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Better Davis and Other Stories

Better Davis and Other Stories

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By Philip Dean Walker

"Scathingly funny, downright nasty, unnervingly haunting, and ultimately heartbreaking, the stories in Better Davis and Other Stories take a very specific moment in American culture-the late seventies and early-mid eighties-and imagine the inner worlds of true-life celebrities, artists, gay playboys, and their good-time gal pals as AIDS shadowed and then decimated a vibrant and decadent generation. Keenly aware of his characters' failings and frailties as well as their vulnerability and humanity, Philip Dean Walker writes as if Andrew Holleran had ever turned his shrewd lens on the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and Paul Lynde, revealing the messy and tender hearts of large and small American icons who are already half-forgotten."

-Tim Murphy, author of Christodora and Correspondents


"Philip Dean Walker's Better Davis and Other Stories brings life to extraordinary celebrity corners of the early years of the AIDS crisis-imagining actor Jim J. Bullock getting a test in 1985, or Natalie Wood and her friend Mart Crowley discussing 'that new gay disease.' In Walker's deft and evocative prose, these stars are returned to human scale as they grapple with something neither money nor fame could free them from. At once tender, sad, sensual, and gossipy, Better Davis is the literary equivalent of an incredible drag act, delivering the essence of each star in captivating short bursts."

-Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer

"Philip Dean Walker's glowing third collection displays his usual humor, rapid pace, and inventiveness. What might seem on the surface to feel like gossip is suddenly dignified by astute psychology and empathy. He never stoops to incendiary sensationalism. He understands the era in all its messy, problematic, intentional rebellion and sensuality. Better Davis and Other Stories is a subtle provocation and an endorsement of the self saying 'Yes' to love and friendship and ultimately a solitary wisdom about loss. It's also a daring reimagining of an entire era we'd likely rather forget."

-Michael Carroll, author of Stella Maris: And Other Key West Stories

"This book is a treasure-wise, irreverent, capable of both celebration and mourning. Walker is a singular talent, able to make both humor and tragedy come to life on the page, and to illuminate the many ways that by choice or necessity, a life can become a performance. Together, the characters in Better Davis and Other Stories create a vibrant portrait of a community at the precipice of the AIDS crisis. In preserving so much of the joy and human connection of this era, Walker underscores and grieves the enormous loss."

-Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections

"Better Davis and Other Stories made me feel like I was curled up around the gayest of camp fires, being regaled with tales of grand icons in their most vulnerable moments, stories of sexual freedom, and the shackles of AIDS, with moments of wild humor and startling honesty. If you've ever wondered what Liz Taylor and Maureen Stapleton talked about when they got drunk at a drag show, this is the book for you. It's both a thrill-ride and necessary reading."

-Drew Droege, Actor/Writer

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