A selection of books worth looking out for in your library or bookshop.
|Over the years I have collected rather a lot of books about gay
issues many of which cover our gay history. The value of sometimes reading
these books is to remind myself how things were and how they might be again
if we are not vigilant.
This list is not a complete list of every gay book ever published, just a selection from my own collection
First I have listed the books and if you want to know more about
an individual title, a link is provided. Many of the books are out of print.
My favourite source has been charity shops and second-hand shops but 'Gay's
the word' bookshop in London may be able to help you find some of
the titles. The Crusaid shop in Victoria also has a good selection of 'Gay'books
most of the time at bargain prices
Against the Law. Peter Wildeblood. Wiedenfeld and Nicholson 1955. Penguin 1957, 1959
Is the Homosexual my Neighbour. Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. SCM Press 1978 (published in USA by Harper and Row, New York)
Britain and the Beast. Peter Howard. Heinemann. 1963
Queer People. Douglas Plummer. W.H. Allen 1963
Mein Kampf. Adolf Hitler. Hutchinson and Co.
The Cleveland Street Affair. Colin Simpson,Lewis Chester and David leitch.Little,Brown and Co. 1976. ISBN 0-316-79244-6
The Naked Civil Servant Quentin Crisp. Jonathan Cape 1968
Loving someone gay. Don Clark. New American Library 1978
They Stand Apart. Edited by J. Tudor Rees and Harley V. Usill. Heineman 1955
Me All Over. James Kirkup. Peter Owen 1993 ISBN 0-7206-0886-4
The Victorian Underworld. Kellow Chesney. Maurice Temple Smith 1970. ISBN 0 8511 7002 1
Matlovich, The Good Soldier. Mike Hippler . Alyson Publications Inc. 1989 ISBN 1-55583-129-X
Rum, Bum and Concertina. George Melly Wiedenfield and Nicolson 1977 IBSN 0 7088 1397 6.
The Orton Diaries. Edited by John Lair. Methuen 1986 ISBN 0-413-349660-0
The Hite report on Male Sexuality. Shere Hite. Alfred A Knopf Inc. 1981
Boy . James Hanley. Andre Deutsch 1990 (Unexpurgated edition of original first published in 1931) ISDN 0 233 98578 6
In the Purely Pagan Sense. John Lehmann. Blond and Briggs. 1976 ISBN 85634 054 5
Roommate Can't Always Be Lovers. LigeClarke and Jack Nichols.St James Press 1974. Library of Congress Catalogue #73-87416
The Sixth Man. James Stearn Doubleday an Company 1961. Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 61-6519
One in Twenty. Bryan Magee. Secker and Warburg. 1966
Men's Bodies, Men's Selves. Sam Julty.Delta Books 1979. ISBN 0-440-54975-2
Homosexuality. Editors Charles Berg and A.M.Krich. Allen and Unwin 1958
The New London Spy. Edited by Hunter Davies. Corgi Books 1966
London Unexpurgated. 'Petronius' New English Library 1969
One of the victims of the notorious Lord Montagu case in which a group of men were accused of having their wicked way with a group of boy scouts in a boat house. At the time it probably caused thousand of teenagers such as myself to hide our sexual inclinations even deeper in the closet as the press coverage got more and more intense. I can recall a spate of 'Lord Montagu' jokes, some even being told on the BBC.
Peter Wildeblood published two other books A way of Life in 1956 and West End People in 1958. He received a sentence of 18 months in prison in 1954 for homosexual offences.
A book written from a Christian point of view which challenges much Christian thinking about the sins of gay men
A rant by a supporter of the long forgotten Moral Rearmament movement in which he accuses Homosexuals of running every aspect of this country's Establishment. Funny at the time it didn't seem that way to me. Much the same opinions are still be spouted by Lords and Ladies in the museum we call the House of Lords
Written under a pen name by a gay man or 'queer' as he prefers to call himself, to educate the general public about the real lives of gay men. An interesting book with much still relevant to the present. Published in the same year as Britain and the Beast
'I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.'
The above taken from this infamous book, should remind all gay people that Hitler acted as an agent of God and of religious values. Many Christians choose to ignore this fact, pretending that he was some kind of Antichrist. Some his writing could have been written today by 'respectable' conservative politicians or preachers. We have been warned !
This book charts a scandal details of which were released 75 years after the events in 1889 involving a male brothel in Cleveland Street in the West End of London. Young boys working in a nearby Post Office earned money in the brothel whose clients included prosperous M.P.s, Lords, Life Guard's Officers and others from the aristocratic circle of the son of the Prince of Wales.
The hypocrisy of the British Establishment is well illustrated and reveals attitudes still found today among the good and the great of this country.
What needs to be said ? A witty story of the life of a male model earning a crust which shot the writer to fame and a new life in New York. Lifts the flap a little on gay life in London as it once was.
A book of it's time but one which helped break down some of the prejudices about gays and their lives. It also offered advice to gay men about their own relationships both with other gays and straights much of which is still relevant
A collection of contributions to a debate on the subject of the 'problem' of Homosexuality. Most are pretty negative and the same old rubbish is still being spoken today in the still ongoing debate which seems to obsess so many people. The first words of the introduction are a quote from a judge "Can nothing be done to cut out this cancer from the souls of men?"
It goes on through the familiar ground of the seduction of easily mislead boys, the conversion of straights, the undermining of morality and the weakening of British manhood. My goodness, how dangerous these Gays must be !
The book is far from unbiased in fact the editors state in their introduction "There can be no doubt about the potential evil, in varying degrees, resulting from the practices associated with Homosexuality."
The book however does have it's uses. It includes extracts from debates in the House of Lords which sound little different from those heard today and lots of statistics including the fact that in 1953 1,257 people were found guilty of homosexual offences and of these 510 were sent to prison, all but 93 for more than 6 months. 180 were under 21 years of age.
In 1953, I was just 16 and these cases got a lot of publicity especially in the News of the world or 'The screws' as it was better known. Small wonder I and thousands like me fled into the deepest closet we could find.
The fifth volume of James Kirkup's autobiography charts some of of life in Japan, Vienna and Malaysia. A very enjoyable book There are many other books by the same author worth reading some fiction, some not.
Interesting trawl through the Victorian Values Margaret Thatcher chose to ignore. Does not contain a great deal about gay life but does express the interesting opinion that until 1885 the criminal underworld took little interest in homosexuality. The Amendment act passed in that year however changed everything and by making virtually any sexual contact between males in public or private a serious criminal offence opened the way for criminals to cash in through blackmail and by providing 'illegal' services at inflated prices.
Interesting to that during the Victorian era, members of the Army and Navy provided the richest source of male prostitutes for gentlemen of the upper classes. And to think there are still people around who don't think our gallant lads 'do it' and if they did the world would collapse.
Leonard Matlovich embodied the American ideal of heroism. He showed bravery and love of his country, he volunteered for three tours of duty in Vietnam and earned numerous citations and medals including the Purple Heart.
The problem was, the guy was also gay and therefore the American Air Force tried to kick him out. However unlike thousands of other treated the same way, he fought and this book is his story. He smashed stereotypes about gay men and even made the cover of Time Magazine.
He died of an AID's related illness and on his gravestone are the words.'When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and discharged me for loving one'
A TV movie was also made of his story.
George Melly was always one of my favourite jazz singers and I saw him when I was very young staggering about the stage at the DeMontfort Halls in Leicester performing 'Frankie and Johnny before falling off the stage.
This book is not only very entertaining but also fills in a lot of gaps in our knowledge of gay worlds long since vanished especially in the West End of London.
I have to confess a small connection here. Joe Orton was born in the rather dull Midland's city of Leicester. I was born in the same city. Our paths never crossed, Joe was 6 or seven years older than I but while his first sexual contact was with a man in the lavatories of the Odeon cinema in Rutland Street, mine was far less exciting and took place in the front rows of the Cameo News cinema in the High Street.
It could have been the same man I suppose. It's nice to think it might have been. I think I would have liked Joe and the things catalogued in this book are just the things I would have liked to have done had I had more guts. I did start to catch up and then just as I was getting into my stride along came AID's and fear reared it's ugly head once more.
A great read and a record of what really was happening in swinging London.
Considered rubbish by many but consists of over 1000 pages of material culled from the replies to questionnaires filled in by thousands of men across the United States. The book includes sections on men who have sex with men along with chapters on virtually everything else men, straight and gay, get up to with and without partners.
A book for dipping into. My copy which came from a well known charity shop has been carefully covered in brown paper presumably so the previous owner could read it on the tube on the way home from the office or a cabinet meeting..
Shows the kind of fiction which could be banned in 1930's. It was published in 1931, a work of fiction about a young boy, unhappy at home who stows away on a ship bound for Egypt. He is assaulted sexually, abused, bullied and exploited by men who 'don't know any better'
The real target of the book is the brutality of life in the merchant Navy not homosexuality but a jury in 1931 found the publisher guilty of publishing an obscene libel. Reading the book today, one would find that verdict astonishing but there you are, times were very different in some ways.
This is a novel which covers a period from the nineteen twenties until the early sixties. It works on two levels as a story about a golden youth with golden connections who pursues his sexuality through from London, to Berlin to Vienna and back to wartime London.
Behind the narrative there is an picture of Europe between the wars especially the often outrageous gay life on the continent which contrasted with the repression on this side of the channel.
Columnists of SCREW magazine and editors of GAY present a selection of letters written to them over the years together with their own responses. An excellent book to dip into as the mood takes you.
In between are short essays about a variety of subjects from ageing to suffocating entanglements.
On the cover of this book it states. 'One out of six men in America is a Homosexual. This is the report of one of the most frightening surveys conducted since the Kinsey Books.'
The foreword states that the writer is a journalist, a man with no axe to grind, no mission other than to record what he sees. What he sees is the wide diversity of the homosexual experience and the results of society's harsh dealings with a substantial minority group in creating problems which would not exist if there was more understanding of what being homosexual means.
One in six, one in twenty, ten percent. Any advances ? Ken Livingstone in his notorious speech in Harrow in the Early Eighties, which I had the privilege of hearing, said everyone was homosexual but some had had most of it knocked out of them !
Whatever the number this book again sets out to be an objective at the gay world as it was at the time of writing. There is a plea for toleration, not approval and the life of the homosexual is described more than once as 'sad' 'unfulfilled' or 'a serious affliction' The writer is not homosexual and is glad he is not one. He is sure that the answer for both gays and straights is not to place the main emphasis on the sex side of being homosexual and to concentrate on more important aspects of their personalities which they have in common with the rest of humanity. (Such as enjoying Monopoly ?)
It has phrases such as 'of course it is possible for homosexuals to live happy, creative, useful and enjoyable lives, and quite a number do !' Well knock me down with a feather duster. He also claims that every homosexual he talked to except two would prefer to have been straight although they all said that if were suddenly possible to be straight they would not want to change now. Complicated, ain't it ? A book very typical of it's time.
By the way he compares gay sex with eating tripe. he may find it disgusting but does not condemn those who do enjoy eating it. He would not want anyone eating it at a table next to him however.
One of my favourite books. Not specifically about gay men but all men, this is a book which looks at men's role in the world and how we can all get the best out of our lives. What I do like about the book is that it accepts being gay as just part of the wide spectrum of what being a man is.
There is far more about being a man that gay men share with all other men than that aspect of our lives which separates us. I think we sometimes forget this. Gay men are men not women in suits Straight or gay we all share the same physical and emotional problems of life.
Some of the health advice is American orientated but that doesn't detract from the overall value of the book which I find I pick up and dip into over and over again.
Another collection of essays. The first half consists of writings from Lesbians and Gays while the second is, to quote the cover, 'an examination of the causes and the cure of homosexuality by important figures from all major schools of thought.'
Much of the latter consists of material by Shrinks. After reading these diverse opinions, it is pretty obvious that most have no idea why a man, or a woman, is homosexual and that attempts to 'cure' the condition is doomed to failure.
Written in 1958 it is interesting how medical opinion about homosexuality has moved on while religious opinion for the most part is stuck in a time warp. All the old 'causes' are here, over protective mothers, paedophiles, unsatisfactory early sex with girls, severe fathers, hero worship of male teachers and the old favourite that homosexuals simply failed to come out of a 'phase' and suffer from arrested sexual development.
One writer states that homosexuals have clearly identifiable physical characteristics such as a small penis, a tripping, dancing, often undulating walk with a slight turning of the pelvis. and shoulders. i.e. he minces. The trunk inclines forward and the head seems less firm than in more masculine individuals. They have wider hips than normal and slightly more body fat. Not in the clubs and pubs of present day Soho they don't !
The writer says that sitting in his office he can usually recognize a homosexual as soon as they enter his waiting room. I once sat next to a loud mouthed guy in a pub who swore he could spot a 'poof' a mile off. Funny but he never spotted the one sitting next to him. I also once had a female neighbour who was very proud of an actor relation who lived in London, of course, and was 'one of those'. She too, from such intimate contact with the gay world, could spot them a mile off but not it seems across her garden fence. For some reason she actually fancied me especially when I wore my red denims and pink shirt.
One last note. The writer who states that the penis of the gay male is smaller that that of straights also states that in some cases they do in fact have a much larger penis. Confused ? My advice, steer clear of all Psychiatrists and other experts.
A guide book to the Pleasures of London as the cover puts it, from sex to sermons. There is a whole chapter on Homosexual London. In the introduction to the chapter it apologizes for not being able to name place names because of the mix up state of the law.
As a picture of gay life in London in the so called swinging sixties it is interesting but any out of towner hoping to use the book to find out where to get laid, would have ended up very frustrated.
It seems that Her Majesty's Horse Guards and Household Cavalry continued to be a prime source of willing young bodies for the better off as they have been for a hundred years or more, with the Foots Guards servicing less well off punters in the Victoria area.
One of the most important changes since this book appeared is the virtual disappearance of cottages. The writer does suggest doing a tour of all the conveniences on the circle and district lines to find partners. Ah, happy days !
Published three years after the above book and after the passing of the Sexual Offences Bill in 1967. It paints a fairly negative picture of the gay world however stating for example that London is full of male prostitutes because normally it is the only form of sex old queers can get.
"It is no use pretending that the queer world of London is a happy, well integrated or even tolerable one and it is the London of the old Fag, the worn out queer, especially if he hasn't got much money, that is the saddest and darkest, the lowest tier of a private inferno." the author states. He also puts the British enthusiasm for buggary down to the Public schools where 'it was just a question of putting ones hands up a boy's shorts' They are a hot house of buggery' he continues.
So now we know why the house of Lords is so homophobic. Homophobia has always been caused by one's fear of one's own homosexual feelings. One thing which has always mystified me/ I can understand how the Public Schools created the enthusiasm for gay sex in the Great and the Good, but as only a tiny percentage of the population ever go there, why is it just as popular with 'ordinary' folk and even among 'foreigners'
This is again a book to read if you want to build up a picture of the swinging sixties. It tells part of a story, not the whole. For example, it goes into great detail about the 'homosexual stare' by which queers identify themselves to each other. It records the decline in the popularity of cottages and the British passion for drag. But be warned, 'strange growths, peculiar animals crawl and squirm under the surface of the queer world'. Well that's all right then !