‘Rally Round the Fag’ one of ten vintage gay pulp novels starring the popular character “Jackie Holmes” from ‘The Man from C.A.M.P.’ series. Artwork by the great Robert Bonfils,1967.
Gay pulp novels have been around since the 1930s when the sale of paperback books proliferated. Historically, lesbian pulp was much more popular than novels featuring the exploits of gay men—and that is, of course, because the lesbian pulp was widely purchased by straight dudes. The popularity of the novels continued to rise during 1940s though, as noted in the book Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe edited by pulp historian Steve Berman, the very first true “gay pulp” novel was published in 1952 by author George Viereck. Viereck, a former propaganda tool of the Nazis during WWII authored the 195 page Men into Beasts that used homosexual prison culture as a part of its storyline—something Viereck had observed first hand while he was locked up.
The 50s was not a good time for the gay community, much in part to the gay-hating U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy who in addition to his suspicions that commies, pinkos and reds had managed to weasel their way into government positions, was also convinced that it was swarming with homosexuals, probably commie, pinko homosexuals, too. Known as the “Lavender Scare,” the State Department fired back at McCarthy’s delusional accusations saying that there were no communists on the government payroll. McCarthy sent his right-wing buddies to turn up the heat on the State Department claims which would result in the acknowledgment that 91 employees had been identified as “gay” and were fired under the guise that they were a huge “security risk.” When the news hit the papers and television, the public, as well as Congress, demanded a full investigation.
During this hysteria, a committee of the U.S. Senate launched the ridiculous sounding investigation “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in the Government”.
Upon the conclusion of what is best described as a gay witch hunt, the committee was unable to identify any American citizen who might have sold out the good-old U.S. of A. This didn’t stop the committee from publishing a post-operative paper which “conclusively” established that a gay man or a lesbian possessed “weak moral character” and that the inclusion of only one homosexual can “pollute a government office.” After Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected he signed the executive order 10450 which added “sexual perversion” to a long list of personality traits that could prevent a person from holding a job with the federal government which led to thousands of people losing their livelihoods.
Once the swinging 60s rolled around the U.S. post office could no longer refuse to deliver books that featured homosexuality, which, according to research conducted by the University of Massachusetts Press led to a veritable “explosion” of gay pulp novels.
Now that I’ve shared a bit of the rich history surrounding gay pulp fiction, let’s take a look at some of the more hysterical, tongue-in-cheek covers that created such a stir back in the 50s and 60s, shall we? Yes, we shall. Some are pretty NSFW.
More after the jump…