Archive for queer pulp

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

Lesbian Sins: Twisted Loves by Mark Ryan (Robert Silverberg, Bedside Books, 1959)

Posted in Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Ryan - Twisted LovesRobert Silverberg wrote a handful of Bedtime/Bedstand Books as “Mark Ryan” — Twisted Loves, Company Girl, Suburban Affair, Suburban Sin Club.  All seemed to be published in 1959, so he wrote them in 1958-9, before moving to Midwood and Nightsand in 1959-60 (for better money no doubt, as Bedstand paid $400-500 per mss., but still decent money for the time, the equivalent to $5K).

Twisted Loves is one of those late-50s taboo lesbian novels.  Connie Chapin is a secretary in New York, a hopeful actress whose never even gotten an audition; the novel opens with her in a bar getting drunk, drowing her pain in booze, fighting off men who try to “make” her.  She hates men: her four relationships and encounters have been bad and heart-breaking.

After fighting off a fat drunk, she stumbles out of the bar.  She falls on the ground and is recued by an older woman who sees her — “Lee.”  Lee is 40, a successful lawyer with an Upper West Side home, mannish and flat-chested (all of Silvberg’s lesbians seem to be flat-chested and mannish).  She brings Connie back, bathes her, seduces her…and the sex, for Connie, is much better than with any man.

Sober the next day, Connie is shamed by her “Lesbian” act of depravity, though moved by Lee’s generosity and skill in bed.  Lee chases her but Connie backs off, and then when she decides all men are pugs, she goes back to Lee and they start a love affair.  It is much like Laura Duchamp’s Duet: the older, successful rich lesbian secuding the pretty young trollop.

Lee introduces Connie to Manhattan’s underground elite gay crowd: women who dress like men and take men’s names (Steve, Mike), artty-farty lesbians, gay men, etc.  In the 1950s, this was a taboo society, but a strong undercurrent in culture.

When Lee is away in Beverly Hills for a big case for a month, Connie is lonely and needs a woman, and one night makes a move on her roommate, a nympho but straight.  The roommates freaks out, finds lesbians disgusting, and moves out.

All during her lesbian romp, Connie is being pursued by a man, Ted.  She keeps putting him off but eventually gets together with him, falls in love, plans to marry…

This is typical of lesbian novels wrtten by men: the heroines eventually find the error of their ways and find a nice man to have a nice heterosexual relattionship with.  I just read in Susan Stryker’sQueer PulpQueer Pulp (Chronicle Books, 2001) that publishers required unhappy endings in lesbiana and gay male stories, or that the protagonist end up in the arms of the opposite sex — this way the books acted as “morality” and “cautionary tales”, seeminly anti-gay, otherwise they could be prosecuted for obscene materal, especially if the books were sent through the mail.  As the laws changed in the 1960s, and with women wrting lesbian pulps, endings were different, such as the books of Ann Bannon or March Hastings.

Not Silberberg’s best, but a good read, humorous at times — such as the girl fight scene: Connie and a former lover of Lee’s lock in a deadly battle, ripping all their clothes off, and in the middle of the cat fight they start to fuck.  Classic male fantasy!

**********

An annoying aside: I just paid $25 for Strange Delights by Lauren Beauchamp and it’s the same damn book as Twisted Loves!  Except, Connie is re-named Lonnie (maybe because of the novel Connie) and Lee is Vee.  Seems Silverberg reprinted a number of his Bedstand Ryan and Challon books as “original” Beauchamps, or even Elliotts.  Cahllon’s Campus Sin Club becomes Beauchamp’s Campus Sex Club; Challon’s French Sin Port becomes Elliott’s Rogue of the Riviera; Ryan’s Thirsty for Love becomes Beauchamp’s Wayward Widow…I am pretty sure that Beauchamp’s The Wife Traders is  reprint of Challon’s Suburban Sin Club, and Elliott’s Hot Rod Sinners is reprinted as Beauchamp’s Lez Floozies.  And seems Beuchamp’s Nurse Carolyn became Elliott’s Registered Nympho, and Beauchamp’s Sin on Wheels to Elliott’s Orgy on Wheels.

I still need to get Ryan’s Illict Affair and Streets of Sin, and Challon’s Suburban Affair and Campus Hellion, and see what Beauchamps or Elliotts they become.