John Inman Discusses His Lammy Nominated Gay Horror novel, The Boys On The Mountain

Author John Inman answers a few questions about his gay horror, ghost story, The Boys On The Mountain
Blurb:

Jim Brandon has a new house, and boy, is it a pip. Built high on the side of the San Diego mountains by a legendary B-movie actor of the 1930s, Nigel Letters, the house is not only gorgeous, but supposedly haunted. As a writer of horror novels, Jim couldn’t be happier.

But after a string of ghostly events sets Jim’s teeth on edge and scares the bejesus out of his dog, Jim begins to dig into the house’s history. What he finds is enough to creep out anybody. Even Jim. It seems long dead Nigel Letters had a few nasty habits back in his day. And unhappily for Jim, the old bastard still has some tricks up his sleeve.

As Jim welcomes his ex, Michael, and a bevy of old friends for a two-week visit to help christen the new house, he soon realizes his old friends aren’t the only visitors who have come to call.

1.  How did you come up with the idea for THE BOYS ON THE MOUNTAIN?
I once rented a home in San Diego that was built by character actor Victor Buono.  He reportedly built it for his parents, but I can’t verify that.  Anyway, it was a great old house.  Beautiful.  Every closet was a walk-in.  The fireplace in the living room was gorgeous.  Rounded ceilings, the whole nine yards.  It even had a teeny tiny door in the back for the days when milk was delivered to the house by the neighborhood milkman. All the time I lived there I used to wonder about the many people who had lived in the house before me, whether they left traces of themselves behind.  While I never saw a ghost in the house, I did manage to creep myself out more than once.  Imagining sounds and all that.  It was during this time that I got the idea of writing a book about an actor who was also a serial killer, natch.  Living in a spooky old house built by an old-time actor, why wouldn’t I?  While I’m pretty sure Victor Buono never offed anybody, the simple fact that I was living in a place with ties to Hollywood, however tenuous, was enough to get the old creative juices flowing.
BoysontheMountain[The]FS
 By the time I had finished writing the book, there was so much sex and violence in the story, I never really thought I would be able to find a publisher for it.  Of course, at that time in my life, I wasn’t having much luck finding a publisher for anything else I wrote either.  Then along came Dreamspinner Press.  While DSP bought this story almost five years ago, it was always made clear that they wouldn’t release it until the new imprint (which later became DSP Publications) came online, since BOYS isn’t actually a romance, as all DSP books are required to be.  And I have to say, they were right.  DSP Publications turned out to be a perfect home for it.  I couldn’t be happier.
2.  Were you surprised when BOYS was declared a finalist at the Lambda Literary Awards?
“Surprised” doesn’t quite cover it.  I was flabbergasted.  The fact that Elizabeth North had enough faith in the book to submit it to the Lammies at all was a gift I’ll never forget.  Then to actually come up a finalist — geez, I couldn’t believe it.  Out of almost a hundred books in my genre?  It was incredible.  My husband and I have our tickets by the way.  Airfare to NYC, hotel rooms booked, we’re ready to go. We wouldn’t miss the awards show for the world.  I know winning is a long shot, but I figure I have as much chance as anyone else.  And it really is true when people say they are just honored to be among the finalists.  That’s exactly how I feel.  I know what I’m up against.  I’ve read a couple of the books in my category of SciFi/Horror and they are damn good books.  It really is humbling to find BOYS standing there among them.
3.  Okay, I guess I have to ask this.  Do you believe in ghosts?
LOL.  I knew that was going to come up.  Okay, I’ll tell you the truth.  Uh…..yes.  I do.  When I was a kid I saw my grandfather, whom I was extremely close to, standing at the foot of my bed in the middle of the night a week after he passed away.  Later in my life, when I was in my early twenties, my brother was killed in a freak accident.  A horrible experience.  My mother had a nervous breakdown over it.  Anyway, one night I dreamed of him.  He was sitting on the bank of a lake fishing, just like we used to do when he was alive.  In the middle of the dream, he turned to me and said,  “Tell mom I’m happy.”  I still get goosebumps thinking about it.  So after I hemmed and hawed over it for a while, afraid maybe relaying my dream would make my mom suffer even more, I finally built up my courage and told her what my brother had said.  And you know what?  It helped her.  I know both those instances might have come about because of wishful thinking on my part.  Or simple imagination.  Or whatever.  But they still ring true in my mind.  So yes, I have to say I do believe in ghosts.

Exclusive Excerpt: Lambda Literary Award Winner – Tarnished Gold – Best Lesbian Mystery

Tarnished Gold by Ann Aptaker – Lambda Literary Award Winner – Lesbian Mystery 

AnnAptaker

A Cantor Gold Crime.

Blurb:

New York City, 1950. Cantor Gold, art smuggler and dapper dyke-about-town, hunts for a missing masterpiece she’s risked her life to bring through the port of New York. She must outsmart the Law that wants to jail her; outrun the dockside gangsters who would let her take the fall for murder; and outplay a shady art dealer, his lover, and a beautiful curator who toys with Cantor’s passion. Through it all, Cantor must stay out of the gunsights of a killer who’s knocking off rivals for the missing masterpiece—and stay alive to solve the mystery of her stolen love: Sophie de la Luna y Sol.

Excerpt:

TARNISHED GOLD – by Ann Aptaker

Time: 1950

Place: The office of NYPD Homicide Detective Norm Huber

Setup: Dapper dyke and art smuggler Cantor Gold is being interrogated for murder

 Chapter Seven

Barking dogs. Snapping alligators. Dirty brown clouds fat with storms. I see their shapes in the soot and tobacco stains on the window behind Lieutenant Huber’s desk. Picking out shapes on the glass is all that’s keeping me from going loopy from the drone of Huber’s tedious grilling, or howling like a banshee at the memory of Marcus Stern’s exploding head.

Marcus Stern, Hannah Jacobson: brother and sister whose family has suffered more death and destruction than heaven should allow. And Huber, for all his droning, all his grilling,  doesn’t know the half of it.

All he knows is that Mrs. J and Marcus Stern were murdered in the here and now and that I show up in both killings. Huber’s knocking himself out trying to attach their deaths to me, somehow find some scrap that will give him the satisfaction of sending me to prison, which seems to be every New York cop’s wet dream.

So I’m stuck here in Huber’s office, my face still sticky and stinging, and my coat still reeking with the bloody remnants of Marcus Stern’s skull and brains.

Huber’s had me going around and around about the Stern shooting for the better part of the afternoon, ever since he had me brought back to Manhattan for questioning after the Queens cops wasted about three hours of my time. The Queens boys weren’t happy about handing me over to their more well connected rivals in Skyscraper-ville, but their hurt feelings were nothing compared to how I felt about it. I wasn’t crazy about them taking my gun, either.

My annoyance collapsed into bone crushing tedium by the time Huber pumped me about the Stern shooting for the umpteenth time through that buzzy growl of his, though I’ve given him nothing new with each telling. He’s taking his frustration out on his unlit cigar, chewing the end like a dog working a piece of gristle.

He can gag on that cigar, for all I care. He’ll never hear it from me about the mysterious woman who scared the crap out of Stern at the cemetery. I don’t share anything with cops.

And I’m sick and tired of Huber’s company. It’s time to get the hell out of here.

So I reach for the phone on Huber’s desk.

His hand slams on the receiver. “And whaddya think you’re doing?” he says.

“Taking my rights as a citizen, Lieutenant. I’m entitled to a phone call.”

“You’re entitled to what I say you’re entitled to.” He pulls the phone away from me, parks it close to him.

“Sure, I forgot,” I say. “You’re Daddy Law. Mustn’t disobey Daddy.”

TarnishedGold

He finds that funny; anyway, he’s laughing, sort of, if you can call that toothy rasp of his a laugh. “Daddy Law! Not bad, Gold. But I hope you don’t think it’ll make me like you any better.”

“You’ve got a right not to like me, Lieutenant, but I’ve got a right to use the phone.”

He’s not laughing anymore but he’s still enjoying himself, still playing petty with me. Maybe he can’t make me talk, but he can control my use of the phone.

He finally lights his cigar, takes his time about it, too, letting the match hover at the burning tip. Then he sucks two or three times on the damn thing, the flesh under his day-old stubble on his skinny face creasing like a dirty pillowcase. He finally tosses the match away, saying, “Okay, sure, go ahead, make your damn phone call. Calling your lawyer, I suppose?” He pushes the phone towards me like he’s offering candy.

“I guess you’re just too smart for me, Lieutenant.”

“Don’t get cute, Gold. Y’know, it could be a while ’til your lawyer gets here, and in the meantime you’re still mine.”

I do my best to ignore that stomach turning thought, just take the phone and dial the number. The whirr and click of the rotary almost masks the sloppy pop of Huber’s lips puffing the wet end of his cigar.

It’s not my lawyer I’m dialing, it’s my office. I get Judson on the line, but before I get a chance to say anything past “Hello,” Judson says, “Hey, where you been? Drogan called. He wants you to meet him at Smiley’s Bar. You know the place, across from Pier 18 near the fish market. He said he’ll wait.”

“Yeah, okay. Listen, I need you to spring my car from the police lot in Queens and get the busted window replaced and the interior cleaned up. And tell the repair guy he’ll see an extra fifty to get the job done this afternoon.”

“How the hell did the window get busted?”

“Tell you later. One more thing”—I look straight at Huber, who’s still puffing the cigar behind a cloud of smoke that can’t completely obscure his smug disgust with me—“call my lawyer. Send him to Lieutenant Huber’s office. Now.

”When I hang up, Huber’s grinning around that cigar. Then he talks around it, tobacco juice pooling between his teeth. “Y’know, Gold, for all your big money and flashy style, for all the fancy women in your life—yeah, sure, I know all about that. Sickening, if you ask me—for all that, you’re nothing but a no-good lowlife who keeps lousy company. Death squads seem to follow you around. You visit Hannah Jacobson and she gets cut to ribbons. Her brother Marcus Stern gets into your car, and, bang, he’s blown to Kingdom Come. And how many times do I have to ask you what the hell he was doing in your car anyway? Why wasn’t he with his family after the funeral?”

“You’re wasting your time, Lieutenant. My lawyer’s office isn’t far. He’ll be here pretty soon to spring me, since you have nothing to hold me except your deep dislike of me, my love life, and my tailoring. So why don’t you forget about all that and do something useful, like arrange police protection for Stern’s wife and daughter? Or are you using them as bait? I wouldn’t put it past you.

”You’d think I’d learn by now not to toy with cops, but it’s too much fun and I can never resist an opportunity to stick a pin in their puffed up chests, like calling Huber Daddy Law. But I’ve gone too far this time. I know it because I recognize what’s going on in Huber’s eyes and on his face—darkening, reddening—as he puts his cigar down, stands up so slowly and moves his stick of a body around his desk so calmly that the air around him won’t even ripple. I know what’s coming and there’s nothing I can do about it, because if I raise a hand to a cop in a police station I’ll wind up broken and bleeding on the floor of a holding cell, worked over by every cop in the building, even the traffic boys. So when Huber’s fist slams into the left side of my jaw I’m stung by the pain but not by surprise.
LammySeal-actualsize_2013-e1377558848107

He grabs the armrests on either side of me, pins me to the chair. His flushed face and cigar-stained teeth are a grotesque study in red and yellow. Stick a picture frame around his bony head and he’d pass for an Expressionist portrait of meanness. “You got your nerve, Gold,” he says through a predatory growl. “Everything about you is an insult to what’s good and decent in this country, you hear me? You think you know my job? Well I’m way ahead of you. I posted a patrol at the Stern house while you were on your way here from Queens. I was free to do that, Gold, while you were stuck in a paddy wagon. You get my drift?”

The temptation to rip his lips to shreds and get that smug ugly smile off his face is so strong I figure it might be worth the beating I’d take in the slammer, but I’m distracted—and Huber’s mouth saved from disfigurement—by the musky tang of expensive men’s cologne drifting into the room. Irwin Maximovic, my lawyer, is coming through the door, all three hundred elegantly fat pounds of him.

If you want a lesson in just how confident, quiet and polite pure power can be, all you have to do is listen to the refined patter of Winnie Maximovic. “Good afternoon, Lieutenant Huber. Always a pleasure to see you. I know a policeman’s lot is a busy one, so I wouldn’t dream of wasting your time. May I inquire on what charge you are holding my client?” The smile on Winnie’s fleshy face, like a fold in a satchel, would charm the stars out of the sky, and then he’d step on them.

Huber picks up his cigar again and chomps it between his teeth. “You can skip the theatrics, counselor. Just get lost and take your client with you. She’s stinkin’ up the joint, and so are you, if you want my opinion. The sooner the two of you get out of here the sooner my office can air out.”

Winnie, still smiling, says, “Well then, let’s go, Cantor,” but he immediately changes his mind and says, “Sit down again, Cantor.” He’s seen the bruise on my jaw, my split lip, the smears of Marcus Stern on my face. “Lieutenant? To what do we owe the injuries to my client’s face?”

“Haven’t you heard? She was behind the wheel when the passenger in her car was shot to death. Head blown to bits. Glass and flesh and pieces of the guy’s skull flew everywhere. She must’ve caught some. Isn’t that right, Gold?” It’s not a question. It’s a coded instruction not to make trouble for him. Ordinarily he wouldn’t care; cops slap people around every day and get away with it. But he knows that Winnie Maximovic has more lines into City Hall than the phone company. Huber may not care who digs around in his personal life, a fact he lorded over me last night, but no cop really wants their name dangled like fruit in front of the higher-ups, even if their name is clean. It annoys those higher-ups, makes extra paperwork for them, puts blisters on their fingers, and if that happens, Huber would take it out on me. Maybe not now, maybe not soon, but down the line, when the heat’s off him and no one’s looking.

Winnie, dry as toast, says, “Is the lieutenant’s account true, Cantor?”“True enough,” I say. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.” Getting rid of Huber feels as good as having a good shit.

Before Winnie and I leave the building I stop in a restroom to wash up. There’s nothing but cold water, and its chill stings the cuts on my face. Framed by the mirror, I look like a recruiting poster for one of those death squads Huber says follows me around. Last night’s gash to my chin has new company: the patch on my jaw where Huber walloped me is red as raw meat and already turning black and blue; there’s blood on my split lip and crusting remnants of Marcus Stern on my cap and overcoat. I wash the blood off, get rid of as much brain pulp and bone splinters as I can, but violence and death still cling to me like sweat.

Amazon:
Bold Strokes Books:

EXCERPT: Iron Goddess: A Shea Stevens Thriller by Dharma Kelleher – Lesbian Thriller

Blurb:

In this gritty, fast-paced debut thriller, an ex-con biker chick turned law-abiding citizen risks everything to save her new life—and confront the demons of her past.

Shea Stevens is biker royalty. Her father was the president of the Confederate Thunder Motorcycle Club. Under his watchful eye, she learned how to pick locks, disable alarms, and hot-wire cars like a pro. But all that is ancient history. Or so she thought . . .

After a stint in prison, Shea has worked hard to make a quiet, happy life for herself in Arizona. She spends her time bonding with her big-city girlfriend and running her bike shop, Iron Goddess Custom Cycles, with her dedicated team of misfits. But when one of her employees is shot and three of her specially commissioned bikes are stolen, Shea’s new life collides with the criminal underworld she tried to leave behind.

Shea knows better than to trust the police. So, with her Glock on her hip, she takes the investigation into her own hands. Shea’s search for the bike thieves leads her straight to her father’s old gang—and her estranged sister, whose young daughter has been kidnapped by a rival club. The last thing Shea wants is to be caught in the middle of a war—but if she learned one thing from her old man, it’s that when someone comes at you, you push back. Hard. And that’s exactly what she’s going to do.

kell_IronGoddess_cvr_all_r5b1

Excerpt:

Sparks exploded from the left footpeg of Shea Stevens’ motorcycle as it scraped against the pavement. She was going too fast through the curves that twisted up the south side of Sycamore Mountain. The road was dark—daybreak still an hour away. Getting up close and personal with an elk at sixty miles an hour would be disastrous. But Shea was in a hurry.

She tried to convince herself the call from the security company was another false alarm—a rat looking for a crumb, or maybe a glitch in the sensors. But she couldn’t shake the fear that someone had broken into the shop. If the three custom motorcycles they’d finished the night before were stolen, it would be a quarter-million-dollar loss.

Please, God, let it be another false alarm.

The cold air blasting through the vents in her jacket caused her teeth to chatter. In her rush to alleviate her paranoia, she’d thrown on her jeans and T-shirt from the night before. Didn’t bother with a bra. Her only precaution had been the .40-caliber Glock she’d slipped into a pancake holster at the small of her back.

Fifteen minutes later, her bike crested the hill and reached what the residents of Sycamore Springs, Arizona, call Olde Towne—a mile-long strip of locally owned shops including a café, a pharmacy, an antiques shop, and Iron Goddess Custom Cycles—her destination.

She screeched to a stop in front of the cycle shop, killed the engine, and ripped off her helmet. The pungent scent of creosote mixed with dead skunk made her nose crinkle. Moonlight reflected off the desert dust on the plate glass window, obscuring the Iron Goddess logo. Her gaze shifted left to the shop’s front door. Shards of glass clung to the doorframe like broken teeth.

“Fuck.” Her hands tightened into fists. She wanted to beat someone.

She climbed off the bike and scanned the street, hoping to spot the intruder skulking through Olde Towne. Fifty feet away at the Kokopelli Café, a Coca-Cola sign flickered on and off. Across the street, a security gate sliced the blue light of a fifties-era jukebox glowing from within the antiques shop. The rest of Olde Towne’s shops slumbered in darkness.

She dug a flashlight out of her tank bag and drew the Glock, turning her attention back to Iron Goddess. She crept onto the cement porch, paused outside the door, and listened for anyone who might be inside. Somewhere in the darkness, a pack of coyotes performed a predawn symphony of yips and high-pitched howls over a recent kill. Two delivery trucks roared past three minutes apart. But no voices or sounds of crunching glass came from inside Iron Goddess. If anyone was in there, they may have hunkered down when they heard her motorcycle. She had to find out for sure.

Drops of a dark liquid on the concrete caught her attention. Was it oil or blood? She brushed it with a finger, creating a crimson smear. Blood. Her pulse quickened.

She pulled on the door handle. It was unlocked. Thief must’ve reached in and unlocked it after breaking the glass. She scolded herself for not getting a double-cylinder lock.

After slipping in through the door, she scanned the place with her flashlight. Tiny bits of glass sparkled like jewels across the floor. A bowling ball–sized rock lay near the front sales counter. The familiar industrial smell of the showroom mixed with the organic tang of blood. Her fist tightened on the grip of the gun.

More drops of blood led off to the right. She considered turning on the lights, but didn’t want to blow what little stealth she had left. Broken glass crunched under her boots with each step. Moving slower didn’t make it any quieter.

She followed the trail of blood around the counter to where three custom-ordered bikes and several production bikes had been parked hours earlier; they were now gone.

Clothing racks for motorcycle jackets and pants had been cleared. Empty hangers lay scattered on the floor. Shelves that once displayed helmets, boots, and other gear had been stripped bare.

Shea felt sucker-punched. Her mind kept telling her it was a dream.

Her heart leapt into her throat when someone coughed and moaned. She ducked down until she heard it again. Her finger slipped onto the trigger. She swung the flashlight around and found a man lying on the floor in the motor oil aisle. She approached cautiously, ignoring the pulse pounding in her ears.

With the light on the man’s face, she recognized him as Derek Williams, one of her employees.

She slapped on the overhead lights. Derek was a scrawny guy, just shy of his twentieth birthday. His stubbly face was pale and clammy. Blood covered his shirt, pooling on the floor around his chest.

“Aw shit, Derek!” She holstered her gun and knelt down next to him.

He opened his eyes for a moment. “They made me,” he wheezed before coughing up blood.

“Who? Who did this to you?”

His eyes lost focus and closed.

She checked his pulse. Her own heart beat so fast she couldn’t tell if he had a pulse or not. She pulled out her phone.

“Cortes County 911—what’s your emergency?”

“I need an ambulance at Iron Goddess Custom Cycles, 8234 South Sycamore Highway. My friend is bleeding.”

“How is he injured, ma’am?”

“I . . . I don’t know. I just found him. He’s got blood all over his chest. I think someone shot him.”

“Is he breathing?”

“Uh . . . let me check.” She put her ear to his mouth and could hear shallow, gurgling breaths. “He’s breathing, but barely.”

“We’ve dispatched an ambulance. It’ll be there momentarily.”

Shea hung up the phone and checked his pulse again. It was there, but weak. Then it stopped. She struggled to remember the lessons from a CPR course two years earlier. She clasped her hands and compressed in the center of his chest. Blood gushed from his wounds. That wasn’t in the course.

She lifted up his shirt. His chest was smeared with blood. She wiped away as much as she could. Dark liquid oozed from two dime-sized wounds, one right above his heart, the other closer to his left shoulder.

“Shit!”

His shirt was soaked. Wouldn’t work to stop the blood, even if she could get it off him. Shea looked for something else to use. The nearby shelves were stocked with bottles of motor oil, industrial cleaners, and cans of chain lube. No shop cloths or clothing.

She scrambled out of her jacket, pulled off her shirt, and twisted it into a tight wad. She pressed it over the wounds and compressed his chest again. The T-shirt kept the bleeding to a minimum. She continued pumping his chest. “Come on, Derek. Gimme a heartbeat.”

After fifty compressions, she checked again. Still no pulse. She continued pounding on his chest, desperately trying to minimize the bleeding and hoping the EMTs would arrive before she ran out of energy.

Her back was beginning to cramp up when the silver bell on the front door jingled.

“Over here!” she yelled.

Two deputies rushed in, guns pointed at her.

“Sheriff’s Office! Get on the floor. Hands behind your head.”

Find Dharma Kelleher on the web:

Home

 

28th Lambda Literary Award Winners Announced – Gay & Lesbian Mystery

LammySeal-actualsize_2013-e1377558848107

Boystown 7 Cover 2nd Edition2

28th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners in Mystery

Lambda Literary Award Winner – Gay Mystery 

Boystown 7: Bloodlines by Marshall Thornton

In the seventh book of the award-winning Boystown Mystery series, Private Investigator Nick Nowak finds himself simultaneously working two cases for his new client, law firm Cooke, Babcock and Lackerby. A suburban dentist has been convicted of murdering her adulterous husband. Nick is asked to interview witnesses for the penalty phase of the trial—and possibly find the dead man’s mistress. At the same time, he’s deeply involved in protecting Outfit underboss Jimmy English from a task force out to prosecute him for a crime he may not have committed. While juggling these cases Nick slowly begins to rebuild his personal life.

Lambda Literary Award Winner – Lesbian Mystery

Tarnished Gold by Ann Aptaker

TarnishedGold

New York City, 1950. Cantor Gold, art smuggler and dapper dyke-about-town, hunts for a missing masterpiece she’s risked her life to bring through the port of New York. She must outsmart the Law that wants to jail her; outrun the dockside gangsters who would let her take the fall for murder; and outplay a shady art dealer, his lover, and a beautiful curator who toys with Cantor’s passion. Through it all, Cantor must stay out of the gunsights of a killer who’s knocking off rivals for the missing masterpiece—and stay alive to solve the mystery of her stolen love: Sophie de la Luna y Sol.

A Cantor Gold Crime.

 

28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards Announced Monday, June 6th, 2016!

LammyFinalist_Small_Web_v3

The 28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards are set to be given out to the winners on Monday, June 6th, 2016 in New York. Good luck to all the nominees, especially those in the Gay & Lesbian Mystery categories;

 

 

Lesbian Mystery

RelativelyRaineyCoverEllenHart23TarnishedGold

The Grave Soul, Ellen Hart, Minotaur Books
Illicit Artifacts, Stevie Mikayne, Bold Strokes Books
Ordinary Mayhem, Victoria Brownworth, Bold Strokes Books
No Good Reason, Cari Hunter, Bold Strokes Books
The Red Files, Lee Winter, Ylva Publishing
Relatively Rainey, R.E. Bradshaw, R.E. Bradshaw Books
Tarnished Gold, Ann Aptaker, Bold Strokes Books
The Tattered Heiress: Volume Two of the Charlotte Olmes Mystery Series, Debra Hyde, Riverdale Avenue Books

Boystown 7Cheap_as_Beasts_finalcoverJEditafterthehorses

Gay Mystery

After the Horses, Jeffrey Round, Dundurn
The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter, Tom Mendicino, Kensington Publishing
Boystown 7: Bloodlines, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books
Cheap as Beasts, Jon Wilson, Bold Strokes Books
Introducing Sunfish & Starfish: Tropical Drag Queen Detectives, Wallace Godfrey, Strand Hill Books
Murder and Mayhem, Rhys Ford, Dreamspinner Press
Orient, Christopher Bollen, Harper
The Swede, Robert Karjel, Harper

28th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists

Guest Blogger: Pink Lemonade by multi-talented author, Jon Wilson



 photo TitleBanner.jpg


A five-part series wherein I examine the pitfalls—both real and imagined—and difficulties—both encountered or merely anticipated—to being a gay author in the 21st Century, and attempt to discuss how said pitfalls and difficulties can be used to our advantage, thereby employing the old adage “Making lemons into lemonade.” (And, in advance of the inevitable inquiry, allow me to retreat into the naivete allowed one of my advanced years and answer simply: “What’s a Beyonce?”)




Part 5:
Gay Villainy

or

“But I Don’t Wanna Play a Cop, Momma”



The January 1955 issue of ONE magazine featured an essay by Norman Mailer entitled “The Homosexual Villain”. Yeah, written by the very same guy who infamously proclaimed “homosexual potentiality” was something true men overcame. According to John Loughery, in The Other Side of Silence: Men’s Lives & Gay Identities – A Twentieth-Century History:


“Though [Mailer] later repudiated “The Homosexual Villain” as a lapse on his part into liberal sentimentality, gay readers were impressed at the time by the novelist’s admission of his own homophobia and use of gay men as cardboard bad guys in his fiction…”



Sadly I can’t find Mailer’s essay archived online. Proof of its existence, like the existence of the Colossus of Rhodes or the Babylonian Hanging Gardens, lies only in other’s retellings of it. (Really we need an online LGBT archive people!) Or you can buy Mailer’s book. He’s been dead almost ten years but I’m sure where ever that’s left him, he’s still gleefully counting sales.


NM Cover.jpg
It’s actually probably worth at least checking out from your local library for “The Homosexual Villain” and “The White Negro” alone.



I discussed masculinity and the gay perspective in Thursday’s Pink Lemonade Part 3 (or, alternately, HERE). Today I want to talk about Gay Villainy and whether or not we’re now living in a post-GayLib world.



Last year, the Advocate offered a list of the 21 Best and Worst Queer Movie Villains (watch out, there are ads galore on that website). Five years ago, Salon took a more focused look at the topic (an even worse site as far as intrusive ads are concerned), wondering whether Javier Bardem’s Bond villain should be seen as progress or relapse. ..Though they, too, couldn’t resist the clickbait that are listicles.



I do appreciate that there isn’t complete overlap in the lists. For instance, Salon includes Baron Harkonnen (from Dune) and Frank Fitts (American Beauty), both of whom I’ll talk about a little more later, and the Advocate lists Joel Cairo (The Maltese Falcon), the Leopold and Loeb clones in Hitchcock’s Rope, and Dr. Elliot (Dressed to Kill). There is of course cross-over and its about what you’d expect: Ripley, Tramell and Buffalo Bill, among others. Both also include Miriam Blaylock (The Hunger) which left me scratching my head. Maybe it was where I was at at the time, but I never saw her as a villain.



Interestingly, the lesser-known (to me) website NewNowNext compiled the best list maybe because they came at it with a more decidedly gay sensibility and realized “Embarrassing” was the appropriate way to describe some of these characters. I loved the inclusion of Praetorius (The Bride of Frankenstein) because he looms so large in my childhood memories.


BoF still.jpg
Ernest Thesiger, as Praetorius, also looms large over John Carradine in director James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein.



None of the lists mention Sebastian Venable, maybe because he’s already dead at the start of Suddenly Last Summer. I discussed that play/film in yesterday’s Pink Lemonade, along with my thoughts on Tennessee Williams. I claimed Venable was the prototype of the evil homosexual perceived by America in the post WW2 years: manipulative (he employs his mother and cousin as bait) and predatory (he does something never-quite-made-explicit to young men).



For me, the various gay villains listed fall into a few discreet categories. There are those who’s evil seems to stem solely from their queerness. I’m looking at you boys from Rope, and you Frank Fitts and, yes, even you my beloved Praetorius. Praetorius also falls into another category, which is ‘he’s gay (or a pansy, which is what it usually means) because then the audience/reader will immediately know he’s up to no good’. Other examples from that category include Waldo Lydecker (Laura), Joel Cairo and even Scar from the Lion King. Scar crosses over into a separate subset, ‘pansy royalty’, rubbing his leonine shoulders and pedicured claws with the Princes John and Edward, (The Adventures of Robin Hood and, everyone’s favorite film, Braveheart, respectively). And then there are those who’s gayness is a sort of character enhancement. This category would include Ripley (can I just say how much I hated that Matt Damon movie?), Baron Harkonnen, and Bond’s Raoul Silva. (It’s maybe Bardem himself, but that character really creeped me out.)




About five years ago, The Wrap, also ran a story about gay villainy, this time “applauding” the arrival of what they called the new gay villain. These were examples from my last category above. Those who’s gayness seems to have been added as a character enhancement.


“Once, branding a villain as homosexual was dehumanizing. Today, a villain’s homosexuality is often the most humanizing thing about him.


“The arrival of more nuanced, less stereotypical gay villains comes as gay characters receive more realistic portrayals on shows like ABC’s hit “Modern Family.” Rather than remaining relegated to the rom-com role of gay best friend, gay characters are finally moving the action. ”




Okay, first, I object to Cam and Ginger’s characters being called more realistic. They ARE NOT routinely humiliated for the sole fact of their sexuality. but they spend a lot of time being “gay” (as a tv character trope) as opposed to “gay” (as a real life phenomenon).



The Wrap article goes on to say this, without any apparent irony:


“[A]t least Bond has a worthy gay adversary.


“In the bad old days, films and movies gave their villains mincing walks, frilly outfits, flowery language, fussy cats and all sorts of other supposedly effeminate accessories to tip off viewers that they were homosexual – as if homosexuality were synonymous with weakness.”



Now watch that scene again. Yeah.



John Waters, appearing on the now-defunct Craig Ferguson show said this: ”I sometimes argue with some of the gay militant groups because, why do we have to be ‘good’ all of sudden? I’m for the rights of bad lesbian mothers. I think that I’m for gay villains. I don’t think suddenly we have to be good all the time.”



I agree with Waters generally. I haven’t yet featured a gay villain in any of my books. (It’s been suggested that Liam O’Mara and Sam Mackey may have had a homosexual past, but, for me, the closest thing to a villain I have in A Hundred Little Lies is the protagonist, Jack Tully.) But I’m not adverse to it. There is the shady character of Hobie Wainwright in the Declan Colette books, but nothing much is known about him at this point and whether or not he emerges as a good guy or a bad’un remains to be seen.


The westerns.jpg
The Author’s Westerns (yeah, I keep pimping them)

Available from Lethe Press!



I do worry about putting in a gay villain who’s villainy stems from his or her homosexuality. And I fret when I read current gay mysteries that seem to fall back, at least in part, on that trope. I can happily say that the most distressing formula that still regularly recurs is the murder (or suicide) as a result of gay blackmail, which I hope to address (and hopefully subvert) in a Colette story soon. I’m also not pleased that so many gay mysteries still involve, to varying degrees, male prostitution. I’ve never known a male prostitute, in RL, except the one I hired one time so that I could say I did, but as they are more often victims than villains, that’s a topic for another time.



I don’t worry about writing a gay villain who’s gayness is merely character enhancement. I’m not sure I’d be able to do that. Nor do I worry about creating a character who’s gayness is merely a symptom of his deviance. At the very least, I’d hope such a signal would be misread by my readers! No, both of those seem like pitfalls straight writers need to keep an eye out for.



So, writing this, I’ve been racking my brain to come up with a gay villain I “liked”. The Wrap article identifies Omar (HBO’s The Wire) as a “model for the modern-day gay villains…” But, like Catherine Deneuve’s vampiress in The Hunger, I never thought of Omar as a villain. He’s an anti-hero, which is a VERY different character type.



The best I could come up with were Joel Cairo (in the book, The Maltese Falcon, more than the movie) and Praetorius, even though both of them were tagged as “weak” (or sissified) by their deviant natures. And then I remembered Doctor Smith from Lost in Space, who typifies every bad stereotype a gay character can embody (though more so as the series progressed, early on he was quite evil). But, y’know, even as a kid I felt I knew where he was coming from and always found myself secretly rooting for him…


AuthorPic

Jon Wilson is the author of Cheap as Beasts, a current finalist for the Lambda Literary Award Best Gay Mystery of 2015. He’s also written a follow-up volume, Every Unworthy Thing, as well as two westerns. He lives and works in Northern California, where he worries that all that bleach may have done irreparable harm to Javier Bardem’s hair.





The Pink Lemonade Blog Tour concludes tomorrow at Charlie Cochrane’s Blog, and, if you missed any previous entries, you can find them HERE (Part 1), HERE (Part 2), HERE (Part 3), and HERE (Part 4).

I’m giving away a signed copy of both the Declan Colette books at the end of this blog tour. Just leave a semi-cogent comment (which, I suppose, means I’ll have to allow “YOU SUCK!”) to any of the five parts in the Pink Lemonade Blog Tour to enter (if you leave multiple comments or comment each day, you get entered for each comment)!


CAB

EUT