Well, it definitely is not gout, Constant Reader. The antibiotic cream prescribed by my doctor has made a remarkable difference with my toe since I started using it yesterday; this morning it isn’t even reddish anymore and bending it hardly is noticeably painful. AH, modern medicine, and sorry I doubted you, Doctor. I did get tired eventually last evening; shortly after finally finishing yesterday’s post I repaired to my easy chair where I watched a few more episodes of Netflix’ The Movies That Made Us, primarily the ones about Friday the 13th, Aliens, and Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s always somewhat lovely to revisit pop culture of the 1980’s, even though it was mostly a pretty shitty decade overall. The difference between 80’s movies and 70’s cinema was dramatic, as I learned during my Cynical 70’s Film Festival back during the early days of the pandemic when I was making hundreds of condom packs every day sitting in my living room during what I was never completely convinced weren’t the end times.
I do have some more cleaning and straightening up to do around here today around working on my book. Yes, I am definitely digging into the book today. I slept like the dead last night, and even stayed up later than usual (Paul came home before I went to bed) and slept an extra hour later this morning being a lag-a-bed until nine (the horror!). I’m feeling very well rested this morning on all three planes of existence–physical, emotional, intellectual–so it should be a great and highly productive day. It’s cold this morning–in the forties outside–and yesterday I had to turn the air on because it was stuffy in here and the clothes weren’t drying. Turn the air conditioning on and cool it down a couple of degrees and it made a significant difference. (I’m always interested in that weird range of temperature where it’s really not hot enough to need the air conditioning, but the air is thick enough so that clothes won’t dry unless it’s colder and the damp is taken out of the air; I also always sleep best on the night that I launder the bed linens) But I am going to have some coffee, do some straightening up here in the office, maybe read for an hour or so, and then get cleaned up and parked at my desk for however long I can stand it today. My coffee is tasting pretty marvelous this morning too; always a plus and always a good sign.
I also spent some time last night revisiting Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet in what was probably the first time in about thirty years, which is kind of terrifying when you think about it. I discovered Russo back in the day when I was discovering the rich culture and heritage of my community, when I was venturing into gay bookstores and had started reading the gay papers and magazines in search of my people and some sort of definition of what it meant to be a gay man in the United States at that time. The Russo book was the first seminal text in critiquing the entertainment industry and its participatory role in enforcing the homophobic standards of the times (if not helping to create those standards by the erasure of queer people and themes in entertainments). Russo set out to show how Hollywood’s erasure, or stereotypic rendering, of queer people served to enforce those social dynamics and mores that were suppressing our community and relegating those who identified as members of that community as outsiders, a lower caste, and separate from the dominant culture. I’d love to see a popular nonfiction version of Russo’s work that focuses on representation in crime fiction; I have neither the research skills nor the patience to write such a book myself. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the Russo book was finding out what films had queer content erased from their original source material; like the film Crossfire, about anti-Semitism in the military, was based on a book called The Brick Foxhole, which was about homophobia in the military; the murder victim wasn’t a Jewish soldier but a gay one. The alcoholic Ray Milland won an Oscar for playing in the film of The Lost Weekend drank because he had writer’s block; in the book he drank because he couldn’t handle his homosexuality in a homophobic society. The mini-series made from Dress Gray saved the reveal of the dead cadet’s sexuality for a plot twist at the end; in Lucien Truscott IV’s novel it was right there, revealed on page one and treated, really, throughout the entire book as not a particularly big deal (I’ve been meaning to reread Dress Gray; it was one of the few books I read as a teenager that didn’t treat homosexuality as a hideous moral failing, a massive sin, and/or something just revolting and disgusting, just as I’ve been meaning to reread Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline–you just know there had to be a queer or two at Carolina Military Institute).
I also remember discovering queer mysteries for the first time at the gay bookstore in Tampa, and thinking you’ve always wanted to write mysteries, why don’t you write them with gay characters and themes? And thus the seed was planted–by Michael Nava, Richard Stevenson, and Steve Johnson–that grew into my becoming a gay mystery writer in every sense of the term: I’m gay, I’m a gay writer, and I write gay mysteries.
So, that’s where my mind was last night; thinking about the very limited queer rep I’d been exposed to as a reader growing up and how discovering gay fiction by gay writers about gay life and experiences–books–essentially changed my life and the trajectory of my writing. I think my writing began to improve when I started writing what I knew–the tired old trope of write what you know–because I was writing about my truths and experiences and feelings about being a gay man in a homophobic country; that was how I found authenticity and truth in my writing, and was able to extrapolate that outward into writing about other lives, other people, other experiences.
And of course, the Lefty Award banquet is tonight. I’m cheering on my friends and fellow nominees from afar. It’s a pleasure and a thrill to be nominated for Best Humorous Mystery; I never expected in a million years to ever be nominated for a Lefty and then it happened, so A Streetcar Named Murder continues on as my “first” of many things. I’m not sure which of the other four nominees will have their name called tonight, but it’s an honor to lose to any of my fellow nominees. (I also never thought I’d be nominated for an Agatha, and yet here we are; I’ve been having a hell of a twelve month period, am I not? Two Anthony nominations, a Lefty, and an Agatha; who’s a lucky Gregalicious?)
And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and go curl up for a bit with a book for a little reading pleasure this morning before I go to work. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.