Christopher Rice’s latest novel, “The Moonlit Earth,” tackles three dangerous subjects: wealth, family, and gay life in the Middle East. After his last novel about a closeted Marine’s death and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” elicited real-life death threats, Rice jokes, “This book is as close as I’ll ever get to Robert Ludlum.”
The main character of “The Moonlit Earth” is a straight woman, Megan, who discovers that her flight-attendant brother Cameron is caught up in an apparent terrorist bombing in Hong Kong. Aabid, a gay Saudi Arabian who stays in the closet so he won’t be cut off from his family’s fortune, has a habit of trying to buy Cameron’s affection. Aabid’s bodyguard, Majed, runs interference throughout.
Christopher Rice’s ‘Moonlit Earth’ includes a gay flight attendant caught up in a possible terrorist bombing, and the closeted Saudi Arabian trying to buy his affection. (Photo by Toky Photography via christopherricebooks.com)
Their dangerous itinerary ranges from Megan and Cameron’s humble corner of wealthy Cathedral Beach, where their divorced mother survives on their wealthy and adulterous cousin’s largesse, to the sex-trade hotspots of Thailand and the ritzy hotels of Hong Kong.
Rice traveled to Thailand and Hong Kong as part of his research.
“I really feel that a writer should go to the places he writes about in order to connect emotionally,” he explains.
Thailand seemed a logical starting point, given its reputation, but Hong Kong captured his imagination. “The minute my feet hit the ground, I knew this is where I wanted to set the novel because of the energy there and the collision of East and West,” he says.
“The Moonlit Earth” hits bookstores nationwide on April 6, and Rice holds a reading and book-signing April 13 at Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse. He is enthusiastic about returning to Atlanta.
“Atlanta? Oh my God! The best book signing events I do on my tour are always in Atlanta. One year, the fire marshal threatened to shut down Outwrite Books, there were so many people there!” he recalls.
Valuing the written word
Rice credits Outwrite owner Philip Rafshoon with keeping the store open despite the current economic climate and changes in LGBT bookselling and publishing.
“Outwrite is a powerhouse. Look at what’s happened to gay bookstores. We’ve gone from 150 to about 50 (in recent years),” he says. “Outwrite’s staying strong as an institution and not resting on its laurels. Philip’s aggressive, he’s really out there in the community, and stores like Outwrite and Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia are stepping up to the challenge.”
| Christopher Rice
Tuesday, April 13, 7:30 p.m.
Outwrite Bookstore & Cofeehouse
991 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta, GA 30309
In this climate, Rice worries that many in the community don’t realize how important it is to support LGBT authors by buying their books and showing up for their events.
“The attitude in our culture is that people shouldn’t have to pay for content. I think content should be reasonably priced — especially the ridiculous price of some hardbacks — but in the [gay] community, I’ve seen a dismissal of the written word, particularly the idea that text-based content should be shared, not compensated,” he says.
Until New York figures out how to pay authors for e-books, he says, the industry “provides writers with a very dispiriting experience, particularly if you’re not ‘Anne Rice’s son’.”
Although Rice has worked hard to distinguish his work from his mother’s famous novels, he kicks off his current tour at the University of California – Riverside, where he and Anne Rice will appear in conversation on April 3.
“We have a very funny moderator, Todd Goldberg. People like us together on stage and say we have good chemistry. But we don’t do it all the time,” he says.