Lesbian BDSM tales by Valerie Gray. Done in a way that it reminds one of Sloane Britain.
Archive for lesbian fiction
This one is far better than Orrie Hitt’s other juvie novel, The Torrid Teens – both published in 1960 although Wayward Girl was a month or two before Torrid Teens, as tis is Beacon #288 and Teens #294 (we’re talking a month difference here).
The wayward girl is young Sandy Greening and he white trash nowhere life — she was raped by a neighbor at 14 but liked it, started running with a gang and prostituting at 15, got hooked on heroin (but not too badly) at 16.
Her father is in prison for trying to hold up a gas station and her mother is a lush who runs around with criminals and bad boys. She in turn runs around with a street gang, is not quite a “deb” but makes herself available for the use of the club house, where she sometimes brings her johns.
She works part time in a deli, where she meets out of town men or dock workers who pay her $5-10, sometimes $20, for a lay. She believes in giving men what they pay for and sometimes enjoys it. She wants to work her way up to a high class $100/night call girl and lead a nicer life.
One night an older man offers her $25 and she goes to his hotel room but it’s a police sting and she’s arrested. She was witness to a murder in a rumble the night before (a rival gang gang-raped one of their debs) but she plays dumb.
She is sent to a special reform school for first offenders, much better she is told than most reform institutes for young women, and far better than prison. There, she goes cold turkey off the heroin and it’s a hellish two weeks before she kicks it.
Some of the other girls are pregnant, in for drugs or hooking, and half seem to be lesbians or dabbling in the third sex for lack of men. She vows never to go that route but she is blackmailed into lesbiana by one of the house-mothers, who holds her future well-being in lock. Still, Sandy finds she enjoys the forced kisisngs and lickings of another woman — “Sandy had never dreamed of the completeness of this kind of love” (p. 92).
She is given a weekend pass to stay with a family in town, only to find that the man of the house — a fat slob of a guy — expects sex from her, or else he will tell the house-mother to give her a bad report and have her sent to regular jail. He is paying the house-mother $25 for every girl she sends for him to have sex with. Sandy sees it ironic that she was convicted for prostitution only to be pimped out by the state employees who are supposed to be “reforming” her as a good citizen of society.
The slob’s son, 19, however, falls in love with Sandy and wants to marry her, but she can’t see how he can feel that way for a girl like her, especially if he ever found out she was sleeping with his father.
When Sandy is released, she goes back to work at the diner where men are expecting her to return to doing $5-10 tricks, and where her gang mates expect her to return to the Life of rumbling and shooting heroin.
Sometimes at tad preachy and moral, this is still an excellent read, even with the sappy happy ending. Hitt seems to be writing a book made-to-order for Beacon, as the storyline is similar to others, but here he does an excellent job.
On the Hitt Scale, a 9.2.
March Hastings (real name Sally M. Singer) liked to write about women cracking up, breaking bad, and going hyp0-mania, usually from a divorce, break-up, or bad union, and finding their way into the arms of another woman. This was present in The Drifter and looks to be a common set-up in the other books I have by her.
She’s regarded as a major contributor to pulp lesbiana and a few of her titles — like Her Private Hell (Midwood) — fetch high prices with collectors.
Sharon Porter is a book editor in her 30s who is on the verge of a crack-up. She works for Taft Publishing and the man she lives with has the last name Taft, so there’s a problem there: fucking the boss. But that relationship has gone sour.
Needing to get out, she contacts one of her writers, Kermit, to take her out somewhere. They go to a party at another writer’s loft; he’s an eccentric fellow married to an even more eccentric lady, Leda. Leda and Sharon hit it off immediately — there’s attraction, which leads to sex, which eventually leads to Leda’s husband catching them in the act of “the third theme.”
They get out of dodge; the two women go on a road trip, back to Sharon’s home town, so Sharon was rediscover herself, and come to terms with her “third sex syndrome.”
This one is elegantly written but it is hard to identity with, or care about the characters because they are so uppercrust Manhattanites who end to be shallow, their problems petty when you consider, for instance, the characters in Sloane Britain’s The Needle, who are dealing with the underbelly of life. The Drifter was about upper middle class and privileged people, and while I liked that one, there was still the issue of Hastings not making her wealthy, educated people into universal human beings.
I wonder how much The Third Theme is like The Third Sex Syndrome…
Another gorgeous Paul Rader cover. Lynn Munroe has this to say in his Rader/Midwood Checklist:
This cover may not actually make sense (how many psychiatric patients remove their dresses for therapy?), but it is an eyeful nonetheless. The poor dear has twisted herself around so much that both her breasts and bottom are heaving out of her slip, and even the good doctor is flashing a bit of stocking top and thigh.
Marion Zimmer Bradley didn’t think highly of this title, feeling BNritain/Williams had succumbed to the demands of commercial lesbian fiction.
And the book does tend to lean toward a commercial, predictable format, not as personal and riveting as other Britain novels like The Needle and These Curious Pleasures.
Dr. Erika Hathaway is a psychiatrist who crosses the ethical boundaries of her profession in many ways, with patients and co-workers. She has her private practice and she is on staff at a hospital, working with committed patients who are, well, nuts or manic. One, Arlene, is a nymphomaniac who seduces both men and woman and whom Erika has the hots for.
She also has the hots for a nurse, Mavia, who has latent lesbian feelings as well…and feelings for Arlene. Erika gets jealous.
One man, Tom, a medical writer, is in an influencing position of power with a foundation that is about to give the psychiatric wing a large grant for research. He lets Erika know that if she sleeps with him, she will be on the team and benefit from the money and status of the research. He tries to rape her one night but she hits him with a beer bottle.
Erika also sees her own psychiatrist for her own issues, especially those crossing ethical lines.
Throughout the story, we peer into Erika’s head and the past, with her first lesbian love, whom she lived with. It ended with heartbreak and Erika has been seeking out a woman to experience those feelings again.
An okay read. Now and then, Britain delivers remarkable one-liners, such as: “The world does not die when the heart does” (p.89).
A B-minus all together.
This Paul Rader cover is the first of his lesbian couples, which he did many more, most of them quite stunning. Rader seemed to tackle the cover for most of the Sheldon Lords, but not always the reprints…
Another Lawrence Block tale set in Greenwich Village, his favorite setting for his sleaze books, and where he (still does?) live. The building at 69 Barrow Street also appears in Passion Alley by Andrew Shaw.
This one is somewhat soap opera-esque about the love and sex woes of hipstes in the Village. Ralph is a painter who lives with a somewhat wild and nutty lesbian, Stella. Ralph sets his eyes on a new tenant, Susan Rivers, and so does Stella.
Ralph is looking for love but Stella just wants another woman to fuck, and she has a long list of them. Susan, however is a recent lesbian the past two years, six lovers and no more interest in men. So she fears Ralph’s interest, but she poses for him for a painting on the condition they are just friends. Of course, he slowly falls in love with her.
There’s a great reefer madness party Stella throws for 1 people where they all get high and have various sexual connections. One girl, Maria, keeps asking every man do do it “Greek style” with her but no one wants to. When Ralph asks her if it hurts she says she wants the pain. Some BDSM and D/s comes into play here as Maria moves in and becomes Stella’s “bad girl.” Maria calls Stella Mummy and Stella gets her kicks from punishing and spanking Maria.
Pretty bold for a 1959 novel. But like many lesbian themes books back then, the dykes had to be portrayed as deviant and disturbed, so Maria soon lapses into insanity with the D/s mommy/bad girl game, and Stella becomes homicidal-maniac jealous of Susan and Ralph.
There’s also rape in the book — a lesbian rape, and a drunken moment when Ralph attacks Stella when she taunts him about her making love to Susan, and he rapes his friend.
The novel falls into strange violence at the end like some of Block’s Andrew Shaw Nightstands tend to do.
Overall, a decent Sheldon Lord, but not in the same ball park of greatness like Candy, The Sex Shuffle, or A Strange Kind of Love.
One thing for sure, this lesbian BDSM prison romp is not Lawrnece Block! Not sure who penned this — maybe William Coons, or some other nameless hack that Cornith used to put “Shaw” on the cover, later in the 1960s when the sex got more graphic and the quality of writing and story-telling took a nose dive in favor of a perceived market demand.
I wonder if some people thought John Dexter, J.X. Williams and Andrew Shaw went shcizo, as their styles and themes radically changed over a decade.
When pop culture historians and critics write about the lesbian paperback pulp era in the 1950s-60s, the same names are often use das examples: Vin Packer, Randy Salem, March Hastings, Valerie Taylor, Paula Christiansen, etc., with such classics in lesbian pulp Spring Fire, Three Women, Baby Face, Women’s Barracks, and so on. Seldom is the name Sloane Britain mentioned, the pen name of Midwood-Tower editor Elaine Williams, although as both a writer and editor, Williams/Britain etched her own legacy in the history of early commercial lesbian fiction.
Williams started with Midwood in 1959, when the company first formed, acquiring and editing novels by Lawrence Block (Shekdon Lord), Donald Westlake (Alan Marshall), Robert Silverberg (Loren Beauchamp), Orrie Hitt, and Mike Avallone, among others. It’s not clear when she left Midwood, if she did, but she committed suicide in 1964. Seems her family did not approve of her gay lifestyle and had disowned her, a matter she hinted at in her fiction. She was 33.
She published her first novel with Newsstand Library in 1959, a paperback house out of Chicago: First Person–Third Sex was a deeply personal account of a third grade teacher’s discovery of her “third sex” passion and desire of a “twilight woman.” It was reprinted in 1962 by Dollar Double Books as Strumpets’ Jungle (see above pic) , back-to-back with Any Man’s Playmate by James L. Ruebel.
Also in 1959, she published with Beacon Books, The Needle, a story about a bi-sexual heroin addict prostitute.
Her next novels for Midwood were 1960′s Meet Marilyn and Insatiable, like The Needle, written commercially for the market; These Curious Pleasures (1961), however, has the same autobiographical, first-person narrative that her first novel does. In fact, the narrator’s name is “Sloane Britain,” perhaps Williams’ indication that this book is based on her own life, rather than the writer’s imagination. 1961 also saw That Other Hunger. Both books sported cover art by Paul Rader.
Other titles were Ladder of Flesh plus two posthumous short novels published as Midwood Doubles: Summer of Sin and Peep Booth. Three titles, Ladder of Flesh, That Other Hunger, and Unnatural, were reissued in the late 1960s with new titles: Taboo and Delicate Vice.
Both First Person–Third Sex and These Curious Pleasures break away from the genre norm of lesbian paperbacks in that they end on a gay-positive note, rather than having the protagonist meet with tragedy for her sins of the flesh or meet a male she falls head over heels with, marries, and lives forever after in heterosexual marital bliss. Publishers such as Fawcett Gold Medal, Beacon, and Nightstand often required this so the Postal Inspector would not prosecute for mailing obscene material in the U.S. Mails — if the lesbian character meets a horrible end or goes insane over her unnatural lust, or repents from sin and finds true love in the arms of man, then the books were deemed to have social value as morality and cautionary tales; if the books ended on a positive note with women loving women, that, in the 1950s-60s, was considered perverted and sick. Homosexuality was still considered a mental disease that could be cured with medicine, psychology, or religion…
Olympia Press has published, as an e-book, Motel Girl by A.E. Oliver (aka Valerie Grey). Dig that cover, kids.
Also at Mobipocket.
In this quartet of sordid and lusty stories, men and women and women and women come together in cheap motel rooms for tawdry sex and cheap thrills. They are the people you see all around you–teachers, cheerleaders, office drones–who put on a clean pubic face, but when behind closed doors in a $39/night room, they enter the twilight of forbidden pleasures and filthy desires.
Early Lawrence Block is always a mixed bag of good and not-so-good, such as some of the very early Nightstands. Midwood published Block’s first book as a Sheldon Lord, Carla [Midwood #7, 1958] (later reprinted as Puta), although his first sale was the Lesley Evans lesbian novel, Strange Are the Ways of Love, for Fawcett Crest, 1959. Seems Midwood had less turnaround time from manuscript sale to publication.
Bock excelled in the lesbian themed novels as Sheldon Lord, some Andrew Shaws, and as Jill Emerson, who went from sleaze paperbacks to several mainstream novels with Putnam in the 1970s. Many critics were convinced that Jill Emerson was actually a woman, and has been included in some lesbian pulp fiction anthologies without a mention that Emerson is really a man. Block was more convincing a female writer than Silverberg.
So Block continued to write more books for Midwood, most lesbian themed works, and one he collaborated with Donald Westlake, Of Shame and Joy.
Candy is considered a lesbian novel, or a novel with lesbian sex going on…an instance where the woman, Candy, leaves the narrator for what a wealthy Park Avenue lesbian has to offer a sexy girl from the backwoods of America.
Candy is also one of Block’s finest Sheldon Lord books and early works, better than April North, better than the Sheldon Lords that Hard Case published. His early Nightstands were about college kids and young sexuality, and then he started to move toward crime noir/erotica, like Shame Dame as John Dexter.
In one typical Block line, he has a character reading a book by Alan Marshall (Westlake), with one hand in his pocket…
Jeff Flanders is 34 and works at a finance company that gives personal loans with a high rate of interest. They are basically legal loan sharks without the leg breakers.
One day a sexpot 19-year-old blonde from the sticks, now in the big city, wanders into the finance company looking to borrow $1000. She has no job, is new in New York, and no credit or collateral, but she figures her looks and sexuality will get her the loan. She suggests Jeff co-sign her loan and in exchange he can have sex with her….