Archive for Sloane Britain

That Other Hunger – Sloane Britain (Midwood F117, 1961)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is the story of Lisa McBride, a somewhat naive young lady in New York, attending the New School for Art and modeling on the side to make money.  Her mother was once a model, and has sent Lisa to Fran, an agent and PR person.  But Fran is also an aging lesbian with an eye for the young ones, and just when she thinks she has Lisa for her lover, Lisa meets a hunky “he-man” model, Craig Phelps, and instantly falls in love with him.

Fran is annoyed but she doesn’t think the romance will last long.  Craig is a user, moving into her place and getting her to buy loads of marijuana, which starts off slow but becomes a daily, hourly obsession for him.  He sees Lisa as his property, and at a party, he tells his buddies “what’s mine is yours” and they can all have sex with Lisa if they want.

“Craig! Do you really mean that?  You  . . . don’t care if I have sex with other men?”

“Not all the time, baby. Just on certain occasions, when I feel in the mood. And tonight I felt like sharing you and our pad with some old buddies. I still feel like it, as a matter of fact. So let’s get going and get you high.”

Lisa fell bac into his arms, stunned and hurt […] She had no rght keeping him from entertaining his buddies — just because she was so jealous and didn’t want to share him with anyone.  So he wanted to show her off to his buddies. Nothing wrong with that. It was kind of nice, as a matter of fact […] He carried her into the living room.  Pausing on the threshold, he shouted for attention. “Now here this, all you cats. Here’s my chick, Lisa. And for tonight, what’s mine is yours.”

Three husky crew-cut young men, clad only in jockstraps, fell to their knees in front of Craig. They stretched out their brawny arms toward him. Craig spread his arms and let her drop down into their midst.  Her startled shrieks were lost in their roar of laughter and clapping from the others in the room. (pp.94-5)

There’s some lesbian sex too, like when Lisa spends the night in a Park Avenue pad and a maid who resembles her has sex with her, making Lisa like “she’s having sex with herself.”

Fran meanwhile has found a new young female paramour, Sally, to replace Lisa.  She hears of the crazy pot parties and orgies and admonishes Lisa that it’s only a matter of time before Craig starts pimping her out for money.  Lisa guffaws.

But in a matter of days, their money gone, Craig is desperate. He has been opening her mail and cashing checks not his, pawning her jewelry, telling her that what she owns he owns, vice versa — including her body.  He also seems to be hooked on heroin but denies it — similar in fact to The Needle, where the husband pimps his wife for junk and dollars, Craig talks Lisa into attending a “party” for a rich businessman they know, who will pay her $200 to “entertain” some out of town buyers. She thinks she’s just supposed to talk and act nice and then finds out she’s expected to have sex with any man at the party who wants it.  She narrowly escapes gang rape.

Lisa is a lot of Terry Southern’s Candy, so naive and always finding her way into sexual adventures she didn’t ask for; sometimes you can’t feel sorry for her for being so dumb, but she leans the hard way, with the help of Fran, who winds up getting murdered by Craig in a moment of madness.

That Other Hunger also has a lesbian-positive ending, where Lisa and Sally, grieving for Fran, wind up in each others’ arms, in bed, “wide awake and performing the ageless rituals of love” (p. 188).  Does the title refer to the twilight desire, or to heroin over pot?

The novel starts off slow, a tad too New York chic, but we slowly get sucked into Lisa’s sad glamor world of  modeling, drugs, and sex.

Score: B-.

Woman Doctor – Sloane Britain (Midwood, 1962)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on April 9, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Another gorgeous Paul Rader cover. Lynn Munroe has this to say in his Rader/Midwood Checklist:

This cover may not actually make sense (how many psychiatric patients remove their dresses for therapy?), but it is an eyeful nonetheless. The poor dear has twisted herself around so much that both her breasts and bottom are heaving out of her slip, and even the good doctor is flashing a bit of stocking top and thigh.

Indeed!

Marion Zimmer Bradley didn’t think highly of this title, feeling BNritain/Williams had succumbed to the demands of commercial lesbian fiction.

And the book does tend to lean toward a commercial, predictable format, not as personal and riveting as other Britain novels like The Needle and These Curious Pleasures.

Dr. Erika Hathaway is a psychiatrist who crosses the ethical boundaries of her profession in many ways, with patients and co-workers.  She has her private practice and she is on staff at a hospital, working with committed patients who are, well, nuts or manic.  One, Arlene, is a nymphomaniac who seduces both men and woman and whom Erika has the hots for.

She also has the hots for a nurse, Mavia, who has latent lesbian feelings as well…and feelings for Arlene. Erika gets jealous.

One man, Tom, a medical writer, is in an influencing position of power with a foundation that is about to give the psychiatric wing a large grant for research.  He lets Erika know that if she sleeps with him, she will be on the team and benefit from the money and status of the research.  He tries to rape her one night but she hits him with a beer bottle.

Erika also sees her own psychiatrist for her own issues, especially those crossing ethical lines.

Throughout the story, we peer into Erika’s head and the past, with her first lesbian love, whom she lived with. It ended with heartbreak and Erika has been seeking out a woman to experience those feelings again.

An okay read.  Now and then, Britain delivers remarkable one-liners, such as: “The world does not die when the heart does” (p.89).

A B-minus all together.

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.

Insatiable by Sloane Britain (Midwood #57, 1960)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The protagonist of this novel is Sandy Hastings — a little nod, it seems, to March Hastings, a lesbian author at Midwood that Elaine Williams edited.  It also deals with the dynamics of D/s relationships aong the wealthy and elite

But it starts out as the story of Sandy’s normal married life.  She’s been married for two years to Ray Singer (Ron Singer was Sally’s brother and also a Midwood author as Greg Hamilton, Jesse Harper, and others) and they have been good years.  Up till age 21, all her experiences wth men had been bad and she’d given up on finding a good fellow, until one day writer Ron Singer walked into the library she worked at for research.  He courted her and they married…

At 23, Sandy becomes a widow when, rushing to meet Ray at the train station, back from a trip, missing him, he is hut by a car of hoods running away from a police car.

Ray’s body flew gracefully through the air in one last momet of bird-like freedom […] Ray’s flight ended […] in a squishy thud to the pavement directly in front of Sandy.

She looked at him, or what was left of him, with as little comprehension as she had witnessed the whole scene. Finally, one thought struggled to consciousness.

How absurdy melodramatic, Sandy thought as she collapsed to the ground. (p.39)

Insatiable is an absurd novel that is pessimistic  (cynical?) with dark humor, almost like a Barry Malzberg volume.

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Unnatural by Sloane Britain (Midwood #47, 1960)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I wonder how a lesbian author felt having to, for marketing and legal reasons, have “Two women sharing a love that was unnatural” and “forbidden love in the twilight world of the third sex” on the cover of her novel, especially when she was also her own editor.

Unnatural is the story of Allison’s wandering maze through the lesbian world, and her love for Lydia, a woman who has made Allison her submissive in a D/s relationship.

Is this the same Allison in These Curious Pleasures?  Do the events in this novel take place before the other?  Britain doesn’t say, but it’s possible.  The Allison in Pleasures is hesitant to get into a serious gay relationship with another woman because of past bad experiences, and Unnatural is all about Allison’s bad sexual experiences.

The first is a rape by her boss at her first job in New York. She has come to the Big Apple with Big Dreams.  She does secretarial work and her boss had taken notice of her.  He calls her into his office, plies her with booze, and then makes his move on her…she is frozen, not knowing what to do.  She’s a virgin.  She lets him fuck her.  When he sees the blood on the couch, he freaks out, saying he would never have done it had he known.  Worried about repercussions, he gives her $100 and tells her to go home and look for another job…

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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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Meet Marilyn by Sloane Britain (Midwood #52)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on November 14, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Britain - Meet Marilyn 1960

Britain - Meet Marilyn 1963

I thought the 1960 first edition was a Paul Rader cover, but Al Wagner did that one, as well as the 1963 second edition.

Sloane Britian was Midwood editor Elaine Williams, whom I will discuss in the next post.

Meet Marilyn might be the weakest of the Britain Midwoods; it’s not a novel as much as it is a collection of stories, set around a party thrown for the residents of a posh Manhattan Park Avenue apartment building.  In each apartment, the people we meet have their colorful, sexually kinky pasts, hetero, bi, and lesbian.

The best chapter is #2, about Gabe and Myra, who meet in college and fall in love.  Problem: Myra comes from a rich Jewish family and Gabe comes from humble suburbia, with dreams if being a writer.  Myra believes Gabe will one day be a great writer and against her parents’ wishes, she marries him but she gets cut off from the family money.

They live in sqaulor as Gabe writes short stories, gathering rejection slips.  One day, Myra picks up a pulp detective novel and the two spend the evening readng absurd passages to one another, making fun of the genre, which is hardly literature in their eyes — the violence, the witty dialogue, the dolls and dames, etc.  They start making up their own passages and Gabe writes them down…he keeps writing…then he finishes it.  He thinks the detective novel is a lark but he sends it in to a paperback publisher.

Meanwhile, Myra gets pregnant.  Scared, she crawls back to her parents’ for help; they give her access to money and hekp her rent out a nice apartment on Park Avenue.

Gabe doesn’t want their help for having rejected him, and they still disappriove of him for being a gentile and not from money.  Then, to his surprise, his detective novel sells for a $1200 advance and the publisher wants another one, maybe more, a series if possible.  Gabe is now a published writer!

He moves into the Park Ave address with Myra, mainly because it’s a better home for their baby.  He works on his next detectibve tyarn, doing with the idea that one day he will take the time for a serious literary novel…the plight of many pulp writers.

The baby is born with defects — a cleft palate and a slow intelligence.  They are devestated but vow to love the mongloid child.  Gabe pours himself into a world of private eyes and dangerous dames…

A few years pass. Gabe is on his 27th detective novel and hating it; he can’t stand to sit down and write any more of the same thing, but he has contracts and needs money.  Magazines ask him for stories but they want the same crime and sex sleaze.  Britain/Williams is making a funny comment on what happens to many writeres she knew, from Midwood and elsewhere, who got trapped in the genre slump.

Other characters pop in chapters all culminating at the party, events surrounding the mysterious and sexy Marilyn, but all in all, this reds like Britain/Williams gathered a handful of unpublished siort stories she had lying around and added in connecting transitions.

A better book would have been an expanion of the Gabe and Myra story.