Book Reviews

Finding Tulsa by Jim Provenzano at Palm Drive Publishing

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Artists/Actors/Musicians/Authors / Fiction
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 22-September-2020

Book Blurb

Stan Grozniak, the once-rising star of 1990s gay cinema, almost self-sabotages a prestigious directing gig with writer-producer (and soon to be ex-boyfriend) Barry, after casting his rediscovered teenage summer stock crush. Still haunted by the death of Rick Dacker, the sexy star of his cult favorite action trilogy, Stan attempts a romance with actor Lance Holtzer, his 'Tulsa' from a small town Ohio production of the musical Gypsy. When Jason Daw a gay adult video star, invites him to direct an epic porn feature, he risks it all while finding the means to confront a long-lost and once overly affectionate uncle. Discovering more about himself than he wants to admit, he traces his recent success with past obsessions. Framed through a visit to Stan's boyhood home where he made short films with his brother, the tale of his rise to cinematic success, and the sacrifices he made, captures the passion and heartache of making love, making movies, and the occasional riot.


Book Review

Today’s magic word is plethora, which, as I recently relearned from the funnies in last Sunday’s newspaper, means an abundance or profusion. Lambda Literary Award-winning author Jim Provenzano’s seventh novel, Finding Tulsa, is plethoric with (a) characters (odd, but also mostly very interesting); (b) engaging events (some of which, for the readers’ ease, are actually presented, lineally, in the text); and (c) a lesser detailed depiction of minor gay history from the sixties on to our current decade – including cloying references to AIDS, our gay holocaust.


While respecting his heavy touch of abstracted modernism, the author still manages to open and close with an overarching situation – setting this fictional memoir on an air trip to speak at a memorial for his high school teacher. Will the structure make sense? Will it captivate your interest? This is a tale of Stan, a prescient midwestern lad who, accepting his homosexuality early in life, proceeds to engage with the Hollywood ‘crowd’ (usually B level, or less!) as he directs quirky (mostly underground) films and seeks sexual fulfillment. “It was a life and career about losing men and then finding them.” Bless Mr. Provenzano’s ability to shun platitudinous writing, and for his wit. (“Once he fucked me on a mountaintop in the Santa Monica Mountains. I would have fallen in love with him. But I had a rock poking into my back.”)


How much of this memoir was based on real events is of no moment – and as the author acknowledges in an afterremark to his own brother, only a few might actually know. Nonetheless, some shared experiences may validate ‘Finding Tulsa’ for many of his contemporaries – such as shopping in the husky section of the Sears catalog (i.e., the fat boys' department); listening to then-popular music; or, as a young gay man reading Playgirl (“which I’d stolen shortly after I grew public hair and the balls to shoplift.”).


Sadly, my inside familiarity with “industry folk” and their oddities is limited, so I have no way of knowing whether many of the references are to real people, or merely for the author’s convenience. Is Mr. Provenzano so worldly and sophisticated, or skillfully adept at background? On the bright side (?), I too easily recognized so many of the gay porn stars mentioned in passing. Reality vs fiction – does it matter in stylized literature?


Let me emphasize the plethoral assets in this read. To a nonshowbusiness geek (me) it seems to offer a realistic presentation of the industry and the time, as viewed by B-level habitué. It constantly wanders in and around sex, so if you miss the erotic tone of John Rechy, this may be your second chance. Without excess bathos, it also reminds us of the early days of AIDS, and the horrific cost in lost friends. Most peculiarly (apparently, only to some), it depicts an incestuous relationship which, as so many porn purchasers actually acknowledge, may be more erotically exciting than revolting. Finally, the novel’s ultimate episodes of filming an artistic porn just about tips it over into surreality – fast, complex, and quite an effort to follow the text. Try it out!


Mr. Provenzano gives us a fine memoir-novel, presented as the hero’s life – a life which, in many places, is but a worn and tattered cloth, the careful examination of which easily reveals those bright, repetitive connecting threads that create the entirety.



I often write my reviews in disordered pieces, as the ideas fester and burst in my mind. Here is a very early thought: how cordial of Mr. Provenzano’s friends and fans to have provided pre-publication reviews printed at the back of the novel and, of course, in the offering. These encomiums were so very positively delighted, and they may be helpful in your focus. I found that to be true, having saved their consumption, lest they prejudice me, until I completed the novel. However, just remember that reading them is so much as eavesdropping on some foreign language (Gush-o-slav?) spoken by a coterie well versed in Mr. Provenzano’s tone and intention. See if you agree with them.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Palm Drive Publishing for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 319 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 22-September-2020
Price $9.99 ebook, $24.95 paperback
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