A GLIMPSE INTO
THE MIND OF YOUR HOST...
I am not a lesbian, though I did go to a college nicknamed "Wesbian" (see the occasionally funny box office flop PCU for more on this subject). One of the many valuable concepts I absorbed at Wesleyan concerned POTENTIAL. No, not the potential of an English degree to reel in a dream job; rather it was a sublime idea first glimpsed on a flyer in the community center (or was it a graffito on the unisex bathroom wall? or perhaps yet another announcement from Public Safety found in my mailbox?): every woman is a potential lesbian. Strange sisters everywhere. A few years later, I discovered the lovely lipsticked world of 50's and 60's paperback lesbians. I'd never seen so much potential.
I'm in it for the covers, plain and simple. The artwork. The typography. The titles. At present, I haven't read a single one of these little gems in its entirety, and it's not just because the books might very well disintegrate in my hands. The fact is that the text simply CANNOT live up to the masterfully drawn female figures and knowing glances that grace Brandon House covers or the outrageously over-the-top paintings by Robert Bonfils or Eric Stanton, or even for that matter the misshapen faces and laughable nipple-less breasts and absurd scenarios created by nameless hacks of yesteryear.
I mean no offense to the minority of authors who (according to the more academically inclined) treated the subject seriously and thoughtfully (Ann Bannon, Vin Packer, Patricia Highsmith). It's clear from the back cover blurbs alone that the lion's share of these paperbacks are soft porn with loads of thin plots and lots of heavy breathing, the kind of books rated "T" for "Trash" in Barbara Grier's The Lesbian In Literature. In fact, the first edition of Grier's book originally compiled by Gene Damon and Lee Stuart "contains over 1000 entries deliberately deleted from the second edition because they were paperback original novels authored by males for a male audience, with a 'T' rating throughout".
With very few exceptions, the criteria for my collection are: two women on the cover, painted covers (as opposed to photo covers - there are hundreds), and nothing past 1969. There are some paperbacks on this site that very well may not contain a single lesbian in the text, but as long as the cover artwork SUGGESTS lesbians, they're in.
I feel no need to assign some larger historical importance or deeper social relevance to these books. I can think of no other body of visual art so varied, humorous, outrageous, sexy. That this art was the by-product of an industry pandering to seemingly insatiable appetite for trashiness makes it all the greater in my eyes.
As I've scanned the books, I've documented the titles, authors, publishers, publication years, and of course the special characteristics of the cover. As this website progresses, I will add this information and create various galleries with different themes. Planned galleries include "You've Come A Long Way, Sister", "Whip It Good", "Sorority Sisters", "All In The Family", "Odd Man Out", "At The Beach", "Behind Bars", "A Night In Gay Ol' Florence", and in honor of the paperback that started me down this road to perdition "Satan Was A Lesbian".
I've completed a website of 60's gay paperbacks, too. Far fewer gay paperbacks were produced in this era (I pick up one for every six lesbian titles I find), but they certainly make up in quality what they lack in quantity. Be sure to visit gayontherange.com
AND TO ANSWER A COMMON QUESTION...
Where did I find all these books? Unfortunately, none of 'em were found for a dime at the local bookshop or at a flea market. These days, even Half Price Books is hip to the fact that these books are worth, well, more than half price. A lot of books came from seasoned dealers who I met at paperback shows or through corresponding. While there are a couple of dealers specializing in "sleaze", many consider these titles peripheral to sci-fi or hardboiled or other literary genres (can't blame them if I wasn't judging books by their covers). Some of these dealers had been excavating storage spaces and even warehouses full of paperbacks long before the internet made the world infinitely smaller. And, of course, much of my collection came the down-and-dirty way: eBay auctions. Some of these auctions ended at bargain prices (at least in my opinion) and others ended with very happy sellers. From my experience, eBay auctions are easier on the wallet and more equitable and entertaining than the long-gone, phone-in paperback auctions.
ATTENTION: DEALERS, COLLECTORS, and ESTATE SALE ROUSTABOUTS...
"Enough" is not in my vocabulary. I am always looking to add to my collection. If you think you might have something I want (be it a single book or an entire storage space full of 'em), just drop a line with titles and conditions. Lastly, I'm interested in buying the original paintings for many of the paperbacks included on this website and will pay an appropriate finder's fee for leads on sources for original artwork. Artists of particular interest are Robert Bonfils, Paul Rader, Bernard Safran, Doug Weaver, Micarelli, Robert Maguire, and the as-yet unknown individuals responsible for the many great covers of Brandon House, Saber, and Private Edition.