The Gay Men's Edition
— this issue sponsored by —
The Whole World Was Watching:
Living in the Light of Matthew Shepard
by Romaine Patterson
All it takes to change the world is a single voice. How the shocking murder of her best friend, Matthew Shepard, transformed Romaine Patterson into a leader in the fight for gay rights.
"Evenhanded and stirring...readers will not put it down unchanged." —Kirkus Reviews
Volume 2 Number 11
By Richard Labonte
In the past couple of decades, a number of gay publishers have come and gone:
Amethyst Press, Grey Fox Press, Knight’s Press, Calamus Books, Masquerade/Bad
Boy, Los Hombres, Other Countries, AttaGirl, most recently Gay Sunshine
Press/Leyland Publications (hmmm: there’s a history of gay presses
waiting to be written!); in addition, Crossing Press stopped publishing
queer books years ago, and St. Martin’s Press phased out its Stonewall
Inn Editions imprint more recently.
GLB Publishers Fifteen Years On: An Interview
GLB Publishers is a survivor. Started by Bill Warner as something akin
to a vanity press with standards, GLB (“gay/lesbian/bisexual”) has evolved in
15 years into a well-run “co-operative publishing” home for offbeat and often
accomplished gay and bisexual fiction and nonfiction (and a couple of lesbian
titles, too). Along the way, Warner has pioneered gay e-publishing, making his
titles available for download in up to eight different formats, and has even started
to sell individual short stories for about a buck. He’s happy about the past,
and optimistic about the future:
“This year marks the fifteen-year anniversary for GLB Publishers -15 years
of publishing with about four dozen authors, some of them new and yearning, some
retired/retiring and experienced, and some in between,” Warner wrote recently
on his website. “I think they learned a lot about publishing (I know we did),
because our authors participate alongside the editors and staff, becoming quasi-publishers
themselves in the process…GLB authors participate in the design and appearance
of their books if they want to. They also receive a much higher royalty (up to
five times more than the mainstream). Books are becoming more expensive to produce
but we try to keep current, to take advantage of technical advances, and also
apply our expertise to current issues of importance to the community. Where is
the world taking us… No one can predict the future with developments occurring
at the startling rate observed in the last few years, but we intend to keep up
with it and maintain our leadership role in bringing the best possible g/l/b books
to the community.”
As part of BTWOF’s continuing series of interviews with gay-interest editors
and publishers, I recently exchanged emails with Bill; here’s what he had to say
about the past, present, and future of his press…
BTWOF: You came to gay publishing 15 years ago, late in life and
after other careers (you are also an MD) - what was the motivation?
GLB: I used to travel great distances in my work and I frequently picked
up gay novels to read on the planes. When I finished them I used to sigh, "I
could have done better than that." When I finally had some free time, I decided
to try out the author game and eventually published a bunch of novels and short
stories under a variety of pseudonyms. Then when I decided to retire I thought
of publishing the short stories in a collection, but no one was interested in
doing it, so, again, why not do it myself? Desktop publishing was just coming
into use. So I published three of my own books, and author friends saw what I
was doing, and they asked me to do it for them, and that was the beginning of
GLB Publishers. The New York publishers were not interested since the demand was
One other element: Since I am bisexual, I wanted to write and publish
bisexual erotica and no publishers would accept it. The third book I published
was a bisexual-explicit novel (Bi Ranchers Bi Mates) that had been waiting
for a publisher for a long time, and I resolved to publish other bisexual material
whenever it seemed appropriate. I think we are the only publisher still that specifically
looks for bisexual works.
BTWOF: GLB is an unorthodox but efficient synthesis of publishing
models – you charge authors up front to take on their work (in print format),
but then provide full-service editing, design, and distribution, and higher royalties,
than most other publishers. How did you devise this model, and has it evolved
much over 15 years?
GLB: I started out that way, with authors paying for the printing costs,
but that was a little rich for most people, so the present arrangement, generally,
is to charge something up front to make the author think a little – “Do I have
enough confidence in my work to invest something in it” - and with this model
the royalty has been decreased to 15% of list price. Of course that makes the
model more dependent on the quality of the work and the likely sales potential.
BTWOF: How many (print) books have you published since 1990? How
many are still "in print" (as opposed to now available only as e-books?)
GLB: About 60. Two went out of print after sales of about 5,000 copies
(Leather Rogues by Bill Lee and Secret Buddies by Mike Newman) but
last year we reprinted Secret Buddies with a new cover (and price).
BTWOF: How selective are you about the books you publish - do you
work with all comers, or are there books that you felt just wouldn't work for
GLB that you turned down?
GLB: These days I am turning many of them down. Over the years we have
developed some philosophies about what we are interested in publishing and promoting,
indirectly, and also more experience in sales potential. For instance, we published
a book of poetry by Edward DeBonis (Homonym), a couple of years ago before
all the recent hoopla, that has a strong message in favor of same-sex marriage;
we published it mostly because we thought the issue should be discussed, and a
book is one approach to that.
BTWOF: And do you seek out authors, or let them find you?
GLB: We make it relatively easy to find us and get info from our web
site, but no, we don't go out hunting for authors and never did.
BTWOF: As far as I know, GLB is the only gay publisher (besides West
Beach Books, which makes its titles available as e-books through Amazon) to market
electronic titles effectively, and the only one to sell its own titles from its
own website. What prompted you to be an e-book pioneer?
GLB: Just seemed like the logical thing to do when the Internet became
so important. But perhaps the most important element was the widening of our audience
that the Internet made possible. Think of the millions of gay/lesbian/bisexual
people worldwide who have no access to a gay bookstore, whose bookstore would
not stock a g/l/b book in English, and perhaps they are totally closeted because
of social constrictions? At last we can make available to all these people all
our books (as well as some that are never actually printed), as long as they have
a credit card or can use some other means of payment. We also have insisted on
making e-books available at roughly half the cost of the print book. We sell e-books
daily to people in such places as Singapore, Madagascar, South Africa, of course
the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, even Iran and Iraq.
We have also done some special web sites for authors and their books
for some of the same reasons, as well as author bios on our web site.
BTWOF: How many titles in your inventory are e-book only?
GLB: I'm estimating, perhaps 30-40. That number is growing almost daily
because of some of our special programs.
BTWOF: Sales - what are your print bestsellers from over the years?
GLB: Secret Buddies did very well. All of the Bill Lee books continue
to sell well, but I'm not sure of the total numbers of each. The Dick Hardesty
gay mystery series by Dorien Grey has sold well and we are now releasing the 10th
book in that series (The Paper Mirror). The Chris Kent books about English
schoolboys have all done very well over the years.
BTWOF: What sales do you need to reach to turn a profit on a print
GLB: I try not to think of it that way, but of course it is important
that we make enough to pay for the next one. I get satisfaction out of putting
out good books that have something to say about being gay or lesbian or bisexual,
whether they bring in the bucks or not. The figure is probably about 3,000.
BTWOF: Tell us how you came to be the publisher for prolific Dorien
Grey's Dick Hardesty series, which now ranks with the series work of Michael Craft,
Mark Richard Zubro, Richard Stevenson, and other gay-sleuth authors. What can
you tell us about him - he has a high publishing profile but a low public presence.
(The Paper Mirror, Grey’s tenth in the series, is likely the last for GLB:
see the “chat” excerpt below.)
GLB: He sent me a manuscript out of the blue three or four years ago
and I liked it and said okay, and then learned that there was another manuscript
sitting on the shelf. And I had some ideas on gay mystery plots and of course
he had many ideas, and so one book led to another. One of those ideas that appeared
in The Hired Man was a first, I guess; the major clue to discovery of the
murderer was the fact that he was bisexual. I think that is the first time that
a character's bisexual orientation made an impact on mystery fiction.
Dorien has had some important health problems, which have curtailed some
BTWOF: What's ahead for 2006?
GLB: We’re getting interested in some comic topics and may
add some of those to
our list. I think g/l/b’s have a slightly different sense of humor
than straights and those books might never get published if left
to the New York biggies.
(In a later email, Bill sent news of his first book in the humor
vein: “As I mentioned, we are doing a bit of humor - our first attempt
- this fall in the way of "self-help": I Told You I
Love You Now Get Out!, by Chris Craig.” If you can judge a book
from its cover, this one looks like a queeny scream....)
Publisher info: www.glbpubs.com
Some covers: www.glbpubs.com/fictoc.html
GLB’s extensive e-book catalogue, which includes delightfully horny
short stories from Wayne of Down Under, for $1 each: www.glbpubs.com/welcomeebooks.html
GLB’s own half-price sale: www.half-pricedbooks.net
Reviewing GLB's Range
Bill Warner is an eclectic publisher (see partial catalog below): poetry, erotica,
literary fiction, mysteries (the Dick Hardesty novels, which started
out more as erotica with a murderous twist but which have evolved
into more sedate whodunits), self-help books, and assorted memoirs.
Here are a few of my favorites:
In the Steps of Mister Proust, by Stanley E. Ely, $16.95
It’s a tale often told – innocent young kid comes to the big city,
finds himself. The context here is college – Columbia University,
where young Joshua, through the lens of the writing of Marcel Proust,
thrills to sex, comes out, copes with the AIDS epidemic around him,
weathers a family crisis, and grows up. Ely’s novel can be didactic
(the author is a lot farther along in life than his hero), but it
captures the nervous thrill of self-acceptance quite nicely.
Some other reviews: http://www.glbpubs.com/proust.html
A Time to Live, by Jim Brogan, $13.95 (1997)
Jay Quinn’s Back Where He Started garnered much well-deserved critical
praise earlier this year as a novel that dealt gracefully with a gay man aging.
Brogan’s warm and sexy novel did the same thing almost a decade ago: it’s the
story of a middle-aged man on the other side of 50 who’s a comfort to a gay man
older than he is, while still engaging sexually and emotionally with men younger
An excerpt: http://www.glbpubs.com/timeexc.html
House of Broken Dreams, by Byrd Roberts, $13.95 (2003)
Given that this hot-blooded blue blood family saga is set in Virginia, the
author’s name – it’s gotta be a pseudonym! – is rather cheeky. Though he’s published
several books with GLB, this is the first I’ve read, and I was seduced. Roberts’
soap-opera tale of Deep South old money, secret passion and stark betrayal is
a charming guilty pleasure, spanning several decades in the life of Strut Widdicombe,
whose life turns tumultuous when his banker father, found out as an embezzler,
commits suicide, and Strut turns to work in a gay bar to save the family manse.
Literary fiction? Not a bit. But Roberts’ writing is strong and straightforward,
and the unhappily-ever-after ending is a refreshing twist.
First chapter: http://www.glbpubs.com/hbdchp1.html
The Bunny Book, by John D’Hondt, $13.95 (1991)
This was one of GLB’s first books, and for a while – helped by the fact that
D’Hondt lived in San Francisco – was a bestseller for several months at A Different
Light on Castro Street. It wasn’t the first “AIDS novel” by any means, but it
was certainly the quirkiest. As far as I know, the author never wrote another
novel – a Google search turns up a witty 1998 letter to SF Weekly about
the San Francisco MUNI system’s noisy new (back then) streetcars. But anyone wanting
to sample something from GLB’s varied backlist should start with this one. Here’s
what Robert Gluck had to say about it almost 15 years ago: “This strange
book could become a classic of literature that deals with AIDS, physical suffering,
and loss. Cuteness and coziness represent a hopeless longing for safety and resolution.
D'Hondt catches us off guard as his stories are re-contextualized by himself and
his sick lover in an attempt to will safety into the world.
Bless the Thugz and Lil’ Chil’rins, by Fredryk Traynor,
This one stands out distinctly on the GLB fiction list – it’s not
erotica, it’s not a mystery (though there are many bodies), it’s
not a coming-out story. In fact, it’s a genre
all its own – gay gangsta fiction, infused with street slang and
ghetto rhythms. Odd as it sounds, the heroes really are thugs –
an older man and his younger lover, con artists, drug dealers, and
bank robbers who finance their dream of launching a hip record label
with ill-gotten gains. They also witness the sixteenth slaying of
the notorious Romper Room Ripper, who for years has been kidnapping,
torturing, and slaying teen boys. But they’re black thugz, and going
to the cops isn’t really an option. Street justice ensues when the
killer is found to be a prominent Christian televangelist. Traynor
– there’s nothing to be found about him as an author except for
a brief bio on the GLB website – has written a unique novel, right
up the alley for fans of violent thrillers about savage killers.
The first chapter: http://www.glbpubs.com/thugzchp1.html
Familia Affair, by Rod Palmer, $14.95, (2003)
From my Book Marks review for Q Syndicate: “Handjobs and pissplay, ass-rimming
and monster cocks, toned muscles slick with sweat and hard thighs coated with
cum, even the turn-ons of identical twin hunks and heavy daddy-son incest: Familia
Affair, set in a not-so-long-ago era when "Gay Pride" was more than
a marketing slogan for vodka, is a hot read for most every taste. Palmer's one-handed
erotic artifact also provides an amusing Sopranos-lite plot about mob families,
gay activism, and falling deeply in love, threaded through page after page of
sizzling raw sex - it's a fast and fun synthesis of accomplished anthropological
porn and sweet, almost Puritan, romance.”
The first chapter: http://www.glbpubs.com/fachp1.html
Guilty As Charged: The True Story of a Gay Beret, by Jay Hatheway, $16.95
Recent books by Jeffrey McGowan (Major Conflict: One Gay Man's Life in the
Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Military) and Rich Merritt (Secrets of a Gay Marine
Porn Star) make it seem that the military-queer memoir is something new –
there’s even buzz about Amazing Race 4 winner Reichen Lehmkuhl’s Here’s
What We’ll Say, about being gay in an air force academy, and it’s not coming
out until Fall 2006, from Carroll & Graf. Hatheway’s potent and cogent memoir
hearkens back to well before the ill conceived “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy
of 1992, recounting his military trial after being outed in Germany. By now it’s
not news that queers are everywhere in the armed forces, and often tolerated by
their peers – even more than 20 years ago. This memoir is a satisfying reminder
that the battles being written about now were first fought a long time ago.
Other reviews: http://www.glbpubs.com/guilty.html
The first chapter: http://www.glbpubs.com/guiltychp1.html
The Gay History Writer's Project
In addition to publishing books, GLB has spun off several websites to showcase
selected authors, and has launched a Gay History Writer’s Project. Already up
is a site devoted to the novels of John Coriolan, including his 2004 political
novel Dancing on the Barricades; an e-book of his newer historical novel,
Of This World and the Other: A Novel of the Early 1800s: “A conjecture
about how a naturally-gay person might have come out - or not come out - in early
1800s Connecticut, Virginia, ‘Regency’ London, rebellious Paris, and bourgeois
Dijon, and wound up as one more of the elegant queens on the famous Riviera getaway
from Victorian middle class decency”; and five of his erotic fictions, from 1968’s
A Sand Fortress through Christy Dancing, Unzipped, The
Smile Of Eros, and 1985’s Dream Stud and Other Stories. The second
site promotes the erotic work of Barton Lewis: five pulp novels from Greenleaf,
including Slave Brother Chicken, Glory Hole Cop, The Brig Boys,
Hollywood Marine, and Dirt Road Chicken (“Teenager Chuck runs away
from home in upstate New York, hitchhiking to California, and learns quickly the
good and the not so good points of being well endowed and willing to use it.”)
“We were never a self-conscious Violet Quill group,” says Coriolan about
his friendships more than four decades ago with Gordon Merrick, Richard Amory,
Carl Flinders, and Marco Vassi. The full mini-memoir:
“I understand that many of the contributing
writers to the Greenleaf stable resented the cavalier attitude of Greenleaf toward
their writing skills, at least in retrospect…that was never the case with me.
I knew exactly where I stood and really didn't care because it was only an enjoyable
hobby with me anyway. I learned a lot from writing those books, but not due to
any effort by Greenleaf editors, that's for sure,” says “Lewis” of his Greenleaf
“One of my earlier novels was bisexual and
no publishing house would accept it because it was neither gay nor straight and they
had no idea how to market it. So after I published my own books successfully (two
anthologies and the bisexual novel), I was persuaded to consider other authors'
works and the cooperative GLB Publishers was born.” Lewis comes out, with a few
words on the early history of GLB, from a June 1999 essay: http://village.fortunecity.com/villageplace/399/times/june99/
Warner also directs readers to a couple of
sites for one of his more formal authors, Dorian Grey, and for one of his hippest,
More about Grey: www.dickhardestymysteries.com
An excerpt from his tenth novel: http://www.dickhardestymysteries.com/tpmchp1.html
And news that Dorian Grey is probably ending his
Dick Hardesty series with The Paper Mirror, and starting a new series.
Here’s an excerpt from a “chat” that appears on Grey’s own website:
“garyab: So it's final, then?
dorien: Yes, apparently so . . . at least with
my current publisher. It was his decision to end it, and I have to respect it.
garyab: Did he ever give you a definite reason?
dorien: Yes, he feels the series has changed
from its original course and no longer reflects the lives of average gay men.
garyab: ‘Changed’? It's evolved, certainly.
Life evolves; people don't stay the same forever. And what in the world is the
definition of an "average" gay man?
dorien. No idea, but whatever it is, Dick, Jonathan
and the gang ain't it.
garyab: But you're parting under good terms?
dorien: Oh, yes. As I've said so often before,
I'll be forever grateful to GLB for giving me a start. It is the publisher's right
to say what he does and does not wish to publish.
garyab: So what do you do now?
dorien: Look for a new publisher, of course...maybe
not for the Dick Hardesty series, but for a new one. It ain't gonna be easy. And
I'm looking for an agent, too.
garyab: And how's that going?
dorien: Don't ask. I'd have assumed that with
ten books under my belt, finding an agent to represent me would be a snap. It
isn't. But I'll keep at it.”
The Sept. 28 chat with Dorien (scroll to the end
for another dozen or so engrossing chats, in which Grey discusses the evolution
of his series, what it’s like to be nominated for an award, the ups and downs
of a writing career, and more): http://www.doriengrey.net
55 Titles And Counting: The Backlist
As a swift scan of the 55 titles listed here demonstrates, Bill Warner
has put together an eclectic backlist, with a few recurring authors
– in particular, Dorien Grey’s ten mysteries, Chris Kent’s schoolboys-will-be-boys
stories (reminiscent of some of the books from Acolyte Press), Byrd
Roberts’ well-crafted page-turners, and of course the bisexual/SM
fiction of the pseudonymous Bill Lee. The following list (from the
database of Alamo Square Press Wholesale – I’ve read about
30 of the titles, but many so long ago that I couldn’t conjure up
a plot twist or a character’s name to save a goldfish’s life) gives
a good idea of GLB’s range; I’ve starred (*) several of the books
I’ve read over the years and can recommend, in addition to the titles
by Grey, Kent, Roberts, and Lee, all of which are fine exemplars of
their particular genres.
The 9th Man, by Dorien Grey. Number two of the Dick Hardesty gay mystery
The Bar Watcher, by Dorien Grey. Third in the Dick Hardesty gay mystery
Between Trash and Tramp, by Byrd Roberts. Erotic novel of a bisexual
*Bi Ranchers Bi Mates, by Bill Lee. A raunchy novel of bisexuality on
the ranch, on the rodeo circuit, and in the bedroom.
Blood Warm, by Robert Burdette Sweet. A closeted gay writer sorts out
The Bottle Ghosts, by Dorien Grey. Sixth in the Dick Hardesty mysteries
concerning a gay alcoholic’s discussion group.
Boys in Shorts, by Chris Kent. The author of Boys of Swithins Hall
continues his tales of incorrigible youth.
Boys of Swithins Hall, by Chris Kent. A ribald tale of life in an English
Boys Will Be Boys: Two Novellas, by Chris Kent. Two gay short novels.
Brass Ponys, by Marsh Cassady. Two novellas.
Bravehearts and Memories, by Chris Kent. Two novellas.
A Breviary of Torment, by Thomas Cachet. Haunting poems of pain and
*The Bunny Book, by John D'Hondt. Loss and physical suffering contemplated
through the fantasy, folklore and history of rabbits.
The Butcher’s Son, by Dorien Grey. Gay detective novel.
Commonwealth Chronicles, by Byrd Roberts. Gay short story anthology.
Country Rogues, edited by Bill Lee. Male sexual exploits in the great outdoors.
*Dancing On the Barricades, by John Coriolan. Novel about a gay dance
troupe touring the US with a political motivation and a massive political plot
in the background.
The Devil in Men’s Dreams, by Tom Scott. Tales with a hard-hitting reality
for gay men.
Different Slopes, by Bill Lee. A bisexual novel set in Napa County,
Different Voices, by Walter Febrick. A novella and short stories of
The Dirt Peddler, by Dorien Grey. Seventh in the Dick Hardesty series
of gay mysteries.
The Duskouri Tales, by Byrd Roberts. Short stories set in a gay land
of monsters and magic.
*A Familia Affair, by Rod Palmer. An historic novel of gay activists
in NYC in the ‘70s.
*Gay Warrior: Transforming Betrayal into Wisdom, by Jim Fickey and Gary
Grimm. Gay non-fiction.
The Good Cop, by Dorien Grey. Number five in the Dick Hardesty series.
*Good Night, Paul, by Robert Peters. Touching, emotional poems in a
*Guilty as Charged: The True Story of a Gay Beret, by Jay Hatheway.
The autobiographical story of the first Green Beret to be court-martialed for
*Hardball for Billy Budd, by Richard Dann. A gay SM jock fantasy.
The Hired Man, by Dorien Grey. Fourth in the Dick Hardesty gay mystery
Homo Erectus, by Edward Proffitt. A gay poet of the new genre where
rhyming can happen but isn't necessary.
Homoaffectualism: Male Bonding, by Paul D. Hardman. A global and historical
exploration of love and affection between males.
Homonym, by Edward DeBonis. Gay poetry.
*Homophile Studies, edited by W. Dorr Legg. Essays documenting the contributions
of ONE Institute.
House of Broken Dreams, by Byrd Roberts. A novel of an aristocratic
family and its closeted gay men and lesbians.
*In the Steps of Mister Proust, by Stanley E. Ely. Gay novel.
Kings and Beggars, by Paul Genega. Contemporary American poetry.
The Paper Mirror, by Dorien Grey. Latest in Dick Hardesty Mystery series.
The Popsicle Tree, by Dorien Grey. The ninth Dick Hardesty gay mystery,
Rabbit’s Leap, by James Hagerty. Gay novel.
The Ram Stam Boys, by Chris Kent. Another gay novel of British schoolboys.
The Real Tom Brown’s School Days, by Chris Kent. More schoolboy buggery
by the author of The Boys of Swithins Hall and Boys in Shorts.
*Rogues of San Francisco, edited by Bill Lee. Gay male erotica.
*Rogues to Remember, by Bill Lee. Explicit male sexual fantasies.
The Role Players, by Dorien Grey. Number eight in the Dick Hardesty series.
The Saint of Sodomy, by William Tarvin. Gay twists on poetry classics.
Sea and Stones: Voices from Atlantia by Thomas R. McKague. An old man
tells of his gay loves and lovers.
*Secret Buddies, by Mike Newman. Erotic gay novel - back in print.
*Sex and the Single Camel, by Phil Clendenen. An original erotic novel
in a Moroccan setting.
*Snapshots of a Serial Killer, by Robert Peters. A chilling and layered
exploration of a fictional psychopath's thoughts and emotions.
Soft Slow Motion, by Dixie Schnell. Poetry from a lesbian truck driver.
Subway Stops: Collected Poems of Abnorman, by Abnorman. A joyous and
brave collection of work that grabs the reader viscerally.
*A Time to Live, by Jim Brogan. Novel set in SF, confronts the problem
of aging in the period of AIDS.
Toward the Beginning, by Veronica Cas. Lesbian historical novel set
in LA and Chicago.
Unruly Angels, by Ronald Nevans. "Unruly Angels is sexy,
witty, intelligent, a little smart-alecky, and ultimately heart-breakingly wise
and true," says Felice Picano.
The Weigh-in, by Winthrop Smith. Collected poems about the "underside
of gay experience," with illustrations.
White Sambo, by Robert Burdette Sweet. Touching and realistic stories
of gay male life.
*Zapped, by Robert Peters. Two comic gay male novellas.
ASP Wholesale (no individual orders but if you spot a book you like, ask your
local bookstore to contact ASP to become a client): http://home.earthlink.net/~asporders
Four Small Press Pleasures
The Unborn Spouse Situation, by Matt Rauscher, Lulu Press/ www.lulu.com,
There are those editors, critics, and even some readers who look at
a book and groan: “Oh, no. Not another coming-out story!” Not
Every generation needs them. And Rauscher’s first novel – so many
first novels do dwell on coming out, don’t they? – is more textured
than most. Its 22-year-old central character, Augie Schonberg, is
an aspiring filmmaker at a college with no film program, on the cusp
of being queer when he moves into a rambling campus house renowned
for its wild parties and hunky residents. First love hits him hard.
He falls for housemate and campus activist Victor Radhakrishna, who
reciprocates his increasingly fervent physical affection – except
that Victor’s parents are arranging his marriage to a suitable Indian
bride. Rauscher, not so many years removed from his own college experience,
captures the antsy angst of urgent desire with intelligent wit, and
the emotional and sexual maturity of his young character with entertaining
assurance. The first half of the novel, set on the college campus,
is rife with the turbulence of small crises made immense by the hothouse
environment of university life. But The Unborn Spouse Situation
– a nifty title – really shines when Augie moves off campus, to Chicago,
where he comes into his own gay self; a section set in London – he’s
been invited to Victor’s wedding – is a wonderful mix of emotional
liberation and soulful melancholy. In days of yore, when first novels
could more readily find a home with known publishers, Rauscher’s engaging
debut surely would have found a more mainstream home than Lulu.com,
but Rauscher has produced a professional-looking book on his own.
Author info: http://people.lulu.com/users/index.php?fHomepage=148306
How To Name a Hurricane, by Rane Arroyo, The University
of Arizona Press, $17.95
There are multiple forms in Arroyo’s first collection of fiction
– several short stories, a long narrative in verse form, a few impassioned
performance-art monologues, and
more than 40 pages of “flash fictions”: one- and two-page vignettes
with enticing titles (“Why Jaimie Won’t Join the Softball Team,”
“Posing With Pablo”, “Pablito Goes Butch,” “Lalo Tells of a Lost
Weekend After Too Much Saki”) that serve up penetrating, incisive,
and innovative slices of gay Latino life. The lead short story,
“My Blue Midnights” (which also appears in Wendell Rickett’s superb
collection of gay blue-collar fiction, Everything I Have is Blue)
sets the tone for the rest of this collection, which manages to
be, by turn, lyrical and explosive and funny and erotic: it’s about
the cultural tension simmering as a gay man comes out to his Puerto
Rican family, even as he’s steered towards the gay bartender - and
a new boyfriend - at a family gathering (a celebration “to celebrate
the fact that nothing bad has happened for a long time”) by his
sympathetic female cousin. The assorted-style stories in Arroyo’s
vibrant excavation of social and sexual identity resound with a
poet’s spirit and soul.
Five poems: http://www.poetrymagazine.com/archives/2003/Summer2003/
The Price of Temptation, by MJ Pearson, Seventh Window Publications,
You might as well know, from the get-go, that Stephen Clair, the
wayward and flagrantly self-indulgent but fundamentally
good-hearted Earl of St. Joseph, ultimately frees himself from the
seductive but evil clutches of his evilly scheming kept man Julian
Jeffries, and finds his way into the sweet virginal arms of young
personal secretary Jamie Riley. There’s an inevitable story arc
to the historical romance, even a queer entry like this one: despite
barriers of class and comportment, true love always wins out. Pearson’s
charming, easygoing novel, set in the England of not-so-good King
George, is a well-crafted model of the genre – not quite as flowery,
florid, and cartoonish as the amusing depiction of a well-muscled
torso and flowing male locks on the cover might suggest, but certainly
a breezy and solidly satisfying read.
An excerpt: http://thepriceoftemptation.com/ChapterOne.htm
Sottopassaggio: A Novel, by Nick Alexander, Lulu Press/
It’s a sequel of sorts to Alexander’s debut novel, 50 Reasons
To Say “Goodbye”, but this quirkily-titled sophomore novel stands
sturdily on its own – though anyone charmed by the author’s understated
wit and engaging central character will surely want to pick up the
first book. As novels go, 50 Ways was an eccentric treat
– in the main, it consisted of 50 short chapters, caroming between
darkly caustic and energetically comic, about eternally optimistic
Mark’s quest for the perfect lover. Sottopassaggio (“an underground
tunnel or passage enabling pedestrians to cross a road or railway,”
according to Webster’s: the metaphor becomes clear as the novel
is read) is a more traditional work. Mark is picking up the emotional
pieces after the sudden, shocking death of the lover he’d finally
found. He returns to Brighton, the slumbering seaside resort town
where his brother owns a home – and where, bit by bit, he opens
up to life: old friendships are rekindled and new ones are forged,
and love lost in a heartbreaking heartbeat is found again. Alexander
writes about these essentials for a good life with an easygoing
style that’s often effervescent – and downright hilarious in some
sexual sections. But there’s a darker side that adds heft and dimension
to the story: part of what draws Mark out of his shell is the violence
enmeshing a troubled female friend. Alexander nicely balances the
erotic and the profound with saucy good cheer.
Author info: http://www.nick-alexander.com
Alexander also produces a satirical fortnightly drawn from current
news events – think The Onion with a British accent. “Bush
Withdraws Miers, Nominates Larry The Cable Guy For High Court”
is one of the headlines from the Oct. 18 edition: http://www.bigfib.com
In the Oct. 17 issue of New York magazine,
San Francisco author Stephen Beachy made a strong – and deliciously dishy – case
for the argument that three-book author JT LeRoy (Sarah, The Heart is
Deceitful Above All Things, Harold’s End) is a literary hoax of magnificent
but unsettling proportion. His buzz-generating feature started: “In
2000, when JT LeRoy’s novel Sarah was published, I attended his first reading
in San Francisco, where local writers read in place of the pathologically shy
author. Beforehand, Mark Ewert, who had helped organize the reading, shared rumors
with me about LeRoy. Because almost no one had ever met him in person, some people
thought novelist Dennis Cooper was actually the author, or maybe Ewert himself,
Cooper’s ex-boyfriend. Certainly LeRoy seemed suspiciously similar to the characters
in Cooper’s novels, fucked-up teenage boys in perpetual danger, or to the wise,
otherworldly children in Ewert’s Web film Piki & Poko. JT, or Jeremy, LeRoy,
or “Terminator” (as he was first known), was a teenage hustler who’d been pimped
out as a cross-dressed prostitute by his mother at truck stops throughout the
South, until he landed on the streets of San Francisco in the early-to-mid-nineties.
At the time, Ewert himself was sure that LeRoy was more or less whom he claimed
to be; he’d spent hours on the phone with LeRoy. He even spotted someone at the
reading whom he believed to be JT, appearing incognito. Ewert reported his hunch
to Dennis Cooper, who reported it to JT. Ewert had spotted him, JT confessed,
and JT was highly upset. The JT legend incorporated this anonymous, spectral presence
into its mythology…” Several thousand words followed; read the rest “A Search
for the Identity of a True Literary Hustler” here: http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/news/people/features/14718
Fey Wonderkid or Manipulated Myth?
Much hue and cry ensued. The online “Museum of
Hoaxes” came down on the “Status: Uncertain” side of the question: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/weblog/comments/3624/
The Washington Post picked up on the story quickly,
eliciting some semi-solid substantiation for LeRoy’s existence from his literary
agent, Ira Silverberg: “Silverberg said that he had traveled to Cannes last
year with LeRoy and remains convinced that he exists. Well, mostly convinced.
‘As far as I know, the little person with whom I've spent time is JT, and that
is my truth and that is what I believe,’ Silverberg said. He echoed the allegation
that Beachy has it in for LeRoy, calling him a ‘poorly published novelist who's
worked the same turf.’ But he hedges a bit. ‘A year from now,’ he acknowledged,
‘this could be a very different story’.”:
Does anyone beyond fringe literary nerds really
care? That’s the take taken by MediaLifeMagazine.com: “…while the literary
world is fascinated, the question is, despite all the column inches, does the
wider world care? While LeRoy's books have been critically acclaimed and have
done well, having been translated into 20 languages, they've not been runaway
bestsellers. Tom Clancy he's, or she's, not, but rather
more of a cult writer in the tradition of France's Jean Genet, a career criminal
turned writer who never witnessed an event too sordid for inclusion in his
Over at the JT LeRoy blog (about, it seems, not
by,) the defenders of are many, including queer novelist Bruce Benderson, and
this missive from Mary Gaitskill:
“From Mary Gaitskill: what should have
been quoted in the New York magazine article
To the Editors:
Considering that Stephen Beachy's article on
JT Leroy is about lack of authenticity, it does have a certain small but strange
feature: while I have in fact met and spoken with JT Leroy, I have never met or
spoken with Stephen Beachy--and yet a reader of the article would reasonably conclude
that I had. I wrote the description of my meeting with JT years ago and it was
not meant to dispute his account of the same meeting, which was also written years
ago. His account does not contradict mine, nor state that he spent lots of time
staring into my eyes; one can see what a person's eyes look like, and notice that
they have a pimple in, well, seconds.
Much more at: http://jtleroy.blogspot.com
And there’s not much about the fuss on LeRoy’s
official website – except for a defiantly saucy photo on the home page: http://www.jtleroy.com
What do I think? I met LeRoy one afternoon late
in 2000 when he, I assumed, came into A Different Light in San Francisco, a waif-like
fellow accompanied by an obviously adult male, to sign copies of Sarah.
Looked like a thin 19-year-old kid to me, not even in a wig. The next year, I
emailed LeRoy about reprinting a story from The Heart is Deceitful Above All
Things (“Natoma Street,” a pretty knowing account of an S/M encounter) in
Best Gay Erotica 2002; an email of agreement was followed by a phone call
to me in Canada, where I was living by then, thanking me for including the story.
A few chatty emails followed. Not long after, I received two of LeRoy’s trademark
raccoon-penis necklaces. Nice PR touch. The fallout will continue, I’m sure. I’m
leaning towards Beachy....
Books To Watch Out For: The Harrington Park List
The fiction for winter & spring:
The Millionaire of Love, by David Leddick - A tale of romantic obsession
in Europe as an older man longs in futility for a handsome young man thirty years
Echelon's End: Planet Fall, by E. Robert Dunn - The star-lost crew of
the tiny Pioneer 4 is desperately trying to find a way home to rejoin the battle
for humankind’s freedom, and its place in the universe.
Beyond Machu, by William Maltese - Will true love conquer all when two
gay men find themselves engulfed in danger in Peru’s jungles and the once-lost
city of Machu Picchu?
Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of San Francisco 1970-1982, by
Jack Fritscher - This historical novel chronicles the Gay Lib movement in San
Francisco in the 1970s through the romances and events in one group’s loves and
Alex in Wonderland, by Michel LaCroix - Gay, closeted, and appalled
at the looming prospect of a hollow, arranged marriage, young Alex hits the road
. . .
Confessions of a Male Nurse, by Richard S. Ferri - A darkly funny novel
about a male nurse dealing with oddball characters, brain-frying incompetence,
Tales from the Levee, by Martha Miller - Historically based stories
about a street in a Midwestern town that for a time in the 60s and 70s played
host to a strong lesbian and gay community.
Skip Macalester, by JE Robinson - The coming-of-age story of an African American
prep school boy struggling to find his place as he uncovers hidden truths about
himself and nearly everyone he knows.
Chemistry, by Lewis DeSimone - A novel centering on two gay men, one
of whom becomes mentally ill, their relationship, and their trials and tribulations.
Going Down in La-La Land, by Andy Zeffer - A candid, sexy, and outrageously
funny look at what a young, gay actor can, and will, do to survive in Hollywood.
Transgender Erotica: Trans Figures, edited by M. Christian - An erotic
anthology of fiction and personal account that explores the creative limits of
human sexuality - the transgender experience. Long misunderstood and under-represented
in literature, emotional and sexual transsexuality exposes what erotic experience
can and should be - limitless.
The nonfiction for winter & spring:
Gay Tourism: Culture and Context, by Gordon Waitt & Kevin
Markwell - A critical examination of gay tourism as a function of - and its effects
on - gay sexual identities and communities.
Bringing Lesbian and Gay Rights Into the Mainstream: Twenty Years of
Progress, by Steve Endean, edited by Vicki L. Eaklor - The lively memoir
of LGBT movement activist Steve Endean, recounting his political career from the
early 1970s to shortly before his death in 1993.
More Bear Cookin’: Bigger and Better, by PJ Gray - The sequel to Bear
Cookin’: The Original Guide to Bear Comfort Foods presents more recipes,
more helpful hints, and more special features from the kitchen.
Gendered Outcasts and Sexual Outlaws: Sexual Oppression and Gender Hierarchies
in Queer Men’s Lives, edited by Christopher N. Kendall & Wayne Martino.
Male-Male Intimacy in Early America: Beyond Romantic Friendships, by
William Benemann - Draws on personal letters, diaries, court records, and contemporary
publications to examine the role of homosexual activity in the lives of American
men in the colonial period and in the early years of the new country.
Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth, by Daniel A.
Helminiak - An enlightening examination of the queer spiritual experience by the
author of the perennial bestseller What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.
Queering Teen Culture: All-American Boys and Same-Sex Desire in Film and
Television, by Jeffery P. Dennis - Is the overwhelming boy-meets-girl content
of popular teen movies, music, books, and TV just a cover for an undercurrent
of same-sex desire?
A Gay Couple’s Journey Through Surrogacy: Intended Fathers by Michael
Menichiello - The moving, deeply personal true story of how a gay couple brought
their daughter into the world through surrogacy.
A Season of Grief, by Bill Valentine - A memoir of one man’s
day-to-day struggle with the tragic and sudden loss of his partner.
The Handbook of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Public Health: A
Practitioner’s Guide to Service, edited by Michael D. Shankle - A comprehensive
examination of the unique public health issues of sexual minorities.
Barebacking: Psychosocial and Public Health Approaches, edited by Perry
N. Halkitis, Leo Wilton, & Jack Drescher - An examination of the psychological,
social, and health issues involving intentional unprotected gay or bisexual sex.
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men, by Thomas B.
Stevenson – More than forty gay Catholic men explain their experiences of growing
up gay, as the author mounts a formidable argument for rethinking Church teachings
Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition
of the West, edited by Beert C. Verstraete & Vernon L. Provencal - A thoughtful
collection of fresh insights into male and female homoeroticism in the ancient
Greco-Roman world and in the Classical tradition of the West.
Bi Men: Coming Out Every Which Way, edited by Ron Jackson Suresha &
Peter A. Chvany - A moving collection of personal essays from bisexuals that addresses
unique issues while affirming the reality and validity of bisexuality.
PULP LEGACY, PART II:
(In BTWOF/GM#19, Gunn wrote at length about the reissue of Richard Amory’s
classic pulp novel Song of the Loon. Here, he interviews two of that era’s
most prolific writers…)
An Interview with Victor J. Banis and William J. Lambert III
By D. Wayne Gunn
The first great explosion of gay writing has gone
largely ignored. First, it was largely published by a number of small presses
on the West Coast in the form of paperbacks. Secondly, the writing at the time
was considered pornographic though little in these early novels would shock contemporary
mainstream houses. Because of their unrespectable aura, “pulp” novels were seldom
displayed on the owners’ shelves, though they were read until their pages fell
out and then thrown away. They are now devilishly hard to find, and some go for
three figures when they do appear on the market. The widespread use of pseudonyms
conceals the fact that some were the work of established writers who were “slumming,”
while many were the apprenticeship work of writers who went on to be picked up
by New York publishers. A number of universities, besides the Kinsey Institute,
have finally realized their social and literary value and begun adding them to
their rare book holdings. These novels were, quite simply, the first body of writing
to depict gay men in a favorable light and to affirm gay sex positively. They were
also avant garde in their political and social concerns, very much a part of the
spirit that ultimately led to Stonewall and a resulting sense of pride.
Two literary pioneers consented to
be interviewed via e-mail in early April 2005. Victor J. Banis has published some
140 works under various names, including the vastly influential novel The Why
Not (1966), the famous That Man from C.A.M.P. series (1966-1968), three
of which were recently collected by Haworth Press, and one of the earliest studies
of “Tijuana Bibles” (1969). William J. Lambert III has published over 100 works
likewise under a variety of pseudonyms, beginning with the Adonis thrillers
(1969-1970), the Tlen science fiction novels (1970), and perhaps the earliest
gay horror novel, Valley of the Damned (1971). Both men are still writing
and publishing, now some forty years after their careers were launched. The interview
was conducted by D. Wayne Gunn, who met the two men in the course of research
for his bibliographical study of gay mysteries.
Gunn: What term do you prefer as a label for your early
novels? pulp fiction? pornography? something else?
Banis: Oh, I think pulp fiction sounds good. Earl Kemp often
referred to Greenleaf as
a “porn factory,” and certainly the government censors of the sixties
thought what we were doing was pornography. But I had difficulty
then, and still do, seeing what I was doing that way. I suppose
we were appealing to “prurient interests.” I have said before that
if I were to rewrite some of those old books - The Gay Haunt,
for example - I probably would tone down the sex; it seems to me
now that it gets in the way. But we were a bit drunk, I think, on
our new freedom to say things that couldn’t be said before, and
that’s especially true in the gay arena, so we were constantly pushing
the limits further and still further. So I guess in that sense we
really were writing pornographic material. I still like “pulp fiction”
Lambert: You know, people can call my early novels (even
my present novels) anything they want, and I’m okay with it. I have
a friend in the art business who enjoys the shock on people’s faces
when he introduces me as “the porn writer.” And I’ve always
been surprised by how “porn writer,” at least for me, has always
had a certain kind of cachet. But personally, I’ve always thought
of my early stuff as merely “books for and about homosexuals,” “books
for and about straights,” “books for and about bisexuals” - with
a lot of sex thrown in for good measure. I can’t say I was even
familiar with the term “pulp fiction” until a long time after I’d
first published. “Pornography?” I never really thought of my books
as that, if just because I always made a point to include
a plot-line, no matter how tenuous. “Erotica” always seems decidedly
too hoity-toity for my taste - although, that said, I’ve certainly
been free and easy with that moniker when some hoity-toity circumstances
Gunn: What do you consider your basic purpose
in writing to be?
Banis: I personally believe every writer
is responding to an itch he just can’t manage to scratch any other way. I’m not
entirely convinced any of us know, I mean, writers or any artists, really know,
why or how we do what we do; but that’s a little artsy, isn’t it? For me, initially
- and I started out doing lesbian and hetero books; The Affairs of Gloria
was my first - but what I started to say was, it really was just a lark for me.
I saw these books, and I thought, I can do that, and I did. Then, I found myself
in trouble with the law, was indicted on obscenity charges, and really, it so
ticked me off that I decided to keep writing. But the major incentive for me to
do so was that I wanted to write gay novels, and at that time, in the early sixties,
the prevailing climate was that you just couldn’t do that, which only made me
more determined. It took a while to find someone, Greenleaf Classics, to do my
first gay novel, The Why Not, but once I found my “home” there so to speak,
there was no looking back.
Lambert: While I’ve always admired authors
who have some political and/or moral agenda - behind all the fun of Victor’s
Man from C.A.M.P. series there’s no denying that it has a lot to say about
the negativism of homophobia - all I’ve ever consciously been out to do is write,
pure and simple. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I always figured it would be
a nice way to make a living.
Banis: Well, yes, really I wasn’t trying
to be a hero with any of these books; I was just having a lot of fun doing something
that had been forbidden just a year or two earlier.
Gunn: At the time you began writing, what markets were available
for what you had to say? Why did you choose the pulp market?
Banis: Well, I think I’ve indicated that already. I believed
that there was a market out there for gay books, though the publishers
at the time mostly did not. “Who would buy them?” was the usual
response. And they were afraid of the legal repercussions, of course.
Publishing books with gay themes, and especially pro-gay attitudes,
was dangerous. I didn’t know, however, how big that market would
prove to be.
Lambert: By the time I entered the market - it was, I think,
some three years after Victor made the proverbial “plunge” (a lot,
if not all of his C.A.M.P. series were already on the stands)
- he and the others had paved the way for us. I actually had several
publishers available for my gay, straight,
and bi work, including Brandon and Greenleaf, and the market kept
on growing: Bee-line, Orpheus, Venice, Frenchy’s, Circle, Hamilton
House, Blueboy, Surree, Parliament - I ended up publishing with
all of those. While in the Army I was adopted by a surprisingly
large gay “underground,” and I actually started writing short gay
stuff for my own amusement and for that of my fellow soldiers. Just
after my (honorable) discharge, I spent some time with an Army buddy,
who happened to have two pulp books. “Hell, I can write better than
that!” I thought. My very first published gay book was written a
chapter at a time for reading aloud to a group of my equally drunk-at-the-time
gay friends. It was only at the book’s conclusion that I thought
I’d hate to see all my effort go to waste, so I bundled it up and
sent it to Greenleaf. I still remember the acceptance letter that
bemoaned my having committed the no-no of submitting in a script
font (the only typewriter I had available at the time), but Greenleaf
published it anyway. “Did I have anything else gay they could look
at?” I had a straight detective novel, which I converted to gay
(Adonis). It was quickly accepted and actually beat my official
first book for Greenleaf - sci-fi Five Roads to Tlen - to
Gunn: How much did the publisher dictate
what you were to write about?
Banis: My editors pretty much gave me a
free hand. In The Why Not Earl Kemp wanted me to include the straight element,
and I did, but I think he was looking for insurance. But this was my first gay
novel, and his as well, and we didn’t really know, remember, whether there was
a serious market for gay novels. And sometimes an editor would ask for something
on a particular theme, but I was very quickly popular, my books sold well, and
the various publishers with whom I worked were generally glad to have anything
I sent them.
Lambert: I can’t say I’ve ever experienced
much censorship, aside from resistance to man-with-a-woman-with-a-man bisexuality
(gal-with-a-male-with-a gal was quite okay). Few publishers in the early days
seemed to think the former kind of bisexuality even existed. A time did come when
Greenleaf expressly asked to see more everyday characters - accountants, car salesmen,
school teachers, students, shop clerks - as opposed to exotics - CIA agents, munitions
salesmen, celebrities, the very rich - and wanted storylines likewise to reflect
the lifestyles of the ordinary reader - sex and personal angst in city parks or
in office supply rooms, as opposed to sex and espionage in the ruins of Great
Zimbabwe. I’ve never had much of a face-to-face with my publisher, always seeming
to be “off somewhere” other than where they’ve set up shop. Unlike Victor who
was off bonding with the publishers of Brandon and Greenleaf, prosecuted (persecuted?)
by the U.S. government for trafficking in pornography, I was living a life completely
isolated from the group. It’s only recently, Earl doing his memoirs, that I realized
how out of the loop I was, compared to some of my fellow writers at the time.
Gunn: How were you paid? How much did you
earn from your first novels? Were you able to live off your earnings?
Lambert: I’d mail in a manuscript, and a
few weeks later I would receive a check in the mail. Usually on a work-for-hire
basis, which means that once a manuscript was sold, my rights went bye-bye with
it. Since I was sometimes writing books at a rate of one a week, I didn’t think
all that much about, or care about, retaining rights. It was only later, when
I had a publishing history and a better comprehension of legalities, that I began
negotiating to retain everything except first-North-American-serial rights. I
don’t recall ever being asked to revise one of my early manuscripts or do any
rewriting after submission. Looking at some of those books, I’m not sure there
was all that much editing done at the publisher’s end. The going rate for a novel
was anywhere from $200 to $1000, Greenleaf paying top-dollar, at least for me,
at the time. I ended up with so many pseudonyms from so early in my career (and
I suspect the same may hold true for Victor) because the publishers didn’t want
their readers to think that the books were written on an assembly-line basis.
Was I able to live off my income from smut? (Now there’s another possible descriptive
term.) A qualified, yes!
Banis: I was paid $700 for The Why Not.
And yes, contrary to much of what has been written since, it was a legitimate
contract with royalty scales and rights reversion, the works. That doesn’t sound
like very much money, but that was 1964, and I think today that would be $3000
or $4000, which wasn’t really so bad. The C.A.M.P. books started, if I
recall, at $500, and in time I got $700 and $1000 for those; $1500 for The
Gay Haunt; and as much as $7000 in time for some of the things I did. And
yes, I made a living that way for many years. But the thing was, I could write
fast, and I wrote full time, so I could do a book in a week or so, and $2000 or
$3000 a month was pretty good income then, though I can’t say I made that every
Gunn: How did you define your audience and
your relationship to your readers?
Lambert: I’m not sure I can, I’ve written
for so many audiences. I’m embarrassed to admit that my goal has always been,
and still is, basically no more than trying to provide my readers with a good
read and get paid well for doing so. My ability to judge my success or failure
seems based entirely on the size of my royalty checks and/or whether I’m asked
to provide another book.
Banis: My answer is pretty straightforward
since my audience was a gay one, and I think I just saw them and myself in the
same terms. I was a gay activist, and I was writing for people much like myself,
gay, and no longer willing to abide by the old rules. I think what happened with
me and the gay readers of that era was that we shared and they responded to a
common dream of a better world for gay people; and I think that is why young readers
today can still identify with those (admittedly dated) books. We have come a long
way, but the dream is still much the same.
Gunn: Since sex was a major component of
these novels, prurient readers are going to be curious: How much of your novels
is based on personal experiences?
Lambert: Time here to repeat my old-and-worn
story of how a fan once approached me at a booksigning to express concern that
if I didn’t slow down sometime soon, I’d be lucky to reach 20. (I was 25 at the
time.) Very little of the sex in my novels is based on my personal experiences.
(Sorry, guys!) I spent so much time writing that I really didn’t go out and personally
Banis: Gosh, I’m going to surprise you here
and say that I was always a bit of a prude, and I still am, I think. I said earlier
that there was a certain exhilaration in exercising this new freedom, but I always
had to psyche myself up to write sex scenes. Sometimes I would skip over them
and then go back and insert them when I was in the right mood. And some things
I just wasn’t any good at: bondage, S&M, that sort of stuff; and those things
I handed to my then partner, Sam Dodson, or our secretary, Lady Agatha, and let
them fill in those blanks. Fantasy? Well, yes, I think in my life I had my share
of beautiful, and hung, men, but my track record couldn’t compare to Jackie Holmes’!
Gunn: We hear often enough about the alleged
negative influence of pornography. What kind of positive reactions did your books
Banis: I think that the gay novels I wrote had a positive impact indeed.
They opened doors for other writers, doors that had been closed before. The
Why Not simply because it convinced Greenleaf to go with a gay publishing
program, and of course in time Greenleaf published a vast catalog of gay titles,
and other publishers soon followed suit. And especially The Man from C.A.M.P.
because it utterly shattered the stereotype of what gay novels and gay protagonists
could be, and made possible the incredible variety of gay material that followed.
And it wasn’t just writers, either; I think that we gave gay readers permission
to see themselves in a new and positive light; and I know that Earl has told me
that William was one of their best-selling writers, so certainly he had an impact
as well. But I have to say that the real credit must go to Earl, who had the courage
and the foresight to buy and publish books that were unlike anything that had
gone before. And there were others, of course. Gil Porter of Sherbourne Press
ventured into the water with some early novels by James Colton, who was Joe Hanson.
Lambert: I’ve remained pretty much isolated from any of my readers’
opinions, whether pro or con. I’ve never had anyone say to me, “William, you have
changed my life.”
Gunn: What do you consider to be your major
literary contribution? Which novel are you most proud of, and why?
Lambert: I’m not in the least convinced
that I’ve made any major literary contribution (and I’m not being falsely
modest here). I’ve always strived just for the presentation of a good read: one
I enjoy, one I hope the reader will enjoy, never consciously with any other agenda.
I’m neither consciously proud of any of my work, nor disappointed by any of it.
I’ve merely been lucky to have “fathered” a couple hundred literary “children,”
pretty much finished with each and every one as I judged him/her sufficiently
able to head on out into the big wide world, pleased when one or more sent home,
on occasion, a bit of money that allowed their dear dad to keep on doing what
he was doing. That an article of mine ended up in a retrospective of The Advocate
as being somehow reflective of the Vietnam War decade came as a complete surprise
to me; at the time I was merely relaying a personal experience that I found interesting
(albeit personally unflattering) rather than making some kind of commentary upon
the military establishment, gays, and the handicapped.
Banis: I don’t know that I think of any
of my books as “literary.” I did so many books and of such a variety, it’s hard
to pick favorites. The C.A.M.P. books, as I mentioned, had a tremendous
impact, and it is gratifying to know that you made a difference. I did better
writing in other books, I think. This Splendid Earth, for example. I also
did some dreadful writing from time to time, but every artist deserves to be judged
by his best work, doesn’t he? And only the mediocre artist is always at his best.
What is interesting, I think, is that it is quite rare for any writer to outlast
his immediate generation, so it is exciting to see young people today reading
and presumably enjoying some of my old pulp works.
Gunn: Where do you place yourself in the
development of gay literature?
Lambert: Well, I do seem to have been there
when gay literature really first blossomed. My books do seem to have been successful,
judging from sales and invitation to submit additional material. My books do seem
to continue to be popular with readers and publishers. So I guess you can color
me a survivor in the genre.
Banis: I do see myself as a pioneer in gay
literature. Not that there weren’t gay books before mine, but there weren’t so
many of them, and they were mostly of the “sad young men” school of writing. It
is little wonder that gays in the fifties saw themselves in such a negative light,
when you go back and look at what we had to read. I don’t think I was much influenced
by those early gay writers; I was probably more influenced by the spirit of liberation
that was just blooming when I began to write and that inspired me to introduce
a new kind of gay hero. Michael Bronski dedicated Pulp Friction to me,
Bruce Benderson, Joseph Hanson, and Marijane Meaker [see her interview, LBR,
Jan.-Mar. 2005] and “all of the other authors, living and dead, who for decades
before Stonewall pioneered what we now call gay and lesbian literature.” I don’t
know who wouldn’t take pride in that.
Gunn: What is your assessment of the current
gay literary scene? Whose works are you now reading?
Banis: It surprises me that, all these years
later, we have not yet seen the “great gay novel” or even the “great gay writer.”
What we did, however, William and I and all those others in our field, was be
part of a revolution, and it generally takes a century for the dust to settle
from any revolution, so maybe it’s a bit early yet. I very much enjoyed Mathew
Stadler’s Allen Stein, and the story “Brokeback Mountain” in Annie Proulx’s
Close Range: Wyoming Stories. Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures
of Kavalier and Clay was wonderful. I think Greg Herren is closer to what
we did, and he is a terrific writer with great potential. I read prolifically,
I just finished reading a trio of Maugham’s plays, including The Letter,
which is so much better than the movie. Gay material? Well, Herren’s Bourbon Street
Blues was the last thing, I think, and I mean to pick up his newest one.
Lambert: I can’t give you a valid specific
assessment of the current gay literary scene. I’m not really “into” my gay competition,
although I do admit to having recently read and reviewed an interesting gay “period”
piece, The Phoenix by Ruth Sims, feeling comfortable in reading it because
I’ve never written a gay period piece and doubt that I ever will. And I’m reading
The World of Simon Raven, recommended by a friend who thought I might enjoy
it - which I am. I suspect I’ve a masochistic penchant for the game of cricket,
and the book, so far, is full of it.
Gunn: What are you working on now?
Lambert: The last few years I’ve been writing
in the gay genre under my pseudonym William Maltese. I’ve a Stud Draqual Mystery
series going. I’m involved in my One-Hand ReadTM series, which are
reversions to the old gay pulps (think Greenleaf). My gay romance/adventure, Beyond
Machu, is coming out from Haworth. I’ve a new gay sci-fi book, Bond-Shattering,
out, and a gay sci-fi novella in the works. I’ve another German-language book
due out the first of next year; my short “Doppelmörder” garnered quite a bit of
notoriety and rave reviews there. I’m trying to finish the book of short stories
I promised Green Candy.
Banis: I’m always working on half a dozen
things at once. My memoirs, Spine Intact, Some Creases, was just published
in a limited edition. I’m finishing a futuristic novel, Angel Land, that
I like a lot.
Gunn: Is it easier or harder to get published
Banis: For me, it’s harder getting published
today. By the seventies, pretty much everyone in publishing knew me or knew of
me, and doors were always open, but those editors and publishers are mostly gone
now, and I’m not far removed from the slush pile. I’m fortunate to have had my
editor on Spine Intact and That Man from C.A.M.P., Fabio Cleto,
who has worked long and hard to see me back in print, and I am certainly grateful.
Mostly, though, I write today for my own pleasure, so it is just frosting on the
cake if something makes it into print and anyone else gets to enjoy it too.
Lambert: It is not easier to get
published these days: especially if you’re a new gay author, especially these
last couple of years with most of the major publishing houses deciding to jettison
their gay imprints. Millivres/Prowler, one of the largest European publishers
of gay literature has cut its new-book production. There is, of course, self-publishing,
which has made best-selling stars out of a couple of authors into teenage coming-out
stories, but, for the most part, that venue is still looked down upon by just
about everyone in the book industry and is, I think, best exploited by established
authors who already have a loyal readership base. There’s just nothing today like
the monthly output of gay books that existed during the sixties and the seventies.
D. Wayne Gunn’s last published
interview was with French author Roger Peyrefitte for Gay Sunshine, Spring
1980, reprinted in Volume 2 of Gay Sunshine Interviews, edited by Winston
Leyland, 1982. Scarecrow Press published The Gay Male Sleuth in Print and
The Blogs: More Of Writers On Writing
Brent Hartinger and Timothy J. Lambert write about the process of writing on their
blogs: “I have finished the first draft of Double Feature (which is the third
book in the Russel Middlebrook series). Obviously there is much more work that
needs to be done, but it's very nice to have a completed draft. I love
it, but that means nothing, since I love all my first drafts. (Next in my emotional
progression will come "panic," "despair," "hate,"
and, finally - hopefully - "acceptance"):
Lambert recently has been writing about hurricanes, since Rita brushed by him,
and his dog, who is a comfort. But here’s what he said about the release of Three
Fortunes and One Cookie, the fun novel he co-wrote with Becky Cochrane: “Three
Fortunes and One Cookie is available in bookstores now. Woohoo! And who knew?
We'd heard at least three different release dates for it, all of which were in
September, so I really wasn't expecting to see it for at least another week. I'm
glad I still get the same giddy feeling whenever a new book of ours is published.
And now I have that same ol' Will people like it? anxiety lingering by my side
as the days go by. But even that's a good thing, in a way. I'd be disappointed
in myself if I didn't give a flying crap what people think of our work. Be glad.
I just deleted three paragraphs of rambling thoughts.”
Prime Time Apparitions, by R. Zamora Linmark, Hanging Loose Press,
'Hilarious & Harrowing, Holy & Profane'
Reviewed by D. Antwan Stewart
Zamora Linmark, in his collection Prime Time Apparitions, is a temporal
landscapist cross-pollinating the secular with the spiritual, the celebrated with
the infamous: where, for example, the speaker in “A Letter to Clair Danes from
a Fan in Manila,” is sympathetic toward the actress who has been culture shocked
by the conditions of Manila - where she has just filmed a movie - despite how
the City Mayor has called a ban to all her movies and “The papers and glossy fashion
magazines . . . [christen her] ‘Unknown,’ ‘Uncouth,’ ‘Uncultured,’ ‘Unconscious’.”
The speaker’s sympathy is borne from a theme that tempers each poem in the book:
a desire to dislocate the reader from his/her comfort zones and allow the reader
to experience a cultural moment beyond what is merely universal, but more importantly,
those moments that beseech us to accept our human frailties and enchantments as
the natural order of human experience.
And, as Faye Kicknosway states in her (lyrical) introduction: “Parts
of [Linmark’s] life climb in and out of his writings, but he takes great liberties
with them, undressing himself of them to such an extent he becomes, on his page,
a character he has never met.” I found this to be an incredibly profound insight
in relation to how Linmark has such utter control in each of these poems. The
pendulum swings not just back and forth in these poems, but around and around,
forming helixes and whole galaxies so nimbly that the hilarious, the harrowing,
the scintillating and the discombobulated all conspire to present us with poetry
as fresh and new as the birth of the worlds that Linmark writes. In other words,
Linmark may know his subjects a little too well and in writing about them they,
more and more, take on profound meanings in which the poet must explore and grapple
with what he first perceived as one meaning has suddenly become a transcendent
moment, and in turn, the reader is pulled into a beautiful vortex, all the while
trying to hitch a ride on the shifting pendulum. For example, in the poem “Sensory
for Nine,” Linmark presents us with a suite of sorts, nine vignettes detailing
the sexual exploits of the speaker. However, Linmark handles this subject with
extreme caution and honesty. And it is the honesty of each of the nine “sensory”
moments that allows their tenderness and heartbreaking presence to transcend human
spectacle; the experience of the poem becomes something holy:
A bottle of half-filled whiskey
smuggled in for excuses and emptied
within minutes strategically stood
between us to perform a ritual: Skin,
which required a complete revolution
before the offering of tongues to men
who have perished in that unnamable
chasm some mistakenly call “passion.”
This excerpt is from the first stanza of the poem, and dutifully, it sets up
how, in each of the following eight sections, the speaker engages in a series
of erotic trysts with various men who are of various ages and significance to
the speaker. For example, they are men who devirginize the speaker, or are men
who enchant the speaker and their sexual experience becomes one of lust, and of
course there are those experiences in which the speaker confuses love and lust
for certain men. Nevertheless, Linmark writes each section as if he has had a
long while to live with these experiences, and therefore, the reader is allowed
to revel in the psychological, catholic, and personal ramifications these experiences
have had on the speaker. And for that, the poem is enriched because the reader
senses a continual struggle on behalf of the speaker to reconcile many of the
disconcerting emotions the poet/speaker feels. And that makes the experience wholly
identifiable, and not necessarily an experience that is peripherally recognizable,
but an experience that incorporates a wide scope and vision: readers may relate
to the experience as if it has happened to them recently, or the experience may
recall a distant memory that has been excavated from the unconciousness - either
way, Linmark writes these poems so that understanding, and hopefully transcendence,
may be achieved on any level.
Finally, in his poem, “Says the Kiwi Bird,” Linmark revisits the
shocked zones of foreign cultures. In the last two couplets he writes:
I know I am only a kiwi bird
(Okay, a poet’s muse for the first time tonight)
But I do understand the laws of territoriality:
Nuisance, and, above all, creation.
Writing in the voice of the kiwi bird, Linmark traverses the oft-traveled terrain
of the catholic and the personal. However, in these final couplets his achievement
is greater than merely (if not profoundly) stating the obvious: that catholic
and personal are often mutually inclusive experiences. He says somewhat of the
opposite as well: even if the personal and the catholic, at worse, cannot co-exist,
or, at best, does indeed become a nuisance to try to reconcile the similarities
and differences, there is the opportunity to create an experience that is hilarious,
harrowing, tender and honest, holy and profane, that even in the worse cases,
will provide some fertile ground in which a multitude may plant their seeds of
experience and see how beautifully each one blossoms, or even wilts.
D. Antwan Stewart is James A. Michener fellow in poetry at
the Michener Center for Writers in Austin. His poetry appears or will appear in
New Millennium Writings, The Seattle Review, Paper Street, Poet Lore,
di-verse-city, storySouth: The Best of the South 2005, and others. He is poetry
editor for Bat City Review (batcityreview.com).
A poem by the reviewer: http://www.storysouth.com/fall2004/stewart.html
Arsenal Pulp, Gore Vidal, Paul Lynde, Life as a Cadet
With the closing of another Vancouver independent bookstore in mind, Xtra West
interviews queer-friendly Arsenal Pulp Press publisher Brian Lam:
“Age cannot wither him” is the headline on this
rambunctious interview with 80-year-old Gore Vidal. “He was friends with Christopher
Isherwood, who had a very lively dotage in Los Angeles. I wonder if Vidal, a great
admirer of his prose, holds him up as a role model of sorts. "Well, he drank
a lot. Don (Bachardy), Isherwood's boyfriend, did him an ill service by insisting
on printing every word of his diaries, which I call 'the hangover diaries.' He
would have a wonderful evening the night before when you were with him - very
happy - and then the next morning he'd have a ghastly headache and write about
how much he hated everybody he saw the night before. This did him a disservice,
not to mention those of us so described. These were not precious insights.”
The full interview: http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/biography/story/
Karl Soehnlein (You Can Say You Knew Me When,
Kensington Books) on his adopted city: “I interviewed a lot of people for this
book who lived in San Francisco in the Beat era and there was this sense of discovery,
wonderment at the kind of freedom they found here, and I don't think that was
the same for the people who came here during the boom. There was wonder in the
'90s about what technology could do, but it was mostly just about how much money
could be made.” The full interview:
Dan Savage on being married, and his new book Commitment:
AE: Are you surprised, at this point in
your life, to be living the life you have?
DS: Absofuckinglutely. I came
out in 1980. I'm surprised that I'm still alive, frankly, much less living with
my kid and my... my... husband. Ugh. I still can't get use to saying that word.
I still call Terry my boyfriend, only now DJ [Savage’s son] corrects me. "Daaaaad,"
he says, "he's not your boyfriend. You're married now." It's ironic,
isn't it? Words and rituals that feel a little off, stuff that feels like it doesn't
quite fit, will seem completely natural to kids DJ's age. We grew up without any
of these rights, and they'll always feel a bit spangly to us. But for DJ, and
for gay kids growing up now, boys marrying boys and girls marrying girls will
be a normal part of the adult world.” The full AfterElton interview: http://www.afterelton.com/print/2005/9/dansavage.html
Mike Sacks in Salon (watch a brief ad for
access) wonders why it took so long for a biography of “the strange, sad life
of legendary gay comic actor Paul Lynde” to appear:
Buff reality star (Amazing Race winner and
Kill Reality co-star Reichen Lehmkuhl tells all about his tell-all book:
AE: What's next for you?
RL: I’m putting out a book in
2006 called Here’s What We’ll Say. It’s about all the lies I and other
gay cadets had to tell to survive as gay cadets at your U.S. Air Force Academy.
I’m telling ALL.” (He sold the book this month to Don Weise at Carroll &
Graf, for publication in September 2006.) The full AE interview: http://www.afterelton.com/TV/2005/8/reichen2.html
Thoughts on YA novels and the censorious right: "As the Bookslut.com blog has made us all aware, there has been a steady
upswing in banned and challenged books in school libraries lately. I paid only
casual attention to what goes on in Oklahoma and Arkansas (and Virginia and Texas
and…), until I read two books that would have set off all kinds of alarms for
groups like Parents Against Bad Books in Schools (no, I’m not making that up)...."
Tobias Schneebaum (
Keep the River on Your Right
) died in September.
Allan Gurganus interviewed him a few years ago for Bomb: “The adventurer,
nearly 80, is now at home and receiving. A rail-thin man, fiercely kind, he looks
as beaky yet contained as an Iberian aristocrat. Head lifted, his profile itself
seems an instrument of listening. Surviving hip-replacement surgery, this strider
of the world now lists a bit. But his every step looks meditated, then undertaken,
then somewhat jauntily enjoyed.
Douglas Cruickshank reviewed
Secret Places: My Life in New York and New Guinea
in 2001: “…a small, odd and sometimes incandescent book about life, death,
love, sex, tribal culture, magic, art, aging, transcendence and cannibalism. It's
a fey, curiously charming piece of work, and so is its author.”
And here’s a review of
a documentary about Tobias:
The Secret Lives of Cromwell-Era Monks
Dissolution, by CJ Sansom, Penguin Books, $14 For fans of historical
mysteries, this one’s a treat – debut novelist Sansom invests the
era of Thomas Cromwell and his
over-arching dissolution of Catholic monasteries in 1537 with an irresistible
synthesis of historical fact and a novelist’s fancy. Why did I read
this novel? I was in the country, brought the wrong bag of books to
read (they were books I wanted to write about, which is not nearly
as pleasurable), and wandered into a co-owners bedroom to see what
he had on his bedside table (he has a good straight man’s taste in
mysteries…). Why recommend it? Sodomy amongst the Brothers, of course.
Sansom’s central character, sent to close down a Benedictine monastery,
is as repulsed by sodomites in his midst as any Cromwell henchman
ought to be; but in the end the main gay character (or, in the language
of the era, the main pederast) comes off as rather noble, incidentally
heroic, and, with a spiritual intelligence, is ably conflicted about
the disparity between his physical needs and his religious vows.
Author info: http://www.murderbooks.com/inter4.php