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Monday, April 05, 2021

Acquired Tastes XLIII: Gay Pulp Fiction, Part 44 - Vampire's Kiss

Acquired Tastes XLIII: 
Gay Pulp Fiction, Part 44
Vampire's Kiss

Published in 1970 by Greenleaf Classics' imprint A Pleasure Reader and re-published as part of 120 Day Books' efforts to preserve classic gay pulp fiction, Sonny Barker's Vampire's Kiss is a surprisingly great read. Offering up a first-person account via a diary and imaginary conversations with an alter-ego, Vampire's Kiss details the transformation of Damon Sanger from a happily married hetero to a homo vampire who must feed on a regular basis in order to satisfy his thirst. 

But, oh-no, honeys... blood is not the bodily fluid that keeps this bat's wings flying! 

Feeling restless one evening after a spat with his perfect suburban wife, dashing, up and coming lawyer Damon hits the streets, bar-hopping his way through the city until he happens into a little bar called The Cave. There, holding court, is a mysterious white-haired stranger performing the dance of a bullfighter using the bar's patrons as bulls. 

Damon finds himself entrapped by the stranger's magnetic pull. Eventually the two make their way to  the man's trailer which awaits them curbside outside the bar.  

Once inside, we learn that the man's name is Alan Drake. An actor by trade, Alan quickly disarms Damon of the last of his hetero pretentions, plunging them both into a wild night of lovemaking in the well-appointed trailer. 

At home, Damon begins to write a diary which will serve as the record of his transformation. Initially confused, Damon is equal parts thrilled and disgusted by his actions. For the first half of the novelette, he vows time and again to mend his gay ways and stop seeing Alan. However, each time Alan convinces Damon to visit him, the young lawyer finds himself more and more adrift in a sea of homo carnal lust. 

Just as Damon is totally hooked, Alan is called away for a film, leaving Damon to his own devices. Believing he can telepathically 'speak' with Alan, Damon comes to the conclusion that Alan Drake is none other than Dracula and that he has now become one of the gay undead. Except... he's able to walk around during the daytime? Barker explains all this away by invoking various vampire lore, including many references to the Bram Stoker classic. 

The reader is left to wonder throughout; is Damon, indeed, a gay vampire, or is it merely an imaginative ploy used by a man to deal with his budding homosexuality and abundant denial?

In Alan's physical absence, Damon decides he must find new ways to 'feed'. He meets and seduces a number of worthy candidates; a straight hitchhiker who is new in town, a young redheaded clerk who visits the mens room at a nearby park for some afternoon relief, a sweet black orderly at the hospital where Damon is recovering after being beaten in the mens room of said park, and one of his clients - a former silver screen heartthrob who is a secret cross dresser.  

Throughout, Damon and his wife play make-up to break-up over and over again, like a Stylistics song on repeat. As Damon racks up his  homosexual conquests, he comes to the conclusion that there is a worldwide vampire conspiracy and he must do all he can... to recruit and convert new members.

I won't give away the ending, because I really want to encourage you to seek this one out. It's a fun read and amazingly well-written. Of the three gay pulp fiction novels I have read and reviewed from this time period (John Maggie's Three Ring Sex Circus and Kym Allyson's The Queer Letters are the other two), this is the only one that didn't make me feel as if I was reading the script for a 1950's B-Movie.

That may have more to do with the first person perspective than anything else, but Barker's use of language is fluid and decidedly sophisticated; creating the type of inner dialogue one would expect to take place in the head of an ambitious, successful attorney. There's something rather sly about Barker's use of humor, as well, particularly when it comes to skewering the life of wealthy suburban dwellers. 
Vampire's Kiss is available on Amazon. You can download a version that 's bundled with Gay Vampire by Davy S. along with an introduction by editor Maitland McDonagh and two other samples from the genre. 

This is the second 120 Day Books offering I have read. I must say, as much as I admire McDonagh's mission to preserve and share this era of gay pulp fiction, the lack of quality control is off-putting, unprofessional and counterproductive. In her intro she waxes on about the quality of the writing, but these texts - including her own introduction and even one of the title pages - are riddled with typos and flawed formatting. So, buyer beware. That said, I shall continue to purchase and read these, because they're of great interest to me. When it comes to this genre? One takes what one can get. 

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Disco Dracula - Hot Blood

Even Vampires Fall In Love - Hot Blood


SickoRicko said...

What fun!

whkattk said...

How fun! I think I will have to get this one. It may help me with my own fiction. kisses.

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

It totally sounded like the script for a 50's B movie! And I would have watched it. Very NOT subtle with the subtext, but I'd read it.


Xersex said...

love these guys!