Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection
- Cover artists
The scarcity and fragility of individual titles require that this paperback collection be shelved in a locked case adjacent to the Reference area of the Library. A librarian will retrieve a title for in-Library use only. This collection of 120 books (as of 2005) is non-circulating. The Novanet Catalogue provides full bibliographic information for each book. The Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection is intended as a resource for students and scholars in Cultural Studies, Women's Studies, History, English, Sociology, and Psychology.
Dr. Rhoda Zuk of the University's English Department explains the significance of the collection within an historical and sociological context.
"Lesbian pulp fiction emerged as a distinct genre ... with the publication of the best-selling Spring Fire in 1952. The genre took place and was sustained within the context of several popular postwar discourses reflecting and generating anxieties inherent in a Cold War society. ... Many lesbians turned to this pulp fiction since it constituted their only source of affirmation of sexual identity. Readers pleasured in the lurid covers too: and these remain a rich art historical source for students of design; and the subject of the genre's pseudonymous authors and anonymous artists is relevant to cultural studies research. While the genre becomes irrelevant in the mid-to late 1960s with the decriminalization of homosexual relations and the rise of the gay rights and women's movements, it remains a testament to aspects of lesbian history --and present reality: lesbians are still denied full human rights and continue to cope with cultural prejudice."
Keller, Yvonne. "Pulp Politics : Strategies of Vision in Pro-Lesbian Pulp Novels 1955-1965" The Queer Sixties ed. P.J. Smith, New York: Routledge, 1999. PS 153 G38 Q44
Meeker, Martin. "A Queer and Contested Medium : The Emergence of Representational Politics in the 'Golden Age' of Lesbian Paperbacks 1955-1963." Journal of Women's History 17 ( Spring 2005) :165-188
Paris, Terrence. "The Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection at Mount Saint Vincent University Library, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada." Biblio-Notes no.45 (2005).
Stryker, Susan. Queer Pulp : Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 2001. PS 374 H63 S77
Zimet, Jaye. Strange Sisters: The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction 1949-1969 New York: Viking Studio, 1999. Ref. NC 961.7 L47 Z55
Among the female authors and book titles represented in the MSVU Lesbian Pulp Fiction collection:
Gale Wilhelm (1908-1991) confined her literary output to the years between 1935 and 1945 when she published poems, short stories, and six novels, of which three were on lesbian themes. We Too are Drifting (1935) was reprinted as a paperback by Berkley in 1955, and recounts a doomed lesbian relationship in the tradition of Radclyffe Hall's Well of Loneliness (1928). Wilhelm's Torchlight to Valhalla (1938) was reprinted in paperback by Berkley in the 1950s under the title The Strange Path, and is a rare example of a lesbian novel from this early period which offers the possibility of happiness to the protagonists. As such it can be compared with Better Angel ( call no. PS 3503 R812 B48 2000), a similarly optimistic novel of love between two young men published in 1933 under the name Richard Meeker, the pseudonym of famed puppeteer Forman Brown (1901-1996).
Marijane Meaker (b. 1927) has written under several pseudonyms : Vin Packer for thrillers under the Gold Medal imprint, Ann Aldrich for lesbiana and M.E. Kerr for young adult novels. As Vin Packer, she wrote Spring Fire in 1952 which was Fawcett Gold Medal's first lesbian paperback specifically intended to benefit from the success of Tereska Torres' Women's Barracks which Fawcett had published in 1950. The only restriction imposed on Meaker was that the novel could not have a happy ending lest it be seized by the Post Office as obscene. The sympathetic portrayal of a doomed affair between two sorority sisters ensured its popularity. Meaker went on to write controversial studies on the nature of lesbianism and the role of advocacy groups such as the Daughters of Bilitis using the pseudonym "Ann Aldrich" ; the editor-in-chief at Gold Medal had suggested something all-American "like 'Henry Aldrich', the kid on the radio show."
Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) is represented in the collection by The Price of Salt (1953), "the novel of a love society forbids", which she wrote under the name of Claire Morgan and which has an unusually upbeat ending. Highsmith is most famous for her suspense novels, including The Talented Mr. Ripley .
Highsmith's love affair with Marijane Meaker from 1959 to 1961 is recounted by Meaker in Highsmith : A Romance of the 1950s Call Number: PS 3558 I366 Z77 2003.
Valerie Taylor ( 1913- 1997) published her first lesbian novel Whisper Their Love in 1957. The Girls in 3 - B (1959) subsequently inspired a syndicated comic-strip. Taylor, born Velma Young, was a Quaker and a social activist involved in the gay and women's liberation movements, the anti-war and nuclear disarmament movements, and the Gray Panthers. Taylor " successfully avoided sensationalism and extraneous sex scenes and worked to normalize, humanize and desensationalize the lesbian character while keeping it central to the story." (Keller p.6)
Ann Bannon (b. 1932) is the pseudonym of Ann Weldy who also appears in some sources under her mother's maiden name of Thayer. She achieved the greatest critical success among the writers of The Golden Age of lesbian pulp. Odd Girl Out (1957) " a confession of love as shocking and as honest as Spring Fire" , and The Marriage (1960) are representative of Bannon's work
Randy Salem is the pseudonym of Pat Perdue, an author widely admired by lesbian readers of lesbian pulp fiction. Man Among Women, published in 1960, "accommodates the genre's insistence on male voyeurism but resists the male power that traditionally accompanies it ... The male protagonist is allowed to look at lesbians but always with painful consequences ..." (Keller p. 6)
Marion Zimmer Bradley ( 1930- 1999) adopted the name Miriam Gardner when she wrote My Sister, My Love in 1963 and Twilight Lovers in 1964. She used the name Morgan Ives to write Spare Her Heaven in 1963. She was the author of the popular "Darkover" fantasy series, and edited the annual anthology "Sword and Sorceress".
Julie Ellis (b. 1933) has written some 150 books under many pseudonyms. Her lesbian pulps for Midwood in the 1960s were written using the name Joan Ellis. Latterly she has achieved fame as the writer of romance novels with historical backgrounds. See: Contemporary Authors : New Revision Series Ref. Z 1224 C62 v.84.
And male authors ...
Gilbert Fox (b. 1917) was a friend of Harry Shorten, the founder of Midwood Books, and the author of over 100 titles for the line using the pseudonyms Kimberley Kemp and Dallas Mayo for his lesbian novels and Paul Russo for his heterosexual novels.
Harry Whittington (1915-1989) used lesbian themes with a male readership in mind. Rebel Woman (1960) " she lived as a man, she fought as a man, she loved as a man" and Guerrilla Girls (1961) reflect his interest in depicting tough revolutionary women.
Lawrence Block (b. 1938), who writes the Matt Scudder mystery novels, adopted the name Sheldon Lord for the lesbian novels The Third Way (1962), Fever in the Sun (1963), and The Hours of Rapture (1966)
Arthur Adlon used a production-line writing style for his lesbian pot-boilers. Examples in our collection are The Set (1962), Strange Nurse (1962), and The Odd Kind (1962) which "unveils the sleek and expensive world of the lesbians who model fashions in public - and perform age-old rituals in private!" As Keith Ayling he wrote books on combat aviation.
George Henry Smith (b. 1922) began as a science-fiction writer before turning to popular erotica in the 1960s. He wrote under several pseudonyms - Jay Judson, Jerry Jason, Morgan Trehune, Hank Stryker, Holt Standish et al., and as Jan Hudson for Satan's Daughter (1961).
Kay Addams used by Orrie Hitt
Arthur Adlon used by Keith Ayling
Ann Aldrich used by Marijane Meaker
Ann Bannon used by Ann Weldy
Ann Thayer used by Ann Weldy
Loren Beauchamp used by Robert Silverberg
Sloan Britton (later Sloane Britain) used by Elaine Williams, a Midwood editor
Joan Ellis used by Julie Ellis
Miriam Gardner used by Marion Zimmer Bradley
March Hastings used by Sally Singer
Jan Hudson used by George Henry Smith
Jason Hytes used by John Plunkett, a Midwood editor
Morgan Ives used by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Kimberley Kemp used by Gilbert Fox
M.E. Kerr used by Marijane Meaker
Sheldon Lord used by Lawrence Block
Dallas Mayo used by Gilbert Fox
Claire Morgan used by Patricia Highsmith
Vin Packer used by Marijane Meaker
Randy Salem used by Pat Perdue
Sylvia Sharon used by Paul Little
Valerie Taylor used by Velma Young
THE COVER ARTISTS
In the preface to Strange Sisters : The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction by Jaye Zimet ( Viking Studio: 1999), Ann Bannon writes:
"There have been many wonderful lesbian novels in the years since the pulps went out of publication, and they have afforded covers that match their contents in appropriate ways... But surely I am not the only one who remembers with a twinge of nostalgia and affection the flowering of the lesbian pulps with those improbable but titillating women on the covers. We knew how to find them and how to read them. They reassured us of the potential in an apparently hostile world for affirming friendships, courage and support."
At least one aspiring lesbian author was less thrilled with the cover art used for Vin Packer's The Evil Friendship. "Can't something be done about those lurid book jackets ?" protested Chris Warren who contemplated writing a letter of complaint to Fawcett Gold Medal. [Meeker, p.180]
Among the named artists with the titles they illustrated:
Barye Winchell Phillips (1924 - 1969) for the covers of Odd Girl Out (A. Bannon); The Price of Salt ( C. Morgan). Although most associated with Fawcett Gold Medal, Phillips also created covers for Avon, Bantam, Dell, Pocket Books and Signet. Working from photographs, he could complete four paintings a week in a variety of styles. During the Korean War, he served as artist-correspondent for the U.S. Army in South Asia.
Isaac Paul Rader (1906-1986) for Unnatural (S. Britton); The Unashamed ( M. Hastings); Strange Delights ( L. Beauchamp); Strange Breed ( A. Lucchesi); The Third Street (J. Ellis) and most likely Gay Scene (J.Ellis); A Bit of Fluff (K. Kemp); Different (K. Kemp); Lap of Luxury ( K. Kemp); Operation: Sex ( K. Kemp); Private Party (K. Kemp) and A Labor of Love ( K. Kemp). All these covers were painted for Tower Publishing's Midwood imprint. Over 300 Midwood covers are attributed to Rader. Lynn Munroe, a dealer in vintage paperbacks, comments on the cover of Lucchesi's Strange Breed: " Rader's ability to create beautiful women made his lesbian covers favourites of both sexes. There is a hushed easy elegance in these two long-haired lovers." She also cites the cover of Kemp's Operation: Sex with its double window blind motif as an "amazing" example of Rader's skill at making the viewer an accomplice in the act of voyeurism. See Sin-A-Rama : Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixities (call no. NC 973.5 U6 S56 2005) for his biography.
Rudolph (Rudy) Nappi for Queer Patterns ( L. Brock). Nappi illustrated the Nancy Drew Mystery Series for Grosset & Dunlop from 1953 to 1979. Both Nappi and Rader were employed by Balcourt Art Service, an agency used by the Midwood imprint for cover art.
Robert A. Maguire (1921-2005) for Perfume and Pain ( K. Kemp); Young and Innocent ( E. West); and The Strange Path ( G. Wilhelm). Although his career began in 1949 with Avon Books, he worked for many publishers during his career, including Midwood, Fawcett, Ballantine, Dell, Berkley and Lion Books. Zimet comments that his women "always have beautiful eyes".
Rafael M. DeSoto ( 1904 -1992) for Twilight Lovers ( M. Gardiner); This Bed We Made ( A. Smith). The Puerto Rican-born DeSoto was one of the few artists whose paintings could inspire stories. In the 1930s and 1940s DeSoto illustrated the covers of pulp serials : Western Stories, Doc Savage, The Shadow. He then moved to illustrating covers for pulp paperbacks. In an interview DeSoto observed that " in the old days everything was done for impact ... The old drawings that jump off the page at you, the illustrated initials, the fine line work - that is an art that is almost lost and I wish that they would revive it."
Robert E. McGinnis ( b. 1926) for The Lion House ( M. Lee). McGinnis describes his favourite subject as "provocative, seductive, elegant women". He is also credited with four posters for James Bond movies. In 1993 he was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. See Illustrators 35 ( call no. NC 975 A1 I5 1993) for his biography.
Robert Bonfils (b. 1922) for The 3rd Theme ( M. Hastings). He illustrated several covers for Newsstand Library. See Sin-A-Rama : Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties (NC 973.5 U6 S56 2005) for his biography.
George Ziel born Jerzy Zielezinski (1914 - 1982) for The Damned One ( G. Des Cars)
Charles Ashford Binger (1907-1974) for Libido Beach (A. Abby)
Fred C. Rodewald (1905 - 1955) for Sorority Sin (E.S. Seeley)
Douglas B. Weaver for Satan's Daughter (J. Hudson). The cover was re-painted with gloves added and cleavage covered for Satan Was a Lesbian by Fred Haley.
Tom Miller for The Third Way ( S. Lord)
Milo for The Odd Kind ( A. Adlon)
Al Rossi for Sex in the Shadows ( R. Salem)
Darcy for The Whispered Sex ( K. Martin)
J. Raymond (Ray) App for This Too is Love ( T. Vail)
Harry Schaare (b. 1922) for Spare Her Heaven ( M. Ives)
Lesbian pulp fiction was published by most of the major paperback publishers of the day : Avon, Bantam , Popular Library, Dell. Among the publishers closely associated with the genre are:
Fawcett Publications were founded in 1919 by Wilford H. "Captain Billy" Fawcett (1883-1940) whose first notable publishing success was a popular series of ribald jokes and stories called Captain Billy's Whiz Bang.
Fawcett used several labels for its pulp genre: Gold Medal, Crest and Premier. Founded in 1949 by Wilford's son, Roscoe K. Fawcett (b.1913), Fawcett Gold Medal's innovation of publishing original work in paperback, i.e. the Paperback Original (PBO), rather than reprints of previously published work, and the generous terms it offered its authors, proved a strong incentive to young writers like Marijane Meaker a.k.a Ann Aldrich / Vin Packer who had never published in book form before. Among other Fawcett Gold Medal writers in the genre were Ann Bannon and Valerie Taylor.
In 1952 Ralph Daigh, the Fawcett editor-in-chief, was called before the U.S. Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials to answer charges that the publishing industry was corrupting the youth of America.
Ralph B. Burton , Committee Counsel: " Can you find anything in Shakespeare in equal number of pages, with as much obscene material as you find in Women's Barracks [by Tereska Torres] in the same number of pages ?"
Ralph Daigh: "Well, frankly I don't know. I go along with the chairman of the committee on the difficulty of defining the word 'obscene'. It is an extremely hard word to define, and it varies with individuals, and if I were to make such a listing it would differ from a listing made by someone else."
Midwood was founded in 1957 by Harry Shorten and named for the Midwood section of Brooklyn, N.Y. where he was raised. Midwood from its inception, like Beacon Signal, aimed its marketing at a male audience with an interest in sex and sensation. In 1964, Midwood joined with Tower Books of the World Publishing Company to form the Midwood-Tower Line.
For lesbian pulps, the cover artist most associated with Midwood-Tower was Paul Rader ; among its writers were Sloan Britton, Joan Ellis (Julie Ellis), Kimberly Kemp (Gilbert Fox), and Loren Beauchamp (Robert Silverberg). Elaine Williams, Midwood's first editor, wrote novels under the name Sloan Britton / Sloane Britain, and John Plunkett, a later editor, wrote lesbian pulps under the name Jason Hytes.
Lancer Books, founded in 1961, was closely identified with science fiction, heroic fantasy ( Conan the Barbarian), and private-eye adventure with strong sexual themes. Among the authors published by Lancer were Rea Michaels, Sylvia Sharon and Florence Stonebraker.
Universal Publishing / Beacon
Universal Publishing and Distributing Corp. ( UPD) began publishing Beacon Books in 1954, a paperback line concentrating on erotica, which later became Beacon Signal. As with Lancer Books, its interests included science fiction and adventure e.g. Nick Carter's Killmaster series. Among the writers for Beacon Signal were Arthur Adlon and Sheldon Lord.
Newsstand Library published the two March Hastings titles in our collection - The 3rd Theme and Veil of Torment. Veil of Torment and Hastings' Fear of Incest were two of 18 Newsstand Library books found to be obscene and hence nonmailable by the Judicial Officer's Department of the U.S. Post Office in 1960. The decision of the Hearing Examiner referred specifically to the publisher's presentation of the material, i.e. "pictures on the front cover and excerpts on the rear cover well designed to heighten and commercially exploit the appeal to prurient interest. Some of the books (such as Exhibit 25 -Veil of Torment) contain in the middle of the book (following page 96) an elaborate advertisement for the "Reserve Copy Club" whose members are said to receive 'fiction stories carefully selected for mature, broadminded men and women ...' What is present in each book ...is such detailed and lurid descriptions of various acts of sexual intercourse, and closely related matters, that to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest. There is material which, to quote Judge Woodbury, 'portrays sex with a loose-lipped, sensuous leer.' "
The collection includes a small sample of non-fiction titles, issued at the same time as the pulp fiction, which purport to provide serious scientific and medical investigations of lesbianism, and thus provide some protection from potential censors. Jaye Zimet observes that " these books were doused in legitimacy, and often offered more risque reading material than the novels."
Voyage From Lesbos : The Psychoanalysis of a Female Homosexual by Richard C. Robertiello, M.D. (1959)
The Lesbian in Our Society : Detailed Case Studies of the Third Sex by W.D. Sprague, Ph.D. (1962). W.D. Sprague was a pseudonym for Bela W. Von Block, a pulp fiction writer.
We Walk Alone Through Lesbos' Lonely Groves by Ann Aldrich (1955), is described as "the first nonfiction book covering lesbianism as a whole written by a lesbian" [Meeker, p. 168]. Aldrich was censured for perpetuating negative stereotypes, hence initiating a contentious decade-long debate between Aldrich and the Daughters of Bilitis, a pioneer lesbian advocacy group and publisher of The Ladder. Aldrich continued along the same track in We, Too, Must Love (1958), Carol, in a Thousand Cities (1960), an anthology which included "The Ladder, Rung by Rung", her critical review of the DOB's publication , and in We Two Won't Last (1963). Please refer to Michael Meeker for a detailed account of this episode as representative of "the politics of communication".
Compiled by Terry Paris, Collections & Archives Librarian. Updated February 27, 2013