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The Filly Paperback – Oct 2007

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing (October 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979777305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979777301
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,672,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Paperback
Seventeen-year-old Ethan Keller lives a simple life, spending his days working as a clerk in his small town's general store, and his evenings at his widowed mother's boarding house dinner table.

Ethan's never considered a life beyond the sheltered reach of a dutiful second son trying to keep his older brother, Willie, out of trouble, finding snippets of time to indulge his love of reading and dreaming of buying a colt or filly of his own some day.

All of that changes when a charismatic and persistent young cowboy named Travis Cain walks into his life.

Sensing a kindred spirit, Travis dares Ethan to dream beyond that which he's ever dared, and soon convinces Ethan to sign on to the Hayward Ranch's summer cattle drive. During the journey from Texas to Cheyenne, Ethan and Travis test the limits of their endurance, explore the bonds of true friendship, and discover a love that will eventually risk everything they hold dear.

In THE FILLY, author Mark R. Probst combines the tender beauty of love - be it the blossoming romance between two young men at a time when the only term to characterize their relationship came in the form of Biblical condemnation, the fierce protectiveness of families for their own, or friendships forged in the most dire of circumstances - with the gritty, bare-boned realism of life in the old west.

There were a few times when I was jarred from the narrative by an inconsistency of language, a bit of cardboard characterization among many of the novel's secondary players, and an ending that came too abruptly for my personal taste, but these factors were far outweighed by the depth and sensitivity in Mr. Probst's depictions of Ethan, Travis, and their relationship.

Reviewed by: Cat
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Format: Paperback
Mark R. Probst is an author with a marvellously rich imagination, and his first novel, "The Filly," is proof positive of this statement.

It is set in a small town in Texas in the 1870s, where we find seventeen-year-old Ethan Keller at work in Mr. Simpson's general store. It is one of those quaint emporiums that sells almost everything imaginable, from biscuits to jigsaw puzzles, and in his spare time Ethan reads his beloved novels.

Ethan is a nice, intelligent kid, somewhat shy and naïve due to his sheltered life with his devoted, but widowed mother, so he finds adventure in reading such books as Tale of Two Cities. It is not surprising therefore that he is intrigued by a handsome, worldly cowboy named Travis Cain, who comes riding through looking for work.

Travis is equally attracted to Ethan, and a friendship quickly forms between them. The catalyst is "Cleo," Cain's beautiful and spirited mare, and from this we learn that, in spite of his bookish nature, Ethan is an experienced and talented rider. Moreover, his abiding ambition is to one day own one of his own--particularly a filly. These points come into play later on in the novel, which makes them both a logical progression in the stort.

The two other central characters are Miss Peet, Ethan's former schoolmistress, and his older brother William. Miss Peet is a somewhat man hungry spinster, and William is a hard drinking, whore loving rebel, but intensely loyal to his "little brother."

Having thus created a cast of interesting and colourful characters, the author then sets them to work interacting with one another in almost comedic fashion.
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By Dr Max TOP 100 REVIEWER on Sept. 6 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel caught me up in the story from the first page and kept my interest throughout. The setting was so well described and the characters' behaviour was so appropriate for the times that it was easy to share the emotions and the doubts of the main characters as they went about their daily lives. Ethan is a 17-year-old second son living on a small farm by a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, Texas, 40 miles west of San Antonio in the 1870s. Sadly, Ethan is just a little different from the other kids he went to school with. Unlike most boys of his age, he liked school and actually finished grade 12. He loves to read and books are his window to a larger world. A true innocent, Ethan's never been away from his area and has very little life experience. In the USA of the 1870s, boys didn't talk about their feelings; they did what everybody did and behaved like everyone else. Men were expected to court and marry women and women were expected to marry and have children. So where does a young man fit in who feels no attraction to that kind of life? And what happens when such a young man meets another, more experienced man, who slowly opens up his horizons to a first experience of real love? This is a beautiful, tender romance that describes the awakening feelings of a young man as he comes of age. Remember that this was a time when sodomites were beaten, imprisoned and even hanged. While Ethan might have met someone had he lived in a large city, out in the middle of nowhere he was pretty much on his own, with his books. Travis is a young cowboy a few years older than Ethan but with life experiences gained from extensive travel throughout much of the USA. He encountered various women and men as well and has experienced sexual relations with both.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa12be87c) out of 5 stars 23 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa12eb2dc) out of 5 stars Technicolor Western Gay Romance Dec 7 2007
By Blake Fraina - Published on
Format: Paperback
Believe it or not, Mark Probst's charming debut novel about a couple of gay cowboys who fall in love on a cross country cattle drive has a lot more in common with your dad's favorite Western novel than Brokeback Mountain.

And that's a good thing.

The world of the young shop clerk Ethan Keller and ranch hand Travis Cain is a vivid Technicolor creation that harkens back to the Western films of Hollywood's Golden Age. I've never been a fan of Westerns - in literature or films - but was pleasantly surprised at how quickly Probst's breezy style and likeable characters drew me in. The writing itself is sturdy, masculine and free of flourishes, making it perfectly suited to the genre. And while he tends to paint in broad strokes, the settings he describes - the general store, the boisterous saloon, a spinster schoolmarm's genteel parlor, the Rocky Mountain vistas - are all so iconic, it's impossible not to picture them perfectly in your mind.

The downright wholesome love story between the two main characters develops slowly with just enough tension to keep the reader turning pages in sweet anticipation of the inevitable. A refreshing change in this day and age when it seems most modern romances involve the couple falling into bed first, and love later. Both protagonists are well developed and complicated, particularly the adorable Ethan, an upright, bookish young man who struggles to understand his desire for Travis at a time when homosexuality was never spoken of. But it's with some of the secondary characters that Probst really shines. Miss Peet, the lonely school teacher who shares her love of books with Ethan and hopes to share her life with Travis, and Willie, Ethan's ne'er-do-well older brother, both take surprising, uncharacteristic, turns late in the story that prove them to be multi-dimensional real-to-life human beings.

The book is broken into three major sections - the first dealing with Ethan's life at home and the second chronicling the treacherous 900 mile cattle drive. I must admit I got the most pleasure from these. In part three, the story takes on a darker tone and the author injects a bit of Twenty First Century proselytizing that the book might've been better served without. Nonetheless let me just say, without giving away the ending, overall the story left me pleased and satisfied. And definitely eager for more from this budding talent.

If you're looking for a feel good gay romance, I highly recommend The Filly.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa12eb6e4) out of 5 stars Wonderful Young Adult book - Shame on Amazon! April 12 2009
By Ruth Hadad - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful coming-of-age, learning-oneself story -- what a shame Amazon has seen fit to remove its ranking because it's classified as gay/lesbian fiction. Shame on Amazon! I'll direct my friends elsewhere to buy this book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa12eb75c) out of 5 stars Gay Cowboy Love Story--Well Done First Novel March 20 2008
By Ruth Sims - Published on
Format: Paperback
I wish Amazon would let a reviewer use fractions! THE FILLY deserves better than 4 stars, but misses rating 5 by just a little. I'm giving it, as another reviewer did, 4.6 stars. ****+

Reading THE FILLY brought a wave of nostalgia. As a young person some of my favorite books and movies were Westerns. I read every horse story in our public library, and still remember whole scenes from My Friend Flicka, Smoky the Cowhorse, The Red Pony, and The Tiger Roan. I never missed the Western matinee movies on Saturday afternoon (two movies, newsreel, cartoon, superhero serial, singalong, and previews for twenty-five cents!). The film "Red River" made a huge and lasting impression on me; it was and still is one of the best. And, of course, as an adult I never missed an episode of "Rawhide" on tv.

Mark Probst's THE FILLY has a lot of things in common with Red River. They are both built around a cattle drive of hundreds of miles, they both have dust, raging storms, collapsing cattle, hardship, exhausted men, fights, threats, and death along the trail. Both "Red River" and THE FILLY have protagonists-- in this case two of them, Ethan and Travis--who are brave yet sensitive, not violent by nature but willing and able to fight when necessary. The big difference is in "Red River" Montgomery Clift and John Wayne beat the daylights out of each other, and in THE FILLY Ethan and Travis fall in love.

Seventeen-year-old Ethan is a dreamer and a bookworm who wants more than anything in the world to own his own horse, a filly he can raise and train. He has no sexual experience and is rocked by his inexplicable attraction to the new cowboy in town, 22-year-old Travis. Travis, on the other hand, is attracted to Ethan but he knows the score and decides to do something about it. He convinces Ethan to join the cattle drive. Over the months and the miles Ethan and Travis became friends long before they explore either their feelings or their physical need. They plan a future together on a horse ranch of their own. When the cattle drive ends and they have money in hand, they are free to begin their new life. Suddenly harsh reality and violence from an unexpected source stop them dead in their tracks.

Travis and Ethan are likable and sympathetic, and the author's descriptions, especially of the cattle drive, are vivid; you can almost taste the dust. The explicitness of the sex scenes in The Filly is just right for my taste, leaving most of it to the reader's imagination.

I have only two very small quibbles with the story. The first is that, for his age and the era, Travis seems a little too calmly self-understanding in his acceptance and explanation of his own homosexuality, and this gives a very slight feel of being off-kilter historically. The other relates to a startling time gap at the end, which I won't detail because it would be a spoiler. This is Mark Probst's first novel, and that's how writers learn.

Those two small quibbles aside, this is a book that could be given without a qualm to anyone open to a love story between men, but especially to a gay teen. The cover, incidentally, is very attractive and well done; you don't have to hide it from your granny.

I look forward to another book from this author... perhaps a sequel about Travis and Ethan? I can hope.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa12ebaec) out of 5 stars A Gay Love Story Appropriate For Any Audience Jan. 9 2008
By Elton T. Elliott - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must admit that when I first saw this book advertised, I wanted to read it to see how this western compared to BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. But even though both stories involved homophobia affecting the lives of two gay men, the writing styles are completely different and each author told their tale in unique and refreshing ways. Whereas Annie Proulx told her story in the short story format and the language was complex and full of literary imagery with so much implied rather than written down, Probst's style was simple language written in the novel format much in the same way
that Ernest Hemingway wrote. To compare Proulx to Probst would be like comparing Thomas Wolfe to Ernest Hemingway trying to decide which author is the best. It can't and shouldn't be done because they both should be read with their own unique writing styles in mind.

Mark Probst wins the reader over by creating two very likable main characters who both just happen to be male and who fall in love immediately as if they have been struck by lightning the second they first meet. I think the drawing card for each of them is that they are so different from each other. Ethan is younger (17) and is a sheltered bookworm who up to the point of their meeting has lived vicariously through the books he reads. Travis is older (22) and has already been away from home for several years and has been on several cattle drives already. We discover as the story unfolds that Travis has already had some sexual experiences with both females and males but what is missing in his life, is that one person that he can really love. He finds that in Ethan and he has to find a way to incorporate Ethan into his life on a daily basis so he convinces him to join the cattle drive to Wyoming.

The fact that Ethan and Travis are in love and not in lust with each other makes it quite acceptable that Probst doesn't include scenes of erotic love making between the two men. We're still able to read between the lines; often we can imagine far better scenarios than what might have been written down to titillate us. Just as the horror in Alfred Hitchcock's movies were achieved by letting us imagine what happened rather than showing us, Probst is more successful many times by leaving things out of his writing than if he had chosen to put them in.

The lesser characters in the book are as vividly drawn as the two main characters and not one character is superfluous to the plot. Probst brilliantly finds a way to include the stumbling block to the success of Ethan's and Travis' love and he is faithful and true to the time and place about which he is writing. He doesn't give us an easy and unrealistic conclusion yet he does give us a satisfactory one and the book is one from which all age groups and sexual orientations can read, enjoy, and learn.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa12ebb1c) out of 5 stars Ever wonder what it was like being gay in the old West? Nov. 23 2007
By R. L. Krasneck - Published on
Format: Paperback
My title is the premise of this book by Mark R. Probst. It is about two young men, who meet, become friends and then become more than friends during a time in our history that doing so could mean certain death, the old west in the late 1800's. I found the book intriguing, easy to read, historical with adventure, and moments where you want to laugh and moments you want to cry. You can't help not to fall in love with Ethan, the shy 17 year old boy who lived a sheltered life with his mother and older brother and who read books for his entertainment, or with Travis the handsome cowboy who appears one day in the town's store where Ethan worked and and took an immediate liking for Ethan.
If you liked Brokeback Mountain then you will love The Filly perhaps even more. I highly recommend you getting yourself a copy and spending a quiet evening or weekend reading this book and although fiction, it will make you wonder what being gay in the old west was really like.