God Hates Fags

Fiction - Drama
308 Pages
Reviewed on 12/28/2011
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Mr. Wellman is a retired high school teacher having taught for thirty-five years in Illinois. He lives with his wife in a suburb northwest of Chicago. Mr. Wellman was probably one of the first high school teachers to invite gays into his psychology and sociology classes to talk about their sexual orientation. For a description of that first event, readers are referred to an article, "High School Days" by Step May, appering in The Gay Liberation Bkook, edited by Len Richmond and Gary Noguera. When Mr. Wellman is not writing, he golfs and, until recently, was teaching people to fly.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Laurie Gray for Readers' Favorite

"God Hates Fags" by Joe Wellman opens with the discovery of the abduction and brutal murder of a beloved high school teacher who had recently been outed as a closeted gay from the pulpit by a fundamentalist Christian pastor on a mission to rid society of the unforgivable sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. The story is set in a fictitious city of 35,000 people on the Mississippi River in southern Illinois and contains profanity, violence, sexual situations, and vulgar bigotry of every kind. After the police investigate and solve the murder, a State's Attorney with congressional ambitions decides to charge the pastor with a hate crime, even though his friends, family and party leaders believe he's committing political suicide. Does he have his own agenda and skeletons in the closet? In this book, everyone does!

Make no mistake. Joe Wellman knows, probably better than most, that God does not hate gays; it's only people who hate. He is not promoting the senseless abuse and self-perpetuating visceral hatred he depicts. For those who already suspect that "criminal justice" is an oxymoron and most people's lives are a tragic joke based upon their unspoken fears, "God Hates Fags" is clearly a skillful, perhaps brilliant, parody of society and the lies we take so seriously. The text itself could use some additional editing and a less offensive title. In context, the title is appropriate, but standing alone on a bookshelf or simply reading it in public sends the wrong message. I was fortunate to review an electronic copy where the title was not evident to casual observers. If you have a hard copy, I recommend duct taping the cover, suspending your own biases and expectations, and reading this book. Like it or not, you will learn something about yourself.

Tom Hansen

As a friend of Joe's I was quite impressed with his writing
talent and his story telling. This is his third novel and the
best of the three. The book is as good if not better as the review by Brenda.

Brenda Ballard

A small, conservative town is turned upside down when one man's well-hidden secret is revealed to an ultra-zealous preacher with a vendetta against certain lifestyles. What happens next is a tightly wound plot with twists and turns that are surprising, disturbing, frightening and which seem real. The sheriff wants justice for the chain of events leading to the death of the outed man. The charge of a hate crime is filed against God's servant for his ruining the dead man's privacy. Enter a sinking evangelist who sees this as a fine opportunity to boost his own career and television ratings. The town will never be the same.

Rarely do I read a book that is so tightly wound that I cannot at least guess what will happen next. Not so in this case! This story is solid as a rock with so many plot twists that it is much like riding a roller coaster in the pitch dark. The characters are believable and well-developed; this could be a small town anywhere in USA. The subplots are equally as intriguing and could very well have been their own stories apart from the book.

My congratulations to the author, who has a gift for creating a mental image for the reader. While the title may be offensive to some (I do admit that I was taken aback myself but chose to give it a chance), the contents inside are worthy of reading and...by the last word of the last page, the title makes perfect sense.

Tamera L.

Protestant minister, Jeremiah Matthews uses his influence on the community and on his congregation to make trouble for Sean Goehl, a local English teacher and coach. Matthews makes the claim that Goehl is gay and wants the teacher removed from his position in the school. “God hates fags” is the minister’s motto and Matthews is determined that Sean won’t taint the boys at school with his homosexual orientation. Now Sean Goehl ends up dead in a brutal homicide. An investigation into Sean’s murder has begun and the unraveling of Sean’s past life and his questionable trips to The Onion Patch.

GOD HATES FAGS brings to life discrimination at its finest and the horrible result when people become both judge and executioner. The animosity is only aggravated when God and the bible are used to screen the hatred and somehow justify taking action against the accused. The writer is very descriptive with his rural locations and small town setting. There is a colorful array of characters – especially Sarah who unknowingly begins the whole sordid mess with her tale of discovery. Both sides of Sean’s life are compelling –Teri Goehl the devoted wife and mother of his child and on the other side - Paul Nichols, the hidden lover. The judgment stone gets tossed both ways between Christians and homosexuals. Overall the book was well written, controversial and entertaining. Joe Wellman is a gifted story teller.

Trudi LoPreto

“God Hates Fags” by Joe Wellman is a well written book of the times. This book will hold your attention from page one until the final word. Joe Wellman offers us controversial issues and an intriguing plot with many twists and turns.

Jeremiah Mathews is the preacher who believes God has a special mission to perform. He learns that Sean Goehl, a well-respected high school teacher is gay and believes it his responsibility to share that news with the school and his congregation. The “outing” leads to Sean’s death. The state attorney charges Rev.Mathews with a hate crime, stating you cannot use the Bible to justify anti-gay behavior.

Mike and Roger are the detectives investigating this crime and are forced to deal with Sean’s unsuspecting wife Terri, Sarah the teacher who secretly loved him, Dotty the teacher who watched from the sidelines. Gene, the District Attorney who believes strongly in this case, even though it may impact his chances for the upcoming Congressional elections. With the jury selection completed, we move to the Court Room. The hearing is over quickly and moves into the Jury Room. The twelve jurors fight and battle with the struggle of deciding the innocence or guilt of Rev.Mathews.

I believe that the title “God Hates Fags” will stop many people from reading it.I hope that is does not. This is a great story dealing with contempory issues and valuable life lessons. Joe Wellman has given us a religious mystery, trial and jury book that is well worth reading. I highly recommend this book.

Alice D.

Sean Goehl, high school teacher and coach, is a closet gay. Married and father to a baby daughter, his life is put in danger when a local rural Illinois minister, Jeremiah Matthews, tells his congregation one Sunday morning that Sean is gay, a danger to the town's youth, and that gays have no right to life. Then Sean is beaten to death at an out-of-the-way farm by three local thugs who have been incited by Matthews anti-gay words. Teenagers, trysting romantically in an old barn on the farm, witness Sean's murder and later identify his killers. Sean's death sets off reactions among those who knew him. Fellow teacher Dottie feels guilt for sending Sean's innocent friend and fellow teacher Sarah Hildebrand to a bar and grill in Chicago where she knows Sarah will see Sean and his male lover, Paul. Lesbian Police Detective Sandy Jansen remembers how her love Barb committed suicide when her parents disowned her. And Lynn and Faith Matthews, wife and daughter of Jeremiah, have their own memories to deal with as Gene Deitrich, the local States Attorney and rising political star, brings charges of a hate crime and invasion of privacy against Jeremiah Matthews. Who will win in this story of gays surviving in a religious and small conservative Mid-Western community?

This well-written thriller with its excellent formatting begins as over-weight, lazy police officer Fred Willis finds Sean Goehl's body with the words "God Hates Fags" scratched into his forehead. All the characters are totally believable, even Jeremiah Matthews whose attack from the pulpit against Sean begins this engrossing story. The plot proceeds to the story's conclusion with a good portion being devoted to Jeremiah Matthew's trial and the behind the scenes jury fights over guilty vs. not guilty. "God Hates Fags" will give the reader insights into life in a small Mid-Western town where living life without controversy is the norm.

Anne B.

I’d like to begin this review by commenting on the title. This is a good book with a great message and while the title is fitting I think it will put off many readers. This topic is rather controversial and many will not want to be seen carrying or reading a book with such a hateful title. On the other hand I do understand why this title was chosen for it does represent the opinions of many bigots and there are plenty of bigots in this book.

Officer Fred was on duty, sort of, when he got the call to check out the Schoenhardt Farm. The timid, overweight, lazy deputy found the dead body of a man with the words God Hates Fags on his forehead. Sean Goehl was a school teacher, now he was a dead school teacher. A local minister had label the teacher a homosexual to his congregation. Was the minister guilty of a hate crime? The state’s attorney thought so and tried him for murder. This book contains the investigation, trial and outcome.

This book is a work of fiction but could have been ripped from the headlines. Joe Wellman is a talented author he not only created an excellent read but pinpointed the “sins” of a society that is willing to label others. While the major focus was on the prejudice against of homosexuals; he subtly pointed to the prejudice against anyone that is different, such as Fred who was called “Barney” because of his fears. If he was that bad a deputy then replace him but humiliating him is uncalled for. This book has several secondary plots that make this an even tastier read. The author successfully manages to weave them all together to leave readers with a tapestry which depicts man’s instinct to raise themselves by destroying others.

The characters in this book are realistic and the plot is delicious. I look forward to more books by this author. This book is a must read!