The Gay Ones by Eve Linkletter (Fabian Books, Z-134, 1959)

Sanford Aday’s Fabian and Saber imprints were the first of the sleaze paperbacks to seriously publish explicit books about gay men, years before Greenleaf jumped into that untapped market.  Even the lesbian titles did not have the moral endings that stated the third sex route was a sin, the way the Gold Medal titles did.

Linkletter’s third book for Fabian is about gay men, cross dressers, drag queens, lesbians and the gender-explorers of the tawdry New Orleans nightclub crowd in the 1950s (the same crowd that Lee Harvey Oswald had hung around with).

The novel opens with ten-year-old Jerry confused by his feelings — he’s an introvert who likes to try on his mother’s clothes and lipstick. His mother always wanted a daughter so she encourages this (the same way Ernest Hemingway’s mother did, because she too wanted a daughter and called Hemingway “Ernestina”).  He befriends a nine year old girl nextdoor, Norma, and they have fun, play house, etc., but a year later she moves to California. They vow love. They write to each other for years. In high school, a gay boy comes on to Jerry and Jerry is appalled, and the gay boy says Jerry just doesn’t know what he is.

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Next he works at The Powder Box Club, a drag queen joint, where he becomes a female impersonater, singing sand dancing. Jerry soon falls in with a colorful transgendered crowd:

“Joe” discarded his uniform and headed back to the Club in New Orleans, where he could be Jo Anne again, and no one would give a damn.

Jo Anne came from wealthy parents, but they had disowned him when he had tried to seduce his cousin who had come for a visit.

Jo Anne tried to convince them that his cousin had mistaken an affectionate embrace for something else,and that he wasn’t that way, but as they looked at him with suspicion after that, he decided to join the Army to throw them off the track.

He knew that if they ever knew for sure what he really was, they would cut him out of their will. When he got thrown out of the Army, they suspected the true reason, although Jo Anne told them that he
had gotten flat feet from marching.

He’d met Billie, a lesbian, in a French Quarter Bar one night, and she also had difficulties similar to his. Her parents were wealthy and she’d left home when they caught her trying to perform an unnatural act on
her younger sister. The family fortune was also her object in wanting to convince her parents that she had decided to change her ways.

So what could be a better arrangement than for Jo Anne and Billie to decide to get married and present a grandchild to their parents and be welcomed back into the family fold?

Jerry and the other Impersonators were invited to the wedding. Billie invited all of her Lesbian friends, and there was a lot of ribbing on both sides about the marriage.

Jo Anne and Billie both had to get drunk to consummate the marriage, as it repulsed them to engage in sexual intercourse together. But they were hell bent on trying to make a baby.

Their plans were all worked out. They would lead their private lives as before, Jo Anne keeping his lover in an apartment and Billie keeping her many girlfriends on the side.

The lover that Jo Anne had was Mike, a young lad of nineteen. He’d gone to prison when he was eighteen for stealing. When he arrived at the prison, one of the old timers there had claimed him as his “boy” and lost no time in finding a chance to subdue him in the shower room while the others kept watch. Most of the older men had a “boy” and the boys called them their “daddies”.

Nights when the guard had completed his rounds, Mike’s “daddy” would creep into his bunk in the dormitory where forty prisoners slept, and the other daddies knew it was hands off. Mike came out of prison minus an eye which he had lost during a fight between his “daddy” and another “daddy” who pulled a knife that caught Mike in his left eye when he rushed between them.

Jo Anne had found Mike on a highway hitching a ride. He picked him up, and they’d been together ever since.

At various times Jo Anne would meet a couple of men at the Club, usually older men who had money andwould pay well for a Party. He would take them to the apartment where he kept Mike . These men were usually married and liked to seek a little bisexual diversion for themselves.

One day,  a talent scout from Hollywood spots Jerry as a ringer for a young version of an old, dead actor, Vincent Cole, and he convinces Jerry to come out for a screen test to make a biopic of Cole. Jerry passes and moves to L.A. He knows that Norma lives in North Hollywood but he’s afraid to make contact with his childhood crush, afraid what she’d think if she knew he was now gay and a cross-dresser.

He becomes a movie star and then a scandal rag finds out he worked a gay cabaret and is about to expose him. His handlers tell him he needs to get married, get a beard, to protect his wholesome heartthrob image, the way George Clooney does.  The only woman he can think oif asking is Norma, whose a graduate student in psychology.  Norma thinks she can fix Jerry, so agrees to marry him but not for show, but to turn hm straight.

A fun little book. Linkletter is growing on us…

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