Archive for March Hastings

Anybody’s Girl by March Hastings aka Sally Singer (Midwood Books #37, 1960)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on December 13, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I have enjoyed all the March Hastings books I have read so far, such as The Drifter and others. Anybody’s Girl is a decent, albeit predictable read about sexual confusion.

Addie is 19 and lives with her abusive alcoholic mother. Her father is absent, living in Manhattan with a woman named Margo. She is ready to give up her viriginity and when she does, the guy treats her like a whore, even tosses a twenty dollar bill at her when it is over.  Humiliated, she vows to become a slut, to sleep with whatever man wants her, to become as the title says anybody’s girl. And she does…

One day she goes to visit her father and has a talk with her father’s girlfriend, Margo. They have a curious good  rapport. She stays the night in the guest room and Margo comes to visit her, to seduce Addie, and Addie gives in…why not? And she likes it. It is apparent that Margo is only with her father for his money.

Margo sets Addie up in her own apartment so the two have a place to maintain their lesbian love affair. Margo takes Addie to Greenwich Village and the lesbian bars to introduce her to the third sex way of life. But Margo does not like that Addie still likes to fuck men.

In fact, Addie meets Cliff, the man who will turn her away from sinful dykedom, the way these lesbian novels often concluded as per genre stipulation: that heterosexuality wins out.

The cover is a Paul Rader classic with the classic Rader-esque woman. He also did the cover for the 1964 reprint:

The Third Theme – March Hastings aka Sally Singer (Newstand Library #U157, 1961)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on April 13, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

March Hastings (real name Sally M. Singer) liked to write about women cracking up, breaking bad, and going hyp0-mania, usually from a divorce, break-up, or bad union, and finding their way into the arms of another woman.  This was present in The Drifter and looks to be a common set-up in the other books I have by her.

She’s regarded as a major contributor to pulp lesbiana and a few of her titles — like Her Private Hell (Midwood) — fetch high prices with collectors.

Sharon Porter is a book editor in her 30s who is on the verge of a crack-up.  She works for Taft Publishing and the man she lives with has the last name Taft, so there’s a problem there: fucking the boss. But that relationship has gone sour.

Needing to get out, she contacts one of her writers, Kermit, to take her out somewhere. They go to a party at another writer’s loft; he’s an eccentric fellow married to an even more eccentric lady, Leda.  Leda and Sharon hit it off immediately — there’s attraction, which leads to sex, which eventually leads to Leda’s husband catching them in the act of “the third theme.”

They get out of dodge; the two women go on a road trip, back to Sharon’s home town, so Sharon was rediscover herself, and come to terms with her “third sex syndrome.”

This one is elegantly written but it is hard to identity with, or care about the characters because they are so uppercrust Manhattanites who end to be shallow, their problems petty when you consider, for instance, the characters in Sloane Britain’s The Needle, who are dealing with the underbelly of life.  The Drifter was about upper middle class and privileged people, and while I liked that one, there was still the issue of Hastings not making her wealthy, educated people into universal human beings.

I wonder how much The Third Theme is like The Third Sex Syndrome

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…

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Robert Silverberg’s Lesbian Novels: Sin Girls by Marlene Longman, Diary of a Dyke by Don Elliott, and Twilight Women by L.T. Woodward, M.D.

Posted in Don Elliott, Loren Beauchamp, Midwood Books, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Sin Girls

Sin Girls is Nightstand #1514, the 13th book William Hamling published in early 1960, written by Robert Silbverberg. Seems Hamling wanted a female pen name.  The second Marlene Longman, however, Lesbian Love, was penned by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and tends to be pricey among colletors, up to $200 as seen here.

Lesbian Love - Longman

Harlan Ellison wrote the purple prose cover copy, and I am sure he had a laugh when composing this:

This is the most powerful novel you will ever read on the subject [lesbian desire], written by a woman who is, hersefl, A TORMENTED LESBIAN!

Robert Silverberg: tormented lesbian!! At the Silverberg Yahoo Fan Group,  Silverberg himself commented: “That blrub is incorrect…I was the happiest of lesbians.”

Sin Girls is the story of Leslie — nice pun there, and one woman says, “Hey, that’s a man’s name!”  It opens with Leslie awakened by a nightmare she has every night, remembering the man who raped her when she was a teenager, taking her virginity violently.  She is in bed with a one-night stand in a hotel that caters to lesbians looking for intimate encounters.  In the morning, the other woman says how much fun she had and hopes they will hook up again, but Leslie informs her that she only has one-nighters: no emotional entanglements, no names if she can help it.

Leslie is cold-hearted, seeking only physical relief. It’s a front.  We find out she was not always that way; she has become distant and aloof  from a scarred heart broken too many times.  First, there was the rape, and her boyfriend’s not wanting anything to do with her after (similar to the set-up of Connie by Silverberg’s Loren Beachamp). The rape left her afraid of men, so she turns to women — the common lesbian element (along with a bad loveless marriage and incest) in lesbian pulp fiction by men, sometimes women (March Hastings).

Her first serious lesbian affair is with Laura, a woman 10 years her senior. They live together in what seems like dyke bliss.  Then Leslie has an affair with another young lesbian in Laura’s gay social cirle (with a lot of bull dykes and beanik queers), they get caught, and Leslie gets tossed out on the street.

She later moves in with three teenage girls who dress in leather jackets and jeans.  They have orgies every night, doing round-robin pussy eating, etc. (although not decribed as crudely, of course).  She finds the girls too cruel and sadistic to other people and leaves.  She has a series of short flings, the crosses paths with an older woman who runs an escort agency that caters to rich lesbian women.  Leslie is a gay call for a year, traveling all over the world with herisess and widowed dykes.

While in the Caribbean with a woman who likes to be whipped and flogged before sex, Leslie meets a young college football hero on vacation and falls in love.  She is “weary” of lesbian sex and wants something different.  She denounces her gayness and goes straight, intending on marriage, ending thus:

All that mattered was that the long nightmare was over, that she lay with a man and that with each move of his body he brought her closer to fulfillment, and that she was forgiven and that the bright sun  now rising overthe Caribbean heralded a bright new day, a brand new life just beginning… (p. 191)

This was typical of lesbian fiction — in order to not face obscenity charges, lesbianism was treated as a deviant disease, and the lesbian could not find happiness in the end with a same-sex partner — she had to either come to a horrible conclusion for her unnatural sins or repent her evil ways and find truth and beauty in the arms of an Alpha Male with a nivce big hard dick that provides “fulfillment.”  The nightmare here is Leslie’s years of lesbiana, and she is “forgiven” of such horrors by going to a man for salvation.

This also happens in Silverberg’s other lesbian novel from 1959, Twisted Loves by Mark Ryan, that I previously discussed.

Let us not cry homophobia today — this was a market demand and condition of the times, when being gay was “strange” (hence “queer” later on), referred to as “twilight women” and “the third sex” engaging in “the third theme” or walking down “the 3rd street.”

There were some other Silverberg lesbiana tales from Cornith/Greenleaf, like Flesh Boarder and The Initiates, with lesbian encounters in many other books, like Party Girl, Fires Within, Wayward Widow, etc.  Silverberg’s lesbians always look the same: mannish,smal breasts, short dark hair.  In two books, the same dyke shows up who writes children’s books as a profession.

Flesh Boarder

There is also Diary of a Dyke, a 1966 title from Cornith’s Pleasure Reader series, from Phenix Publications, one of the many shell companies Hamling used to keep the feds scrambling. (Sorry, no cover scan).  Diary of a Dyke is a journal over 3 months as a woman who likes sex with girls tries to denounce her gayness by sleeping with a lot of men, but she still prefers girls.  It’s a funny book, and at first I did not think Silverberg wrote it — in “My Life as a Pornographer,” he states he stopped writing softcore sleaze in 1964-5, yet there are many 1966-7 Don Elliots, either books that were in a pipeline or Silverberg just stopped his two-novels a month output but still penned the cccasional smut book for money or a need to whip one out.  Silberberg says no other writer used the Don Elliott name the way others did with J.X. Williams, Andrew Shaw, and Don Holliday.

Woodward - twilight WomenThere is also the bogus case study “non-fiction” book Twilight Women by L.T. Woodward, M.D., a pseudonym Silverberg used for a dozen books from Monarch Books, Lancer, and Belmont.  This one, like the other Woowards, is really a collection of short stories made to look like a doctr’s case histories of patients he has treated — in this case, women who are lesbians and need to be cured.  Each story delves into the why and how each woman went gay, or is bi.

I plan to devote a long blog, and a whole acadmeic essay, on the many faux sexology books published in the 60s, riding the tail of the success of the Kisney and Masters and Johnsons Reports, quetsioning the ethics of such, and whether or not such presentations of fiction as fact was “dangerous” or irresponsible — but hey, where there is a market…

…plus, I have done the same with my Dr. Mundinger-Klow titles for Olympia Press, so, er. um…..!

I have a huge stack of lesbian sleaze here that I will blog about over the next two months — Lawrence Block published a lot of lesbiana as Sheldon Lord, Dr. Benjamin Morse, Lesley Evams and Jill Emerson (his first sale was a lesbian book to Beacon in 1958, and many of his Midwoods had lesbian themes).  And I have lez books by real gay women like Randy Salem, March Hastings, Vin Packer, as well as William Coons’ pen name, Barbara Brooks.

Rader - Gay Scene

Warm and Willing


Hastings - 3rd Theme

Hastings - Heat of the Day

Ellis - 3 of a Kind

Hastings - Three Women


The Drifter by March Hastings (Midwood)

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


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