The best contemporary gay novels set on the Mediterranean

Timothy Jay Smith Author Of Fire on the Island: A Romantic Thriller
By Timothy Jay Smith

The Books I Picked & Why

Leading Men

By Christopher Castellani

Book cover of Leading Men

Why this book?

If there is something written by Tennessee Williams that I’ve not read, I’d be surprised. All I’ve known about his personal life is that he was gay, but what that meant to him, or how he expressed it, were mysteries to me until I read Leading Men, a fictionalized account of Tennessee Williams’s 30-year love affair with Frank Merlo. Set largely in Italy, it’s filled with dazzling characters and backstage intrigue. It’s also a heartbreaking novel about life in the shadows of greatness. A book that hasn’t left me since I read it and I’m sure to read it again.

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The Rebellious Tide

By Eddy Boudel Tan

Book cover of The Rebellious Tide

Why this book?

The setup of The Rebellious Tide instantly made me want to read it. A man abandons his pregnant wife, and thirty years later Sebastien, their son, seeks him out, wanting an explanation and revenge. The father is the captain of a luxury liner cruising the Mediterranean, and Sebastien joins the crew to secretly stalk his father to find out what kind of person he is. The story is full of mystery and disturbing elements, not to mention fluid sexuality. Ultimately, Sebastien discovers something his father has hidden in the belly of the ship that makes him confront what he’s feared about his own identity. A new twist on a high seas mystery!  

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The Destroyers

By Christopher Bollen

Book cover of The Destroyers

Why this book?

A psychological thriller set on the stunningly beautiful Greek island of Patmos. That was enough to make me want to crack the cover on this book, and what a great read it turned out to be! Ian, fleeing the emotional and financial fallout of his father’s death, joins Charlie, his best childhood friend, who’s rich and basking in the good island life. Or is it a good island life? Ian finds himself drawn into a world where mysteries overlap, infidelities and ambivalent sexuality are rampant, an errant bomb explosion may have missed its intended target, and the conclusion makes the ending to The Silence of the Lambs look like a cakewalk.

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Call Me by Your Name

By André Aciman

Book cover of Call Me by Your Name

Why this book?

This winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Fiction is one of the greatest love stories I have read – and also seen, since it was made into an equally compelling movie. Oliver arrives on the Italian Riviera to spend the summer assisting Professor Perlman on his academic research. He lives with the Perlman family and soon becomes close friends with their adolescent son, Elio. Their friendship evolves into a love affair that tests their sexuality as they move closer to total intimacy. It’s a story that lingers. I still get emotional thinking about it.

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The Stuffed Coffin

By Dieter Moitzi

Book cover of The Stuffed Coffin

Why this book?

I’m a gay writer living in France, so of course, I had to read The Stuffed Coffin when it won France’s national 2019 Prize for Gay Thriller. And as a bonus, it’s set in Greece, the country which stole my heart long ago. After breaking up with his boyfriend, Damien needs to get away and chooses a bucolic Greek village next to the sea. His first night there, he falls for a handsome youth, Nikos, but their relationship is anything but simple. Meanwhile, bodies start appearing: drowned, run over, whatever. It’s hardly the calm respite Damien envisioned but readers will definitely enjoy this sometimes-quirky and definitely entertaining read.

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