My Gay Fiction Reading List, Part Two

LATE ’80s and Early ’90s

Dancer from the Dance, Andrew Holleran –  I can’t really remember the first time I read, or at least tried to read, this book. It must have been sometime in the 80s. It was published in 1978 and I know I didn’t try it until it had been out for a while. I don’t think I liked it. A few years ago, I tried it again and simply loved it. I’m an enormous fan of The Great Gatsby and have read that three times. The two books bear a number of similarities and would be terrific read back to back or taught together in a class (yes, I am that big a book geek)…

Joseph Hansen – I’ve read all of the Dave Brandsetter mysteries at least once. It’s a terrific series and definitely an influence on my Boystown mystery series. Anyone interested in gay fiction or mysteries or both should be reading these books. There’s a recent omnibus, which I’ve purchased. My copy fell apart, though. The original hard covers are still available from used booksellers on Amazon or Ebay and are often quite cheap. (I just noticed, there are some new editions out, very exciting.) Highly recommend this series.

Prick Up Your Ears, John Lahr – I’ve always had an interest in true crime and have read many, many books in that genre. After seeing the movie, I couldn’t help but pick this up and give it a read. Playwright Joe Orton had quite the life and the book deals with it frankly. There’s a lot of information on what it was like to be gay in London during the 50s and 60s which in itself is fascinating. And certainly the dynamic between Orton and his lover (and eventual killer) is very compelling.

What the Butler Saw, Joe Orton – After seeing Prick Up Your Ears I had to check out Orton’s plays. They’re hysterical. While I like Loot quite a lot, I think What the Butler Saw is really his masterpiece. Though he owes a huge debt to Oscar Wilde, Orton’s farces are much more gender bending and take huge risks, even in the much freer environment of the 60s. I always re-read Orton whenever I’m thinking of writing a comedy.

Christopher Bram – I think I’ve read everything by Christopher Bram except for his first book, Surprising Myself.  I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to it, I just haven’t. My favorites are Hold Tight (which takes place in a male brothel during World War II) and Almost History. I also liked The Father of Frankenstein, which became the film Gods and Monsters. Bram is always worth reading and if you haven’t read him you should check him out.

Blue Heaven, Joe Keenan – A wonderfully funny book with two lesser, but enjoyable sequels. In the 80s, my ex always made jokes about wanting to marry a woman for the wedding gifts. Obviously, Keenan had the same idea, he just decided to write a book about it. Keenan went on to write for Frasier; which is great for television viewing but not so great for gay fiction.

Michael Nava – Another favorite mystery series. I’ve read most of it, and have been thinking of going back and re-reading it – mainly because I haven’t read the last in the series Rag and Bone and it will have more impact if I pick up the thread again. I loved the way he incorporates the AIDS epidemic in these books. I recall they’re a little more personal than many detective series and benefit from that.

Alan Hollinghurst – While I recommend all of his books, my favorites are The Swimming Pool Library, which I’ve read twice, The Line of Beauty, and his most recent book The Stranger’s Child. If you read my earlier post on gay fiction you’ll remember that I was upset about The Stranger’s Child being marketed as historical fiction rather than gay fiction. After reading the book, I’m still bothered. It’s a very gay book. Certainly, it is less sexual than his earlier work, which presumably makes it more accessible to straights, though I hope that’s not why he made that choice. In my reading, I’ve read many, many very explicit heterosexual love scenes, hopefully we’ll get to the point where publishers and writers will be willing to expect the same from a straight audience.

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