The Man Who Would Be Lesbian

69 Barrow Street, by Lawrence Block writing as Sheldon Lord, Tower, 1959

Cover Line: “Their Love was Right! But Their Sex Was Wrong!”

We’ve all known them: the men who long to be lesbians. in the days before they found an outlet for their frustrated desires by dominating the discussions in women studies classes with passionate paeans to Monique Wittig, they wrote lesbian pulp.

Does Lawrence Block belong to this esoteric tribe? One thing is for sure: before becoming Continue reading

Journey to Ann Bannon

Journey to a Woman, by Ann Bannon, Fawcett Gold Medal, 1960

Classic Line: “All the dormant fires of her younger days had sprung to life and they burned in her still, tempting her, torturing her until she knew she would have to find release somewhere or die of it.”

It took me many years to appreciate Ann Bannon’s contribution to lesbian literature. Bannon wrote five pulps between 1957 and 1962, linked novels that tell the intertwined, melodramatic adventures of Laura, Beth, and Beebo. The books made her Continue reading

Designing Lesbians

The Odd Ones, Edwina Mark, Berkley Books, 1959

“Jean discovered her true sexual nature through the expert teachings of sleek Sherri Lancaster.”

The Plot: Orphaned outcast Jean Grant is so desperate to get out of her hick town and discover her “true nature” she elopes with sensitive Tim, the unhappy son of the lecherous druggist (who is also Jean’s employer). After gritting her teeth through their wedding night, Jean steals Tim’s $1000 nest egg and hightails it to New York. There she checks into a cheap hotel and sets out to explore the city, alternately racked by guilt and overflowing with delirious joy at her newfound freedom. Continue reading

Desperate Housewives

One Touch of Ecstasy, by Gwynne Wimberly, Frederick Fell, Inc. 1959.

Best line: “There’s a reason we teach you correct posture. If your pelvis isn’t tilted forward, the organs in the area are affected unfavorably.”

The Plot: Poor Louise, married and with an eighteen-year-old daughter has never had an orgasm. Ever since that date-rape in college she’s been all twisted up inside, and marriage hasn’t helped–she’s mired in suburban misery. “The hollandaise had been spectacular” but that can’t disguise the fact that her life is one “cruelly civilized evening of superficiality and loneliness” Continue reading

Lesbian Pre-Teens

The tasteful cover is a harbinger of the tedium to be found within

The House in the Mulberry Tree, by Zena Garrett, 1959, Random House

Book Jacket Copy: “Then Elizabeth’s burgeoning, formless emotions, blown hither and yon by the strife around her, crystallized into a youthful and innocent passion for Nonie, nourished by Nonie’s kindness and Elizabeth’s idealization of the relationship that Carter and Nonie seemed to enjoy.”

A dull southern gothic, penned by first-time author and Carson McCullers-wannabe, Zena Garret. The “About the author” blurb gives the reader fair warning: “Her writing career was postponed, however, because Continue reading

Dead Lesbians

Isn't it keen how the reflection of my cell phone mimicks the shadow of the murderer?

I was looking forward to Helen Nielsen’s The Fifth Caller (Morrow, 1959) from the Grier-McBride collection–the library catalog lists “Lesbian physicians–Fiction” as the second subject. Alas, only a completionist collector like Barbara Grier would put this rather dull mystery with its few elliptical references to sapphic tendencies in her lesbian library.

The Plot: Dr. Lillian Whitehall has been found dead in her office and all evidence points to her nurse. Nursie can’t defend herself, because she was found unconscious on the beach with her wrists slashed and has no memory of what happened that day. Tall, square-jawed D.A. Investigator (I’m sorry–I’ve already forgotten his name) thinks Nurse Anna is awfully pretty though, Continue reading

Distracted Lesbians with Cameras

One of my pet peeves about lesbian pulp fiction is how little attention the lesbians pay to career advancement. They have no work ethic — they’re always coming in late to the office in the morning or taking a sick day to nurse their hangovers. I think Beebo Brinker delivers less than a dozen pizzas in the course of Continue reading