When I was young, my uncle asked me who my favorite writer was. I remember a momentary flash in my brain, as I realized that PEOPLE write books. Somehow I’d thought they were like mountains and rivers: they just existed. From the moment I understood that people wrote books, I wanted to write a novel. I took some detours along the way, but a few years back realized that I’m most likely closer to the end of the my life than I am to the beginning of it. So I started writing. And Blackmail, My Love, is coming out from CLEIS Press in November 2014 — here’s the galley proof! It includes 22 of my illustrations, one of which appears on the front – the classic Corona typewriter.
Blackmail, My Love is set in 1951 and the plot turns around a blackmail ring targeting LGBT people. While the novel is a work of fiction, it is rooted in historical fact. Blackmail targeting Queer people flourished between World Wars I and II, though its reaches at least as far back as the late eighteenth century, and most famously to Oscar Wilde in the late nineteenth century. Anti-sodomy laws basically armed blackmailers, because at the time we couldn’t go to the police for assistance. We know of extortion rings targeting Queers in New York, Atlantic City, and Washington, D.C, for example. And in the 1950s the F.B.I. used the supposed susceptibility of homosexuals to blackmail to justify hounding out and firing large numbers of us from government service. There was a 1961 British film called Victim that focused on the double-bind that anti-sodomy laws created for Queers. Dirk Bogarde courageously starred in the movie after several other actors turned down the role. The film was the first in the English language to use the word “homosexual,” and was initially banned in the U.S., but contributed to changes in the British legal system