Watch the Senseless book trailer!

Fuckhead_grabClick the image to watch the book trailer!

The video trailer for Portland author Martin Bannon’s comedic novel, Senseless Confidential, was shot by director Andrew Michael Bray on location in the Oregon Cascades. (A higher resolution trailer for the upcoming feature film adaptation will be released in early 2017.)

The book trailer features Portland actors Brian Allard (who voices over 25 characters for the audiobook), Sara Fay, Bruce Handley, and Pheebe the Pitbull, as it lays out the plight of Census worker Nick Prince.

The audiobook is available at St. Johns Booksellers in Portland, Oregon, in both CD ($24.99) and downloadable mp3 ($14.99) formats. Print editions are also available at St. Johns ($14.99 list).

All three editions are also available from Dinkus Books for the same prices. (For the CD boxed set and print editions, a shipping fee of $2.50 will be added to US orders.)

You will find the mp3 audiobook at Amazon for $17.49 (plus applicable taxes); you may also download the mp3 edition from Amazon’s subsidiary Audible (list US$19.95, though the actual cost may be lower depending on the type of Audible membership you have.)

The ebook edition is available at Smashwords for $3.99 in ALL digital formats.

Both print (US$13.49) and Kindle (US$3.99) editions are available from Amazon.

The book that demanded a film

While you’re waiting for the film, currently in development, here’s a sampling of comments from readers of the book that spawned it. If you care to check it out yourself, visit your local bookseller or your favorite online source, or visit the book’s page on Goodreads and choose from among the options there (under Get A Copy).

Total Entertainment! ★★★★★

by a reader
from Florida
on July 20, 2012

Senseless is a laugh-out-loud comedy, with a generous sprinkling of mystery and suspense. But it’s also a sort of adult coming-of-age story, filled with insightful tidbits as Nick finds his way in life. This combination works perfectly to create a truly unique plot and a captivating read.

I am a sucker for compelling characters and Senseless is filled with them. No one here is perfect or predictable. I was hooked from the opening sentence.

Thumbs Up! ★★★★★

by a reader
on September 22, 2012

Great read. Interesting characters, plot and adventure in the northwest. Who thought being a census taker could be such an adventurous job. Everyone in my book group enjoyed this book, which is not often the case.


Senseless Confidential ★★★★☆

by a reader
on September 20, 2012

I have to admit that I didn’t like Nick at first. And I didn’t have much sympathy for his situation. But I enjoyed the absurdity and kept reading. I am glad I did. The characters grew on me and I found myself very engaged with their individual idiosyncrasies. Then I couldn’t put the book down and thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected paths that these characters were taking.
I highly recommend this book and am convinced that there are characters just like these in real life!!!


A Bona Fide U.S. Census Field Representative’s Seal of Approval! Bravo! ★★★★★

by a reader
from Oregon City, OR USA
on September 10, 2012

I was unable to put down this off-the-wall and thoroughly entertaining comic gem — partly because This Is Also My Life because I, too, work as a Field Representative for the U.S. Census Bureau. Martin Bannon’s Nick Prince has traveled the same routes as I have– literally, and I’m always meeting uber-interesting people whose names and PII (Personal Identifying Information) I will be carrying to my grave. I, too, live and die by Title 13. I highly recommend this Carl Hiaasen-ish romp through the wilds of rural Clackamas County, Oregon. Please don’t shoot us.


Senseless Confidential: A great Summer read! ★★★★★

by a reader
from Skagit County, WA
on August 19, 2012

Just finished Senseless Confidential — the book on the top of my pile for vacation reading. Couldn’t put it down — what great fun! Bannon knows how to spin a most engaging story, with characters that come quickly to life, but keep you guessing as to their histories and motives. A book clearly rooted in the author’s own experiences of so many different things — working for the government, Mormonism, the Cascades wilderness. Loved the way so many different themes were woven together with the skill of a great storyteller.


A thoroughly entertaining story ★★★★★

by a reader
from Long Beach, California, USA
on August 02, 2012

Bannon’s work here often reminded me of one of my favorite authors, Armistead Maupin. A diverse group of relatable characters and some well-placed plot twists kept me turning pages eagerly. Mr. Bannon knows what he’s doing. He has written something that takes the banality of the US Census and turns it into a beautifully harmonious collection of seemingly unrelated elements. I really cared about these characters!


A Film Worth Doing Right

On the set of Senseless Confidential

Good filmmaking takes time

By now you may have heard through the grapevine, in an email from me, or on Facebook, that we have made the difficult decision to delay the shoot of Senseless Confidential until summer of 2015. There are a number of reasons for this, largely involving scheduling difficulties and the need for summer weather, but I came across a post from fellow indie author Russell Blake today that summarizes our situation very nicely.

In his post, Russell is addressing the many myths perpetrated online regarding indie publishing. Most are common to indie film producing as well, if not to any self-promoted endeavor. Here is Myth #5 on his list:

The best you can do should suffice.”

Russell’s response: Mmm, not so much. This is a popular refrain from those destined for obscurity. In a highly competitive business, you need every possible edge. Which means, in this one, your cover, your blurb, your concept, your writing, your formatting, [your trailer, your film] and your marketing need to be top shelf, not as good as you can manage given all your issues. Nobody cares about why you can’t produce a product that’s great. Your job is to produce it. Cheap out or try to do it yourself (unless you’re one in a million…)  and you just radically worsened your odds. Why would anyone buy something sub-par? Would you buy a sub-par car, or house, or phone, or anything, because the company producing it found it too hard or expensive to do it right? No. And neither will [your audience]. At least not for long.

I know many of you are disappointed by the delay in our filming schedule. But take Russell’s words to heart and consider the alternative. You’ll come to understand, as I did, that it’s for the best. A film worth making is a film worth taking one’s time with.

Thanks for your continued understanding and support.

Marty interviewed on the Author’s Forum

Heads up, Portland Metro local friends: My interview on the Author’s Forum is being aired in the Portland Metro area through December 6 at the times indicated below. Check it out if you get a chance! (Note that Tuesdays and Saturday are the only Primetime airings.)

Tuesday, 11/27 (tonight) and 12/4, 9:30 PM
Wednesday, 11/28 and 12/5, 2:30 PM
Thursday, 11/29 and 12/6, 7:00 AM
Saturday, 12/1, 7:00 PM

It will air on Comcast CH23, Clear Creek CH18, Reliance Connects CH77, BCT CH97 (and TU/TH only on CAN CH11).

On Comcast CH23 only, serving the Milwaukie area, it will also air on Sunday, 12/2, 2:30 PM, Monday, 12/3 at 7:00 PM, Wednesday 11/28 and 12/5 at 12 Noon, Thursday 11/29 and 12/6 at 8:00 AM, and Friday, 11/30, 3:30 AM.

Out, Out, and Away: Part III

(Read Part I here)

(Read Part II here)

The story of my running away from home—twice, in fact—is one for another day. This story, after all, is about being a role model for gay teens, and running away from home doesn’t exactly qualify there. Suffice it to say, that my father and I ultimately negotiated a settlement, at his behest, because he didn’t want me to flunk out of high school and adversely impact the rest of my life. The terms, loosely, were: If I agreed to stay in school until graduation, he wouldn’t ask who I was seeing or what we were doing, as long as I didn’t bring any of “them” home. (Two weeks after graduation my father declared me an emancipated minor and I, at 16, was living in Europe. But that, too, is a story for another time.)

When the time came I made the presentation, laying out my journey thus far, and sharing what I had learned about the meaning of homosexuality. It was a pretty low-key affair, having been eclipsed by all that had gone into making it happen. Kids in the class asked questions and I answered. Nothing changed, really. At least not in that particular classroom. What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was that plenty was changing in the closeted hearts and minds of other gay students at Branham High School—students I’d never met, who’d only heard of my project through the grapevine.

One such student called me at home one evening, introducing himself as Rich, telling me he was doing a paper on the subject of homosexuality. He said he wanted to interview me. I agreed to meet him. Turned out we were both on the Cross-Country team, so we arranged to go running together. In the end, Rich and I dated briefly (after Joey moved on due to the fact a that his being 19 and my being 16 opened him up to charges of statutory rape), and Rich never did a paper on the subject (nor had he ever intended to). But we did talk. A lot. It was an incredible experience to be able to share our thoughts, hopes, and fears about being different.

Unfortunately, our kind of different was unpalatable to Rich’s fundamentalist parents who, upon learning of our relationship, promptly withdrew him from Branham and re-enrolled him at nearby Leigh High School. I believe they also put him into some kind of Christian reorientation therapy. I had only a few furtive moments to speak to him after that—once when I staked him out at Leigh—and he wouldn’t say much. It was clear that he was traumatized. I was worried that he would attempt suicide. (He didn’t. I ran into him 15 years later in San Francisco.)

Eventually, because of my widespread involvement in everything from Track, to the Chess Club, to student government and the school play, it’s safe to say that most of the school knew I was gay by the time I graduated in 1974. Surprisingly, during all that time, there were only three minor instances of antigay sentiment expressed openly toward me. Once my locker was tagged with “Beaugay,” a witty play on my surname. Then there was the time when yearbooks came out and I signed a freshman jock’s, telling him how cute he was; after his jock friends saw it they made catcalls at me once when I walked by their huddle in the hallway.

Marty & Karen, Branham High School Senior Ball 1974

Marty & Karen, Branham High School Senior Ball 1974

The third time I was taunted, which probably would have occurred whether I’d come out or not, was when I was the only boy enrolled in a Modern Dance class with my friend Karen (who later asked me to the Senior Ball). We were practicing in the gym when the class ended. But because I was having a difficult time learning to “chassé,” the teacher kept me a few minutes longer to try to get my arms to alternate with my legs instead of swinging with them (imagine if you will, left arm paired with left leg, right with right; pretty awkward). Boys who were between classes began gathering at the gym door and making rude remarks. In all honesty, I deserved it. Not for being gay, but for being such a klutz.

There were plenty of other opportunities before I graduated for kids to be mean, rude, or violent if they were inclined to. For instance, there was the time my friend David (Karen’s brother, as it turns out) went as my date to the homecoming dance. We were asked to leave after—during, actually—the first dance. Once again, however, it was the adults who had the problem; the other kids just found it amusing. I remember a lot of smiles that night. Of course, David was straight, so perhaps the onlookers who knew that just considered it a big joke.

I don’t know whether the positive response I got from my peers was due to anything I did, or if it was just a great bunch of kids I went to school with. Unlike later years, there was not a toxic political environment in the 70s. It was before Republicans and religious zealots decided to make antigay rhetoric part of a perpetual right-wing agenda in the media. People didn’t talk much about gay issues, good or bad. So the reactions of the kids in school were their own, not something handed to them in church, at home, or on TV. That, it turns out, was a good thing. I doubt it could be replicated today, although we see that, for the most part, the younger generations who have been exposed to gay friends and celebrities are far less inclined than adults to have a problem with gay peers. The battle for understanding hasn’t been won yet, but the signs are positive.

It really does get better!

Out, Out and Away: Part II

(Read Part I here)

The first parent to get involved was the mother of my fellow L&S Seminar classmate Mike, who was also on the Track team with me. (It’s likely that the rest of the team also knew I was gay and, although we shared a locker-room, I never had any indication that any of them were suffering a “military-style” paranoia about showering with me present.) Mike was one of several guys in the class who, along with me, were Key Club members. Because of the overlap between the club and the class rosters, everyone in Key Club—including many seniors—also knew I was gay. They too were supportive. Or if they weren’t, I never heard about it.

Emancipated minor: Marty at 16

Emancipated minor: Marty at 16

When Mike’s Mom heard about my project—presumably from Mike himself—she was outraged. At least, that’s what Mr. Wagner, the principal, told me when he called me into his office for a chat. Wagner himself was also supportive of my quest, but he had been instructed by the district superintendent to see if something could be worked out to calm Mike’s mom and any other parents who might feel the way she did. After some round-robin negotiations involving me, Wagner, and the superintendent, I was allowed to proceed, as long as I dropped my plans to bring in a speaker from Stanford’s Gay Student Union.

During the time all this was going on, another parent got involved: my dad. Whether he became aware of what I was doing through the principal, the superintendent, or Mike’s mom; or whether it was purely accidental, I’ll never know. What he told me was that my stepmother had picked up one of my school folders and “some things fell out.” Those things, he said, were my notes on the presentation I was planning.

Adulthood and hindsight have made me more sympathetic to my father’s situation in those days, but at the time my reaction was one of defiance. I was in the garage when he confronted me, already astride my motorcycle, on my way to spend the afternoon with my boyfriend at his cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains, just twenty minutes away. My father told me that he would not allow me to give my presentation because it would embarrass my stepmother, who was president of the PTA. I don’t remember what I said in return, but inwardly I had no intention of canceling my plans.

After making his point about the presentation, my father asked where I was going. “Joey’s,” I said. He already knew this, as my “friendship” with Joey had never been a secret; only the nature of it was. But my father used my reply as an opportunity to tell me that it was no longer acceptable for “these people” to call or visit me, and that he would not permit me to go to Joey’s anymore either. I remember trembling with a combination of outrage and fear. The fear of what I was about to do, because at that moment I was as determined as Juliet that nothing was going to keep me from my Romeo. I had found someone, a connection, a soulmate, a boy (he was 3 years my senior) who loved me. I was prepared to defy my father for that.

I ignored my father’s prohibition, started the bike, and zoomed off into the mountains to be with Joey. I didn’t stop to consider what the repercussions might be, nor did I want to know. I was running on pure adrenalin on a course dictated solely by my heart, not my head. But after staying with Joey late into the night, I had more than enough time to consider the ramifications of my actions. My fear of my father’s wrath was sufficient to lead me to another decision—one that, at the time, I felt was inevitable. I slipped back into the house long after everyone was in bed, I gathered up a few things, climbed out of my second-story bedroom window, and ran away from home.

(Read Part III here)

Out, Out, and Away: Part I

Marty at 15

Marty at 15

[This post is inspired by the lament of a friend that there were no “brave” role models in high school for “scared” gay teens.]

By  the time I was 15½, I’d been Freshman Class president, I’d lettered in Track,  and I had starred in the lead role (reprising Rock Hudson) in the school play. I was the school’s first Sophomore student body vice-president (a role I had created while a student council member), president of the Chess Club, and had just gotten my driver’s license, a motorcycle, and my first job—as a movie theater usher. What was left for me to do?

Why… Come out, of course! I had understood that I was gay—and what that meant—since the summer before Eighth Grade, just months before my 13th birthday. My understanding was greatly enhanced by the coincidence of my adolescence with the seminal moment now immortalized as the Stonewall Riots, having occurred just two weeks after I completed the Seventh Grade.

Much was being written about the meaning of homosexuality at the time. But what made this a magical—and life-altering—moment for me was that, for the first time, not all of the discussions of the subject put it in a negative light. I found one book in particular at the Santa Clara Public Library in which a “gay liberation activist” by the name of Konstantin Berlandt explained to me that I was not only not “evil,” but that I was one of thousands of others like myself. Thus began my quest to find them.

So it was that in the second semester of my Freshman year, having moved to a new part of town (San José, California) and started at a new school, I did two things: I got myself elected class president, and I came out to the first person. The latter was not a planned event, and it took an entire tearful night—until 6 a.m.—to spit it out, but it was the turning point. The girl in whom I confided (after she inquired as to why I had not returned her affections) was completely supportive. Soon she had introduced me to a college-aged gay friend of hers, who in turn introduced me to a “gay rap group” (hey, it was 1973!) in Palo Alto, made up mostly of newly liberated Stanford University students.

There, in addition to meeting my first boyfriend, I learned the science and the politics of the struggle for mainstream acceptance. It was a serendipitous confluence of adolescence with the birth of a global phenomenon, and it affected me deeply—and irrevocably. At 15 I became an activist. A gay activist. In 1973. This was not a natural condition for me—at least, not entirely. I had always been a loud-mouthed, “willful” child, but I had a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your perspective) respect for authority. I was the epitome of “The Best Little Boy in the World.” [Note: I should point out to the uninitiated that this is not meant literally; it is a reference to the 1973 book of that title by John Reid.]

But my new-found knowledge changed me. For the first time in my life I was willing to stand up to authority, yea, challenge it even! And that included my father, whom I had never deliberately defied about anything (other than eating tomatoes, perhaps) up until that point in my life. I didn’t set out to challenge him, of course. My fear of the repercussions led me instead, naively, to try to take on the establishment without his finding out what I was up to.

In my second year of high school, at my counselor’s urging, I officially skipped a year, becoming a 15-year-old Junior instead of a Sophomore. I was also enrolled in an “advanced” course called Letters & Science Seminar. The format of the class required that I write a proposal for a project of my own creation—which would count for half my semester grade—and then execute the project, which accounted for the other half. Well, as I said earlier, I had done so much already, that I was emboldened to propose something really radical and daring: My project would be to document my coming out, complete with a final public presentation before the class at the end of the semester.

Up until that point, I had only come out to a handful of friends. But once my project proposal had been accepted, most of my classmates in the L&S Seminar also knew. To my surprise, there had not been one negative reaction, not one taunt or slur, none of the anger, disdain, or hatred that my “mentors” at the Stanford Gay Student Union had tried to prepare me for. I seemed to be a hero to some, a curiosity to others. But no one in that class treated me any different than they had before.

Emboldened by this response, I set about chronicling my own journey, and began attending regular meetings of the gay student group at nearby San José State College (now University) to learn about the science and politics of “gay liberation.” It wasn’t until parents got involved that my carefully constructed plan began to come crashing down around me.

Read Part II here

A Senseless excerpt…

You don’t have time to read another free novel at the moment, I know. So here’s a little escape from reality that’s just the right length (about 1,000 words)—a random excerpt from my forthcoming novel “Senseless,” a neo-noir, absurdist romp through the Oregon Cascades with Census worker Nick Prince. If you’d like a more in-depth look, feel free to visit the Senseless blog.

Dogs begin barking inside the house as soon as I ring the bell. I’m ready to leave my card and a brochure, and make my escape, when a woman calls from an open window. “Who is it?”

“U.S. Census Bureau,” I reply, cursing my luck.

A moment later the woman speaks again through the barely open door. “I have to be careful my puppies don’t get out. What is it?”

I show her my ID and introduce myself. “And this is Angie Carson, my supervisor,” I add with a nod to Angie, who’s wearing her most patronizing smile.

“Well, come on in then,” she says, opening the door a little wider. “Mind the dogs.”

I thank her and step quickly into the opening. I freeze in my tracks. It’s one of those split-level houses, where the front door opens onto a landing, with one stair going up to the living room, the other down to the bedrooms. The woman’s “puppies” are on the stairs in front of me, barking furiously. One is a terrier of some kind. The other is a pit bull.

“Oh, don’t mind her,” the woman says of the pit bull as she slips past the dogs and reaches the top of the stairs. “She’s fine.”

“Uh, she may be fine,” I say, “but I’m not sure I am.” Pit bulls are the only thing about this job that I’m more afraid of than Angie.

“No, no,” the woman says, “really. Don’t worry.” She calls to the dog. “Pepper. Come.” The dog ignores her, never once breaking eye contact with me.

“Just go on,” Angie says from behind me, impatient. “She says the dog won’t bite.”

I don’t budge. The woman is calling, “Treats, Pepper! Come!” and again tells me that it’s fine to proceed. Angie can wait no longer. She pushes past me and heads up the stairs, right past Pepper. The dog gives her a brief glance then continues to stare me down.

Seeing Angie’s success, I reconsider my reluctance. Maybe I am being overly cautious. Angie says so in less flattering terms. “C’mon. Don’t wimp out on me, Big Guy.”

My masculinity now questioned, I start up the stairs. In an instant Pepper is airborne. I dodge to the right, barely saving my face. But my left bicep is now lodged in Pepper’s jaws as I fall back into the storm door, which is not fully latched. As Pepper and I sail onto the porch I let out a scream so blood curdling that it scares me even more. My worst nightmare has become reality.

Pepper loses her grip as we thud onto the concrete. I’m already back on my feet by the time she hits the iron railing with a yelp. I’ve still got my computer bag slung across my chest. Somewhere within it is a can of pepper spray—appropriately named, I note, in spite of my panic. I’m groping for it as I flee across the yard.

I reach Angie’s car, but the door is locked. There’s no time to go around it, so I clamber over the hood and into the street. Pepper is barking furiously. At first she tries to leap over the hood after me, then decides to go around. This gains me an extra second on her and I’m finally able to pull out the spray. Just as Pepper opens up for another mouthful of me, I let ’er rip.

Pepper squeals like a stuck hog as I catch my heel on the opposite curb. I sail backwards across the sidewalk onto the lawn. Pepper lies in the gutter, shrieking and pawing furiously at her face. She’s still too close for comfort, so I waste no time in crab-walking backwards up the lawn away from her.

I hear her owner, shrieking in tones similar to the dog’s. “Pepper! Oh, Pepper! Come! Come, Baby!” The next thing I hear is the guttural rumble of what can only be the ’67 Impala that passed us earlier. A split second later it blows around the bend at a healthy clip. It does not prove so healthy for Pepper who, temporarily blinded, is making her way back across the street toward the sound of her owner’s voice. With a wail of finality she sails about thirty feet farther down the block.

The dog is beyond saving, but someone has rushed to help me. The last thing I remember before I pass out is staring up into Mrs. X’s worried eyes.

 # # #

I’m lucky. If I’d been “Peppered” on my own time, I’d be paying out of pocket for these just-shoot-me-now rabies vaccinations. But since it was an on-the-job injury, Workers’ Comp has it covered. I even get some time off now. Not official paid leave, mind you, since I have no benefits, but a week to recuperate.

What I do get, however, is the chance to file a “CA-7 Claim for Compensation,” which must be accompanied by a “CA-7a Time Analysis Form,” so some bureaucrat who gets paid twice what I do can decide if I should get paid for hours I might have worked, had I trusted my instincts and sprayed Pepper on sight. Then, the Census Bureau will fill out their portion of said forms, and send them on to the Office of What-the-Fuck, or whatever it’s called, where my claim will languish under scrutiny until such time as I either die from my wounds or move to a Third World country to afford the medical treatment that Workers’ Comp has denied me. At least I have Angie as a witness to the attack, so some dickwad can’t claim that the wounds were self-inflicted for the purpose of taking a paid vacation.

Of course, the dog-bite is not the only thing that Angie witnessed yesterday. She’s still wanting to know why she found me lying unconscious in the arms of a tearful woman who had me in a lip-lock. She didn’t buy my explanation that it was just a Good Samaritan trying to perform CPR. “Don’t ask me,” I told her. “I was unconscious.”

In any case, I’m now free to focus on a more pressing matter: the boy and the Jeep. I use the word “focus” loosely; focus is a relative concept in my oxycodone-induced Nirvana. My grasp of the world at the moment has been reduced to two states. If I’m feeling no pain, I probably shouldn’t be riding the Ducati. On the other hand, if I’m wincing and cussing, then I’m good to go.