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Monday, February 22, 2021

Acquired Tastes XLIII: Gay Pulp Fiction, Part 38 - Three Ring Sex Circus by John Maggie

Acquired Tastes XLIII: Gay Pulp Fiction, Part 38
Three Ring Sex Circus by John Maggie

John Maggie (actual name) wrote today's offering. Published in 1973 by Trojan Books, Three Ring Sex Circus (or Three Ring Circus, as it was advertised for fear of censorship), was republished by the 120 Days imprint as part of their (short-lived) efforts to re-publish and reacquaint the public with classic gay fiction. 

John Maggie has a number of credits in the genre (1968's Go Down in the Valley, 1970's Split the Sky, etc.), though very little is known about him. Maitland McDonagh, founder of the 120 Days imprint, tried to locate him, but the closest she could come was a bit of memory from the godfather of the modern gay novel, Victor J. Banis, who remembers Mr. Maggie as a nice enough chap, one who took at correspondence course about writing from Banis in the 1960's. "Banis remembers him as 'a sweet guy' from a small town in the Deep South (Maggie later moved to New Orleans) who was 'eager to learn' and mostly interested in  writing about boy love."

The Kindle version comes with an interesting forward by McDonagh (which I would suggest saving until after reading the novel - spoiler alert), plus a taste of two other classic gay pulp fiction offerings - a single chapter of each. A word of warning, as with Kindle's edition of Allyson Kym's The Queer Letters, this text is dotted with mis-scanned words and the occasional incorrect character name. 

From the back cover:
"Some of the most masculine looking men in the world, like trapeze artists and lion tamers, only care for other men. In an atmosphere designed to seduce your senses, they have succumbed long ago and a Carney's aphrodisiacal life is hard to break, if in truth it can be broken!"

120 Days Alternate Cover and Back Cover

Three Ring Sex Circus
is another easy read. Like Kim Allyson's The Queer Letters, which I reviewed a few weeks back, the pages fly by quite quickly, although I'm unsure whether that has to do with the length of the book or the fact that I'm reading it on a Kindle. The difference being: Allyson's book was a romance novel in gay clothing, while Circus' romantic notions are of a more brutal nature, devoid of Allyson's treacly angst and self-condemnation. 

Perfection does come in the form of Mike, a star of Prince Royal Circus and Side Show's center ring. At 22, he's in peak physical condition from spending a lifetime training, first with his family's high wire act and then as a ringer for another family troupe of aerialists. It's a near accident during the latter act which leads to Mike meeting the soon-to-be object of his erection: a very concerned, somewhat smitten 19 year-old name Jerry.  

Tall, handsome roustabout/carny Jerry rushes in to apply first aid to Mike's injured hands. Their attraction to one another is instantaneous and after spending a bit of time together, they fall into bed in Jerry's dilapidated trailer, vowing lifelong love while talking of a future together. However, problems arise quickly for our lovebirds in the form of Jerry's roommate, an alcoholic veteran carny named Jonesy.

Jonesy catches them in the act and slyly intimates blackmail, threatening to tell Mike's father about his sons proclivities. But don't expect a drawn out cat and mouse affair; this novel is fast paced - lightening fast. In quick order Jonesy is out of the picture and Jerry finds himself in the hospital without a trailer. 

While visiting Jerry in the hospital, the two have a spat and Mike leaves to find a restroom After reading the graffiti above the urinal, Mike turns around to discover a young male nurse eyeing him through the crack of the stall door. Needless to say, it's my favorite scene in the book (have you met me?). 

But Mike is not the only one who strays. 

Homeless, Jerry moves in with Stan, the lion tamer and his wife, Valerie, the snake charmer. Well, Valerie wastes no time living up to her billing and soon has Jerry participating in an odd threesome to help satisfy the sexual appetites of her husband. Later, Jerry learns all about how Valerie makes additional money once the lights of the midway go dark. (Warning... not for the squeamish.) 

Mike learns of Jerry's dalliances with Valerie and wonders if he's man enough for Jerry, who assures his beloved that, yes, he's the one. 

Our mated pair purchase a trailer all their own, thinking they will be alone and can do as they please. But Mike's brother, pussy hound Paul, is tired of tomcatting under the watchful gaze of their old-world father and convinces the two to let him move in. Jerry, who's seen Mike's brother naked several times backstage (there are lots scenes involving showering and the selection of jock straps), has the hots for Paul. One steamy, drunken night the three are sitting in their trailer naked, drinking and... well, let's just say Jerry get's a lot more familiar with Mike's family. And that's not the only three-way our darling boys partake in. The other involves a hunky married bodybuilder from Mike's trapeze act who is so horny, any hole will do. (I only wish people in real life were this good-to-go!)

Running beneath three-quarters of the novel is a bit of classic classism. There's a tier system  under the big top, with a great divide existing between performers and those that work the midway. Jerry, an orphan, doesn't want to be just a carny the rest of his life; he desperately wants to be a featured performer and therefore, worthy of Mike's love.

Mike initially tries to insert Jerry into the family act, but it's a bust. Then, one weekend, after a rainstorm drowns out the circus' hopes to meet payroll, Jerry's greatest dream comes true: the lead cyclist in the motor cycle pit show walks out, leaving a slot only Jerry can fill (like so many others in this novel), which he does spectacularly. 

However, even then, our boy wonders are not home free. The straw that breaks the camel's back? Mike walks in on Jerry screwing around with the circus owner's wife, a real nympho. Upset, Mike then, unwisely, disappears for a bit, leaving Jerry and Mike's brother Paul with 'time on their hands'. But never fear... our lovers do reunite as the novel quickly winds its way to an ending that is neither satisfying or unsatisfying... it just is.

Circus is stuffed to the brim with sex scenes, exactly the kind one would expect to find in this type of novel. Nary a page goes by where someone isn't putting something in someone or licking someone's something. To draw a comparison, Allyson's Queer Letters is like a box of Cracker Jacks, on occasion, you get thrown a peanut or two. 

Three Ring Sex Circus
, on the other hand, is a can of Planter's mixed nuts. Yes... more nuts than you can handle. And such variety! You get plenty of the traditional male twosome (the peanuts), but also gay male threesomes (almonds), a gay threesome featuring a married man (Brazil nuts), a random restroom hookup (a cashew), a female/two male scene (walnuts) and straight on hetero sex (pecans) with a shot of bestiality thrown in to boot (hazelnuts).

Something for everyone? Pretty much.

Is it brilliant writing? No. It has a tossed off feeling. The dialogue reads like 1940's hardboiled gangster talk - the kind featured in one of those black and white films nobody remembers but everybody gets sucked into watching on late night television. It's brisk, a bit flatfooted and to the point. 

The one nice thing about Maggie's writing? He knows his stuff when it comes to talking travelling show, roustabouts, sideshows and the big top. I was impressed with the author's knowledge regarding terminology, training, cabling, etc. In between sex scenes, he peppers the novel with just enough know-how to create genuine atmosphere and a degree of authenticity. 

Another kick? The way folks talk to one another. 1970's hippy slang is all over this thing and you will be amazed at how eager to swing and how hip everyone seems. Yes, it's a little at odds with the 1940's gangster feel of the book, but somehow it all works. 

Do I recommend it? Well, it's free if you have Kindle-Unlimited or $2.99. You can also buy a paperback version for $16.99. And, yes... it's a fun, fast read and will give you a real clue what classic gay pulp fiction is (or should be) about... lots and lots of hardcore sex scenes! So, yes, if curious, or in need of a little 'inspiration' - this is a great place to start. 

Buy it and read it to your partner in bed! You'll either get a case of the hornies or the giggles!

--- ---

That's it for this week.

Next week? Well, I will see what I can learn about Trojan Books. 

Until then...

Thanks for reading!

Three Ring Circus - Blue Magic

Circus - Britney Spears


Xersex said...

#10 I recognized François Sagat (here on my blog)

whkattk said...

Ha! Well, I guess that's the point of gay sex novels, right? Plenty of sex to go around. Kisses.

Jimmy said...

I thought of you last night, as my husband had two computers going and diving down narrow rabbit holes doing cataloging research for the Stonewall Library. I think he slept four hours in two days.

Thank gawd you live in Minnesota!

SickoRicko said...

Lots of fine action!

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Yay Britney!
And I don't know why they never kept up with the updated versions. People buy absolute trash on that Kindle store. They should go for the real thing.
I really like erotica. And I'd love to read all the 70's slang!