“New Kid in Town:1977” by Felice Picano from Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press, 2014).

There’s a moment in this story about a writer visiting Hollywood on business where a friend of the main character introduces the concept of verisimilitude in writing. That’s fitting because this piece is rife with verisimilitude. It’s hard to know if this is fiction or a fictionalized account of actual events. At the very least it’s being cheeky with some of the most popular rumors from four decades ago. It even has redacted bits, for crying out loud.

The writer, Vic, follows his buddy Andy to a party in the Hollywood Hills. Only this isn’t just any party; some of the most notable names in the business are there, and it’s expected to turn into a veritable orgy. In a few cases, it’s expected to get wild because the notable names are there.

Vic doesn’t much care about all that. He’s there because he wants to see Mark, a fellow New Yorker also in on business. Mark works for the record label that is throwing the party as part of a publicity package for their latest release. The diva the album belongs to has been and gone by the time Vic arrives, but there’s still plenty of trouble to get into. His friend Andy quickly develops a pattern of running off to find the action and then coming back to give Vic the (ahem) blow-by-blow.

It seems I’m always writing that sort of thing while reviewing stories by Felice Picano, doesn’t it? That’s because he has a penchant, a knack, a gift for creating tantalizingly debauched backdrops for his stories while focusing in on the characters in the foreground. Andy’s off being a party animal, and the paramedics end up being called for a less experienced guest, that’s true. But what are Vic and Mark doing? Why, they’re discussing their mutual love of classical music and quite possibly falling for one another. And as you read it, you think to yourself that they, and you, are not missing a thing.