Archive for lesbian lust

The Curious Case of Sloane Britain

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Loren Beauchamp, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

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…

Continue reading