|Vol. 2 No. 2||
(Vol. 2 No. 2) April 2003, is published and © 2003 by Earl Kemp. All rights reserved.
Son of "The Mother of All Wars"
In the good old days of pulp fiction, there were fascinating icons like world-class evildoers who were so evil it was difficult to contemplate them in the first place. And, there were equally dedicated symbols of All Things Good that relentlessly and unsuccessfully sought to crush them at every turn.
My favorite of them all was Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu series.
Fu Manchu was that evildoer, the Number One terrorist, the protagonist, the antihero the ultimate baddie.
Sir Denis Nayland Smith represented Goodness and devoted all of his resources, time, and attention to tracking the sinister menace that threatened the entire known civilized world.
It is so difficult even to contemplate such a one-person, world-threatening, all-evil character, much less to think that a real life counterpart might exist, in someone's imagination, in a real world.
The Administration of the USA (they) once wanted us to see Osama bin Laden as playing the part of Fu Manchu, the ultimate in sinister evilness. And, of course, that same Administration (however many "we the peoples," "fellow citizens," or "us" get bandied about) as the absolute only ultimate world authority on what is right for everyone and, especially, what is "God's" side in supporting the depraved double-talk actions of that ruling-class cartel.
My dick is bigger than your dick so that means [one nation under] God gives me alone in all the world the right to give you a terrible thrill. I can even use my weapons of mass destruction on you to make sure you don't have any weapons of mass destruction to use on me just in case you might think of trying it someday. Incomprehensible aggression becomes national defense. Unwanted conqueror becomes uninvited liberator. Traitors all to their own language! Ah, the embarrassingly banal bellowing a mantra for the enraged, ravenous beast.
Then, after more than a year of diligently, relentlessly, and unsuccessfully Smith-like tracking the sinister menace that threatens the entire known civilized world, after the expenditure of never-to-be-known billions of taxpayer dollars, the Administration almost quietly wants to ignore bin Laden's previously all-demanding, pressing existence, and refocus the Administration's hatred on Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
Or is it just yet another clever ploy to divert the dummied-down mentality of the marching morons so they won't see they're being lined up, targets affixed, for what looks surprisingly like a land-grab to enrich yet even more good old boy businessmen?
Most of the known civilized world seems to see it that way too, much to my surprise.
Most of the known civilized world appear to view George W. Bush as performing the Fu Manchu role on the endless terrorist stage of his own imagination.
Who will step forward to play the part of Lord Smith?
Do the citizens ("Not In My Name") of the known civilized world - including the USA (?) - have hope enough left to suppose that anything could save them from the evildoers?
"The Lady or the Tiger" continues, endlessly, rerunning over and over. Only the names of Evil and Good get switched around every decade or so to confuse those of us who are old enough to remember how thoroughly they've rammed it to us before.
--Dated March 6, 2003--
Teacher, Teacher! He did it again. I watched him do it.
The biggest, strongest, healthiest, roughest, and best outfitted kid in the whole entire schoolyard picked up a very big stick and clobbered the smallest, weakest, sickest, most ineffectual, and least equipped kid. Just like that.
He said he was doing it for me because he didn't like the looks of our weak classmate, that he dressed funny and did things he didn't like, and besides, God made him do it.
Teacher, why does God only help the strong?
--Dated March 20, 2003--
In Charles Freudenthal's article, the caption beneath the photograph of the cat should be changed to Shithead.
In Alexei Panshin's article, the caption beneath the photograph of Earl Kemp and Alexei Panshin should have the date fixed as 1968.
The Photograph of Alexei Panshin alone should have the date fixed as Boskone February 1979.
THIS ISSUE of eI is dedicated to my good friend and ex-co-worker of many years duration, Robert Bonfils, the world's greatest paperback cover artist. You will find many examples of his work featured throughout this issue, and every issue, of eI. It is also in memory of "Clyde Allison," Virginia Heinlein, Virginia Kidd, William Knoles, and Harry Warner, Jr.
As in every issue, everything appearing here under my byline is part of my in-progress rough-draft memoirs. I would appreciate any corrections, extensions, photographs, jpegs, or kudos you would care to pass along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I thank you in advance for your help in making these memories more accurate.
Bill Burns, as always, deserves most of the credit for making eI look as very special as I feel it does. I can never thank him enough nor can I recommend eFanzines.com often enough to please me.
MANY PEOPLE make eI possible. These are responsible for this issue: Victor J. Banis, Robert Bonfils, Bruce Brenner, Richard Curtis, Howard DeVore, Charles Freudenthal, Dave Locke, Barry Malzberg, Lynn Munroe, Michael Resnick, Steve Stiles, Robert Speray, John Teehan, Jerry Peters, Ryan Richardson, Alan White, Charlie Williams, and Richard Yerxa. They had at least a bit of spiritual inspiration from Boris Artzybasheff, William Knoles, and William Rotsler as well.
The theme of this issue is "Slime Gods from Outer Space" and it is inspired by my old friend William Knoles and his alter-ego Clyde Allison. In an attempt to make this issue even more significant, I asked some of the best fan artists currently adorning fanzines to do something special for the theme.
When Knoles' "Slime God" first appeared in Playboy in November 1960, it was accompanied by NINE glorious Will Elder science fiction pulp magazine cover satires. They were the inspiration for Steve Stiles and Alan White to do a pulp satire cover as well. Both of them, each extremely special, share electronic rotation as the ecover of this ezine. Each of the covers deserves your close inspection to discover all the goodies hidden there just for you.
Slime God Satire Pulp Cover No. 1:
Ghastly Tales by Alan White
Who Dat? Page 1
From the photo albums of Earl Kemp.
This is a participation album. There are six photographs of reasonably big name fans captured over a span of many years. Each photo is numbered but has no caption or date. It is up to you to fill in the missing blanks. Every fan who correctly identifies [via email to email@example.com] and dates each of the six pictures will receive, absolutely free and without obligation, a lifetime subscription to eI.
Winners, runners-up, also-rans, and captions, if any, should appear in the next issue of eI along with six more forgotten fan photographs to try to identify.
Accustomed to trample on the rights of
others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become fit subjects for the
first cunning tyrant who rises among you.
By Victor J. Banis
Let me go straight to the finish line here: Earl Kemp is Il Capo de Tutti Frutti. Mind you, when I say that, I'm only talking about the Tutti of publishing Frutti. On any more personal level I have always considered Earl's "business" none of my business, and vice-reversa I'm sure. My point is, though, that Earl Kemp is The Godfather of gay publishing, which is what I started out to say. What's really nutty about this is that Earl was as much a virgin to the Godfather business as I was to the publishing business. It seems like you could hardly turn around at Greenleaf Classics without tripping over a virgin. Who knew?
But I have gotten ahead of myself - that is the finish. The start was all the way back in those "swinging sixties," the heady days of marches, of sit-ins and love ins. We were defiantly burning our draft cards and our bras and our jock straps - well, all right, truth to tell, my jock strap wasn't having such a spectacular career anyway. Just once I would like to have been able to cry in triumph, "my cup runneth over!" But that is certainly not the point of this story. The point I'm making here is, when one thinks back on the social and sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, one conjures up images of all sorts of goings-on and demonstrations on the public stage.
It wasn't all public, however, and it wasn't all so dramatic. Some of it, far more than one might suppose, took place off stage as it were, in the offices and at the desks of writers, publishers, and editors. Some of it took place at Greenleaf Classics.
One could debate endlessly, I suppose, the good and bad aspects of the brief publishing history of Greenleaf and that company's other brand names, but on one point there can be no argument, and that is the impact of Greenleaf Classics on gay publishing and, by extension, on the then nascent gay revolution. And they did it publishing "dirty books." Or in any event, what some people considered dirty books, though personally I agree with Stanley Fleishman's assessment: there are no dirty books, only dirty minds.
The history of gay publishing divides rather neatly into two eras: BG (Before Greenleaf) and AG (After Greenleaf.) Or, to be more accurate, Before Earl and After Earl. True, there were gay novels published before Greenleaf came on the scene. They were few, however; and let's face it, they were mostly a sorry lot.
Not that there wasn't some good writing. Indeed, Jean Cocteau's Le Livre Blanc (The White Paper) dates from 1928 and surely qualifies as a mini masterpiece. For years Der Puppenjunge (The Hustler), anarchist John Henry MacKay's 1926 novel, could be enjoyed only by those who read German, but Hubert Kennedy's excellent 1985 translation meant that the rest of us could finally see why this work was held in such esteem. It has been described as more a novel of "boy love" than a gay novel per se, but I think that rather stretches the point. Yes, Gunther, the hustler of the title, is only "fifteen or sixteen," but Hermann, the young man who loves him, is himself described as only "twenty two or twenty three," not so far removed from chicken-status himself it seems to me. Certainly no Humbert Humbert.
MacKay's prose has been described as "sentimental," a popular style in the twenties, but MacKay's writing could flash with white-hot intensity, as in this emotional scene:
"He stood there for a long while, not daring to move, bent over the sleeping boy, looking into the face that he loved like nothing else in the world . . .He wanted to awaken the boy, kneel down by the bed and tell him everything - the whole truth. That he loved him. And that he could bear it no longer . . . A voice inside seemed to call to him: Wake him up! Take him! Wake him with your kisses!'"
One can only wish that W. Somerset Maugham, who was himself gay, might have written a gay novel, but Maugham grew up in the wake of the Oscar Wilde trials and never really came out of the closet, though his homosexuality was never much of a secret. The story is told of a party he attended hosted by the Duchess of Windsor. When he made ready to leave she insisted that it was much too early to depart. According to legend he said, "I must be home early if I wish to keep my youth," to which the Duchess is said to have replied, "But why didn't you just bring the young man with you?"
Hmm. Well, I can't say. I wasn't there, whatever you may have heard to the contrary.
Time and place and his stature considered, Maugham showed a certain courage to include obviously gay characters in his writings. There is a male couple in Christmas Holiday, for example, and in the wonderfully funny The Three Fat Women of Antibes there is Francis - who prefers to be called Frank, likes to smoke a long cigar, and dresses "as much like a man as she could."
In Willie, The Life of W. Somerset Maugham, Robert Calder argues that Mildred, the bitch heroine in Of Human Bondage, was based upon a young man with whom Maugham fell in love. Rereading Bondage one can easily see that this might have been the case, particularly in view of Maugham's homosexuality and his penchant for taking his characters and his stories from real people in his life. If so, one can only regret that he didn't write the real story, which would certainly have been the gay-classic of classics.
There were others, of course, who like Maugham flirted with homosexuality in their novels, tiptoeing around the subject. James Jones' From Here to Eternity had a homosexual subplot that was left out of the movie. In Vengeance is Mine, Mickey Spillane's tough guy Mike Hammer lusts for the beautiful Juno throughout the book, which climaxes with Hammer ripping her dress off in the final pages. With the skirts, blouses, undergarments et al dropping to the floor it's easy to overlook his mention of falling foam rubber, but one can't miss the dramatic finale: "Juno was a man."
Still, we were mostly freaks and monsters, alcoholics and wimps, who lived the span of the novel guilt ridden and angst driven until the usually tragic denouement. Patricia Highsmith, who wrote one of the early lesbian novels, The Price of Salt, as Claire Morgan, once remarked that (before 1952) "homosexuals male and female in American novels have had to pay for their deviation by cutting their wrists, drowning themselves in a swimming pool, or by switching to heterosexuality." By the fifties, too, the rather frank sexuality that could be found in early works like The White Paper or The Hustler had become so discreet as to be all but unintelligible. Once these characters went into a clinch, it was pretty hard to know who was doing what to whom and how deeply.
The New York Times refused to publish an ad for Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar published in 1948 because of its homosexual nature. In those days even the liberal press was wont to shake their fists at homosexual literature.
Vidal's book was very much a part of the "sad young men" school of gay writing. Because of the novel's "frank" depiction of homosexuality - which would scarcely elicit a good harrumph today, let alone get anyone's fist moving - Vidal found himself blacklisted and for several years resorted to writing mystery novels as Edgar Box before working his way back into the good graces of the mainstream publishing world.
James Baldwin may have been spared the same blacklisting simply because his Giovanni's Room from 1956 fairly drips with homosexual self-loathing:
"That door (to the execution chamber) is the gateway he has sought so long out of this dirty world, this dirty body . . . I look at my sex, my troubling sex, and wonder how it can be redeemed . . . I move at last from the mirror and begin to cover that nakedness which I must hold sacred, though it be never so vile, which must be scoured perpetually with the salt of my life. . . . (emphasis mine)" He might ought to have called this Giovanni Jones and the Temple of Gloom.
The real problem with most of these novels is that for all the talent that writers like Vidal and Baldwin brought to their books, the novels are essentially dishonest for being so one-sided. Yes, of course, gays in the forties and fifties did live closeted lives, yes they were blackmailed, beaten, robbed; they were often lonely and afraid and surely did suffer guilt and shame - how could they not, under the circumstances of the time? Worse, we were encouraged in our unhappiness by the examples offered in our all-too-few-all-too-miserable fictional portrayals.
Take it from one who was there, however: the despair was nowhere near as relentless as these novels would have you believe. On paper these characters mostly live with not even hope of happiness, no pleasure more than the transitory acts of the flesh, and even that makes them feel bad when the shooting is over.
Horse hockey. Even in the dark fifties some of us enjoyed our sexual activities muchly. We were nearly all of us able to laugh - often at ourselves, true, but with genuine glee. Maybe it's because life could be so harsh for us, but gay boys always knew how to have fun - they still do in case you haven't been around in San Francisco for a Halloween in the Castro or the Folsom Street Fair, High Holy Days for the leather set. There's a reason why so many heterosexuals like to share in those events, and the reason is spelled F-U-N. In caps.
Moreover, despite being underground - perhaps because of it - homosexuality often spawned a very unique and special kind of camaraderie, friendships that were life long and, yes, love that endured, obstacles notwithstanding. There are fond couples still together today who first met and fell in love in those dark and gloomy fifties.
You wouldn't know any of that from reading Rodney Garland's The Heart in Exile, published in London in 1950 and soon much passed around and talked about in the U.S. as well. It's hard to imagine a bleaker picture of the homosexual life. The great joy for the protagonist, psychotherapist Tony Page, is when he "cures" one of his patients of his homosexuality and converts him to heterosexuality. Hoping that such a cure might be possible for him, Page dashes off to his own therapist, but alas, that gentleman gloomily advises him that there is just no curing some people. Oh, some of his gloom might be due to his revelation that he likes little girls - we are left to understand that the two perversions are not only incurable but equally naughty, don't you see?
The story, by the by, is a mystery of sorts. Tony is trying to find out why a former boyfriend committed suicide. My thought is that perhaps he read an early draft of the novel.
The heterosexual cure was a popular alternative to suicide in many of these novels. Indeed, there is such an epidemic of it, in books like Lee Walter's The Right Bed, Dean Douglas' Man Divided, and Jay Little's Somewhere Between The Two, to name only a few, that one begins to regard the lowly pansy as an endangered flower.
Charles Jackson, of The Lost Weekend fame, wrote The Fall of Valor, and there is a gay element to his The Outer Margins. Nial Kent's The Divided Path (where I first encountered the word "gay" in its homosexual context) actually hints at happiness for its hero. In the finale Michael is on his way to a promising reunion with his love, Paul, but is killed in a gratuitous car accident - so much for happy endings.
Mary Renault's novels of ancient Greece - The King Must Die, The Bull From the Sea, and The Last of the Wine - offer a more positive view of same sex love, but their protagonists were not really meant to be gay, certainly not as we know that term today. James Barr's Quatrefoil and Derricks (almost certainly an inspiration for the Loon Trilogy that was to come later) offers macho men doing the deed with heroic enthusiasm, but again they are not really what one would call gay characters as such - certainly they are not "out," except maybe to their horses.
The above list isn't meant to be inclusive, but it is representative. In the years leading up to and including 1963, there were perhaps another two dozen gay books, surely no more than that. With only the rarest exceptions, they were all pretty much of the same ilk.
A decade later, by 1973, there were at least a thousand gay books published - some estimates say as many as four thousand. What is even more striking than the numbers is the fact that, aside from their homosexual characters - and the new bluntness of their sexual content - these books have little in common.
By this time, a gay man wandering into a bookstore could choose from entire shelves of gay related material. There were non-fiction works, of course, some of them scholarly studies, some of them thinly disguised porn. There were cookbooks, astrology books, and how-to books.
Mostly, there were novels, but of a variety unimaginable a few years earlier. Mysteries, histories, comedies, and tragedies. There were romances, books with happy characters and by this time even - astonishingly - happy endings. There were books about old men and about little boys. Science fiction, war stories, cowboy, and gangster novels. It is hard to think of a category that wasn't represented. In short, there had been a genuine and very dramatic revolution in gay publishing.
When I said a few lines earlier that these books had little in common beyond their gay and sexual elements, I wasn't quite telling the truth. One thing that very many of these books had in common was Earl Kemp. To be sure, by 1973 others were producing gay material. Sherbourne Press, aka Medco Books, did a few gay novels - notably by Joseph Hanson, writing as James Colton - and several gay oriented non-fiction works.
Milton Luros' Brandon House Books in North Hollywood eventually published a fair number of gay books, in large part thanks to the intense lobbying of yours truly.
Lynn Womack's Grecian Guild churned out quite a few mostly forgettable pieces, though they did publish Phil Andros, a pen name for Sam Steward who was a respected member of the Stein/Toklas set in Paris.
Maurice Girodias, whose Paris-based Olympia Press had published such alternative writers as Anais Nin and Henry Miller, crossed the Atlantic to launch his gay paperback series, The Other Traveller. My novel, The Gay Haunt by Victor Jay (TC 517) racked up sales somewhere in the 150,000 bracket - astonishing numbers for a gay paperback novel in those days. I have to add, though, that the single royalty statement I ever saw showed only a fraction of those numbers. Girodias was known here and abroad for publishing fine writers - he was not known for treating them well, or even fairly.
All of these publishers, however, jumped on the cart after it was rolling merrily along, which is to say when they sniffed the scent of money on the winds blowing from the south of California. The one who first cried Giddyup, however, was Earl. And what really got the horses agallop was The Man From C.A.M.P.
I have said earlier that Jackie Holmes, the Man from C.A.M.P., was the first protagonist of a gay novel to be openly gay and proud of it. Writing in The Cultural Work of Sixties Gay Pulp Fiction (Rutledge, Patricia J. Smith, ed.) David Bergman says much the same thing: "What I find remarkable is the unapologetic way in which Holmes discusses gay people." This was, in its own way, a revolution.
I don't want to overstate my contribution to what was happening. I was no hero. I didn't set out to change the world. At this late date I can't even tell you how I came to write that particular book. The camp phenomenon was in full swing, of course, with Batman on television, and The Man From Uncle, an obvious inspiration. As a twenty something I was out and about in the gay world at the time, and there may have been a tang in the air from the sea change that was coming. Mostly, though, I was just having fun, making a few dollars and, yes, tweaking a few noses. Take that, Donald Schoof.
As much as anything, I think I was lucky. I got the right idea at the right time and offered it to the right editor.
I suppose that there must have been a certain serendipitous element, a touch of naiveté, in Earl's decision to publish The Man From C.A.M.P. I doubt that he had even read The City and the Pillar, or Giovanni's Room. He probably did not fully realize that we were required in our novels to be miserable and kill ourselves off in the end, or at least die in car crashes.
It would be grossly unjust, however, to attribute Earl's contribution to nothing more than ignorance. If he was not familiar with the content of the gay books that had been published before, he was surely aware of their scarcity. He knew that he was pushing the boundaries.
And he certainly knew the risks involved. In 1963, in what was a cause célèbre for advocates of freedom of speech, Fresno publishers Sanford Aday and Wallace de Ortega Maxey were convicted of distributing obscene material and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The books for which they were convicted were sexually no franker than much of what was available in mainstream publishing of the day. Indeed, they were tepid compared to the writings of Mickey Spillane, say, or Kathleen Winsor. It was their homosexual subject matter, and that alone, that rendered them obscene - and that sent these publishers to prison. And sent a chill throughout the publishing world. At that moment, no one wanted to publish homosexual material.
If the government considered the hangdog gays of the fifties obscene, they certainly weren't going to approve of a book with happy homosexuals, espousing the gay cause, jumping in and out of bed, and getting their men in the end. Which is to say, when he decided to go with The Man From C.A.M.P., Earl knew full well that he was putting his fanny on the line, and it wasn't a chorus line, either. There simply wasn't another editor in the business at the time who would have opted to go with this book.
Of course, once the sperm has been spewed, you can't put it back where it came from. From the day that C.A.M.P. hit the stands, a new genre of gay publishing had been spawned and the gay world adopted the baby with glee. Over the next several years there was a flood of gay books - many of them from Greenleaf - and for all of their variety, most of them were upbeat stories of homosexuals who were no crazier, no more neurotic, and no more prone to suicide than your run of the mill heterosexual. In other words, gay people just like the ones in real life.
No, I didn't write them all, though at times it must have seemed like it to Earl. I did write a great many of them. And in 1966 my then partner, Sam Dodson, who worked at that time for a Beverly Hills bank, expressed his desire to do something a bit more interesting. "Fine," I told him, "I'll teach you to do what I do."
I did and Sam went on to write lots of books of his own - Donnie and Clyde, e.g. by Sam Dodd. He also co-wrote a bunch with me and eventually wrote under his own name for mainstream houses like Fawcett, who published his Sausalito and Majorca.
Oddly, though we had corresponded and telephoned often, Earl and I had not met up to this point. Then, one fine winter day, at Earl's invitation, Sam and I hitched up the carriage and traveled from the Hills of Beverly to Sunny San Diego, and lunch with Earl.
It was a meeting pregnant with possibilities. Gays had just begun to stick their toes - or other protuberances - out the barely opened closet door. Sam and I were gay. No, really, I mean gay. It's one thing for a straight man to talk on the phone with a no-holds-barred sex symbol, it's quite another to sit across the lunch table from not one but two of them and not spit out your meatballs.
Plus, I was only recently a virgin, and Earl was well on his way to becoming one. And to further complicate matter, by this time I was already an agitator on the gay front. Now, an agitator is a useful thing in a washing machine to be sure, but one can be threatening to a virgin, as you can imagine.
Looking back, I find myself wondering what kind of impression Earl really did get that day in December. Finally, I asked him to help me remember how it happened. He wasn't much help, all he had to say was:
"I was scared, I remember. To the best of my knowledge I had never even met a gay person before then. I could count several ways in which I was still a virgin; some of them are with me to this day. There had been those things my buddies and I did way back there in school, only there wasn't anything gay about stuff like that, just learning and growing. Not only was I going to meet a gay person, but there were going to be two of them, and they were rabble-rousing activists. I suspected a possible gang rape at least.
"I had even arranged a number of alternate code signals with some of the editors, interruptions at certain points, things like that, to help me escape if necessary. I think I gave them a tour of the Porno Factory and introduced them to some of the staff. Pete Cooper was Editor in Chief at the time, and Petey Dixon was Managing Editor. Only I didn't need any of those elaborate, avoid-the-gays routines to protect me from them. They didn't want to rape me, just get paid for doing what they felt was natural.
"It was fortunate for all of us, Victor, Sam, and me, that it went well and there wasn't even a little grope to go along with the good-bye handshakes.
"I found them to be pretty ordinary, in fact, despite their tendencies. Sam, especially, appeared to be the well-dressed, successful banker. Victor was somewhat suspect, hiding inside his virgin outfit, and trying to create a good impression by emoting like Maugham on a good day. (There is an old writer joke that ends with the punchline, "Some days I can write wonderfully, and then there are the other days when everything just turns out like Maugham.")
"Not only did we manage to get through lunch together, we started looking forward to the next occasion. When I would go to Los Angeles, which was often in those days, I would stop and see them, and be entertained by them in a rare and unique way. They brought me out of my imagination just far enough to look inside their gay world. They took me to parties hosted by their friends where, for the first time ever, I saw things I had never thought about.
"But all of them, Victor and his friends, were very dignified, reserved, and proper. I don't remember a single proposition along the way from anyone and I was never sure if I resented that or not. Observing the liaisons forming at some of those events certainly left me feeling like a reject."
"Then, as the gay paperbacks began becoming fashionable and more and more writers began writing them for us, and moving into my realm of awareness, much of that changed. The newer writers, perhaps they were more liberated than the old hands, came on really strong. Not a meeting passed between some of them, and me, when there wasn't an offer of at least affection if not a quick blowjob. Wanna fuck Rock Hudson?' was a frequent question. Christian Davidson (Christian Davies, Buffy, Go Down, Aaron, Caves of Iron, etc.), as an example, a promising but hungry upstart from San Diego, never stopped his run-on narrative about how many scores' he had claimed that day. He would start with the UPS deliveryman, the meter-reader, the lawn boy, the letter carrier, a passing, sweaty jogger, then, en route to deliver his latest manuscript to Greenleaf, getting his tank filled by the gas station attendant in the back seat of his car while the tank was being filled, then the . Well, you get the idea. I could never understand why he felt offended at my reluctance to make his day.
"Chris was quite an aggressive enigma to me, and still quite young. His books were selling rather well and there was a big demand for them. I had just arranged to present him with his special edition cover painting done by the great Robert Bonfils for his Go Down, Aaron (EL376), when Christian disappeared. Totally, completely, vanished never to be heard of again .
"I'm glad Victor was virgin enough to be gentle while exposing me to all that sin and degradation. He helped me in many ways to understand that love is love regardless of how many handles it comes equipped with. He vastly improved my comprehension of mankind and its capabilities for gloriousness."
As it happened, lunch was a swimming success. Well, all right, we were swimming in gin, but by the time we scrambled ashore we had decided we were friends. Friendly enough, in fact, that over the next few years, Sam and I packed the maps and martinis every six weeks or so and ventured southward for a splash-about with Uncle Earl. Which must have caused the watchdogs a sleepless afternoon or two.
For those of you who don't know, the editor's job can be perilous and exasperating. The writer is a difficult creature. He is often in another time, another place - sometimes another dimension. He spends much of his life in difficult conversation and complex relationships with imaginary creatures. He is easily bruised and never fully appreciated (I'm taking all of this directly from the manual.) I once asked an editor friend who was leaving his job what he meant to do next. "I shall open a riding academy," he replied, "So I can see what it's like working with the entire horse."
If Earl ever felt like reining us in, he was too much a gentleman ever to show it. Over the several decades of my writing career, I was fortunate enough to work with and become friends with some truly wonderful editors - Gil Porter at Sherbourne Press comes to mind immediately. But the friendship that sprang up between Earl and myself - and Sam, too - was unique and very special.
Having taught Sam the ropes of writing, I soon find myself teaching them to one or two others who were interested, and then a few more - eventually, more than a couple dozen. Sam and I guided them through their manuscripts, sometimes page by page. And since most writers don't like dealing with the business end of things, and since Sam and I were already firmly established at Greenleaf Classics (and in time at other houses too) we found ourselves acting as de facto agents for protégés and soon enough for other writers as well.
There was a joke going around at the time that the gay publishing boom mostly happened around my kitchen table, and it wasn't far from the truth. For a while in the sixties, somewhere in the neighborhood of 75% of the gay books being published were done either by Sam or myself, or one of our stable of writers. George Davies for instance (Cruising Horny Corners, CB546 by Lance Lester), Harold Harding (Murder on Queer Street by Gene Evans), or John Maggie (Go Down in the Valley, by John Maggie.) to name just three.
Scholars today believe that it was this boom in gay publishing - specifically, gay paperback publishing - that first created a sense of community among gays, and I think the point is a valid one. For years we were lucky to find anything at all written about our world, never mind how badly it reflected that world. Often what we found was hidden under the counter, recommended to us in whispers by a friendly bookstore clerk or passed to us in brown bags by the dark of night. Now we walked into paperback bookstores in broad daylight, to find an entire section of "our" books. Sometimes an entire wall and, in time, entire stores. So much for the "twilight world" of old.
We shopped - not only for books, admittedly - and we read, and what we read made us feel a connection with the characters in these new novels, and by extension, with one another. This new accessibility of books about ourselves made us feel less isolated than we had been before, more a part of what would - in time at least - become a community. For the first time, we began to perceive ourselves as part of a "culture."
But the impact of all these books on the gay movement was more than the camaraderie of the bookstore. It was not only gay espionage agents who saw the light of day under Earl Kemp's leadership. Over those next several years, Greenleaf published books featuring gay athletes, gay truckers, gay gangsters, gay police and firemen, gay astronauts and scientists, gay cowboys and Indians, soldiers and sailors.
Suddenly we had been given permission not just to see ourselves in a new way as a group, but to see ourselves individually as well in new ways, even to pursue dreams that had seemed incredible to consider only a year or two earlier. Greenleaf offered us a brave new world of self-images. Often newly macho images. Images of guilt free sex. Of pride in that very difference of which we had so recently been told we must be ashamed.
Of course, these were just fantasies, pulp fiction, left handed paperbacks. Weren't they?
And yet . . . and yet, surprise, surprise, some of us already were those characters. We already were, always had been, firemen and cowboys and soldiers. What was new was the invitation to come out, to reveal ourselves and share our lives with our brothers in arms. To communicate honestly and openly who and what we were
That was another giant step on the road to Community. The books we read, so different from what we had read of ourselves in the past, fostered a new spirit of togetherness. In time that spirit would make it possible for us to join arms and march down the street together, to chant "gay power" and - famously - to gather outside the Stonewall Inn and throw what one report described as "canine feces" - dog poop to you and me - at the arresting policepersons.
I have written here mostly about the impact of Earl Kemp's editorial policies on gay politics. It is an area of particular interest to me and one with which I have some familiarity.
The lopsidedness of my account could give a skewed impression of the overall nature of Greenleaf's list, however. Greenleaf was never primarily nor even to a major degree a "gay publishing house." I don't know any actual figures, but I think it likely that the gay material was only a very small portion of their overall production. Most, the vast majority, of what Greenleaf published under Earl's stewardship was heterosexual in nature, and certainly that material had an influence on the larger social and sexual revolution taking place in that era.
But there were others at that time, book and magazine publishers, even film makers, who were pushing those boundaries. On the heterosexual front, there was no shortage of brave souls willing to take on the puritan right. Not only were the major New York paperback publishing houses already venturing beyond what had been done before, but even hardcover houses were testing the limits. In 1959 Barney Rosset of Grove Press created a sensation when he published an unexpurgated version of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. Nabakov's Lolita and John Cleland's Fanny Hill followed soon after. Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Russ Meyer's The Immoral Mr. Teas were filling movie houses and giving audiences a new take on cinematic license. And Hugh Hefner was making waves with Playboy and what may be the most famous calendar photograph of all time.
As an aside, by the by, Hefner once told me that his original intention had been to make Playboy a bisexual magazine. He tried occasionally showing bare buns of the male variety. What came as a result was not his readers, but a flood of subscription cancellations. And if - Heaven forefend - there was a weenie amongst the buns, they shot all over the place. Even the swingers among us were still a bit uptight in those early days.
There is a certain irony to the reaction of Hef's readers to any hint of male sexuality in his magazine, since it was well known in those Chicago days that many of the photographers doing the shoots for Playboy were gay, as were the owners of many of the "Playboy Pad" homes and apartments used for locations. This often led to frantic "clean ups" to get rid of sculptured penises and male nudes, and there is a funny story about one owner in hysterics because his home had been "contaminated" by all that naked womanness. For Heaven's sake, get out the Lysol, Madge, and don't sit there!
I have digressed, however. What I was pointing out was that by the mid sixties, the heterosexual revolution was already and truly launched, with or without any help from Greenleaf. It was probably inevitable as well that eventually someone would tackle the gay issue. Alas, after the Aday and Maxey disaster, even the bravest souls were afraid to venture into the homosexual arena - until Earl jumped in and grabbed the lion by the tail.
Earl has described the publishing circus of the sixties as a game. In a sense, gays had always seen their situation in life in much the same way. You dug under the compost pile for the humor and though it might stink, you laughed anyway.
But if the pulp publishing of the sixties was a game, it was one with far more serious and far reaching consequences than any Super Bowl or World Series outing, and we were all of us, all the time, conscious of those consequences.
Milt Luros once said to me that in any revolution, there were those back in the castle enjoying the fruits of the harvest, and those out on the ramparts taking the brickbats and the arrows.
For some in the revolution of the sixties and seventies, "the ramparts" meant the streets, the marches and demonstrations. I did that too. It takes courage, but there is the adrenaline rush to keep you going, and the group energy to keep your spirits from flagging.
Others fought at their desks and, all too often, in courtrooms, and that takes a different kind of courage. Sometimes in that war you lost a round. Well, you can't make brownies without cracking your nuts, as any Girl Scout can tell you.
Sometimes, too, as veterans of other wars learned, you came home wounded to realize that your efforts were little recognized and less appreciated. For you there would be no medals and no monuments. What you got for the most part was the satisfaction of looking around at the changes that had been wrought, and knowing that you had helped to make them happen.
And there were a few - mostly those who had been in the trenches with you - who understood what you had contributed, and knew what it had cost you. Who honored you, and were grateful.
Which is to repeat what I said at the beginning: virgin or not, Earl Kemp was and is the Godfather of gay publishing.
Viva il Capo.
Oh - uh - Earl - is my check in the mail yet?
- - -
Slime God Satire Pulp Cover No. 2:
Appalling Stories by Steve Stiles
|The Revision of Things Past 2
By Charles Freudenthal
The Nunnery was located at 14 Cooper Square in New York City. It was across the street from The Five Spot, which had been the venue for so many jazz innovators such as Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane. (Alas I was then still a mouldy fig, i.e. a traditionallst.)
The Nunnery was a converted loft that Danny Curran had inherited from his girl friend, Heather. Heather and three other girls had lived there. (Curiously, after taking peyote, Heather did become a nun! We could not decide whether Danny or the peyote was to blame.) The crowds from the Dive did not follow us but we did acquire some East Village types
Outside of the "back door" was a large section of the roof of the loft beneath which we used as a patio. One sunny Sunday afternoon I walked out on the roof to find "our gang" laying back and listening to the Hellman/Bernstein "Candide". Without getting mawkish, I find it difficult to convey the sense of belonging these gatherings brought about.
On a Thanksgiving we had a humungous turkey dinner with all the trimmings. We all chipped in and Bill Donaho cooked it all, even the pies. (We discovered that rum added to whipped cream makes it fall flat!) Bill was a fabulous cook.
One Saturday night I saved the Nunnery from destruction! Thus it came to pass. Most of our parties were talkfests like any fan gathering. On a certain Saturday night a Dionysian frenzy seized our guests. (I am a camera.) People cavorted and hopped around. To my horror I saw that the floor at the front wall was detached and was moving up and down almost a foot! My screams and gesticulations finally attracted enough attention so that some calm was achieved. I think I was resented.
On another night someone looking down from the front windows saw Fred Werner in some kind of altercation with people from the Five Spot. Pollard was trying to be a peacemaker. Donaho and I rushed down the stairs to render assistance believing the rest of our entourage followed us. This was not the case. Bill and I found ourselves confronted by a small Mob. (Pollard had already led Werner off elsewhere.)
I have to rely on the reports of others for succeeding events because at that point I was rendered hors de combat, i.e., cold-cocked. I understand Bill was mixing it up with our assailants when Al Graham, with great presence of mind, threw a beer bottle out the second story window. (Our brave companions were watching this from above.) I doubt if the bad guys knew what that loud sound was. It scattered them.
I awoke upstairs with Trina Robbins sponging my forehead. Donaho was in high dudgeon and really laid into the rest for leaving us in the lurch.
We were all of us broke most of the time. Then Donaho learned how to make beer. The "makin's" are a lot cheaper than the store bought product. I am afraid we never really let it "age"! I remember the taste as being very good.
Danny made a still out of a quart bottle and some tubing. It ran 24 hours a day. It produced a surprising amount of white lightning.
Katherine McLean had gotten heavily into Scientology and was conducting group Scientology sessions on the roof! I thought they resembled Maoist self criticism. I have always despised that cult and could never understand how Katy could be involved in it.
One day Lin Carter showed up with a copy of damon knight's In Search of Wonder. He read out for us passages of knight's acerbic wit with suitable emphasis. It was hilarious.
One of the young women who frequented the Nunnery had a boy friend I shall call Bob. On one occasion she fled the Nunnery when Bob showed up in a very strange state. He wandered around the Nunnery calling out "Alice" even when she was in the same room. (Fictional names.) His eyes seemed fixed on infinity and I do not think he was aware of anyone in the apartment. The expression on his face was striking. Possession is not too strong a word. The young woman slipped out without his noticing. Finally he left.
A prominent fan, to show his distress at an upcoming divorce, "fell" down the stairs of the Nunnery in the presence of his wife and a large audience. We were all embarrassed!
Transfiguration In A Seedy Loft
"Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. ... No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded." William James, Varieties of Religious Experience.
Under the instigation of A. Huxley's Doors of Perception and other cultural trends Donaho decided to embark on peyote taking experiments. I did some further library research in the interests of safety, dosage, and preparation.
The cactus of choice was the well-known Lophophora Williamsii. At that time it was perfectly legal and Donaho ordered a bushel of it for about $15! The ugly tufts of hair called eyes have to be removed and we all sat in a circle and did that. By this time there were about six of us.
I finally settled on slicing the peyote buttons very thin and oven-drying them on a cookie tray at less than boiling temperature. I then ground them in a coffee mill and put the powder in 000 caps.
On a Saturday night we all took peyote together. Not only do different people react differently but each "trip" takes you to different places. The extraordinary empathy generated by peyote made us into a very different kind of group. We alternated between going off by ourselves or joining in eerie tête-à-têtes.
Although we had warned our friends that the Nunnery would be closed this Saturday, two female fans had come from quite some distance for the usual party. Somehow we didn't hear them from down below and they went home disappointed! We apologized when we found out. (Sorry, Laurie!)
One of the first effects of peyote is "eidetic images." When you close your eyes you see fantastic color images, usually of an abstract nature. (The art of the Huichol Indians gives a good idea.) As the peyote state deepens all the senses become "hyper".
This is most obvious in the visual field. Colors, the stereo effect, and what photographers call contrast are greatly enhanced. (Ginsberg calls it "the peyote solidity of walls" in Howl.) An amusing side effect is that objects with a fine pattern like rugs appear to "wave" at you, rhythmically, like a field of worms. Clouds seem to be affected by an internal swirling, like time-lapse photography.
At a later stage objects become transformed. Vivian saw a large plant as an elephant. Walking down Eighth Street in the Village, I found myself surrounded by people without faces!
Art books become a magic kingdom under the influence of peyote although your perception of meaning or interpretation may be quite different than the artist intended!
Perhaps the most curious of all is that the ordinary world around you, in certain episodes, seems to be radiantly beautiful! This has the obvious philosophical implication, why doesn't the world look like this all the time?
Then there is music! When listening to Prokofiev's Petrouchka I felt I was EMITTING the music, not just hearing it.
Danny converted back to Catholicism from atheism under the influence of the cactus. I still remember him walking in from another room with a dazed expression, saying, "I've got a soul!"
Enough of symptomology. Those who have had psychedelic experiences probably find this boring. For those who have not, there is a large literature out there. (Imagine my surprise when I discovered that bookstores, even in the late seventies, no longer had a "Psychedelic" section!)
"That is no country for old men." Yeats
To my taste, the two best sources of information on the psychedelic experience are still Doors of Perception by A. Huxley and Varieties of Psychedelic Experience by Masters and Houston.
At this writing, three legal psychedelics are San Pedro Cactus, Salvia Divinorum, and Salvidorin A. erowid.com provides a literal encyclopedia of these and other entheogenic substances. (e.g. From Erowid you learn that Salvidorin A requires a guide/sitter for your safety!)
Decades ago Donaho and I discussed the desirability of writing up the follies, adventures, and mishaps of a certain group of people in 1950s New York.
I have made the attempt.
Gallery 1956 2
|William Henley Knoles*
The Life and Death of Clyde Allison
By Lynn Munroe
Clyde Allison wrote for William Hamling's line of 1960's adult publications like Nightstand, Midnight Reader, Ember, and Leisure Books. He is best known today for his series of James Bond spoofs about Agent 0008. I knew that many of the writers who did pseudonymous books for Hamling went on to become famous authors. Maybe Allison would turn out to be one of them. I checked around and was told Clyde Allison was a house name, and that a different author wrote each 0008 book. Then Victor Berch told me that Allison was the pseudonym of a William Knoles. Calling around to different agents, authors, and collectors, I learned that Knoles had burned himself out writing trashy sleaze novels, that he was a drunk, and that he "blew his brains out" at a young age. Everyone had heard that same story, but there was no book or article or interview or checklist anywhere about Knoles. I read some Allison and it was surprisingly well written. Who was this guy? This is what I found out.
Everything I had been told about him was wrong.
Except that Allison was the pen name of a guy named Knoles. All the above information was not exactly correct. Knoles wrote all of the Clyde Allison books (there are 68 on our checklist) and it was never used as a house name. He did commit suicide at the age of 46, but not because he was an alcoholic or was tired of writing adult books.
There have been greater writers, but William Knoles was the greatest unknown writer of our time, and that's exactly how he wanted it.
William Henley Knoles was named for his great-uncle-by-marriage, the world-famous British poet William Henley. The family tells the story starting with William Knoles' grandmother. Helen Bartram wanted to be an opera singer. Her problem was that she lived in Kansas in the 1880's, where opera had not yet made much of an inroad. In fact, Helen found there was no place for someone who went about singing arias and dressing in operatic gear. Leaving home and family, she moved to opera territory: Europe. She led a colorful life and married several times. One of her husbands was Edward "Teddy" Henley, an actor, singer, and brother of the poet. The New York Dramatic Mirror from 1896 tells us that Teddy was dong a musicale with his third wife in Philadelphia, a probable reference to Helen. Her next and last husband was Achille Tommasso, the conductor of La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy. Their daughter Rosina was Bill's mother.
Rosina was working as an actress in silent movies when she met an English film director named Harley Knoles. They married and collaborated on a series of films in both London and New York. Rosina worked under her stage name, Rosina Henley. They are both listed in reference books of the 1910's and 20's. The Motion Picture Guide lists The Adventures of Carol directed by Harley Knoles and starring Rosina Henley, Guilty of Love directed by Knoles and written by Rosina; and many others. They had two children, Diana and William. Born in New York City in 1926, William was six months old when the family moved back to London. As the U.S.A. born son of a British father, Bill had dual citizenship.
Although most of her films are now lost, Rosina was a movie star 80 years ago. Bill loved to tell the story of finding an old book about silent movies in a used bookstore in New York in the 1950's, and seeing a photograph of his mother in some long-lost costume drama.
Harley Knoles was a boom or bust filmmaker. He would invest everything in his next venture. The children would be living in a London mansion one year, in a tenement apartment the next. At one point Harley even owned his own studio. He made the common mistake of letting is family run the business and he had to sell it to J. Arthur Rank. Bill went to school in London during the 1930's, and we have a photograph here of the bright young English schoolboy.
The production records for London's Elstree Studios in 1930 list Harley Knoles and Alfred Hitchcock among the directors working on films. But by the decade's end Knoles had died of cancer, leaving Rosina with two teenagers and no money. A friend of the family lined up a job for Rosina at the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios in Culver City, near Hollywood, and they moved to California. Rosina worked as script reader at MGM, and the family tells the story that while working there she read a treatment for a movie to be called National Velvet and, realizing it would be a star-making role, called an old friend from London, a Mrs. Taylor, and told her it was perfect for her daughter Elizabeth.
So Bill grew up in a movie family, and movies and directors and Hollywood all appear often in the Clyde Allison books. Living near the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, Bill grew up reading and devouring science fiction pulps, Doc Savage, and Tarzan.
He tried to enlist in the Air Force during World War II and was told he was too young. Taking advantage of his dual citizenship, Bill enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and served as a tail gunner in North Africa. When the war ended Bill had a great plan. He would take some time off for himself and tour Europe, a life-long dream, and revisit London, the city of his youth. Rosina, however, had other plans for her boy. She missed him and wanted him home. She contacted the Red Cross and told them she was gravely ill. She begged them to rush her boy home to the States. They did, and when Bill arrived home to his perfectly healthy mother he resented her actions immensely. Rosina's manipulations would increase as she grew older, causing much strife, and probably (if we can indulge in a little armchair psychoanalysis) had something to do with the misogyny and violent treatment of women that mars some of Bill's otherwise brilliant novels.
After the war Bill attended UCLA, but he didn't graduate. Apparently economic conditions caused him to drop out in 1949 and go to work at Hughes Aircraft. He decided he wanted to be a writer. His sister Diana was living in New York City and Bill moved there in the early 50's. He sold a comic mystery story to one of the last of the pulp magazines, Thrilling Detective, in 1952. He found work in Manhattan, first at McGraw-Hill editing textbooks, then at Screen Gems, and then at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency.
William Knoles came of age in Greenwich Village in the late 50's. "He loved people and he loved parties," one friend told me. With his friends, all of them aspiring artists, poets, writers, and beats, Bill worked all day and partied most nights, often at a bar called the White Horse Tavern, a place Dylan Thomas had made famous. Sometimes the parties were at artists' lofts. At one such party Bill met Lily Pendleton. Lily was attracted by his intelligence and his sense of humor. They started going out together.
Bill used to entertain Lily with stories about his life at the Meredith Agency. Like many other aspiring writers, he was put to work reading manuscripts in the fee room. People from all over the country would mail unsolicited manuscripts to Scott Meredith, hoping to join his stable of famous writers like Norman Mailer and Evan Hunter. The aspiring writer would get a form letter advising them to send a fee (usually $50) for the agent's analysis. The gullible and the hopeful would send the $50 and get back a one-page letter signed by Scott Meredith encouraging them to keep trying, and making vague suggestions on how to improve their story or novel. Meredith had a roomful of people turning out these letters and signing his name. It was, depending on who you ask, either a valuable literary service or a profitable scam. Would-be writers who weren't very bright, or just desperate, would send in another $50 and a rewritten manuscript, only to get a second letter encouraging them to keep trying.
Bill told Lily that one unpublished writer had been yanked on by the Meredith agency for weeks, sending in several readers fees, only to get yet another form letter. Finally the poor guy realized he was being bilked and he came into Manhattan, burst into the offices of Scott Meredith and his brother Sidney, threatening them. Bill claimed from that day on the brothers went to the men's room together in case any more "clients" came in looking for them.
Reading through hundreds of unpublishable stories, Bill was sure he could writer better than any of them. He began selling stories to men's magazines like Escapade and Gent, usually using the pseudonym Max Williams. He would save his real name for something important, something he could be proud of. Like most of the young writers Meredith represented, many of whom also got started working at the agency, Bill was offered a job providing adult potboilers for publisher William Hamling.
Hamling had started publishing science fiction magazines in Chicago in the 1950's. He wanted to get into the booming paperback market and sell books for men, books with flashy covers like Midwood and Beacon were doing. Hamling worked out a contract with the Meredith Agency. Meredith would supply new manuscripts for paperback books from a team of writers. Each writer was contracted to churn out a book each month. The writers were paid a few hundred dollars per book. (Later some of the "names" were paid $1,500 or more.) The books were sent to Hamling under pen names, the agency kept the author's true identities secret. The adult book market was always precarious. There were always Senate hearings or lawsuits or vice raids involving these lurid little books. Of course, to try to avoid those lawsuits, the authors used euphemisms and suggested much more than they actually described. The books are very tame compared to what passes as adult literature today. In fact they're very tame compared to todays romance novels or R-rated movies. But by 1960's standards, they were considered pretty racy.
Bill and Lily were married at City Hall in Manhattan and lived in Greenwich Village, just off Bleecker Street. Bill had to come up with a pen name for his books. He told Lily if he had to write "sleazy" books then he needed a sleazy pen name, and the sleaziest name he could think of was Clyde. As Clyde Allison, Bill began turning out a book a month for Hamling's line, which was called at first Nightstand Books.
Hamling's editor at Nightstand the first year was Harlan Ellison. Ellison told me Hamling was afraid they'd be prosecuted for publishing these "adult" books so he set up a dummy company called Blake Pharmaceuticals of Evanston, Illinois. He moved it around and changed the name every so often. Nightstand started with two books in its first month. Those went well so they went with four books the next month, then eight, then twelve, and so on. The books sold out in places like New York's 42nd Street and in other big cities. Editor Ellison wrote one of the early titles for Hamling (Sex Gang by Paul Merchant, NB1503), but he hated the books and he hated the genre. He begged Hamling to let him try another line, and that led to Regency Books. "I know he was making a lot more after I left Nightstand," Ellison told me, "but I can tell you that just in that first year, Hamling's profit was one and a half million dollars."
Knoles was working for the agents at Meredith who supplied the manuscripts to Hamling: Henry Morrison and Richard Curtis (both of whom would eventually leave Meredith and become respected high-priced New York agents who understandably are reticent to talk much about their days selling softcore sleaze). He would come home and tell Lily that some of the books seemed to be written by people who not only didn't know much about their subject matter, they didn't know much about writing either. He was convinced, even though he had never published a book, he could write a better Nightstand. It is immediately apparent from his first book (The Lustful Ones, NB1525) that he was right.
The English schoolboy/pulp fan/Air Force vet/UCLA student/editor became a paperback writer in 1960. Bill and Lily had loved vacationing at Provincetown on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Many of the Greenwich Village art crowd spent their summers there. The Lustful Ones is about aspiring artists in the Village heading to Provincetown. The sophistication of the writing, the depth of feeling and emotion may not seem like much if you've been reading Proust and Faulkner, but compared to most of the other adult books of the era the difference is staggering. One adult bookseller recently described this book in his sale catalog as "a masterpiece."
With the contract to do a book a month and his magazine work booming, Bill left the Meredith agency to become a full-time writer, the only job he would have for the rest of his life. The agent Richard Curtis told me one of Bill's biggest thrills at the time was selling an article to Playboy magazine. His article "Girls for the Slime God" is a fan's appreciation of the science fiction pulps of his youth. With the same breezy, funny, first-person style of the Clyde Allison books, William Knoles' brilliant nostalgia piece was published in the November 1960 Playboy. He was riding high. Lily and Bill and his sister Diana bought a big house on Commercial Street in Provincetown. They kept the apartment in New York and spent more and more time on Cape Cod.
It took a little detective work but one day I located Lily Pendleton and phoned her at her farm in New England:
LM: What do you remember first about William Knoles?
LILY: Everybody liked him. He was a "life of the party" type.
LM: Do you know the origin of his pen name, Clyde Allison? I have a theory that it's some kind of anagram. It's almost an anagram for "Lily Knoles."
LILY: Could be, but he never called me that. In those days I always went by my nickname, Penny.
LM: There's a character in a John Dexter book called Sin Colony named Cloyd Frisnell, which is another "possible anagram" for Dr. Lily F. Knoles.
LILY: Sorry, my middle initial is B.
LM: Another theory is that Bill might have seen a book called A Christian Understanding of Sex by a Presbyterian minister in Chicago whose real name was Clyde Allison.
LILY: I don't remember that book but it certainly sounds like something Bill would do.
LM: I wonder what any wayward members of the Reverend Mr. Allison's church must have thought if they strayed into an adult newsstand and found books by "Clyde Allison." Do you remember any other pen names he used? How about Max Williams?
LILY: Yes, that was Bill. Williams from his first name, of course.
LM: Wilson Craddock, Jr.?
LILY: Yes. He came up with that one at a party to test his theory about people at parties. He made up this name and went around saying, "Have you read Wilson Craddock, Jr.'s latest novel? I just finished it and I think he's going to be big." An hour later this woman walks up to me and says, "I just finished the great new Wilson Craddock novel. Have you read it yet? He's going to be big!"
LM: Later he used Clyde Ames. Does the name Ames have any significance?
LILY: None that I recall.
LM: I wonder if it was an anagram for "Same Clyde," meaning this is the same guy as Allison. Just a new publisher. Did he have other pen names?
LILY: I'm sure he did but I've forgotten them. He told me he was writing under pen names before we met. Clyde Allison was the one he used the most.
As "Clyde Allison," Bill Knoles wrote a series of surprisingly well-written and frequently hilarious comic crime novels. His protagonist was usually a con man, a rake, a coward, or a bon vivant. These antiheroes narrate their stories in a fresh, funny personable style. They are usually lovable rogues and their wild stories, while obviously the work of a highly intelligent, well-read writer, are rather unlike nothing else coming out at the time. Several of the agents and writers at Meredith suggested to me that Knoles influenced the work of a whole generation of comic crime writers who followed him at Nightstand. Donald E. Westlake, who worked at Meredith after Knoles, remembered the name. "He was a legend at the office," Westlake said, "because he was so funny and so fast." The prolific author Barry N. Malzberg told me he met Knoles once in the elevator at the Meredith Agency. Knoles was with Richard Curtis, who had written porno novels for Hamling as Curt Aldrich and Burt Alden. Curtis introduced them and then said to Knoles, "You know I learned everything I know about writing these books from you." And Knoles replied, "That's funny, so did I."
Hamling's books were coming out under several different names like Midnight Reader and Idle Hour. The chief editor for all those lines was Earl Kemp. Hamling and Kemp would later go to prison for pornography, a story told in Gay Talese's Thy Neighbor's Wife and elsewhere; and after his release from prison Kemp soured on living in this country and went into self-exile in Mexico. I sent messages that I wanted to talk with him and one Saturday morning I got a call from Earl Kemp from Mexico. I asked him if he knew the name William Knoles. (Note: this was some years ago, Earl has since relocated north of the border.)
KEMP: Yes, William Knoles was one of the writers signed under contract to provide one book a month. But the publisher had no contact with the writers. Their agent, Scott Meredith, did not identify their real names.
LM: If you had no contact with the writers, how do you know Knoles was Clyde Allison?
KEMP: He was my personal favorite of all the writers. It was his humor that endeared him to me. And everyone at the office loved his manuscripts, including the art department. There was a fight to see who would get to edit each manuscript. Sometimes the only way to have peace in the office would be to pass the manuscript around.
Sometimes they got edited three times. He got so popular I had to contact him. The Meredith Agency told me that Clyde Allison was a man in Provincetown named William Knoles. I wrote to him and we corresponded but, sadly, we never met. His letters were, as you might expect, very witty and warm.
LM: When you say there was a fight to edit his manuscripts, do you mean a verbal fight?
KEMP: No. I remember a couple times things got physical. The whole office staff liked him, not because of sales, but for the enjoyment of reading each new manuscript.
LM: And of all the authors .
KEMP: For some of them I wouldn't use the word "author."
LM: Right, I've read them, I know what you mean. But surely you're aware that among the writers, especially that first batch, there are many who went on to become famous. I've learned for instance that Robert Silverberg wrote as Don Elliot, Richard Curtis wrote as Curt Aldrich, Lawrence Block was Andrew Shaw, Hal Dresner was Don Holliday, John Jakes was the first J.X. Williams . Harlan Ellison was Paul Merchant, Donald E. Westlake was Alan Marshall .
KEMP: Now that one I did not know until this moment.
LM: Well, actually most of Westlake's books were for other publishers like Midwood and Monarch. He says he didn't write many of the Marshalls you published. I think it became a house name?
KEMP: Some of the pseudonyms were interchangeable.
LM: Let me ask you about some of the other names. Dean Hudson?
KEMP: Ahhh I think if he wants you to know who he is he will tell you. (Note: one night some years later Earl confirmed that Hudson was Evan Hunter.)
LM: Yes but how Okay, how about Clyde Merick?
KEMP: If memory serves, he was not the same Clyde as Allison.
LM: Is there anyone I should call other than the names I gave you?
KEMP: You might ask a writer named Jack Pearl if he wants to talk about this.
(I located Mr. Pearl but could never convince him I wasn't calling from the FBI or IRS, and he refused to divulge his pen name to the day he died. Since he lived in Bellmore NY, I've always wondered if he was Don Bellmore.)
LM: That's an impressive list of talent. You're telling me William Knoles was your best writer?
KEMP: And you can quote me. I loved his jokes. And there were lots of in-jokes between the writers and the office staff. The staff would even stick jokes into manuscripts to see if the writer would catch them in their books.
LM: I'd love to publish a complete list of Knoles' books. Are there office files somewhere with such information? Print runs? Sales figures? Wouldn't William Hamling have all this information?
KEMP: You'd want to ask him of course .
LM: I've tried. I've been told he doesn't talk about the business at all. Ever. With anyone. He has retired to Palm Springs But getting back to Knoles, what did you two write each other about?
KEMP: Oh, in the letters we created this character together, we outlined this whole series of books. The 0008's.
LM: Those James Bond spoofs are probably his most enduring books. It's a shame they will never be reprinted. Why did he name 0008 Trevor Anderson?
KEMP: As I remember the Anderson part was in honor of a writer he and I both admired named Chester Anderson, who had written this comic novel about a man who inherits a brothel.
LM: That would be The Pink Palace (Gold Medal k1374).
KEMP: Right. Not all my memories as editor there are pleasant ones, but my association with William Knoles was one of the highlights. He was very charming.
In 1963 there was a court case and Hamling feared a huge business loss of they lost the case. He started new publishing lines (Pillar, Leisure, etc.) and changed everyone's pen name slightly. During this period Knoles was Clyde Anderson. As soon as they won the court case everyone went back to their original pen names. (I heard this story, and many of the others in this article, from Robert Silverberg.)
The 20 books Knoles wrote about 0008 are very funny, very silly spoofs. Too silly for some readers, they make good light escapist fare, which is all the author or editor ever intended. Of course, like the Bond books they satirized (and the rest of Hamling's output), they were obsessed with sex. Since he couldn't write much about actual sex, Bill let his imagination run wild with subjects he could discuss. Like women's breasts. In classic American breast-obsessed tradition, breasts abound throughout all of the Clyde Allison books. But Clyde never just called them "breasts." No, they were "two soaring horizontal mountains of flesh," "missiles," "diabolically tantalizing beach balls," "twin pouting peaks," "passion-packed pinnacles," "female fun flesh," "white globes of quivering femininity," "crimson bulls-eyes of beckoning bliss," "warm trembling mounds of malleable delight," "leaping, shuddering spheres of lissome flesh," or "boobs jutted out like great scoops of quivering whipped cream." At times Clyde Allison is the literary equivalent of a Russ Meyer movie.
For the 1960's they were considered dirty books, and the nudie covers were usually racier than the contents. William Knoles chose to keep his profession a secret from his friends and neighbors. Peter Saldamondo, one of Bill's drinking buddies at the White Horse, told me he didn't learn his friend was writing these books until after Bill's death. Knoles always introduced himself as a "writer." He never said what kind of writing.
Bill hated cold weather, so every year Bill and Lily left cold Cape Cod and spent the winter in the Florida Keys or Puerto Rico, locations that often turn up in Allison. He loved wildlands and he loved animals. I asked Lily to tell us about the writer:
LILY: Bill had a hard time writing the books because he didn't really like them. He wrote them for the money. Then he'd buy a new boat and need money again. Bill kept himself tied up owing money. He'd write another adult novel just to pay his debts. Just like his Dad, sometimes he was loaded, sometimes he was broke. When he was able to do a lot of tongue in cheek stuff, he enjoyed that. He'd be typing away, laughing, wondering if anyone out there got the jokes. Some were so clever - I remember a character called Eva de Struction.
LM: Yes. She's in Gorgonzola Won't You Please Come Home? Very funny book. Most of the characters have names that mean something in a foreign language - even the hero. His name is Al Fresco. There's a woman in it named Bette Noir - as in bête noir.
LILY: We had a little black poodle and Bill named her Bete Noir. He liked mystery and science fiction - I think he would have gone in that direction. He was very well read in all sorts of fields. I recall he would listen to the radio a lot while writing. He discovered the Beatles early on. I feel it was an indication of low self-esteem that he just kept writing these adult books. It was a new market when he started. I recall he said some of the writers for these appeared to have a very limited acquaintance with the English language. He'd say to me, "I could take a year off and write a serious novel. But what would we live on for that year? How would I support you?" He was supporting his mother, too. Rosina was very neurotic and very manipulative. He spent a lot of money sending her to France, then she came back and complained about what a rotten trip it had been. She had Alzheimer's and she wound up a bag lady, wandering the streets of Manhattan wearing a funny hat. She died some years ago.
LM: There is a lot of misogyny in the books. Was Bill a woman hater?
LILY: Never around me. I started the Provincetown chapter of Women's Liberation and he supported us. He was a champion of civil rights and he corresponded with Angela Davis. I think there were several reasons for the sexism in his books. It was inherent in the genre. He was following a formula, wrong or right. The books were written for a specific audience. He was spoofing the sexism of the James Bond books, which are incredibly sexist to begin with.
LM: That's certainly true. Bill sends up the whole spy genre when 0008 seduces 200 women in one night.
LILY: Another reason might have been deeper. I think he harbored a lot of resentment against his mother and his sister and some of that may crop up in the books.
LM: Well none of them have a loving mom figure, that's for sure. The women are usually just playthings, which dates the books and detracts from all the wonderful humor.
LILY: He used to type the sex scenes separately and then stick them into the books. There had to be a sex scene every so often, like a quota.
LM: Most of his friends were artists. Did he have many writer friends?
LILY: No. He did know Norman Mailer in Provincetown, who was also represented by Scott Meredith. We were out one night and Mailer said, "I don't have any idea how to finish the book I'm working on." And Bill replied, "You don't have anything to worry about, Norman. Scott Meredith will make sure you finish it - and on time!"
LM: Mailer doesn't remember William Knoles. But he's probably forgotten a few of his drinking buddies after so many years. Was Bill, as I've heard, an alcoholic?
LILY: No. He certainly enjoyed social drinking and parties but he was not a drunk. In fact for years if he had even one drink he'd black out and then stop drinking and smoking.
LM: The story they tell in the New York agencies is that he drank himself to death.
LILY: No. Bill had bi-polar disorder. He was a manic depressive. The mental illness took over and that is what killed him. Today they have medication to control this condition, but in the 1960's they didn't know how to treat him. They put him in the hospital once and he just got worse. Because of the grandiosity that comes with his disorder, he would spend so much money he couldn't afford to stop and write something else. His spending sprees estranged him from his mother and sister. He sold his share of our house once to pay a bar tab. That was the end of his relationship with his sister. She had to buy it back from a bartender. Bill became suicidal. He attempted suicide a couple of times he walked out into the surf at Puerto Rico one time. He got worse and worse and he was dragging me down with him. After conferring with his doctor, we got a divorce. I was able to start a business in the next town. We remained friends but I watched the illness consume him.
In the year or so after the divorce Bill fell for a young woman in Provincetown, a free spirit named Jan Kelly. Jan told me Bill was a tall, funny, extremely bright man. She insists he wasn't a drunk and remembers he was clear-eyed and sober the last time she saw him. Once he gave her four books and asked her to guess which one he had written. She got three wrong before he told her he had written the fourth, a sleazy paperback.
Bill was truly a writer of the 1960's. His first book was published in 1960, his last in 1969. His last years were eaten up by his mental illness. He was unable to write any more. The doctors were right, it was a downward spiral of desperation, depression, and despair. His agent called from New York. The editor at Lancer, Robert Hoskins, wanted another book.
Just before Christmas in 1972, Jan went to Boston for the holidays. Lily, tired of watching her ex-husband deteriorate, was out of town. His mother and sister were back home in New York City.
Bill Knoles, who loved parties and people, was alone. Bill Knoles, who hated the cold, was alone on Cape Cod, freezing in December. Perhaps he realized that we are all of us terribly alone in this world. We surround ourselves with family and friends, but at the end, in the dark cold times, the long December nights, we are so alone. Sometime on December 20, William Henley Knoles put his pocket money and Social Security card on a table. He took a warm bath. In the bathtub he slashed his throat open with a razor blade. Somehow he found the strength to do it again, since the coroner's report tells us he had "deep neck lacerations." Plural. The cause of death is "exsanguination." In layman's terms, he bled to death.
On Christmas some neighbors complained to the Provincetown police and Bill's body was discovered. Later, he was cremated. Lily and Jan scattered his ashes across his beloved Provincetown wildlands. There was no obituary. He just disappeared. There was no grave or marker, but Bill had once told Lily he wanted his marker just to say "Lost At Sea." Bill's sister Diana, furious at him about the debts he left behind and their countless fights about the house, went out to Cape Cod and took all of his papers, manuscripts, and books, and burned them in the back yard. As a result, there is no definitive list of all of his work.
"It is upsetting to think about him," Lily told me. "In some ways it was a wasted life. He had so much talent and couldn't use it."
Barry Malzberg said, "William Knoles had the worst ending of any American writer. And we specialize in bad endings."
Bill's last agent, Richard Curtis, said, "He was a wonderful writer - he was too good for the books he wrote. All that talent wasted on worthless books."
There are many ironies today, looking back at Bill's work, but perhaps the greatest is that his books are far from worthless. Dedicated paperback collectors have sought out his rare books, and the 0008 books fetch increasingly high prices at auction when they do turn up. People who read and enjoy these books are surprised to find plot and structure and solid writing in the Clyde Allison books. One collector told me he was attracted by the darkness lurking just under that comic surface. In a seminal article in Penthouse Forum called "The Golden Age of the Dirty Book," author Harvey Hornwood correctly noted that Clyde Allison is "always readable and seldom boring" with "sharp, deft prose and entertaining plots."
Bill Knoles' mental illness prevented him from making the leap to more "respectable" genres as most of the other softcore writers from the Scott Meredith Agency did. As a result, unlike them he is not found in many reference books today. The only review of Knoles as Clyde Allison is in Bill Pronzini's guide to the "worst" in mystery fiction, Son of Gun In Cheek. Although he understandably gets some facts wrong (misspells the name Knowles, cites 18 in the 0008 series), he has a fine understanding of Clyde Allison's 0008 books: "the ultimate not only in soft-core porn novels but in goofy satire: by turns raunchy, mad, silly, ingenious, childish, horribly sexist, and very funny fond of puns, literary references, film references, all sorts of satirical asides to the reader, and private jokes ."
Otherwise, Knoles is forgotten today, which is probably just as he wanted it. But Clyde Allison lives on in the books. "I'm actually terribly prolific for a hack writer," he once wrote. He recognized his work as the work of a hack. But he was one hell of a hack writer.
William Hamling refused to be interviewed for this article. He lives in Palm Springs, CA. It has been suggested to me that he may have entered into business dealings with some unsavory characters, hence his reticence to discuss those days today.
Scott Meredith refused to be interviewed for this article. Certainly his tremendous talents as an agent made his fortune. Perhaps some of that fortune might have come from the profits from the adult books he supplied - several thousand of them - for Hamling's organization. Meredith died of cancer in February 1993.
Lily Pendleton went back to Columbia after Bill's death and got her Doctorate in Psychology. She works as a counselor in Vermont. Her patients include the victims of child abuse and rape. She also works with manic depressives. She was kind enough to open up an old and painful chapter of her life for this article, and I'd like to dedicate this to Dr. Lily Pendleton, Ph.D.
Among the many people I want to thank for help: Victor Berch, R.C. and Elwanda Holland, James Tate, Chris Eckhoff, Harvey Hornwood, Michael Horowitz, Thomas Lesser, Jeff Gelb, Lance Casebeer, Robert Speray, Bill Pronzini, Rachel Parker-Stephen, Art Hackathorn, Grant Thiessen, and Greg Funke. Thanks to Jeff Munroe, who provided me with a copy of A Christian Understanding of Sex by Clyde Allison.
The following people were kind enough to answer letters and/or be interviewed: Donald E. Westlake, Henry Morrison, Lawrence Block, Hal Dresner, Harlan Ellison, Richard Curtis, Robert Silverberg, Joe Elder, Earl Kemp, Norman Mailer, Joe Goldberg, Arthur Plotnik, Barry N. Malzberg, Dr. Lily Pendleton, Peter Saldamando, Richard Saldamando, Diana Henley, and Jan Kelly.
Jan asked why after all these years I wanted to know about Bill Knoles. I told her that since many of the other writers of these books turned out to be great writers using pen names, I had wondered if maybe Clyde Allison would too. But instead all I had found out was that it was an unknown guy named William Knoles.
"No," Jan said. "You did find the great writer. The great writer was Bill."
An Agent 0008 Checklist
The 20 books in the 0008 Series were written by Clyde Allison, a pseudonym of William Knoles, and published by William Hamling. Series editor was Earl Kemp. Seventeen out of the twenty feature spectacular cover paintings by Robert Bonfils but the very best of them all also had hand-lettered titles by Harry Bremner.
- - -
A William Henley Knoles Bibliography
Compiled by Lynn Munroe
1. Writing as Clyde Allison (also Clyde Anderson, Carter Allen); listed alphabetically by publisher:
Y705 Have Nude Will Travel (December 4, 1962) [See also "Streetfighting For Fun & Profit" below.] Soldier of fortune/pilot Jake O'Day on the job.
After Knoles' death the publisher reprinted some of the Clyde Allison Nightstands in the Reed Nightstand series using the pseudonym Carter Allen.
3038 The Lustful Ones (as Clyde Allison) reprints
2. Writing as Clyde Ames
3. Writing as Wilson Craddock, Jr.:"The Artifact" in Party ("Booze is the Only Answer" Club Magazine) (1961). science fiction short story
4. Writing as John Dexter:
Editor Earl Kemp told me they first used the house names John Dexter and J.X. Williams when they had two manuscripts ready in the same month in the same group by the same writer. There are probably J.X. Williams books by William Knoles, but because his papers were all destroyed when he died, we may never know which ones he wrote. There are probably more Dexter titles by Knoles. The first of these two is definitely Knoles, the second is a maybe:
5. Writing as William Knoles (magazines):
"Home is Where the Hearse Is" in Thrilling Detective (April 1952). Knoles' first story is this pulp thriller, a breezy comedy told in present tense. Creepy Club Mysteries publicist Typhoon Townsend enters the quiet life of author Herbert Hotspur and turns it upside down.
"Girls for the Slime God" in Playboy (November 1960). A loving, nostalgic, and funny look back at the classic science fiction pulps. Illustrated by Will Elder. Author's working title was "BEMS, Anyone?"
"The Saga of the Marvelous Men" in Diner's Club magazine (November 1965). A salute to the pulp heroes of yesteryear: Doc Savage, The Shadow, Operator #5, Nick Carter, and Tarzan.
6. Writing as Williamson Knowles?
"Cabin in the Sky" in Mystery Digest (May-June 1961). There is no verification that this is William Knoles, but we know that he was selling a lot of stories in 1961, and Scott Meredith authors often provided material for this digest. The name is obviously very similar and no other stories by Mr. Knowles have surfaced. The style, however, is unlike anything else Knoles wrote: a violent first-person hardboiled crime story with a bloody shootout finale. Barry Malzberg believes this is "unquestionably" Knoles.
7. Writing as Max Williams (magazines):
"The Converter" in Gent (April 1960). Court case satire about color converters that attach to black and white television sets.
"Treasure Ho!" in Escapade (August 1960). Short but hilarious article about treasure hunting.
"Debt of a Salesman" in Dude (March 1961). Satirical short story about buying on credit.
"The Seeder" in If (March, 1961). Science fiction short story.
"Beware of Patterns" in Mr. Magazine (April 1961). Mystery story.
"What? Another Ultimate Weapon?" in Help! (June 1961). Comedy story about a battle in the future using concentrated television waves as weapons.
"The Education of Jefferson Burbage" in Escapade (October 1961). Solid short story with an O. Henry-style twist ending. One of Knoles' best. Reprinted in Escapade Yearbook 1963.
"Streetfighting For Fun & Profit" in Hi-Life (November 1961). Clyde Allison-style very funny article about self-defense ads. (In Have Nude Will Travel [Berkley Y705], Mrs. Tamerlane complains that her son reads things like "Streetfighting For Fun & Profit.")
"To Tahiti - Second Step" in Adam Bedside Reader #24 (1966) Article on sailing to Tahiti.
The Missing Knoles Stories:
Certainly there are other articles and stories to be discovered. Lily remembers Bill writing a funny magazine piece about wine snobs. Bill's agent thinks he sold something to TV Guide. Bill's sister remembers some Sunday supplement-type articles. Anyone coming across ANYTHING not listed here by William Knoles, Max Williams, Clyde Allison, or any of his other pen names is asked to please pass the information along to eI.
Circumstances of Knoles' death, and the situation under which his books were published, may prevent us from ever having a complete list of his books. There are probably Knoles books printed under the wrong pen name, or a house name, or by other publishers under unknown pseudonyms. [Since writing this article I read Next Stop Sinland (Leisure 1120) by Dean Hudson. It is unmistakably written by William Knoles.]
A William Henley Knoles Paperback Cover Gallery
The following scans of William Knoles' paperback books is not a complete collection:
|Revenge of the Slime Gods From
By Earl Kemp [with alien illustrations by William Rotsler from Masque]
In 1960, John Kennedy was elected President, Playboy club No. 1 opened in Chicago, and I went to Boise, Idaho to help honor my old buddy Rog Phillips who was Guest of Honor at the BoiCon. And, almost coincidentally, I edited and produced my first SaFari Annual, a little tome called Who Killed Science Fiction? It was a very serious question at the time, because what there was of it was fading away fast.
Actually, most of the world was stretching, flexing some unused muscles, thinking some unthought thoughts, and starting to undergo a radical upheaval from the inside out. Viet Nam was already looming ominously just over the horizon, the goddamned Commie Pinko Ruskies were beating the socks off NASA in outer space, and the CIA was about to get the shit kicked out of it at the Bay of Pigs.
Everything was starting to change for the better/worse/same and flower children were finding new and more exciting ways and places to run nude, make love, and not war in.
That's why I wanted to know who killed science fiction? With everything else going to hell in a hand basket, why should science fiction be worth saving?
Not only was there this social and political upheaval going on, but the single biggest factor in the life of most science fiction magazines, their major distributor, the American News Company, had just gone bust belly up the big one leaving far too many periodical producers with no way to get their products onto the marketplace anywhere ever.
Several people, writing for Who Killed Science Fiction?, went right straight to the point.
E.J. Carnell, a prominent British magazine editor at the time, was the first to touch upon the collapse of the American News Company. "In America, I believe that a greater part of the loss of sales of the magazines to the pocketbook market is due largely to the chaotic system of distribution - in fact, the science fiction depression stems largely from the collapse of the American News Company. This was the straw that broke the camel's back and had repercussions throughout the American trade ."
Note that Carnell specifically pointed to the switchover from science fiction magazines to "the pocketbook market." Paperback sleaze was alive, well, and running out of sight over the horizon.
Dean McLaughlin wrote: "It is worth pointing out that most science fiction magazines are given very poor distribution. They do not reach the retail stands where they can be sold. Whether this is a consequence of poor showings in the past - certainly one factor - or whether it simply reflects the fierce competition that exists for display space on the newsstands - this is something I can't answer . I do believe, though, that since the collapse of American News Company a few years ago (and, granted, its existence was - at best - a very mixed blessing) most science fiction magazines have had for their distributors (their national distributors, that is - not to be confused with the local magazine wholesalers) second-string, weak-kneed outfits which - since they lack top-ranking magazines in their lists - are unable to exert much persuasion on the local wholesalers through which they must work ."
Robert Silverberg wrote: "The trouble, simply, is distribution. The collapse of the American News Company signaled the collapse of science fiction . Distribution now is a monopoly of arrogant petty potentates who can't be bothered putting such low-return items as fiction magazines on the stands ."
Silverberg would revisit this theme again, in Penthouse Letters of December 1992. In an article named "My Life As A Pornographer," Silverberg writes: "I was 24 years old when I stumbled, much to my surprise, into a career of writing sex novels. I was then, as I am now, primarily known as a science-fiction writer. But in l958, as a result of a behind-the-scenes convulsion in the magazine-distribution business, the whole s-f publishing world went belly up. A dozen or so magazines for which I had been writing regularly ceased publication overnight; and as for the tiny market for s-f novels (two paperback houses and one hardcover) it suddenly became so tight that unless you were one of the first-magnitude stars like Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov you were out of luck."
That's when it really started happening big time, in the late 1959s and on until the early 1970s. The Slime Gods From Outer Space started their switchover from writing science fiction to writing pornography. Only it wasn't pornography but that was the label used at that point in time. To be more accurate, they were certifiably pristine, pure, and totally sex free. There was not even implied offstage sex going on. Not one word of profanity was used, no vulgarisms, no offensive terms of any sort, no character had any body parts and that was pornography?
Initially, the editor's major job was making sure that not one offensive fragment appeared in any one of those novels.
Certainly the powers to be of the time thought those editors were criminals for producing all those clean but effective beat-off books, and the Feds began full-scale efforts to control it, stop it, or to extort all the profit out of it for themselves. To hell with legality! To hell with the First Amendment! To hell with you, just give me the money .
And, with fiction markets dwindling quicker than you can say slush pile, more and more of the science fiction personnel began crossing the line and working on books that, today, are labeled "paperback sleaze" and are much sought after and command incomprehensible prices at online auctions and estate sales.
One thing should be noted of historical significance, the content of those legally free First Amendment paperback books changed exponentially, pyramiding even, in direct response to the degree of criminal activity displayed by law enforcement personnel at all levels attempting to silence them the very same people who are allegedly involved with protecting citizen's legal rights? Surely I jest ?
Many of the people who made this switch in professions, to any extent, fought numbers of battles, mostly in courts, against those law-breaking law-enforcement people and their criminal attempts to subvert free expression. It is altogether proper to consider them as being First Amendment Warriors and to honor them for their audacity, naivety, and willingness to suffer for a worthy cause.
Following is a partial list of switchover personnel:
- - -
|Bill, Clyde, Trevor, & Me*
By Earl Kemp
William Knoles, Clyde Allison, Trevor Anderson, and me.
The best writer (including an occasional author or two) I ever worked with was William Knoles. Under his pseudonym Clyde Allison, he created Trevor Anderson, 0008, the Man from Sadisto.
William Knoles was a science fiction fan, a novelist, and a satire and humor writer. He was a Scott Meredith/Richard Curtis staffer and client. He was a big-time partier, a heavy drinker, a recluse, and an incongruous bi-polar extrovert/introvert. Ultimately half of him killed himself to escape his other half evil twinself.
Knoles is probably best known as the writer of a series of sleaze paperback satires on 007, the James Bond books. The Bond films were very popular and Fleming's books were selling well and everyone was talking about Sean Connery. Knoles, as "Clyde Allison," wrote the exciting adventures of Agent 0008, Trevor Anderson.
0008, the Man from Sadisto series, consists of 20 extremely illusive and eagerly sought after paperback titles published by Greenleaf Classics. They command unexpectedly high prices at auctions and estate sales. Almost all of them were adorned with stunning cover paintings by Robert Bonfils and hand-lettered titles by Harry Bremner [all 20 of them displayed elsewhere in this issue of eI]. Taken together as a whole, the 0008 series is the single most sparkling crown of the entire sleaze paperback period through the 1960s and 70s from all producers combined.
It was my good fortune to be Bill Knoles' friend, confidant, and dare-I-say mentor during those turbulent 1960s and 70s. He was the first of many of the "secret" Black Box Happy Pornographers operated by Scott Meredith that I was allowed to know and work with.
He was a spectacular stand-out as a writer, from the customary Meredith homogenized pulpmass, and he quickly came to the attention of every editor in the Greenleaf organization. We didn't even have to discuss it, somehow we just knew he was our favorite writer of the thousands whose work we routinely examined.
Everyone wanted to be Clyde Allison's editor. The urgent need became a real problem around the office and we had to recycle Clyde from editor's desk to editor's desk to make sure everyone had an equal amount of time fondling it and working their way slowly and lovingly through the pages. Now and then, manuscript pages waving in the air, one of them would rush out of their office and loudly announce, "You've just gotta hear this " and proceed to read Knoles excerpts aloud in fits of giggles, gasps, and delight.
Bill and I communicated regularly and heavily for a while, when he was first coming on line. He was living in Massachusetts then, some remote location that was reached by telephone. I admit I used him shamelessly for my personal benefit. Every time I found I was feeling down or depressed, I knew all I had to do was to grab the phone and call Bill [physician, heal thyself ?]. The sound of his voice, the feel of his intellect, the presence of his humor was all it took. In two seconds flat I was laughing my ass off in response to Knoles' dialogue.
I have to admit that I was not aware of Bill's bi-polar disorder; he hid it from me so effectively. There were times when he wasn't as funny as usual, and even when I couldn't reach him for a while, but I didn't think anything unusual was gong on. I thought he was one of the happiest, best-adjusted people I knew. Appearances and actions often hide the most dire personal plagues.
For those rare occasions when Bill wasn't available, or he was away on an extended trip, I had a morale-booster backup George Davies (who wrote as Lance Lester, Ricardo Armory, Etc.). George was a retired Walt Disney writer living in Palm Springs at the time. George, like Bill, could make me laugh instantly.
Together, Knoles and I, we worked out the general plan for the 0008 series. Initially, we thought of him as 069 to further complement Bond James Bond, but as we tossed it about it quickly became unhandy. While it carried the proper symbology with it, it did not compare well with "double ought seven." Finally, we settled for "triple ought eight."
Eventually every editor in the firm made additions to the mythology and suggested characters, plots, or satire titles. We did much of this via the telephone but we also did much of it through correspondence. I've always had the feeling that those documents, should they ever surface, would make one hell of a good editor/writer book. Only thing is, when I left Greenleaf, the last thing I had on my mind was mining the files for posterity.
Then, to make matters worse, when Bill offed himself, his sister got so pissed off at him that she deliberately went through all his possessions, making sure she burned every scrap of every letter in every file every manuscript page, finished or not every thing on paper belonging to Bill, his creations, and his past.
Ahh, the fleeting illusiveness of fame the bankable allure of notoriousness .
Knoles' second claim to fame appeared in Playboy in (November 1960) an article named "Girls for the Slime God." The article featured a number of excellent science fiction pulp magazine cover satires by Will Elder. The piece itself was nostalgia inspired by Knoles' own past as a pulp addict.
In Amazing Stories March 1961, Isaac Asimov picked the nostalgia-inspired theme up with "Playboy and the Slime God."
It was quite popular indeed. A Google search, translated from a French language website, shows how extensively this is true in the following excerpt from an Isaac Asimov bibliography:
First publication "Playboy and the Slime God" in:
Amazing Stories, March 1961
--Google translated from a French language website
Eventually, Mike Resnick gathered them all up into a convenient "Slime God" anthology sporting a first-class cover by Peggy Rawson named Girls for the Slime God.
On the Amazon website, they are rather proud of the book. They had this to say:
About the Author
- - -
Slime God Satire Pulp Cover No. 3:
Origin of the Flying Saucers
I Remember Bill .
When I worked at Scott Meredith Literary Agency, we handled a lot of soft-core sex novels that are pretty tame by today's standards. Most of the writers churned them out strictly for the money and as a means to hone their writing skills for more serious fiction. It was never assumed that sex novel writing was where you wanted to end your career, and many of the writers tried to have fun with the books. We even had a weekly card game attended by some of the writers and over beer and pretzels we would compete for the most outrageous sex scenes (on surf boards, etc.)
Bill Knoles was not a member of the card game group
but we acknowledged him as one of the best writers working in the field.
He created a series of James Bond spoofs that in my opinion were better
than the original Bonds. Like everyone else, Knoles had bigger ambitions
and wanted to write humor for Playboy. Unfortunately, his
Playboy stuff wasn't as funny as his sex novels, and he knew it.
He became addicted to writing the sex books and drinking more and more
heavily, tormenting himself with his inability to rise out of what he
considered to be the lowest rung of genre writing. I believe it
was this guilt and self-hatred that caused him to kill himself. I
have often reflected that the cause of death was sex novels.
Met Knoles for about a minute in l967. I met Knoles for one
minute over 35 years ago and have only one anecdote and here it is and fetig as Sol Yurick
would say: Knoles came to the agency in l967 to have lunch with Richard Curtis (agency
foreign rights guy who had written his own share of Kozies), Curtis introduced us as we
three entered the elevator at 7th floor to get to street. "I want you to know I
learned practically everything I know about writing porn from this guy," Curtis
said. Knoles smiled bitterly. "Me too," he said.
The Death of Clyde Allison*
By William Knoles
"Because the stupid message is from my authorized biographer," I snarled. "An ink-stained wretch named Clyde Allison."
I turned back to the stupid message.
"Dear Mr. Anderson," I read. "Thank you for forwarding so promptly your notes, memoranda, tape recordings and other data concerning your latest case, dealing with the self-styled Desert Damsels. Thanks, too, for sending along all those Polaroid prints. I'm sure some periodical of the caliber of Lewd magazine will jump at the chance to run a "Girls of the Desert" feature, though there may be some difficulty with the Post Office authorities.
"As to your fact-packed notes, I'm sure they can be assembled into a book of some sort. There is also, as you suggest, a good chance that this book will subsequently be made into a movie of another sort.
"However, allow me to point out that the climactic scene of the latest adventure of yours - where you're left staring at a pile of eight hundred corpses - is a bit on the down-beat side for movie purposes. Also, you seem to have won by dumb luck rather than through your own courage, skill or ingenuity.
"And that concludes my preliminary report, Mr. Anderson," I read, "though there is one thing that puzzles me. Along with your notes concerning the Desert Damsels was a folder marked GIANT VAMPIRE BAT CASE, the contents of which don't seem to relate at all to your last adventure. Perhaps you intended it as a joke. I presume this must be the case, as - hah, hah - giant vampire bats are headed directly toward the abandoned ghost town where I live. And I certainly don't anticipate that a vampire bat with a ten-foot wingspan and a magnificently erotic if furry body is about to crash through my window and - ahhhilieee! Get it off me! Get it off..."
The teletype suddenly went silent.
"What does it all mean?" gasped the naked nymph, who'd been reading over my shoulder.
"It means," I muttered, "that either that ink-stained wretch is trying to be funny, or I'm going to need a new authorized biographer. But enough of trivial matters - kiss me, you wound-up fool!"
And she did. And, together, we wound and unwound all night long...
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William Knoles and the Slime God*
By Mike Resnick
I never had the opportunity to meet William Knoles, but he had a major effect on my life, due to a single article he wrote for Playboy more than 40 years ago. In one swell foop he led me to two magazines that were so awful that they were delightful, inspired a charming Asimov story, gave Will Elder work that eventually led to Little Annie Fanny, inspired my wife with a notion that ultimately became a Best in Show costume at a NasFic masquerade, and finally gave me an anthology that is still getting fan mail.
His article, and my anthology, were both titled Girls for the Slime God. Let me share my introduction to the book with you. It was titled, appropriately enough, "Me and the Slime God".
November 1960 was a pretty interesting time to be around.
Kelso was just wrapping up the first of his five Horse of the Year titles.
A womanizer who makes Bill Clinton look like a monk with vows of celibacy won the presidency from a Richard who makes Shakespeare's villain of the same name look like a choirboy.
Ngo Dinh Diem crushed an army revolt in a little country called Vietnam that most Americans couldn't find on a map. (Oh, hell, let's be honest - most Americans still can't find it.)
America's first submarine armed with nuclear missiles put out to sea.
And the November Playboy hit the stands.
Now, you might think that last item is pretty minor, and perhaps it is, but the first four have nothing to do with this book, whereas the November 1960 Playboy is responsible for it.
I think it was one of the half-dozen or so issues of Playboy I ever bought. It's not a magazine that does much for me, once I get through staring at the photos. In fact, that issue is the only one I've ever kept. I still have it, and I still open it up every year or so.
But not to the photos.
I bought it because, as I was thumbing through it at the newsstand at the ripe old age of 18, I came to a series of science fiction pulp covers in glorious color. Then, as I looked more closely, I realized that they were parodies of pulp covers, drawn by Will Elder of Mad and Little Annie Fanny fame.
They illustrated an article called "Girls for the Slime God," by William Knoles, a wonderful tongue-in-cheek piece of nostalgia about all those old science fiction pulps that featured BEMs (Bug-Eyed Monsters, for the uninitiated) ripping the clothes off the heroine, and usually sporting titles like the one the article itself bore.
As you'll learn, though most of the magazine covers promised such goodies, only one magazine - Marvel Science Stories - delivered on that promise, and then only in its first two issues.
Knoles began quoting from the magazine, especially from a story called "The Avengers of Space," which is all about space heroine Lorna's futile attempts to keep her clothes on for more than a page at a time, and a funny thing happened - I fell everlastingly in love with poor Lorna and her ill-fated obsession to keep getting dressed.
Now, I wasn't the only person who read that article. Isaac Asimov did, too, and he immediately produced an amusing fictional answer entitled "Playboy and the Slime God," which ran in the March 1961 Amazing Stories.
Fast forward to 1963. I finally found the first two issues of Marvel Science Stories, which contained "The Avengers of Space," "The Time Trap," and "Dictator of the Americas," the three stories that were quoted extensively in Knoles' article. (They cost 50 cents apiece; I doubt that you could buy the pair of them for much less that $150 today.) Carol and I were as dead broke as most young couples, and got our entertainment as cheaply as possible - and I can still recall the night that we sat down and read "The Avengers of Space" aloud to each other, the rule being that one of us read until he or she cracked up with laughter and then the other took over.
I also noted an interesting thing. Not all the stories, even in these two issues, were the sort Knoles remembered so fondly. In fact, there were just the three I mentioned above. And two of the three were written by the prolific Henry Kuttner, who later went on to write - in collaboration with his wife, Catherine L. Moore - the Gallagher stories, the Baldy stories, "A Gnome There Was," Fury, "What You Need," and a host of other semi-classics.
Only the short story, "Dictator of the Americas," was written by someone else - in fact, by a name I'd never encountered before, James Hall. When I went through my various indexes trying to track him down, I discovered that "James Hall" was a pseudonym of Henry Kuttner's.
(Kuttner used a lot of pseudonyms. One legend, perhaps apocryphal though it makes sense given the tenor of the times, is that he had to invent "Lewis Padgett" and "Lawrence O'Donnell" because, after the shocking tales of Lorna and her fellow heroines, no editor would buy from him. In a poll taken in the late 1940s, both Padgett and O'Donnell ranked higher than Kuttner in the readers' affections.)
So Playboy published the article, and Isaac responded to it, and I bought and read the stories, and that was that. Except, as I mentioned, I fell in love with Lorna - and so, in a very platonic way, did Carol.
Now, Carol had been creating costumes for us to wear in the World Science Fiction Convention masquerades all during the 1970s. We had won in 1973 and 1974, lost in 1976, and won again in 1977. All of them had been beautiful and elaborate, and soon most of the costumers were imitating her approach, so she decided to do one last costume to show everyone that beautiful and elaborate wasn't the only way to go, and then retire from competition. What she came up with was an old-fashioned burlesque skit featuring Lorna, Captain Shawn, the BEM ("a teratological baroque spawned by no sane world"), and a Mime who would hold up speech balloons as the actors froze in pulp poses. Her only criterion was that the entire costume for all four of us had to cost less than $100.
"The Avengers of Space" won Best in Show at the 1979 NorthAmeriCon held in Louisville, Kentucky, and suddenly there was renewed interest in Lorna and the Knoles article and Isaac's story and the whole damned Slime God milieu. I was just starting to sell regularly and make a name for myself in the science fiction field, and it occurred to me that I could put together a book called Girls for the Slime God that would begin with the Knoles article, then run the three Kuttner stories (two of which were novellas and would bulk it out), follow them with the Asimov story, and finally maybe even run the script for our costume.
The one thing I knew was that this wasn't a mass-market book. Not that sex doesn't sell, but rather that if you don't love the field, if you can't read these with a sense of delight and nostalgia and realize how far we've come, then they're just more fodder for critics who constantly judge science fiction by its worst examples. (Let's be honest here: Kuttner wrote these for a bottom-of-the-barrel market just about 60 years ago.)
One small press after another enthusiastically agreed to publish Girls for the Slime God, only to run into problems. Phantasia Press went dormant. Pulphouse closed its doors. Others had other problems. But now Gordie Meyer has elected to make it his company's very first publication, and all's well that ends well.
So she's back, blushing and chilly, eluding BEMs and heroes with equal desperation.
And there you have it.
So on behalf of myself, a few hundred masquerade fans, and a few thousand anthology readers, I just want to say: Thank you, William Knoles.
We all owe you.
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