A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a book that kick-started my “slight” obsession for collecting vintage American gay paperbacks. The book was called Queer Pulp and had on its cover a blown-up reproduction of Chris Davidson’s Caves of Iron.
What is fascinating about these books is that, from the ‘40s to the ‘60s, their cover art, titles and marketing blurbs give an insight into the evolution of gay male behaviour as well as how they were portrayed in the second half of the 20th Century. In the 1940s they were still married, in the closet and usually tortured by their homosexual tendencies. In the 1950s, they were queer and hiding in some “twilight world”. In the 1960’s they became much more visible, unashamedly masculine and sexually aware.
As novels, most of them are pretty bad (in a good way): cheap pulp, badly (and quickly) written for sexual titillation and very much of their time; but some are classics of modern American literature: The City and the Pillar, Giovanni’s Room and Quatrefoil. But as far as I am concerned, from a paperback collector’s point of you, it’s all about the cover!
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