Archive for lesbian pulp fiction

Ladder of Flesh – Sloane Britain (Midwood Books, 1962)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The enigmatic Elaine Williams aka Sloane Britain shows us the petty, micro-world of lesbians in the Broadway play world: manipulative, scheming, shallow, using sex to convince people with money and power to help with careers in writing and acting.

Britain/Williams addressed the issue in previous books Unnatural and These Curious Pleasures and Insatiable, that all the problems, joys, pleasure and insecurities in heterosexual relationships exist in lesbian relationships, despite some lesbian claims that only women can truly love another woman and men are bad.  The rich aging dyke in this novel says it best to Hallie, the playwright:

“You know I never wanted you in this . . . life. I feel now as I felt then, you don’t belong in it. You came to me with your tears and your sorrow and your hurt after David left you. You thought you could find solace in the arms of another woman. By hating one man you thought you hated them all. Hallie, women leave one another too . . . ” (pp. 104-5)

And Wanda knows this well, for the young women she takes under her wing, who pretend love, often leave her for the next best thing, when they’ve gotten what they want.  The current young sex kitten, Carol, has slept her way into a role in Hallie’s new play, Summer Ends Too Soon, making the New England rounds and heading toward Broadway.

Carol has gone from the money backer, Wanda, to the playwright, and who knows who next.  Hallie knows it, and is afraid of her feelings for Carol.  Hallie doesn’t let her lesbian desires known — for instance, her director, Elliott, is in love with her, and Hallie has kept him at bay by telling him their love is pure and sex would only ruin it.

Carol has also been sleeping with Ellis, the female lead, and a notorious theater-scene dyke. The issue: Carol looks good, but she can’t act as well as she thinks, and each time she is on the verge of being fired from the p play,  she sleeps with the right person to keep her in.

It’s obvious that something bad is going to happen with all of Carol’s bed-hopping.  It’s a world I know well — the sexual side of the theater scene, not Broadway, but it’s the same wherever you go, small towns or big cities, when you put a bunch of people in the arts together, and they like the same things, and get into bed now and then, affairs and trysts and hurt feelings are inevitable.

Harry Mandl is the producer, a former dress salesman who once married into a theater-family.  He doesn’t have a clue about what makes good or bad theater — he’s simply a salesman who put projects together with backers, who gets shows booked into theaters.  He’s a lot like TV producer Harry Broadman in These Curious Pleasures,  based on Harry Shorten, publisher of Midwood Books that Elaine Williams worked for.. Ellis bursts Harry’s bubble:

“Harry, don’t you realize if you divorce Ceicily now, you’re out of the family theatrical agency too? […] Wake up! ou didn’t produce anything. You wouldn’t have attracted a single play or a single penny if it hadn’t been for the agency backing you up. You haven’t been a producer all these years . . . you’ve been a puppet.” (p. 117)

Could the same be said for Midwood’s Shorten, who never read a single manuscript he published, whose editors — like Williams — attracted writers and edited the books to make them the best they could be? Shorten was a publisher from the money he made from a successful panel cartoon, There Ought To Be a Law.  Eliis goes on:

“The only talent you have is that you let people with talent run you. If it hadn’t been for all the strings Ciecley and her family provided for you, you’d be back on Seventh Avenue peddling dresses.” (p. 117)

Nothing much happens in this book, it is more character-driven than plot, tending toward banter. Not Williams/Britain’s best.  I’d give it a B-minus for at least being entertaining and showing how shallow those in the stage arts can get.

Gay Scene by Joan Ellis (Midwood Books, 1962)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Gay Scene

Ah, another delighfully fun Joan Ellis sex story with another great Paul Rader cover.

The Gay Scene opens up almost like an Orrie Hitt novel: small town scholl teacher Elise is a bombshell who seems to like married men. She is having an affair with the husband of her childhood best friend. They are caught, and the husband commits suicide.  To escape pain and scandal, Elise leaves and heads for New York and a new life.

She also considers her deep secret yearnings for women. Maybe she’s a lesbian and was only sleeping around to deny her twilight desires?

On her way to New York City, she stops off at a small town motel to get some sleep, and winds up trying her hand as a bar girl to make a few extra bucks.  When  she gets raped, she decides she hates men for good.

In the Big Apple, she meets Carol, a bar model, who gets her a job in that biz.  Carol is bi-sexual and they have an affair — her husband waks in on them and freaks out that his wife is with a lesbian.  Here Elise is doing it again: breaking up marriages.

But Carol leaves her husband so she and Elise can model bras and live together.  Carol introduces her to “the gay scene” in Greenwich Village, and meets Jo, a lesbian she gets a crush on.  Carol is freaky and possessive, and Elise leaves her for Jo, and then leaves Jo for Lorna, the daughter of the old man who runs the brassiere company. Loran is 19 and has a temper problem — here we get a good look at lesbian domestic violence.  Afraid she may one day kill Elise, Lorna leaves New York.

In the end, Elise finds that reltaionships are complicated and painful with either sex.  She and her gay male buddy, Zeth, decide to get married and be each other’s beards.

Probably the best Joan Ellis I’ve read yet.

Reprinted as No Men Allowed.

The Drifter by March Hastings (Midwood)

Posted in Midbook Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Drufter

I plan to write a bit of a lengthy discussion of March Hastings as I read more of her books.  My first was Duet by Laura Duchamp, that I have discussed here.  Hastings and Duchamp were the pen names of a writer named Sally M. Singer, who was a bonafide lesbian writing about bi-sexuality and lesbians, rather than a man writing them. Under her own name and as Amelia Jamison, she seems to have written some gothics, romances, and others, seen here.

At Lynn Munroe’s site, he tried to reach her for an interview but seems she had disappeared in obscurity, not wishing to discuss her days as a softcore writer.

In lesbian pulp lore, her most famous novel is Three Women, which has been reprinted by both Niad Press and Cleis Press as lesbian classics. In 2000, the Quality Paperback Bookclub issued Three Women back-to-nack with another lesbian classic, Women’s Barracks.Women's Barracks

private hellFor collectors, Hastings’ Her Private Hell is always priced around $100 of more, mainly for the Paul Rader cover, but Rader did many of her books, such as the first edition of The Drifter (above). The second edition has a photo-cover of a woman next to a piano player, with a jazzy slum feel — I prefer the Rader cover (beats me why Midwood would change a great cover to a not-so-great cover).

Glancing through the Hastings novels I have — Fear of Incest, A Rage Within, Obsession, Crack-Up, Barbie — and the Laura Duchamp books (I’m not sure if she had other pen names, probably, as she wrote for a number of companies), Sally Singer focused on the world of the wealthy and rich and their psyco-sexual probelms.  The women are often married to men who are sadists, impotent, or just “wrong” — and they often find solace in the arms of another woman, an oft-use set-up for vintage lesbian stories.

Her writing is amazingly good, far too good for “sleaze.”  I previously stated that Joan Ellis wrote elegant dirty books; March Hastings ups the ante, and is on par with Joyce Carol Oates’s 1960s work.  Her prose is smooth, her dialogue top notch, her charcters and their situations believable, if we want to believe the angsts of the upper crust of society.

In The Drifter, a woman named Dina has made an error in marriage —  her husband, Emil, is impotent, and only likes to watch her masturbate while he looks at a photo of his sister, whom Dina resembles.  He is also mentally cruel.  After a month of marriage, she leaves him and runs to Jeff, a rich ex-boyfriend on Long Island whom she has had an on-and-off relationship with for many years.

At Jeff’s house (or mansion, with servants),  she meets Lauren, a lesbian, and has an encounter, and becomes confused, thinking she loves Lauren and has always been gay, while Jeff wants to marry her when her marriage is annulled and Emil is hunting her down, revenge on his agenda.

She hides in a sleazy Harlem boarding house (hence the cover) and drinks her pain away,  where an old family friend, a “cousin,” rapes her, and she realzies he had been raping her alcoholic mother in the past.  Dina doe snot come from money, she came from the slums, and only mingles wth the idle rich via Jeff.

She also gets raped by a bull-dyke lez.

For all her sexual sins, she feels she deserves this.

There is a happy ending, of course: as she has a talk with Lauren and realizes she is not a lesbian, really, and she makes plans to marry Jeff, after Jeff pays off Emil a million dollars to agree to an annullment.

Recommended for a good, language-rich read.

I look forward to reading and discussing other Hasings and Duchamp novels as I get to them…

Hastings - 3rd Theme Hastings - Abnormal Wife

Hasings - Twilight Sex Hastings - fear of incest

Hastings - Circle of SinHastings - ShameHastings - Jealous and Free

Hastings - Savage Surrender

Hastings - veil of torment Hastings - Unashamed

Hastings - Three Women Hastings - Enraptured

Hastings - Chico Women Hastings - Whip of Desire