Just because my literary output and I came to prominence in the halcyon days of gay paperback erotica, to the extent that you can find us in reference books like the LONG ROAD TO FREEDOM, “THE ADVOCATE” HISTORY OF THE GAY AND LESBIAN MOVEMENT…and THE GOLDEN AGE OF GAY FICTION…and DRAQUALIAN SILK: A COLLECTOR’S AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE BOOKS OF WILLIAM MALTESE 1969-2010…
Just because the 60s and 70s allowed us writers of gay erotica more leeway than many writers have today—what with today’s narrowed parameters afforded by straight female publishers wanting female-skewed perspective male romances for straight female readers as written by straight female authors; I started out when the gay market had only just been realized as lucrative and was new territory to be explored …
Just because my longevity in the field of writing gay literature has afforded me, and still affords me, more leeway, by way of what I choose to write, than would likely be allowed any newcomer to the profession… …doesn’t mean that I’ve always gotten my way, or always continue to do so, by way of characters and plot-lines in the books I’ve written and continue to write.
Even in the early days, as a practicing bisexual, it was hard for me to persuade publishers to allow me any bisexual protagonists or transgender characters in my works of fiction. The ongoing consensus of the straight male publishers, back in the day, who controlled the porn industry, was the same as that had by the straight male military establishment of that time (back before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when frequent witch hunts expelled queers from the service); that being that any man who had sex with a woman couldn’t possibly have sex with another man. That misconception was what allowed me to serve my complete three years of U.S. Army enlistment to emerge at the end with an honorable discharge. While it was reluctantly admitted that, yes, there was a group of men who liked to dress up in women’s clothing, or—gasp!—undergo sex change procedures, like Christine Jorgensen, that group was such a minority of the book-buying public that there was little financial advantage to be had in catering to any such miniscule demographic.
While I was always trying to slip bisexuals and transgendered characters in unawares — a lot of my books back then, receiving very little editorial oversight—those clandestine machinations, whenever they were discovered, always elicited finger-shaking and vehement reminders that m/f sex was great, f/f sex was great, m/m sex was fine, but on no account should I include the impossible and totally unlikely m/m/f sexual combination. And, certainly, no one was really interested in reading about femme men dressed up like ladies.
Over the years, that die-hard stance on exclusion has ebbed and flowed to the extent that some publishers have, on occasion, conceded the point that I’m not the lone bisexual in the world, and that men in female clothing can, also, be of interest to readers. What’s fascinating, however, is that this liberalization of thought has been more prevalent with the publishers of my mainstream than with the publishers of my gay fiction.
While straight readers seem to be more and more accepting of the idea that there are all sorts of people out there, interested in participating in all sorts of sexual combinations, including dress-up (proof of that glaringly evident by the sudden interest of straight females in reading and writing m/m fiction), I’m constantly surprised by how so many gays remain so steadfast in their inability to be nearly as flexible.
Let’s take the case of my novel A SLIP TO DIE FOR, the first of two novels presently in my Stud Draqual Mystery series. I wrote it, when, after having written several successful gay books for British publisher Prowler Press, by way of helping them expand their erotic magazine empire into book-publishing, I was offered my own imprint from them, LAMBERT III LIBRARY, to do with as I pleased. I pleased to launch my mystery series with a bisexual protagonist, while sprinkling throughout some transgender characters since there were so little of those, too, existing within the reading material of the day.
I devised a main character, Stud Draqual, head of a silk-producing empire and the head of a haute-couture fashion house that, in book one, is primarily known for its exquisite ladies’ lingerie. Initially, I make Stud sexually ambiguous in that I figure I have a whole series wherein his bisexuality can become more obvious. I begin the book with a Prologue wherein one man is found murdered, decked out in a Draqualian silk slip, and follow-up in Chapter One with another murdered man in another Draqualian silk creation. During the course of the book, a sympathetic transgender prostitute plays a key role in helping to solve the mysteries of why and how the two men turned up dead, dressed as they were dressed.
The book plays exceedingly well to the straight market, to such an extent that it was American mainstream publisher Wildside/Borgo Press that brought the book out in its present second edition, with supplemental ebook. And it was mainstream GREEN CANDY PRESS that contracted with me to bring out book two in the series, THAI DIED (more about that 2nd book in another blog).
As far as gays, I still get the occasional long-winded negative feedback indignant as to how I can possibly, in this day and age, provide, as a hero, and as a role model, someone who is so obviously gay but so obviously still in the closet. Not to mention … gasp … sexually attracted, at times, to—ta-dah!—women. It seems that there are still a good many gay readers who are still thoroughly convinced of the archaic notion that there is still no such “thing” as a bona-fide bisexual. To whom I say … Get real!
A SLIP TO DIE
By William Maltese