Book Review:
Chainmale: 3SM

Reviewed by Jim Drew
Originally published in the Seattle Men in Leather newsletter (February 2003)

Author: Don Bastian (2002)
Publisher: Daedalus Publishing
Chainmale: 3SM, by Don Bastian

Picture your personal world of leather as a jigsaw puzzle.  Here’s a corner, there’s an edge, and over there is a whole bunch of interior pieces, some of which easily connect to others and some of which don’t.  As you attach the pieces, one to the next, a picture slowly takes shape.  You can see portions of it as you work on the puzzle, but it isn’t complete until the last one gets put into place.

Don Bastian’s book, Chainmale: 3SM (3SM = threesome), is very much a jigsaw puzzle.  Written as a series of BDSM-oriented vignettes – often personal memories and anecdotes – Bastian mixes in short sections of observation and philosophy between them.  The result is a scattershot feeling, not unlike that of picking up puzzle pieces, rotating and pondering them, trying to find where they fit.

Here is a bit about single-tailing a novice.  There is a discussion of men – some gay, some ostensibly straight – coming to the Castro for the first time. Bastian’s personal code of ethics turns up, sandwiched between a section on “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” and a memory of being interviewed by a local gay newspaper.  The purposes of a collar is immediately followed by an examination of Bastian’s own body, his arms and tattoos and such.  Do all these pieces belong together, butting up against each other somewhat haphazardly?  Individually, maybe not, but perhaps in the bigger picture?

Chainmale: 3SM provides a breezy, enjoyable read, dancing across the surface of a myriad of subjects, lighting on any one for just a few paragraphs before moving on to the next piece.  Seattle leathermen will find additional pleasure in the local places and people which crop up throughout the book.  (Bastian is from Calgary.)  Unfortunately, the structure of the writing also means that the book is hard to use as any sort of a reference.  There is little internal structure: no significant thematic grouping of subjects, no chapter breaks, and certainly no index.  Finding a particular passage depends entirely on the reader’s memory and ability to scan the text.

Simply as a book apart from the content, Chainmale: 3SM also exhibits numerous problems.  Foremost is the price: $13.95 for less than 110 pages of content makes for a pricey, slim book.  Throughout the book, poor margins, formatting gaffes, a handful of typos, and the sans serif typeface make the actual reading of the book more difficult than it should be.  (The reader shouldn’t notice these things.)  The resulting feeling is that insufficient editorial and proofreading time went into the book, failing to shape it properly: it’s like the pieces of the puzzle are all there, but the picture on the box doesn’t quite match up.


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Last update: 08/24/05