05 July 2018

The Great Canadian Lesbian Pulp Novel?



Sadly, no; but I think my expectation was justified. See if you don't agree. Here's the beginning of my review, which was posted yesterday on the Canadian Notes& Queries website:

Strange Desires [?]
Alan Malston [?]
Toronto: News Stand Library. 1949
160 pages
The title of this novel is either Strange Desires or Strange Desire. It doesn't matter which because "Strange" is key. Anyone familiar with post-war paperbacks will recognize the word as code for "lesbian" fiction. Delicate lingerie, gentle caresses, and tender kisses will feature. An insecure, vulnerable, and somewhat unstable young woman (more often than not a blonde) will likely be seduced by a confident, slightly older woman (usually brunette). The young woman will become increasingly insecure, vulnerable, and unstable as a result, until finding safe harbour in the arms of a man. The slightly older brunette may or may not commit suicide. 
Those unfamiliar with that code word in 1949 would’ve been aided by the cover pitch: “WHAT MAN COULD SATISFY HER — STRANGE DESIRES.” But for the truly dim-witted, everything is laid out in the back cover copy: 
Adele was sophisticated, spoiled and reckless, and her inspired strip dance performed with a snake as partner set men's blood pounding and women's tongues to wagging. Her inseparable female companion seemingly did not quench Adele's desire for the conquest of men and for the one man in particular who seemed capable of resisting every trick and every charm.
Am I right or am I right?

Before wasting good money on tracking down a copy, you'll want to read the rest of the review:
Weird, But Not Really Strange
Note: Not to be confused with...

Strange Desire
Wayne Wallace
Hollywood: Brandon House, 1965
Related posts:

10 comments:

  1. This is probably an obvious question, but what are some other code words in pulp titles? If "strange" means "lesbian"? I feel like there's a whole color wheel of other code words indicating levels of sauciness, like that little red pepper on chinese menus beside the hot dishes. Tricky, because titles have to be short, and all the good nouns get used up. Strange Interlude. Stranger in a Strange Land.

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    1. Stranger in a Strange Land throws things off a bit, but then it was first published as a hardcover. I wonder how those old paperback houses would've sold Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil, the 1970 novel in which the brain of an elderly male billionaire is transplanted into the body of his hot, young, female secretary.

      Another word I've noticed is "twilight." Whether in title or cover copy, it often hints at homosexuality. The use of purple in covers can also be a giveaway, as in Douglas Sanderson's Dark Passions Subdue.

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  2. And that sad misconstruction, "lesbian pulp"...rather than lesbian (kinda sorta) paperback (definitely)...

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    1. I know we have our differences on the definition of "pulp," Todd. It may have something to do with different cultures.

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  3. Good golly does that sound awful. Those excerpts were atrocious.
    I sure do like that cover from 1965 though.

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    1. It is awful, Gerard, but not in a way that is at all fun. To quote Huey Lewis and the News, a band I can't stand, "Sometimes bad is bad."

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  4. The US edition of this book corrects the title page - Desires and Malston as on the cover.

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    1. That's interesting. Each time I type "Malston," spellcheck is quick to suggest that I'm wrong; yet "Marston" passes. I wonder whether the American edition also owns up to the fact that Strange Desires features no lesbian desire.

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  5. I bet the "right" phoney name is Marston but it was easier to correct the title page on the US ediiton rather than the cover.

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    1. I bet you're right. Now, if we could only uncover Marston's true identity. Or might it be that Alan Marston was the author's real name?

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