After the Heart: Life After Death

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Title: After the Heart: Life After Death
Publisher: Maverick Press
Author(s): Natasha Barry
Cover Artist(s):
Date(s): 1996
Medium: print
Fandom: Wiseguy
Language: English
External Links: Link to online flyer with story summaries
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After the Heart: Life After Death is an 86-page slash Wiseguy novel by Natasha Barry. It has the subtitle, "The Return of Sonny Steelgrave."

The plot centers around Vinnie finally leaving the OCB, finding out Sonny is alive, joining him, and how they deal with each other, finally recognizing their love for each other. There are no explicit sex scenes.

Summary from the publisher: "This is a moody rose for all those who, like Vinnie, grieved over Sonny and pondered endless might -have-beens. It tells the story of a relationship with many wounds left to heal."


I knew Frank must be floundering. Despite the confident tone, he really hadn't a clue. He wanted to box Sonny in, just as he'd said the night before. Just as he'd been saying for years. And Sonny never cooperated. I could imagine Frank's fiiistration. Finally Frank said, "You know, I really hate you."

I was about to enter the room, the exchange seeming to be over, but Sonny came back with yet another astute observation. "What a narrow black and white world you live in. What'd you do, watch too many Westerns when you were growing up'^ You should have stuck with Cagney and Raft, like I did. The shadings were incredible."

The Cagney line was a good touch. He so often played the bad guy everyone loved: So like Sonny himself. The gangster extraordinaire. And he could sing and dance. Just like Sonny, that night in the theater, when I thought he'd gone off his rocker.

"You murdered people," Frank was begjnmng the predictable litany, "you had people murdered. You traflScked in drugs and terror. You manipulated situations and defied the law..."

Reactions and Reviews

Disclaimer: I like to read reviews, and don't mind sending reviews. Reviews are subjective. My tastes and opinions are my own. Feel free to disagree. But, since I often find reviews useful and/or enlightening about a zine I own or am considering owning, I'm going to assume others find them useful, too. Other disclaimer: I know the author is on this list. If you are offended by reviews of your work, or offended by my comments, I apologize in advance.

Fandom: Wiseguy
Zine: After the Heart: Life After Death (The Return of Sonny Steelgrave) by Natasha Barry
Available: Maverick Press... I forget the price! I think it was around $12.
Genre: Novel
Physical features: 86 p., 8.5 x 11", no illustrations, comb bound with plastic front cover.

My comments (*spoilers ahead!*): A couple of hurdles right off the bat. There is a one-page preamble sort of thing written like a fairy tale which I found to be oddly disturbing, although I suppose it was meant to be humorous(?). The other hurdle is that it is written in 1st person narrative from Vinnie's POV, and I'm not a fan of 1st person narrative. However, it works reasonably well here.

The novel is Vinnie/Sonny, and is (in my definition of the term) a/u, because Sonny survived and is alive and living under Fed protection. The plot centers around Vinnie finally leaving the OCB, finding out Sonny is alive, joining him, and how they deal with each other, finally recognizing their love for each other. There are no explicit sex scenes, btw.

I had no problems with the premise and plot at all. Vinnie is always either quitting or on the verge of quitting the OCB, so that wasn't difficult to accept. Sonny under the scrutiny of the Feds, and the new life he's leading, were also believably explained. I really liked how he's not completely reformed, and I got a sense of a 'retired' Sonny I'd believe, who longs to be bad even while recognizing things have changed forever. Sonny and Vinnie's reunion is also well handled. A good mixture of edginess and relief on both sides.

The two things that kept it from being a "wow!" novel for me were the writing style and the lack of a really passionate, leave-me-gasping-from the-emotional-impact scene. Barry writes very well, but I could not find Vinnie's "voice" in the narrative, and found a lot of the dialogue sounding "off" to me. The "voice" problem could just be writing style, but for me it remained a sort of nagging distraction because of the 1st person POV. A lot of the dialogue is good, though -- I especially liked the scenes where Frank, Sonny, and Vinnie are all together.

Overall, I liked it, mostly because the depictions of the characters aren't too far off from my own, although because the novel lacked the kind of in-depth, gut-searching emotional scene I was hoping for, I don't feel like I really know them too well and know what'll happen next. I would recommend it to Sonny/Vinnie fans because it's better (IMO) than Holes In The Ozone, and it does have some good scenes. Frank fans wanting to extend their repertoire might enjoy it (Frank does appear). I think it would be a very good lend to a Wiseguy fan who can't get over Sonny dying, whether they're into slash or not." [1]


After the Heart: Life After Death Cover
flyer advertising the zine


  1. review at Virgule-L, October 14, 1996, quoted anonymously