Me and Mrs. Jones

So, the vacation is going swimmingly so far. Yesterday I simply ran errands–prescriptions, making groceries, picking up the mail–and once I got home and put the groceries away, I decided to take the rest of the day off. Being out in the heat and humidity, even for that brief period of time, was exhausting and draining.

I also kept thinking it was Saturday–as the above is my usual Saturday routine–and actually went upstairs after putting the groceries away to start stripping the bed linens for laundering them before realizing, dude, it’s only Wednesday.

So, I retired to my easy chair and finished reading Mickey Spillane’s I the Jury.

And wow, do I ever have some thoughts about that book.

When Sarah Weinman brought up Mickey Spillane on Twitter the other day  by asking if Mickey Spillane was camp, I responded with oh god yes, which led to  further conversation with the end result that I decided to read, at long last, a Mickey Spillane novel; I just happened to have a copy of I the Jury on hand. (My references to Spillane being camp had everything to do with his image, reflecting back when Spillane was a public figure and doing everything from print ads to commercials; I’d also briefly watched the Mike Hammer television series starring Stacy Keach) I’d gotten a copy of I the Jury after reading an appreciation of Spillane somewhere (Crimereads? Perhaps) which made a very strong case that Spillane and his work was dramatically underrated in the crime genre, and was long overdue a study and another look;  furthermore, he was vastly more important to the genre than he was ever given credit for. I’d never read Spillane, primarily because as a gay man I was clearly not the target audience for his work; as I’ve said before, many times, I stopped reading crime novels in the 1970’s because I was very tired of the many, over-worn tropes of the genre and the toxicity of the fragile masculinity contained within the majority of the books/series.

The cover of my copy of the book also contains the tag line: Before there was Jack Reacher…there was Mike Hammer.

An intriguing bit of marketing by the publisher, don’t you think? I have greatly enjoyed Lee Child’s Reacher series, and think it is one of the best of our modern times; however, I also stopped reading the series over ten years ago. This has, by the way, nothing to do with the quality of the series or the character or the writing, but more to do with falling behind in my reading of the series and the next thing I knew, I was five or six books behind and I gave up on even attempting to catch up; this has happened with numerous other writers and series I enjoy, so this is not a shot at Lee Child, whom I also like personally.

It’s just one of those things that can happen with prolific writers.

But in reading the book, I don’t really see the correlation between the two characters, other than, perhaps, their size. Reacher is an enormous man who takes up a lot of space; so is Hammer. But Reacher is more of a philosopher than Hammer–I’d say Reacher owes more to John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee than to Mike Hammer; although I suppose it could be argued that MacDonald and McGee may have been influenced by Spillane and Hammer.

I would also argue that Spillane also owes an enormous debt to Dashiell Hammett and The Maltese Falcon, because there are some similarities in plot and structure.

I did start taking notes and writing down ideas, because I would really like to write a critical essay on I the Jury, because there’s an awful lot there–misogyny, homophobia, racism–that, while it may reflect the time in which it was written and published (1947), is problematic for the modern, present-day reader. Hammer is, in some ways, the embodiment of a masculine ideal that is very problematic, a personification of the type of a toxic masculinity that might not have ever truly existed, even in that time. The books were wildly popular, and I also believe the popularity of the books can be tied into the societal and cultural definition of what a man was supposed to be, but so rarely was in reality.

And frankly, the PTSD from World War II drips from every page.

The book is highly reflective of its time, and I think writing about it critically, both as a product of its time as well as through a modern lens, could make for a fascinating and interesting essay. We shall see.

I also started reading Angie Kim’s debut novel, Miracle Creek, yesterday, and while I only managed to get through the prologue, I was blown away by it completely, and look forward to delving more deeply into it during the course of today.

I am rather enjoying this life of leisure. I did do some other things around the house yesterday, starting reorganization/cleaning projects that can be leisurely finished over the course of my vacation.

And now, it’s time to repair to my easy chair with Ms. Kim’s novel.

Have a lovely holiday, Constant Reader, and I will speak with you again on the morrow.

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O Say Can You See

The 4th of July; the supposed birthday of the United States of America, aka Independence Day.

It really isn’t the nation’s birthday, but rather the anniversary of the day that the thirteen English colonies along the Atlantic seaboard essentially said enough, and declared themselves to be free of the yoke of what they saw as royal and parliamentary tyranny; the war against the English had been going on for just over a year at this point, and the troubles between Mother England and her thirteen American daughters for just over ten years at this point.

As Constant Reader is aware, Gregalicious loves him some history. The United States did not spring into existence on July 4, 1776; the very concept of a “united states” was neither broached nor discussed during the process of the development of the Declaration of Independence, summarized in the previous paragraph (which leaves out, and/or ignores some very pertinent and important details).

The creation of the United States occurred eleven years later, in 1787, with the development and ratification of our true founding document; the Constitution. How the Constitution came into being is beautifully and intelligently described in one of my favorite books of history, Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen. Bowen’s book describes the painstaking process through which our government was developed, written, and agreed to by representatives of the thirteen independent states, and the lengthy, seemingly endless debates, held over between these extraordinary men during the oppressive heat and humidity of a Philadelphia summer.

In the centuries since the Constitutional Convention, those Founding Fathers, those colonial Americans, have become rather deified in histories and common parlance; a pantheon of truly American gods whose names and reputations should never be besmirched or discussed in  human terms. But remarkable men as they were; they were also men, and they were, as such, just as flawed and complicated as any modern American. Thomas Jefferson had a slave as mistress, who also bore him numerous children; John Adams was not only vain but petty; and so on.

Of course the Constitution did not outlaw slavery, one of the country’s original sins; the repercussions of which are still felt today. The debates over slavery, the debates over the power of government and the freedoms held most dear, make for fascinating reading, even if one most always keep in mind the white supremacy that absolutely and positively drove almost every delegate at the convention. The United States was formed with only concerns for the rights of straight white men of European descent, and almost every freedom for the individual put into the document was for the benefit of straight white men–i.e. predicated on what they saw as abuses of their rights and privileges by the British government during the colonial period.

The ideals of the country, as set forth in this founding document which is still the basis for our government some two and a half centuries later, are most impressive; we have, as a nation, failed to live up to those ideals regularly. The founders’ compromises on slavery, their determination to make horrific compromises in order to forge a nation, unfortunately directly led to the sectional strife and divide that led to our bloodiest conflict, the Civil War, less than a hundred years after the Constitution was ratified. But even that conflict didn’t resolve the issues of white supremacy; racial conflict and strife continue to this day. The Constitution didn’t give women the right to vote or participate in the government; that didn’t come until 1920, and the equal rights of women are still not enshrined in the law to this day. Women are also still playing catch-up when it comes to representation in government either. All of our presidents have been men, and most elected officials to this day are primarily men. Racial equality is still a dream, an ideal, that we are still struggling to achieve; LGBTQ+ Americans also still are not seen as full citizens in the eyes of the law just yet.

And yet I love my country, despite its many flaws, despite its inability to live up to its founding ideals and the years of  floundering when it comes to equality for everyone un the eyes of the law. Our system is flawed because human beings are flawed; and we still have a ways to go before we are finally the nation of free people envisioned by those men in Philadelphia in 1787.

Here are the words Jefferson wrote in 1776, stirring words and ideals that we as Americans must continue to strive to achieve.

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

“Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

“He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

“He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

“He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

“He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness of his invasions on the rights of the people.

“He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

“He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

“He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

“He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

“He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

“He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

“He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

“For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

“For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

“For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

“For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

“For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

“For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

“For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

“For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

“For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

“He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

“He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

“He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

“He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

“Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Happy 4th of July to all.

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Frankenstein

So, vacation. Five glorious days off, which are not to be wasted, but utilized productively; but I also intend to pace myself and give myself plenty of time to relax and read. It would be completely awesome to be able to get about three or four books read over the course of this holiday/vacation weekend; there are also some films I’d like to watch in the evening–and since I cannot watch any of the shows Paul and I are watching together, that definitely frees up some more time. There are some Hitchcock films available on Amazon Prime; I may do a Hitchcock film festival this weekend. Who knows? We shall see. The possibilities are endless, after all.

One chore I have to do is read the galley proofs for Royal Street Reveillon, which means the book is that one more step closer to becoming, you know, an actual book; which is of course incredibly cool and never truly ever gets old. At the rate I am going, of course, there’s no telling when there will be another book by me; I can’t seem to finish anything these days, but hopefully over these next five days there will be progress made and I can take great joy in getting something done. I am very scattered–that creative ADD I talk about all the fucking time–and seriously, it is rather daunting to think about all the things I have in some sort of progress–a collection of essays, two short story collections, at least three (now four, if you count the Chanse first chapter I wrote last week) novels in some sort of stage of being finished, and countless, endless short stories.

I’d like to send some more stories out to markets; perhaps this weekend, if I don’t get sidetracked and distracted, as I always seem to be. I always tend to think I’ll get more done over this little vacations than I wind up getting done, but on the other hand, I am also going into this vacation more well-rested than I usually do. I am not in the least bit tired this morning, and I wasn’t tired after I got home from work last night; which is a good sign. Perhaps I am adjusting, at long last, to getting up early in the mornings again and maybe I can go back to the times when I used to get a lot done in the mornings.

Then again, it only takes one shitty night of insomnia to derail everything, doesn’t it? But that didn’t happen last night again–thank you baby Jesus–and so this morning I am awake, rested somewhat, and thinking lazy thoughts already. Oh, I don’t need to do that today, I have five days after all–which is, quite naturally, how it always starts, you know? “Oh, sure, why don’t I just be lazy for two days–take a weekend–and then the last three days of the vacation I can be getting things done.” And then nothing ends up getting done at all…why not simply get everything done to begin with, and then take the weekend?

I got further along in I the Jury yesterday at the office between clients, and it is definitely something I’m glad I’ve taken the time to read—despite the limits on my reading time–and the essay I rather glibly assumed I’d be able to write after reading it is sort of taking form in my mind. It’s a short book, fortunately, but the philosophy behind it is one that generally doesn’t appeal to me; if toxic masculinity were a book, it would be a Mike Hammer novel. But at the same time, I can also understand and see why these books sold so ridiculously well, and why they appealed to so many (mostly) male readers; Hammer is an exaggeration of the so-called masculine ideal, the ‘lone wolf rugged individualist American man’, which goes hand-in-hand with so many of our societal and cultural problems–past of the mythology of this continent and this nation is based in that loosely defined (and periodically redefined) sense of freedom; this wild frontier and wilderness that had to be settled, tamed, reframed and repurposed. (I sometimes marvel at how remarkably beautiful this continent must have been before European civilization; it’s still stunningly beautiful today, with all the taming and civilizing that has happened.) After the second world war, as the American economy steamed full forward and the society/culture was itself reframed, modernized, and changed forever into what is now looked back at as the great modern society–that sense of wildness and freedom was gradually lost, and it was also the first true generation that didn’t really have that same sense of “hey let’s go west and start a new life” because the west was already “won”, and what men were taught as traditional forms of American masculinity, developed over decades and centuries (with the poison pill of white supremacy inside) were no longer possible and as the so-called good life of career, home and family became sanitized and suburbs and home ownership and consumer culture began subsuming and redefining American masculinity, writers like Spillane tapped into that dissatisfaction and gave them heroes/idols like Mickey Spillane, the rugged masculine ideal who all women wanted and desired; who lived by a strange code; whose methods were steeped in violence; and had no problem taking the law into his own hands–and was SUCH a ‘man’s man’ that even the police never tried to rein him in even as he violated the law and civil rights and the foundations of law and justice the country was built upon.

As you can see, the essay about Mike Hammer/Mickey Spillane is already starting to take form in my brain.

Maybe I could have been an academic, after all.

So, what’s on the agenda for today? I want to do some cleaning, and some writing, and I also have galleys to proof as well as a cover design to look over and approve (it’s so remarkably beautiful! It’s one of my favorite covers ever–Lake Thirteen will probably always be my favorite cover, but this one comes very close to supplanting it in my affections), and I also want to finish reading I the Jury. I also have to go pick up prescriptions and the mail today; I might make a grocery list and stop at Rouses as well–the less time I have to spend outside the house this weekend the better, quite frankly. After I read I the Jury I am most likely going to read either Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek, or perhaps dip into some horror; I’ll have to see how the spirit moves me once I get everything going. I also want to clean out my email inbox–there are emails in there I’ve ignored and done nothing about for far far too long, and they need to be gone.

It’s always such a lovely feeling when your inbox has been cleaned out completely, isn’t it? And it’s been far too long.

As for right now, though, I need more coffee and something to eat…so on that note, I shall leave you for the day and return to the spice mines.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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You Are The Sunshine of My Life

Sunday morning. It took me awhile to fall asleep last night; the last time I remember looking at the clock it was around three in the morning and I was still pretty much awake.  I did manage to doze off around that time, though, and while I still woke up around eight thirty, I feel somewhat rested this morning.

I didn’t do any writing yesterday; I wound up cleaning and organizing and doing that sort of thing for most of the day, interspersed with reading. It was, despite having to go out in the heat and humidity of the early afternoon, kind of a lovely day, really. It wasn’t as terribly hot as I feared it would be, and once I was back inside the cool of the inside of the Lost Apartment, I was able to get some things I needed to get done finished; I also need to finish the organizing I started yesterday but never quite finished. I also came up with some amazing and key things for the WIP, which technically I should be finishing up today–big surprise, it’s not finished nor will it be by midnight–so I am also trying to figure out what I want to do; should I follow my schedule and reluctantly put it to the side, to go back and spend the month revising the other I’d planned on working on for July, or should I go ahead and work my way through this first draft, trying to get it finished this week, and then diving back into the other?

Decisions, decisions.

I suspect I’ll keep working on the WIP, if I am going to be completely honest. Yes, it’s been horrible, like extracting teeth by gripping them with my fingers and yanking really hard, but also last night I had some more breakthroughs about the main character as well as the story I am telling. I also remembered some more things I need to go back and litter through the first sixteen chapters I’ve written–not that big of a deal, as they are all early draft and intended to be worked on more any way–but I am always feeling pressed for time, as is always the case.

Paul is departing to visit his mother for a week, starting tomorrow; I am taking a stay-cation of my own built around the 4th of July holiday. I am only working Monday and Tuesday this week before having a delightful five consecutive days off from work; suring which I have deeply ambitious plans to get a lot of cleaning, organizing, and writing done…as well as a lot of reading. I am going to step away from the Diversity Project with my next read–triggered by a Twitter conversation with the amazing Sarah Weinman–and am going to read Mickey Spillane’s I the Jury next. In a way, though, it’s really still a part of the Diversity Project, just not the way I’d originally seen it: a necessary adjunct, or rather, corollary to the Diversity Project should be reading, and examining, and critiquing, the crime genre’s long fascination with a particular type of masculinity; the Mike Hammer novels are certainly the perfect examples of that, almost to the nth degree.

And can I really call myself a student of my genre without reading Spillane?

I am sure the books themselves are problematic; almost everything from that time period is in some ways (I still remember reading a James Ellroy novel–I don’t remember which one–which had some incredibly horrible homophobia in it; it was painful and difficult to read, but absolutely in line with the thinking of cops in the 1950’s; and I do believe sometimes it’s necessary to read these problematic texts, to critique and understand them and the time period from whence they were originally written and published.

A conversation I had on Twitter with Rob Hart (whom you should also be reading; his next novel The Warehouse, sounds absolutely terrific and I am eagerly awaiting its release) also triggered a thought; that perhaps a non-fiction/memoir type book about me, my reading life, and queer representation in mainstream crime novels might be an interesting thing to write; whether or not there’s an audience or a publisher for such a work remains to be seen, of course, but it does sound like an interesting intellectual challenge.

It might also be horrifically difficult, but reading is about learning, isn’t it?

And on that note, none of this stuff is going to get done unless i start doing it, you know?

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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I Will Survive

As Pride Month comes to a close, here is a list of all the queer crime writers I posted about over the month; a handy list for anyone wanting to check out queer crime writers. This is by no means a comprehensive list, either; there are so many wonderful queer crime writers and there were only thirty days in June, alas.

I am also going to list the book whose cover I used in the post I made.

Ready? Here goes.

Joseph Hanson, Fadeout

Barbara Wilson, Murder in the Collective

Michael Nava, Lay Your Sleeping Head

Katherine V. Forrest, Murder at the Nightwood Bar

George Baxt, A Queer Kind of Death

Ellen Hart, Wicked Games

J. M. Redmann, The Intersection of Law and Desire

John Morgan Wilson, Simple Justice

Randye Lorden, Brotherly Love

Nathan Aldyne, Cobalt

Mark Richard Zubro, A Simple Suburban Murder

Sandra Scoppetone, I’ll Be Leaving You Always

James Robert Baker, Adrenaline

Mary Wings, She Came by the Book

R. D. Zimmerman, Closet

Dean James, Faked to Death

Claire McNab, Blood Link

Mabel Maney, The Case of the Good-For-Nothing Girlfriend

Keith Hartman, The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse

Christopher Rice, A Density of Souls

Greg Herren, Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories (guest posted by the amazing Jeffrey Marks)

Grant Michaels, A Body to Dye For

Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley/The Price of Salt

Jaye Maiman, I Left My Heart

Neil Plakcy, Mahu

Ann Aptaker, Tarnished Gold

Michael Craft, Eye Contact

John Copenhaver, Dodging and Burning

Rob Byrnes, Straight Lies

Kristen Lepionka, The Last Place You Look

Renee James, Transition to Murder

Dharma Kelleher, Chaser

Anne Laughlin, A Date to Die

Do bear in mind that this is merely a good starting point; there are so many terrific queer crime writers writing terrific queer mysteries. There are also a lot of non-queer people who are writing terrific queer mysteries these days as well. I couldn’t name everyone; and in fact, on the last two days of Pride Month I had to double (triple today) up to make sure I used all the writers I wanted to talk about.

Thanks, everyone, for playing along; your likes and comments and shares were deeply appreciated.

A better resource for queer mysteries and queer crime writers, if you’re looking for something a bit comprehensive, check out either Judith A. Markowitz’ The Gay Detective Novel: Lesbian and Gay Main Characters & Themes in Mystery Fiction, and Drewey Wayne Gunn’s The Gay Male Sleuth in Print and Film: A History and Annotated Bibliography.

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I Sing the Body Electric

I’ve been reading a lot of history lately (nothing new there, really; my favorite non-fiction generally tends to be history), focusing primarily on New Orleans and Louisiana for the most part. As I read histories of New Orleans, here and there I find little bits, here and there, about the queer subculture in the long years and decades before Stonewall; little bits, here and there, more of asides in longer narratives than anything else. There were, of course, male prostitutes in Storyville back in the day–generally not housed or regularly employed in the houses, but should a customer be desirous of, shall we say, male companionship, the madams would send a runner down to a gay watering hole a few blocks away in the Quarter and find someone looking to make some quick cash…and they never failed to find someone willing to satisfy the “peculiar tastes” of the john.

Finding this, and other references to bordello activity by reformers protesting their existence and wanting them shut down, as “sodomy” quite naturally piqued my interest. As a port city that was, at one time, the largest port and largest city in the southern United States, a city that was also a blend of many different cultures and so forth, New Orleans clearly had always had havens for homosexuals in those dark times when we were outlaws. As I read other New Orleans histories, I do keep an eye out for these references, and mark the pages in order to find them easily again.

There’s a lot of stories untold there in the past, and I’ve been considering the possibilities of writing more historical-based fiction in New Orleans. I’ve already started a short story about a young gay man who occasionally picks up extra cash by working in one of the brothels at night “on demand,” and I think it has some terrific potential.

Queer people have often been erased by history, just as people of color and women have been, and while I will most likely never write non-fiction (you can’t make things up, which is the primary drawback for me), I do enjoy reading histories that focus on the gay community.

For example, David K. Johnson’s award-winning The Lavender Scare, about the purge of gay employees from the federal government in the 1950’s as intelligence risks (their sexuality left them open to blackmail from foreign spies; at least this was the fear) eventually led to my short story “The Weight of a Feather” (which I am still not convinced shouldn’t have been a novel); and as such, was quite delighted when Johnson released another scholarly look at queer American history this year, Buying Gay: How Physique Entrepreneurs Sparked a Movement.

I had, of course, known that “physique pictorial” magazines essentially were the original gay porn magazines; those images still can be found on the Internet.

buying gay

Johnson’s thesis holds that the mailing lists, and sales, of these magazines early on developed a cohesive gay market, and the recognition of said market gradually led to activism and wholesale societal change; that the magazines themselves created a sense of community by letting deeply closeted and frightened gay men know they weren’t alone; there were others like them, and helped them feel seen.

This further extrapolated into films and books, and gradually a gay rights movement.

The book is well written and deeply researched, as was The Lavender Scare (recently filmed as a documentary I am looking forward to seeing), and shed a light on a time I don’t know much about; few people know much about that time. One of the greatest tragedies of the community is how it was ravaged by HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s and 1990’s, until the development of the drug cocktails that first extended life, and eventually managed to make HIV a manageable infection rather than a fatal one; a lot of oral histories were lost as a result, and an entire generation of gay men was not only lost, but deprived the next generation of community elders and mentors.

I’ve been toying, over the last few years, with several ideas for noir novels with gay themes and characters set in the decades before Stonewall, and Buying Gay will, should I ever decide to do so, prove to be an invaluable source of material.

Well done, Dr. Johnson.

Brother Louie

I’m feeling a little better.

I think part of the problem was just exhaustion, in addition to some stomach upset. I spent most of the day yesterday (other than doing the laundry) pretty much curled up in my easy chair with Scooter sleeping in my lap while I read. What did I read? Nothing I loved enough to talk about publicly, frankly; my rule is to never post about a book that I didn’t absolutely love, or at the very least truly enjoy. I slip up with this from time to time, and have taken potshots at authors from time to time; it’s not something I’m terribly proud of, but reading is, after all, subjective; something I hate may be more to someone else’s taste, and I’ll never denigrate a book or author publicly because I know how much work it is to produce a novel.

At the very least, I like to show respect for a colleague’s hard work. And make no mistake about it, producing a novel is very hard work–hell, just typing  a novel is hard work.

After finishing the disappointing novel, I turned to Anne Somerset’s Unnatural Murder, which is about the notorious murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower of London during the reign of King James I of England; the murder was masterminded by the wife of one of the King’s notorious favorites. It was one of the most scandalous trials involving the royal court in English history, and the resolution, the revelations in the trial, and the later pardons from the King to both the favorite (Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset) and his beautiful wife Frances Howard, began an undermining of the monarchy, which inevitably led to the English Civil War, the downfall of the Stuart monarchy for a time, and the execution of King Charles I.

King James I, the man who brought the crowns of England and Scotland together in the same monarch, had male favorites rather than female; beautiful men he showered titles and honors on throughout his life. Whether James ever acted physically on his attractions and love for beautiful men is not known; he himself vehemently denied any kind of physicality with other men; but he certainly preferred the company of beautiful men to that of beautiful women. Robert Carr was only one of the many male favorites the King loved during his lifetime; Carr was followed by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who was also close to James’ son, King Charles I. Whether the favorites themselves were gay–they also, like James, always had wives and children–or even bisexual is unknown; certainly in the case of Buckingham the King was the only male he was ever linked with. I do think it’s possible that James never had a physical relationship with any of his favorites; it may have been a “look and love, but never touch” sort of thing for him. He was deeply religious and his desires were, of course, anathema to the church, and he also had a very real fear of being murdered and/or deposed; his mother was deposed and later beheaded (Mary Queen of Scots was his mother), and his father was murdered (Lord Darnley), most likely in a plot masterminded by his mother’s lover. He was less than a year old when he became King of Scotland; he was nearly forty when he followed his mother’s bitter rival Elizabeth I to the English throne.

It is interesting (at least to me) that in this Elizabethan/Jacobean period (and shortly thereafter) produced many royals with same sex attractions; Henri III of France ruled during this time and his affections for male favorites was quite well known; Louis XIV’s brother Philippe Duc d’Orleans was also infamous for the same reason. There have been other sexually suspect kings and royals throughout history; James’ own granddaughter Queen Anne was, if not one in fact, a lesbian by inclination. (See The Favourite.)

This morning I feel much better; my stomach seems settled and I slept well, after resting and relaxing for most of the day yesterday. Today I need to venture out into the stifling heat and humidity, and I also need to write. Oh! Yes, I did spend some time in my easy chair with my MacBook Air going over the copy edits of Royal Street Reveillon, which is inching closer and closer to publication date, which is lovely. It’s been a while since the last Scotty book–Garden District Gothic, which I think was released in 2016? Has it really been three years since the last Scotty book? Then again, it’s also hard to wrap my mind around the idea that my first book was released seventeen years ago.

I also think taking a day away from the pressure of trying to get caught up on the WIP was a smart thing to do. I may try to write a chapter later today. I don’t know. I am wondering if I should just keep plowing through this until the first draft is finished before seeing if i can get the other manuscript revised in what time is left before August 1, when I have to dive into something else entirely for two months. There’s also short stories to write, revise, edit, and so on, and so forth. It truly never ends for me, you know. And there’s still yet another unfinished manuscript in a drawer that needs to be worked on as well. Heavy heaving sigh.

And let’s not forget, I also started writing another Chanse book this past weekend.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Focus, Gregalicious, focus.

I also need to figure out what I’m going to read next, quite frankly. I may take a break from the Diversity Project and read one of the many books in the dusty TBR pile…I don’t know. I’ll just, after getting everything done that needs to be done to day, just look through the bookcases and the piles of books and see what’s there to read.

And there’s always non-fiction, of course. It’s not like I don’t have a massive pile of books on Louisiana and New Orleans history and folklore I could get lost inside.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

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