21 Gay Street – Sheldon Lord aka Lawrence Block (Midwood #55, 1960)
First, 21 Gay Street is a real address:
In Block’s novel, the brownstone apartment complex at the address in the center of most of the action. Joyce Kendall, fresh from Ohio and a graduate of Clifton College (setting of many Andrew Shaw campus Corniths), ready to start her job at Armageddon Publishing, rented the place sight unseen from an ad in a paper. She wanted a furnished apartment when she arrived in Manhattan, prepared to take the publishing community over by a storm.
She meets three neighbors: Terri Leigh and Jane Fitzgerald, two lesbians who live and love together; and Pete Galton, a former PR writer now taking time to write his first novel, which isn’t coming along as he had hoped.
Joyce is disappointed in her job — Armageddon does not publish literature but pulp magazines in the true confessions, romance, and men’s adventure genres. She thought she would be a first reader of manuscripts — which she is — but mostly she does letter typing and filing.
Joyce is lonely and bored. ane and Terri have third third sex eye on her — she’s cute, she is unattached, is she gay or in the closet? Jane incites Joyce to dinner. When Jove makes the moves on her, she freaks out and runs to another neighbor, Pete, who has been rude to her. She asks Pete to take her to bed, so she knows she is a woman desired by men.
Pete takes her to a wild party, instead. An orgy in fact. Joyve drks several juice drinks spiked with qualludes. She blacks out and later learns that she had sex with dozens of men, including Pete, whose bed she wakes up in.
A romance happens, despite the sordid encounter at the orgy. They click. Pete knows his novel is trash and worries about money. Joyce tells him he could write cofessioons romances and make $150 a story. She knows what her employer wants, so he writes to order and starts a career as a pulp writer, with pregnant Joyce at his side.
A sappy tale but not bad. The lesbian aspects are not as prominent as the wonderful Paul Rader cover suggests. The sex is almost a tad more explicit than your usual 1960s Midwood, too.