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Lesbian Pulp Fiction with Provocative Cover Art


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255.     [LESBIAN PULP FICTION]. Collection of twenty-seven lesbian pulp fiction titles. All are 12mo paperbacks in good to fine condition with printed illustrated wrappers.

A well-rounded selection of lesbian fiction representing several important writers in the genre and some of their major works, some writing at a time when the genre was first beginning to appear on the American literary scene. Beginning after World War II, the publisher Fawcett geared up to begin issuing paperbacks, and its Gold Medal series was marketed widely. This was the first time that lesbian fiction was promoted, and, like other pulp fiction from the period, the emphasis was often on sexual relationships. Many of the plot lines demonstrate story development from the required unhappy endings to those that involved more satisfactory resolutions. All the above novels were written by women rather than by men, as had been frequently the case in the past. Because pulp paperbacks were considered lowbrow fiction, the female authors themselves often used pseudonyms (but always women’s names) to protect their identities. These authors were forerunners of the Women’s Movement and the Gay Liberation Movement that came a decade later. Many of these books have been reprinted in trade paperback format and are studied today for their literary merit. A few of these writers hold a high place in the lesbian literary pantheon. In the realm of U.S. publishing history, they are important because their first editions were pulp paperbacks rather than cheap reprints of other editions, an important innovation that made this genre possible. The pulp lesbian genre enjoyed its U.S. heyday from 1950-1965.

     The wrappers are in some ways nearly as important as the text. The cover art embodied important thematic and social commentary that could be readily decoded by a potential buyer. As Yvonne Keller, “‘Was It Right to Love Her Brother’s Wife So Passionately?’ Lesbian Pulp Novels and U.S. Lesbian Identity, 1950-1965,” American Quarterly, 57:2 (2005) concludes, “Since the pulps were typically not bought by libraries, the covers were crucial markers of lesbianism—the closest thing to a Dewey decimal system for dykes—for generations of lesbian and incipient lesbian readers” (p. 398). She also remarks that the cover art was backed up by appropriate, suggestive language, some of which is quoted above (p. 398).

     These books rarely survive in good condition because their cheap paper and flimsy bindings were meant for mass distribution at inexpensive prices. The publisher probably, in fact, expected that the reader would discard the book once it was read. An excellent sampling of important, early lesbian novels.


In Grier’s evaluations, cited below, A indicates “major lesbian characters and/or action”; B indicates “minor lesbian characters and/or action”; * indicates “some interest beyond the ordinary”; ** indicates “very substantial quality of lesbian literature”; and *** indicates “those few titles that stand out above all the rest and must properly belong in any collection of lesbian literature.” The collection includes:

ALDRICH, Ann (i.e., Marijane Meaker). We Walk Alone. New York: Fawcett, 1956. 143 [1] pp. Second printing, June, 1956 (first edition was 1955). Gold Medal Book 509. Grier, p. 2 (A*). This book is largely non-fiction and one of the six controversial books she wrote under the name Ann Aldrich in which lesbians are not depicted in an especially favorable light. With contemporary 35 cents sticker on upper cover.

ALDRICH , Ann (i.e., Marijane Meaker). We, Too, Must Love. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1958. 188 [4] pp. First edition. Gold Medal Giant s272. Grier, p. 2 (A*). This book is also largely non-fiction.

ALDRICH, Ann (editor) (i.e., Marijane Meaker). Carol in a Thousand Cities. Greenwich: Gold Medal Books, 1960. 256 pp. First edition. Gold Medal Book d1008. Grier, p. 2 (A**). Anthology including works by Simone de Beauvoir, Françoise Mallet, Sigmund Freud, and Claire Morgan, from whose piece the title comes. Morgan’s final chapter of her 1953 The Price of Salt is included herein. See below.

ALDRICH, Ann (i.e., Marijane Meaker). We Two Won’t Last. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1963. 159 [1] pp. First edition. Gold Medal k1313. Grier, p. 2 (A*). This book is also largely non-fiction. Small light stain on outer blank margin of first few leaves.

BANNON, Ann (i.e., Ann Weldy). Odd Girl Out. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1957. 192 pp. First edition. Gold Medal Book s653. Grier, p. 8 (A**). Bannon (b. 1932) is one of the major lesbian authors and considered in some circles the most important of all. This novel is the first in her influential Beebo Brinker series and is somewhat autobiographical. Slightly shelf slanted.

BANNON, Ann (i.e., Ann Weldy). Women in the Shadows. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1959. 176 pp. First edition. Gold Medal Book s919. Grier, p. 8 (A**). The third novel in the Beebo Brinker series, and one of the few that examines interracial affairs. Signed in ink by Bannon on the title page.

BANNON, Ann (i.e., Ann Weldy). The Marriage. Greenwich: Gold Medal Books, 1960. 190 [2] pp. First edition. Gold Medal Book s1066. Grier, p. 8 (A). “Could their love tower above society’s deepest taboos?” The plot revolves around a married couple who discover they are brother and sister. Slightly shelf slanted.

BANNON, Ann (i.e., Ann Weldy). Beebo Brinker. Greenwich: Gold Medal Books, 1962. 208 pp. First edition. Gold Medal d1224. Grier, p. 7 (A**). “She landed in New York, fresh off the farm, the hayseed still showing—along with the bewilderment and desperation of a girl whose only certainty was that she was ‘different’ from other girls with their frills and petticoats and healthy flirtations with normal young men.” The last novel in the series by the same name, although chronologically the story is the prequel to Odd Girl Out (see above). Slightly shelf slanted.

BRITAIN, Sloane M. First Person, 3rd Sex. Chicago: Newsstand Library, 1959. 191 pp. First edition. NL U119. Grier, p. 18 (A**). Slightly shelf slanted.

CHRISTIAN, Paula. Edge of Twilight. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1961. 158, [2] pp. Second printing (first edition was 1959). Crest Books s495. Grier, p. 26 (A***).

CHRISTIAN, Paula. The Other Side of Desire. New York: Paperback Library, 1965. 157 [3] pp. First edition. Paperback Library 52-833. Grier, p. 26 (A*). This novel was published during the decline of the lesbian pulp fiction genre. Upper wrapper slightly nicked.

FREDERICKS, Diana. Diana: The Story of a Strange Love. New York: Berkley, 1955. 188, [2] pp. Second edition (first edition was 1939). Berkley Books G-11. Grier, p. 48 (B***). An autobiographical work.

JOSEPHS, Carla. The Off-Limits World. New York: Domino, 1965. 144 pp. First edition. Domino Books 72-902. Not in Grier. “‘Normal’ men and women were not permitted to enter their realm of lust and passion gone wild.”

LEE, Marjorie. The Lion House. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1960. 160 pp. Reprint edition (first edition was 1959). Crest Book s413. Grier, p. 93 (A***). “A shockingly candid tale of misbegotten sexuality among upper-crust bohemians.” Slightly shelf slanted.

MARCHAL, Lucie. The Mesh. New York: Bantam, 1951. 198, [4] pp. Reprint edition. Originally published in French as La Meche (1948). Bantam Books 862. Grier, p. 103 (A**).

MARTIN, Della. Twilight Girl. Beacon Books, 1961. 156, [4] pp. First edition. Beacon B 390. Grier, p. 104 (A**). “The savage story of a pretty teen-ager enticed into forbidden practices by older girls!”

MARTIN, Kay. The Divorcees. New York: Pyramid, 1962. 158, [2] pp. First edition. Pyramid Books F-750. Grier, p. 104 (B**). “Three mixed-up, sex-starved women on the loose in Reno.”

MORGAN, Claire (i.e., Patricia Highsmith, née Mary Patricia Plangman). The Price of Salt. New York: Bantam, 1953. 249 pp. Second paperback edition (first edition was 1952). Bantam Books 1148. Grier, p. 111 (A***). This important novel was the first lesbian pulp to have a potentially happy ending for the couple and sold more than one million copies. Morgan (1921-1995) was a writer in many genres but worked primarily in psychological thrillers. Spine slightly rubbed, light creases to upper wrap, and small spots on lower wrap.

OLIVIA (i.e., Dorothy Strachey Bussy). Olivia. New York: Berkley, 1949. 127 [1] pp. First U.S. paperback edition (same year as first). Berkley Books G-74. Grier, p. 117 (A***). Bussy (1865-1960) was a prominent English bi-sexual author. This, her only novel, has been translated and adapted many times. Slightly shelf slanted.

PACKER, Vin (i.e., Marijane Meaker). Spring Fire. New York: Fawcett, 1952. 177 [7] pp. First edition. Gold Medal Book 222. Grier, p. 118 (A**). This is the book that launched lesbian pulp fiction and was commissioned as a follow-on to Torres’ immensely popular Women’s Barracks (see below). Packer (b. 1927) also wrote widely on other topics and under other pseudonyms and was a major influence on Ann Bannon. Signed in ink by the author on the title page using both her real name and her pseudonym. Front hinge split but holding.

PACKER, Vin (i.e., Marijane Meaker). The Evil Friendship. Greenwich: Gold Medal, 1958. 192 pp. First edition. Gold Medal Book s979. Grier, p. 118. “This is the horrifying yet fascinating novel of two teen-age girls whose unnatural love for each other led to an even greater crime—the crime of matricide.” This novel is based on the Parker-Hulme murder in New Zealand, and Grier rates it as “trash.”

TAYLOR, Valerie (i.e., Velma Nacella Young). Whisper Their Love. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1957. 176 pp. First edition. Crest Books 187. Grier, p. 151 (A**). Taylor (1913-1997) was one of the early authentic lesbian novelists and an activist. Slightly shelf slanted.

TAYLOR, Valerie (i.e., Velma Nacella Young). The Girls in 3-B. Greenwich: Gold Medal Books, 1959. 159 [1] pp. First edition. Gold Medal Book k1545. Grier, p. 151 (A***). Remainder mark on top edge.

TAYLOR, Valerie (i.e., Velma Nacella Young). Stranger on Lesbos. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1960. 144 pp. First edition. Crest Books s355. Grier, p. 151 (A***). “Frances had been left alone too often. Bill’s occupation with business, his insensitivity, his indifference had drained their marriage of meaning and warmth.”

TAYLOR, Valerie (i.e., Velma Nacella Young). Unlike Others. New York: Midwood-Tower, 1963. 187 [4] pp. First edition. Midwood Tower F311. Grier, p. 151 (A*). The cover photograph on this volume is so 60s, right down to the large, black, plastic ashtray on the floor.

TORRES, Tereska (i.e., Tereska Szwarc). Women’s Barracks. New York: Fawcett, 1950. First edition. Gold Medal Book 132. Grier, p. 154 (A***). This quasi-autobiographical work, the first genuine paperback best-seller that proved that there was market interest in lesbian fiction, selling four million copies, is based on her WW II experiences with the Free French. “This is the story of what happens when scores of young girls live intimately together in a French military barracks…. So, this book, with all its revealment and tenderness, is an important book because it tells a story that had never been truly told—the story of women in war.” The cover illustration is a classic of lesbian pulp fiction. In 1952 the House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials cited the book as an example of paperback books that were causing moral degeneracy.

TORRES, Tereska (i.e., Tereska Szwarc). The Golden Cage. New York: Hearst, 1959. 175 [1] pp. Reprint edition (first edition was same year). Avon T-448. Grier, p. 154 (B***). Translated from the French by her husband, Meyer Levin. “She tasted every wanton pleasure and left nothing new beneath that burning sun.” This book may be autobiographical.




Auction 22 Abstracts

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