Clubbed by Robert A. Karl - Book Blast and Review


Book Title: CLUBBED: A Story of Gay Love: Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs

Author: Robert A. Karl
Publisher: Robert A. Karl
Cover Artist: Hussnain Designz
Release Date: April 13, 2021
Genre: Gay Historical Fiction

Themes: Coming Out, LGBTQ+ Community, Gay Club Life, Marriage Equality, AIDS

Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 74 547 words/ 246 pages

This is the first book in a planned series of three. It ends on a cliffhanger. This book mostly explores gay life before the AIDS pandemic began. The book ends just as HIV is beginning to infect the gay community.

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Everyone at the club has a story, and every story deserves to be told.


Sex. Drugs. Lust. Courage. Loyalty. Betrayal. Drag Divas. Hustlers. Porn. Gogo Boys. Anything is possible at the gay club scene. Even LOVE.

Joey, fresh from the suburbs, gets involved in the gay club scene in Philadelphia during the late 1970s and early 80s. He shares the stories of a diverse cast of characters, including his own special love story. Everyone at the club has a story, and every story deserves to be told.


Once the team meeting was over, everyone left except for me and Henry. I poured us a couple drinks while he climbed up the steps to the DJ booth, turning the music up to a blast and starting the light show. He came down with a backpack, carrying it to the middle of the dance floor, where he started unpacking, spreading a blanket and a couple of pillows on the floor.

"We gonna sleep here?" I asked innocently, knowing what his intentions were.

"Maybe," Henry answered, with a wink. We sat cross-legged on the blanket, surrounded by music and lights, as I raised my drink and offered a toast. "To us and our gay sanctuary!" I said, clinking our glasses and drinking up. In the next instant, Henry was on top of me, tearing at my clothes and grinding into me, kissing me with the hot passion of youth.

A minute later, I was totally naked, on my stomach, with Henry on top of me, penetrating me as he sucked on my neck so hard I knew that I'd have a hot hickey the next day. He started slowly, rhythmically moving his hips as he dug his way deeper and deeper inside me.

He knew what I liked and how I liked to be treated. He whispered hoarsely in my ear, grunting earnestly, as he called me his little bitch, his ho, his pussyboy, telling me that he owned my ass and more.

As he was forcing me to answer "Yes, Sir!" to his questions, demanding I answer louder and louder each time, we suddenly heard the door to the men's room in the back open. Apparently, two of the new bartenders had decided to spend a little quality time in there, enjoying a quick encounter after everyone else had left. When they saw what was going on, with Henry dominating me thoroughly, they hurried towards the exit, giggling the entire way.

"Good night, Boss!" they called out in unison.

"Good night, boys, see you tomorrow," Henry answered, as he kept his strong hand tight against my mouth so I could only remain silent.

"You know I'm the real boss, right?"

"Yes, Sir" was my immediate answer, as he shook in spasms, coming to his climax, seeding me right there on the dance floor.

The grand opening finally arrived at 10 PM the next night. I made sure that all the team members were in their proper positions, and I made a grand gesture as I flung open the door - that big beautiful red door - to NOTHING. No one was there to hit the new club at the very first minute.

"Calm down," I thought to myself. I had to remind myself that this is an after hours club, and who really would go to a place like this at 10 PM? The real action at the regular bars wouldn't even really get started for another hour at least.

So the DJ kept spinning up in his booth, along with the lighting tech controlling the lasers. The bartenders tried to keep themselves busy, wiping down the bars and rinsing glasses that were already clean.

11 PM, still nothing. I was starting to get a little nervous. Did we do all this for nothing? I was a small town guy in the big city. Maybe this was a dumb idea.

Henry came over to talk and he was his usual self, full of positivity. He told me that he personally knew over 100 guys who had promised to show up for the first night.

At about 12:15 AM, a group of four guys finally came in through the door. A feeling of sweet relief came over me that at least we had a few customers, though I could see the disappointed look on their faces as they realized they were the only people there. But that quickly changed as guys started to trickle in, slowly at first, then turning to a steady stream.

By 1:30 AM, the club was more than half full, with the line of customers waiting to get in getting longer with each passing minute. By the time the bars in the Gayborhood closed at 2 AM, groups of rowdy, drunken gay men were making their way a few blocks north, turning our grand opening into a truly grand night for Sanctuary.

As the night progressed, I was drinking a little too heavily, getting excited as I watched the crowd from the DJ booth. While it was a mostly white crowd, I was happy that it wasn't exclusively white, signaling that an integrated club just might be acceptable in this town. Despite my drunkenness, I noticed a few details that surprised me.

Sarah's Review and Rating:

Clubbed is not the traditional MM romance. In fact, despite me getting a copy to review for an MM romance blog, I would not qualify it as MM romance at all. There is MM romance, but it has none of the tropes that you would expect from the genre. Instead, Clubbed is the fictionalized memoir of Joey, a club owner in Philadelphia spanning the years of 1975 to 1981. It is a history of life right before the AIDS epidemic began and it is probably one of the best books I've read.

The book does not stay focused on Joey or his lover, Henry, though they are the backbone of the book. It focuses instead on the various stories of the people who come to the club they opened in 1976 - The Sanctuary Society of South Philadelphia, also known as The Sanctuary. 

Karl, through Joey, introduces us to the colorful gay club scene not through events, but by the people who live in that world. We have stories of people throughout all the years, each one different, each one bound only by certain traits and their search for belonging - or the way they find it at The Sanctuary. That is not to say that all the stories in this book are happy. One story ends in a suicide because the man cannot accept himself. Another story ends in a hate crime. But for every sad story, there are more good ones. Stories that end with a person finding love or being accepted in the Hole, the leather bar/BDSM bar in the Sanctuary basement. There are discussions about intersectionality, told in the style of a memoir of someone who knows better now and tried their best then. 

This is a happy book, but its also not a happy book. Because with every date that is mentioned, you feel a sense of dread. The pages of the calendar turn until you know what will happen. Where this book will end up. After all, this book spans 1976 to 1981. It provides a window into the queer history, queer hearts, and queer soul of Philadelphia's Gayborhood (a real place, with several real places mentioned or alluded to in the text.) 

If you are interested in queer history, read this book. It is an amazing read telling so many love stories, so many stories of triumph and a few stories where the heroes do not win, because the heroes do not always win. It is a very real book, even if it is fiction. 

This is the kind of book that touches your soul and I sincerely hope that Robert A. Karl publishes more of these fictionalized memoirs. If he does, I can guarantee that I will be reading them. 

Rating: 5 Stars

About the Author:

Robert A. Karl is a native son of Philadelphia, PA, the City of Brotherly Love. He earned his M.Ed. from Temple University and worked for the School District of Philadelphia as a teacher and technology specialist for 30 years. He also taught courses in Educational Technology at the Temple University College of Education.

Losing many friends to the AIDS pandemic dramatically altered his world. Living in the LGBTQ community provided the historical background for his first novel. His work is a tribute to the incredible diversity in the LGBTQ community.

Currently retired and living in San Juan, PR, he is the proud Gay Dog Dad to Zuna, the Awesome Boston Terrier.

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