Archive for lesbianism

Enough of Sorrow by Jill Emerson aka Lawrence Block (Midwood Books, 1965)

Posted in Lawrence Block, lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on September 21, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Lawrence Block stopped writing as Andrew Shaw and Sheldon Lord by 1964, but he kept at the lesbian novels as Jill Emerson with two titles, Enough of Sorrow and Warm & Willing. As previously noted, Block would use his Emerson pen name for more commercial, hardback womens and erotic fiction.

Enough of Sorrow exhibits much more maturity in authorship and seriousness in theme than previous lesbian titles by Block, as Leslie Evans, Benjamin Morse, Ben Christopher and Sheldon Lord.

The novel opens with a depressed and lost woman, Karen Winslow, who checks into a cheap New York City weekly rooming house with the plan to commit suicide. She is pregnant and the married man who gave her the baby skipped out when she told him, leaving her alone to deal with a child.  She is saved by a neighbor amd wakes up in the hospital alive, but told she lost the fetus.

She later gets an apartment and meets a new tenant named Rachel. The two become friends, then lovers. Karen realizes she may have been a lesbian all the time, never knew it, maybe this is why her relationships with men were always bad.  She and Rachel (Rae) move in together and are happy lovers for a while. Karen gets a job as a receptionist for a talent agent who deals mostly with TV and bit actors and exotic dancers.

Karen starts drinking a lot, a gradual downswing from too such social drinking to drinking at home and then needing booze to function. Rae is worried,. Karen says it is no problem until she tries three dry days sober.  It is hard at first, then hellish, as she cant type at work and she has a headache and the shakes.  On the third day she gives in to her addiction and gets sauced, comes home and fights with Rae, then goes out on a bender, hitting up a number of lesbian bars, dancing, making out, and fingering all kinds of dykes, from lipsticks to bulls to skinny young girls exploring the scene.  She wakes up in bed with a drooling, snoring bulldyke and runs out…when she gets home, Rae has left a note saying she needs some time away from these troubles.

The passage about the evils of booze eminded me of Block going into the same issues with his Matt Scudder character, who destroyed his life with booze and then went to AA. It makes me wonder about Block and alcohiolism, if this is personal ‘… and I am sure Block has talked about it somewhere, I have just not seen it. MMaybe not… this is from wikipedia;

Though it’s been suggested that Scudder’s struggle with alcoholism is in part autobiographical, Block has repeatedly refused to discuss the subject, citing AA’s own tradition of anonymity.

Eventually, Karen does win her battle with booze and disasterously sleeps with an actor she knows, an older man in his 60s, to determine if she is really gay or bi or whatever.

The book ends on a somber note, with Karen finding the strength to move on, move to anther city, and to say enough of sorrow, time to live.

Not a bad little book…would have preferred a darker ending, more in a Block tradition, but this is a moral lesbian tale…

All My Lovers – Alan Marshall/Donald E. Westlake (Midwood #15, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Most Donald E. Westlake fans believe his first novel was The Mercenaries in 1960, when in fact his true first published novel was Midwood #15, All My Lovers, as Alan Marshall, in 1959.

This Midwood concerns the tawdry lives of Manhattan’s uppercrust and the art scene. Martin is a 35-year-old successful stockbroker whose only intimacies is paid sex from his many immigrant maids, cleaning and servicing in his Park Avenue digs.  His wife, Eloise, has her lovers, and calls herself Lou outside their home — she pays for a Greenwich Village pad to house her lovers, who all have to be artists.

The current lover if Jeffrey, 23, whose been a professional gigolo since he was 18 and discovered that lonely widows, divorcees, and married women were willing to support him in exchange of sex.  On the gigolo grape vine, he heard about Lou and that she only wanted artistic lovers, so he pretends to be a would-be writer working on his first novel.  Living in the Village pad and getting money, clothes, and food from Lou, he sits behind a typewriter now and then, acting like he’s hard at work on this grand novel.

The marriage between Martin and Lou is for show; they seem to still love each other, or are pathetically co-dependent, and while he allows her lovers, he’s not very happy about it.  We later learn that they have never slept together once, so it’s a wonder why they are together.  It’s not just the money and status for Lou, because she does at times seem to be genuinely concerned for Martin; she’s just not interested in him sexually.

The reason why Lou demands her lovers to be artists is an attempt to replace the absence of a painter she was madly in love with, a man called “Bastard.”  He left for Europe and asked her to come, but she couldn’t leave Martin.

Martin hires call girls to beat and whip and be mean to, as surrogates for Lou, to express his anger and pain, just as he likes his maids to be submissive to his wants.  He’s a manipulative man; he sets up a weekend jaunt to “the Wood,” up in the Catskills, with Lou and her lover, Jeff, and a  mutual friend, Paula.  There, Martin tries to make Paula, she denies him, and she makes the move on Lou, confessing she’s admired Lou all through high school and college, and that she’s a lesbian.  She tries to convince Lou that men cannot love women the right way, only women can satisfy women.  Lou doesn’t go for it.

Jeff and Martin get in a physical fight and all fall apart but this is what Martin wanted — to get Lou to drop Jeff and to have Paula make the moves on his wife.

Then Bastard shows up, back from Europe, thwarting Martin’s plans.  While Martin takes it in stride about Lou’s various lovers, Bastard is a threat, because he knows Lou still loves him.

It’s a complicated story of a lot of hurt and lost people, people who don’t understand their own drives, needs, and emotions; people who last out at one another when hurt.  They are miserable and unhappy Manhattanites.

For a first novel, it’s not bad. It’s slow at times, then builds up tension, then gets slow again, but the writing is pretty good, and shows how the early Westlake was honing the craft of narrative.

It’s  a rare and pricey book — in fact, since Westlake’s passing in Dec. 2008, many of his early pen name works have shot up in price.  I’ve seen All My Lovers run between $50-70.