I’ve written a few things in the past about the covers of the gay pulps but decent source material—never mind the books themselves—has often been difficult to find. So it’s been good to stumble across the huge trove of covers at LibraryThing where diligent collectors have tagged and archived some very scarce publications. These are the books that flourished briefly in the US between the first flowering of gay liberation in the mid-60s to the advent of easily available hardcore porn in the mid-70s which must have made the text-only pleasures of a few years earlier seem very quaint and rather superfluous. Looking back today many of the covers of these books have a provocative silliness which is wholly absent from current titles for a gay audience. They may be crude and camp (sometimes simultaneously), and the design is often rudimentary, but they also give an insight into how gay men perceived themselves when they were starting to be more public about their desires.
Despite its cover, In Homage to Priapus looks like a fairly serious sampler of a kind you still see today. By contrast, many of the authors of the titles below were pseudonymous, some ridiculously so: “Billy Farout”. This time I’ve avoided the pulpy art styles featured at sites like Gay on the Range and Strange Sisters in favour of photo covers, odd titles or the more provocative illustrations, of which there are many examples. By coincidence, the latest post at Lambda Literary concerns the publishing of lost gay classics. One of the titles mentioned there, The Leather Boys by Gillian Freeman, can be found in the LibraryThing collection.
Don’t mention Jerry Lewis, please. I’ll think instead of this song by Heaven 17.
Whoever chose that typeface could also do with a thrashing.