[WORLDWIDE, November 2022] Loose Lips: A Gay
Sea Odyssey, a work of gay erotica available worldwide
in Hardback and Ebook formats from November 22,
marks the fiction debut of Australian Dr Joseph Brennan
— an international academic authority on male
sexuality, best known for his scholarship on male sex,
gay pornography and queerbaiting.

Loose Lips tells the story of Olli Turner, a Clydebank
dockyards sexual adventurer who, after estrangement
from his father, decides to stow away on the RMS Queen
Elizabeth — the world’s largest ocean liner, forced to
set sail even before she is finished. Elizabeth, whose reign as the largest liner ever built will
exceed two decades, was built up rivet by rivet through his formative years and watched over
Olli’s sexual awakening. Staying with her will, he believes, carry him to a new world of landed
men. But it is 1940 and war is brewing. The short coastal voyage to Southampton he was
expecting turns out to be a daring dash across the Atlantic and just the start of a years-long
life at sea.

Written in a poetic style but with a sharpness of male sexuality that does not shy away from
the taboo, Brennan had this to say about his debut: “Loose Lips follows Olli’s search for sex,
love and meaning among to-war men in a world hostile to his kind. Inspired by actual events,
it’s part historical and part sexual adventure, where our hero is helped by his first love: the
formative experience of anonymous sex with dockyards men that solidifies an autonomous
sexual adventurer identity.”

Regarding sex and narrative, the author said: “There is no one succeeding the other here, a
recurrent interest in my academic work, and certainly no love triumphing against sexual
appetite, trite in many a gay male narrative and a persistent received wisdom in the popular
psyche on gay male relationships. The sex of Loose Lips is explicit and affirming, both the point,
but not; for narrative is the point too, it is not simply the ‘webbing’ that sticks scenes of
explicitness together. In other words, sex is both event and show here — but not the only
event, not the only show.”

Through explicitness, Loose Lips also dives into aspects of fetish within gay sex cultures,
including sex acts some might consider taboo. More diverse depictions of male sex is a topical
issue. Figures like Harry Styles have made recent comments in line with histories of gay sexual
representation, and this is an issue that connects with aspects of the author’s research. In
2020, for example, Brennan participated in an episode of the ABC’s Reputation Rehab, where
his research into the Todd Carney social media scandal was featured. Brennan’s broader
critique in this case extended beyond the shameful treatment of Carney by the Australian
media and sporting profession to point to the expectations placed on men and their
performance of sexuality within our culture at large; expectations that impact all men, not just
those within the gay community — a topical issue also, and one that is especially evocative of
the queerbaiting debate and current controversies such as the pressures placed on actor Kit
Connor to come out. The novel’s more diverse sexual repertoire is also a challenge by the
author to the somewhat limiting criteria many publishers in today’s gay erotic market impose
on their authors.

Across his academic career, Brennan has delved into audio-visual representations of men and
their sexuality, uncovering, he says, something of himself in the process; while his fiction
journey has an even earlier history. “Loose Lips is more than twenty years in the making. My
gay fiction journey began long before my academic career; as a wayward creative writing
student among the hard-edged Brutalist architecture of Macquarie University.” His path to
writing fiction has been “a meandering-yet-meaningful one”, Brennan says, “like many good
stories, I suppose”. As an Australian of European descent, his desire to chart a longer personal
heritage has been “a harbour within: part built, part natural”.

After leaving Macquarie for the sandstone structures of the University of Sydney, Australia’s
oldest university, he undertook doctoral training then lecturing posts in media analysis;
concurrently, he seized any chances to traverse the oceans that kept longer personal histories
from him. “When I could, I have returned to the United Kingdom and Ireland, and when I
could not, I have reminisced and discovered through writing — something many did amid
COVID-19.” It was from this period, when those places across oceans were more removed
from him than ever in his lifetime, that Brennan bound the various strands of his writing story
so far and fashioned some purpose from them: Loose Lips is the result.

Olli’s narrative spans the full Second World War, taking the story of Allied troopships as its
stage. It is underscored by the drama of this high-seas setting, with a plot that is informed
loosely by actual events — such as the rogue waves that almost sank the two Cunard Queens,
sending them to the bottom with more than 10,000 soldiers each; or the loss of the
Normandie; or the final moments of the ill-fated SS President Coolidge, now a popular dive site
in current-day Vanuatu.

Brennan says selection of troopships both connects with his interest in age-of-steam transport
history — shown via recent professional work that has seen him become a regular contributor
of long-form history articles for publications like The Railway Magazine and RAIL — and a status
of such sites as locales rich in homoerotic heritage and intrigue. “Male sex took place on the
troop transports,” he says, “and while often kept secret, even today, forms an important part
of the human story of war.”

Regarding the human tale of gay men in WWII, Brennan gives this example: “80 years ago this
month, Alan Turing arrived in New York City aboard troopship Queen Elizabeth. Today Turing
is remembered as the Nazi Enigma code breaker and a veritable World War II hero. But just
10 years after his passage on Queen Elizabeth, following conviction for homosexual acts and
chemical castration, he is dead. His treatment by the judicial system was disgraceful to the
extreme, and while there has been a suite of 21st-century attempted amends, which included
a New York Times obituary, a Manchester memorial, a PM’s apology, a Queen’s pardon, and
even a place on the £50 note, none of these retrospective actions can ever make up for how
he was treated. He endures not only as a hero wronged, but as a reminder to us all of shame
in the shadows of Britain’s finest hour.”

Winston Churchill travelled on Elizabeth’s sister ship the Queen Mary on three occasions, a
ship that survives today as a hotel and major tourist attraction in Long Beach, California and
the last of her kind. An American plays a central romantic role in Olli’s odyssey, while the
various successes and tragedies that befell the mighty troopships that give this story its
historical backdrop and central conflict shape Olli’s fate. “These ships held some of the most
important figures of the war, and had many fascinating stories that are, indirectly, weaved into
this story to give it a weight of truth,” Brennan says.

Returning to Turing as an example, Brennan explains: “It was during Turing’s time on Elizabeth

that the liner had its closest call.” In November 1942, Berlin Radio reported that U-boat U-
704 had damaged the liner. Churchill called it “an outright lie” in the House of Commons,

though Cunard records would later confirm that the ship’s bridge recorded a “heavy
detonation” around the time of U-704’s alleged attack — and performed a mid-sea stop,
something that was in violation of the liner’s strict, no-stop orders. “The peril that Turing
faced captures something of the spirit of Loose Lips,” Brennan reflected. “This is an unabashed
tale of gay sex on hostile high seas, a context where subs aren’t its heroes only danger.”

Olli bounces between troopships in this tale, from Queen Elizabeth to Mauritania to Queen
Mary to Aquitania to Île de France, among others. And his survival is one that is connected with
the survival of gay men both during and following the period in which this novel is set: gay
men who were so demonised through McCarthy’s America that would emerge from the ruins
and returning soldiers of this war, but whose prejudice is still felt today. “Gay men, we must
remember, continue to face profound prejudice,” the author said. “In my native Sydney, for
example, I have been following with horror the ongoing inquiries into gay hate deaths from
1970 to 2010 that have revealed staggering failures by NSW Police and a disgusting culture of

“With WWII troopships as his stage, our hero sets out from the conflict-clouded Glasgow

dockyards to traverse stormy waters of masculine sexual taboo and place in a world of to-
war men,” Brennan said. He added: “If that hunger we all have for something meaningful in a

man’s hull is to be sated, this story’s hero must summon the courage to confront loss and
conspiring undercurrents connected with this war of primal evils.”

Dr Joseph Brennan has published widely on male sexuality, including articles in high-impact
scholarly journals by Routledge, Sage, Elsevier and Emerald, as well as chapters in books by
the Universities of Chester and Texas Presses. In 2019 he edited the book Queerbaiting and
Fandom: Teasing Fans through Homoerotic Possibilities, published by University of Iowa Press,
while in October 2022 his encyclopedia entry “Gay Pornography” was published by Oxford
University Press and selected as a featured article — it is currently free to read.

Loose Lips is available wherever good books are sold and via many online retailers, including
outlets Barnes & Noble. It will be available in Paperback format from March 2023, to coincide
with the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s unofficial maiden crossing: her daring dash across
the Atlantic that serves as the starting point for this story.

Title Loose Lips: A Gay Sea Odyssey
Hardback ISBN 978-0-6455553-0-1
Ebook ISBN 978-0-6455553-1-8
Pages 288
Size 6″ x 9″ (229mm x 152mm)
Publisher Hard Crossing Press

US RRP $30 https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/loose-lips-joseph-

UK RRP £25 https://amzn.to/3O4aVX6
AU RRP $50 https://amzn.to/3g23zXs
EU RRP €30 https://amzn.to/3USvSqN
CA RRP $40 https://amzn.to/3Exw0WN
Rest of World RRP $30 (USD)
Distributor Ingram Content Group

A preview comprising the first 10 pages of the Hardback edition is available via the author’s website, at

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