Lesbian vampire novel that pre-dates Dracula by 25 years? Sign me up! Carmilla (1872) was in fact a huge influence on Bram Stoker, as shown by many subtle references in Dracula (1897) and more obvious ones in “Dracula’s Guest”. Largely a forgotten classic, today Carmilla is receiving something of a revival thanks to an increased academic interest in queer artifacts and this new edition that’s edited by Carmen Maria Machado.Read more “Joseph Sheridan le Fanu – Carmilla (1872)”
Historically significant gay murder mystery! Today Goodbye, My Lover merely reads like the campy whodunit that it is, but when it was originally published in 1966 it must’ve been a life-changing experience for gay readers seeking evidence that they deserve a place in the world.
The characters are happily gay and living their best life—even as they navigate an intricate murder plot. Rather than resent their sexuality or commit suicide by the end, they are more reaffirmed than ever to have long-term gay relationships in their future. Homophobia is largely absent and certainly not dwelled upon. Possibly because the novel takes place in Los Angeles, which was fantastically more liberated than the rest of the country, but generally queer pulp fiction was eager to explore a post-homophobic fantasy world where gay men were free from oppression.Read more “J.X. Williams – Goodbye, My Lover (1966)”
This rare 1977 horror novel occasionally pops up in academic discussions around gay representation in literature. Drewey Wayne Gunn, a leading academic on such topics, describes The Slasher as a “credible attempt to explain a killer’s mentality” and praises its “touching portrait of a relationship between two police officers and their friendship with the medical examiner.” He goes on to lament that the author’s actual identity remains a mystery, since Sebastian Lamb, like most headliners of pulp fiction, is a pseudonym.
Gunn’s praise is generous, but he’s not wrong. If you glaze over the overindulgent sex and generally poor writing, it’s possible to enjoy a story of semi-closeted detectives attempting to bring a killer to justice. Both victims and murderer are also gay, making this a story 100% by, for, and about gay men. A few lines of social commentary imply these grisly murders might go unchecked if the detectives were straight. The media, at least, aren’t interested in reporting on “faggot deaths” until one of the victims turns out to be a young, emerging actor.Read more “Sebastian Lamb – The Slasher (1977)”
If you’ve ever checked out Pennywise and thought “I’d hit that,” you might be like Terry Adams, the nineteen year-old farm boy from St. Paul and newest recruit at the Gay Circus.
Terry’s life ambition is to become a clown himself. With his big ears “like sugar bowl handles” and theatrical eyes that spontaneously “alternate between happiness and sadness,” it’s like he was made for it. Everyone says he has the face of a clown, “even without makeup.” Being double-jointed is just the cream pie on top.Read more “Kym Allyson – Gay Circus (1970)”
A survey of 1960’s and ’70s gay pulp fiction reveals that sequels were scarce. Many of these books had impressive print runs (over 100,000) but rarely did any one title warrant a narrative continuation. The plots and characters weren’t exactly designed for posterity. Instead, their pleasures were often of a disposable nature, to the level of being tossed out with garbage upon reaching aphrodisiacal fulfillment. The idea that people might read, collect and obsess over pulp fifty years later probably sounded laughable at the time.
Nevertheless, there were fan favorites and landmark publications among this ocean of cheap, sleazy paperbacks. Some titles generated multi-book series, spin-offs, parodies and, of course, sequels. Notable examples of the era include the 2069 trilogy (1969-1970) by Larry Townsend, The Man from C.A.M.P. series (1966-1968) by Don Holliday, and Richard Amory’s bestselling Song of the Loon trilogy (1966-1968). Amory’s books sold in the millions and even had a movie adaptation.
Demon’s Coronation (1971) by William J. Lambert, III, is another example, being the dramatic second half of Demon’s Stalk (1970). If you’ve read my review of the first book, you know I’m a fan and would consider it not only a fabulous example of queer pulp, but also the horror genre at large.Read more “William J. Lambert, III – Demon’s Coronation (1971) + Interview”
“Going to Hell” has always been a part of my existence. I’ve been told it constantly. From the pulpit, from family, from strangers on the street. I suspect every religious gay person decides at some point to either embrace their inevitable damnation, or believe that organized religion is a lie. Friends and allies are forced into a similar conundrum, fearing their soul will turn to salt should they dare sympathize with such “deviants.”
But I was born in 1989 and have it lucky. In 1970, when Demon’s Stalk was published, you didn’t just have the church to worry about. You could be sent to jail. You were thought to suffer from a “mental disorder.” You were an assumed pedophile. You were beaten—maybe killed—in the street. Rarely would anyone care. They saw your death as a public service. It wasn’t just God against you, it was everyone.
It’s within this historical context that I read Demon’s Stalk in awe. It remains edgy and unnerving these fifty years later, arguably deserving of classic status within the horror genre, but also revolutionary for its handling of queer characters within a religious storyline. Which is to say that none of these things matter.Read more “William J. Lambert, III – Demon’s Stalk (1970) + Interview”
Reading rare and obscure books has become my obsession, and this is the rarest one yet. Considered the first gay werewolf novel, it has significance to queer horror fans, but its appearance in 1971, amid a swirl of gay socio-political turmoil, interests me even more. I can’t read it and not imagine myself as a groovy gay man, the possibility of equal rights newly in my head after the Stonewall Riots, but knowing actual equality is so far off as to be unimaginable. My existence is considered monstrous to almost everyone. I know because they told me. Maybe not me specifically, because of course I’m in the closet, but they’ve said it out loud. Many times.
In 1971 you could be jailed for writing books like this, and reading them wasn’t always safer. Obscenity laws still percolated in the Supreme Court and Greenleaf Classics, Lambert’s publisher, faced endless legal battles.Read more “William J. Lambert – Valley of the Damned (1971) + Interview”
Gay 1960’s San Francisco is the best setting for any novel, and reading one actually written during that time is a particular treat. Even better when the premise is the first gay candidate for president and his drag queen lover!
The narrative has flaws for sure, but as a historical document this is an out-of-print page-turner. Published in 1968, the novel appeared amid a swirl of American political context. JFK’s assassination in 1963 is still fresh in the public’s mind, but even fresher are the murders of Malcolm X (1965), Martin Luther King Jr (1968) and Robert Kennedy (1968). More locally, California is settling into the reality of having a “movie governor” (Reagan) and San Francisco is officially a gay mecca. For the first time LGBT residents feel they have political muscle to flex.Read more “Peter Tuesday Hughes – The Other Party (1968)”
William Maltese, everyone! An absolute honor to have you spend time with us.
For those unfamiliar, Maltese is the author of 200+ pulp novels from 1969 to 2020, some gay, some straight, and all spread wide under the guise of an astounding 36 pseudonyms. His oeuvre includes the world’s first gay werewolf novel, Valley of the Damned (1971), a sexy gay anti-Christ series starting with Demon’s Stalk (1970), and a naughty intergalactic romp called Starship Intercourse (1971). Though his vintage pulps are now collector’s gold (Starship Intercourse was spotted online at $1,500), his recent novels are plentiful and readily available.
JUSTIN: Let’s start with sex. You’ve written about doing the dirty during the free-lovin ’60s, the AIDS epidemic, into the technology age of Grindr and everything in between. What, if anything, has changed about sex?Read more “Exclusive Interview: William Maltese”