The river flows slowly from left to right, silver reflections dancing on its surface. Two old, turbaned men with bronze-coloured faces pass in the distance, drifting over the river, a fishing net trailing behind their little boat. Their dirty white jalabiyas flap in the morning breeze.

They wave to me, laughing with the natural joy of people who have nothing but are perfectly happy.


Mesmerized, I sit on my chair for a long time while the young day is waking up around me. My gaze wanders every which way. I feel amazed and expectant at the same time, like an explorer back in the day who’s wondering what glorious adventures the next days may hold in store.

When I manage to focus on my closer surroundings, I notice that the man in the pink tracksuit is standing at the stern of the ship taking pictures.

I pull out my mobile, too, and shoot countless photos of the panorama. The legendary river, the fishermen, the cruise ships moored in front of and behind ours. The shore across the Nile. The hazy mountains. The pale blue sky.

Then, I take out my notepad and pencil. I fill three pages with my drawings, in my usual quick and concise manner. As always, my sketches remain fragmentary, but I think I’ve captured the essence.

After stowing everything away in the pockets of my shorts, I stand up. The mousey dude in pink is still hanging out at the stern. That’s why I proceed to the bow. At this time of day, it should be empty.

It isn’t. Just my luck. When I get closer, I discover a young man standing at the rail.

Where does he come from? Has he spent the night here or what?

I give him the once-over: his black hair is cut very short, the upper part kept much longer, in hipster fashion. His white T-Shirt reveals nicely shaped muscles, his shorts two comely legs that are tanned and covered with hairs looking like fine golden threads in the morning sun.

The man’s a looker. At least from behind.

He hears my quiet steps or senses my gaze and turns around.

Oh, hel-lo, there! My heart does a backwards flip. In my job I meet handsome guys aplenty. But this one is something else. He looks like a model, I kid you not. As if one of those unreal guys had stepped out of the glossy pages of Vogue Homme or GQ. Manly features, sensual mouth. Square chin, Roman nose, neatly trimmed designer stubble. The dense longer hair on the top of his head is styled backwards, falling behind his left ear in a lazy wave that looks annoyingly natural.

Alas, the beau doesn’t share my immediate interest. On the contrary, he reacts as if I were a monster. Luckily the rail prevents him from moving too far back, because otherwise he would have plunged into the Nile.

What a boost for my self-esteem.

The handsome cretin pulls himself together at last and eyeballs me from head to toe. His cold stare lingers over my naked chest for a second, and he frowns. I notice that his eyebrows are bushy but perfectly drawn and that his body-language expresses barely concealed aloofness and dislike.

Despite his hostile reaction, I murmur, “Hi”. Somewhat coolly perhaps, but still. I was raised like that. All right, I add “Asshole!” in my mind, because, hello?

The young man merely nods. A black lock falls over his eyes, he puts it back in place. He seems to hesitate, then turns his back on me again.

Okay, asshole. Go ahead, enjoy your moody brooding, I don’t care. I don’t need no mens, even if they’re handsome as fuck.


HALF AN HOUR LATER, THE sun has started its race across the pristine sky; the heat has risen some more as well. The hipster slash asshole is still sulking in his corner when I sit on a shady deckchair. Our meeting was unpleasant, but he and the guy in pink belie my initial prognosis, and that’s a good start. We’re at least three on this ship to contemplate our sixties from below.

With the back of my hand, I wipe off the sweat trickling down my chest and soaking my chest hair. I realize I’m thirsty. There’s a bottle of water in the fridge in my cabin. Let’s go get it. Never forget to drink, Auntie would say. Granted, she means alcoholic beverages only, but that doesn’t make her wrong.

The man in the pink tracksuit has apparently seen enough, too. When I get to the top of the stairs, he’s on the last step.

He’s waiting downstairs, holding the door for me.

“Thank you,” I say.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he remarks in an affable tone.

I look up in surprise. His beautifully deep baryton doesn’t match his puny physique and the mousey face. He makes an affected hand movement. “The landscape, I mean. The light.”

Automatically, I think, Oh. Family. “Very beautiful indeed,” I reply. “And ‘splendid things gleam in the dust’…”

Recognizing the Flaubert-quote, he laughs good-heartedly.

The swing door closes behind us. Another door slams softly somewhere down the corridor. In the first cabin, I hear a woman say heatedly, “… I think he got it. He won’t bother you anymore, tweety.”

Tweety! Smirk. I really wouldn’t want to be pet-named tweety.

We pass other cabins, the vague noises of conversations, no more than murmurs, drifting out. I can hear showers running as well. The ship is waking up. A nice smell wafts through the corridor, a woody, leathery perfume for men that strikes me as familiar. The pink, mousey guy in front of me must have sprinkled himself with it.

A few doors before mine, the young man stops. “See you later,” he says.

“See you later,” I reply. When I pass behind him, I get a whiff of his pronounced citrus perfume, very fresh, very pungent. Oh. He’s not the source of the leathery fragrance…

He turns the key and opens the door. “Mon chéri—are you awake?” he asks. The door closes behind him.

I was right. Mon chéri, not ma chérie. He is family. I’m not the only gay guy on this ship.

I walk to my door while rummaging in the pockets of my shorts. Let’s see… mobile… pencil… notepad… h-m. Where have I put my keys? Did I take them? Damn—don’t tell me I locked myself out…!

And then—




I jump, turn around, gaze down the empty corridor. What was it? Who was it? Where was it? What am I supposed to do?



A bad feeling bubbles up in my guts.


You’ll discover the rest of the book on June 24 on Amazon or Kobo… Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you’ve liked the excerpt above 🙂