Total Pageviews

Monday, June 14, 2021

Acquired Tastes XLIII: Gay Pulp Fiction, Part 54 - P.E.C. French Line Books, 4 of 8

Acquired Tastes XLIII:
Gay Pulp Fiction, Part 54
P.E.C. French Line Books, 4 of 8

Today, during our fourth look at PEC (Publishers Export Company) French Line books, we will see a bit of a shift in the cover designs. It actually began last week, but is more prominent with the covers featured in this post; a definite move away from the traditional graphics featuring human figures and more towards a stagnant image representative of the book's contents. This is the first of four distinctive periods in the direction of the imprint's cover art. Note: at this stage, all books still bear the tagline, "The Finest In Adult Reading." and feature their distinctive 'Eiffel Tower' logo.

A brief recap: 

Little is known about the company, for censorship laws at the time made secrecy a necessary component when publishing books of this nature; only the most brazen operators left a paper trail. Operating out of San Diego, CA, the PEC French Line books were published from 1966-1971, though the company itself was active, publishing several imprints starting in (at least) 1965.

The French Line series includes 101 titles (two of which are reissues of previous titles in the series), and ends in 1971 (as, apparently, did the company). Also of note, their stable of writers which included Carl Corley, Len Harrington, Vin Saxon/Jay Horn (Ron Haydock), Ed Wood, Jr. and Eve Linkletter. The imprint presented stories about both gay males and lesbians.

I tracked down what covers I could. Unfortunately, there are holes in the company's history - either numbers skipped or titles lost to history. I was unable to identify even the title of several of their offerings.

Here are the next dozen covers in the series:

Fee Males
Author: Bert Shrader
What is with this title and cover? I assume, based on the title, that this is about gay hustlers making a buck. Or is it a poor man's gender joke? But then the cover? The Olympic torch? The running figure? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Bert Shrader is a regular at PEC. He has ten genre titles to his credit. 

--- ---

Young, Black and Gay
Author: Ed Wood

This is a curiosity. Do I really want to read the profile of a young, black gay man as written by a middle-aged white guy? 

Ed Wood, Jr. is, of course, the same man who gave us such classic films as Glen or Glenda? and Plan 9 From Outer Space. He was an avid cross-dresser and a fierce proponent of the sexual revolution. He totally believed that everyone needed to be free to fly their freek flag. 

As for this book... granted - someone needed to go 'there'; its a story that should be told. I'm just not sold on the idea of the king of cult cinema being the one to tell it.

--- ---

The Purple Ring
Author: Carl Corley
Cover Art: Carl Corley

Hey, I made a mistake... one that I went back and corrected. I erroneously listed this title as PEC FL-13. It is the only cover to not have the catalog number listed on the front, so I thought it a good guess. It was not. I could not locate even a title, let alone a cover, associated with PEC FL-13 - until I was looking around for PEC FL-40, which is when I stumbled on Stripper Dyke by Anita Wright, which just happens to be PEC FL-13. 

That said, here is Corley's The Purple Ring in it's proper place.  

From the back cover:
"TARA... who is Samuri-reared and beautiful of body... finds his male love... and his death... in an American circus ring..."

This is the only book published by this imprint to not have a catalog number on it's cover. Instead, Carl Corley's rather ornate signature occupies the spot where the price, logo and catalog number would normally appear. It could be that Corley objected to its inclusion because he didn't want it to muck up his art work, or perhaps it was simply an oversight. This is one of the titles available as a FlipHTML book at a website dedicated to Corley's work

Note: Corley is one of the few authors not to hide behind a pseudonym.

--- ---

Not Found

So, I was unable to locate even a title for PEC FL-40. But... during my efforts to do so, I did stumble upon something rather unique.

I'm not sure what to make of it. I found it for sale on eBay. 

The Scarlet Lantern, Part 2
Author: Carl Coley (Corley)

This isn't listed in any of the chronological lists I found regarding Carl Corley's writing. In fact, between The Purple Ring and Cast A Wistful Eye, he actually published The Different And The Damned: The Homosexual In A Heterosexual Society for one of PEC's other imprints. 

That said - why would anyone go to the bother of mocking up a fake book written by an obscure author for a minor publishing house? And why would they do it in this fashion? As a tome, it doesn't appear to be very lengthy. Yet, there are enough details about it... the price, the font of the title, the title page... that lend it an air of authenticity. Still, they misspelled Corley's last name on the cover!  Though, they did get it right on the title page. Yet the price places it more in line with their 1966 offerings. And the number 2 on both the cover and the title page? It looks like it was written in by hand - the font is definitely different.  

So, since I can't find PEC FL-40, I'll place this here. Perhaps it was meant to be PEC FL-40? But for some reason, it was pulled from publication (content, perhaps?)  If it is authentic, then it is a very, very rare find.

What do you think?

I wrote Hannah Givens, founder and caretaker of the Carl Corley site: Carl Corley: Gay Pulp in the Deep South. These are her thoughts:

"I'm afraid I can't shed much light on this, but it's definitely an interesting find. Maybe they were intending to publish or republish The Scarlet Lantern in several parts? So, rather than a sequel, it would've been the same content in some number of pamphlets, which is why the 2 is different -- they would've just added however many numbers. I don't think that was very common, possibly why they scrapped the idea. That's just a theory though. (Re: the misspelled name, that sort of thing was very common even in published books, so that doesn't signify much.)

As a point of interest, when I was going through Corley's archive at Duke, I found a version of one of his covers but instead of drawing in his own name, he'd drawn someone else's. I couldn't track down any info about the other name being a published author, so my guess is he was considering using a pseudonym and decided against it. Just another little oddity that probably has a simple explanation, but is hard to figure out now that so much time has passed because people kept so little information about lowbrow media and how it was made."

Thank you, Hannah! 

Readers: please take time to visit her beautiful site dedicated to Corley's work. Well worth the visit. 

--- ---

Cast A Wistful Eye
Author: Carl Corley
Cover Art: Carl Corley

And speaking of Corley, here's another one his. Note that well placed flower! A very busy cover for him... it brings to mind something from the fantasy or sci-fi genre. However, notice that statue of a figure riding a horse in the background. Could this be about cruising in a park? If it were, that title would certainly make sense. I, myself, in such a setting, have been known to cast many a wistful eye...

--- ---

Gay Tutor
Author: Bert Shrader

Gay Tutor is demonstrative of the shift in cover art I mentioned earlier. What began with Queer Hustler and Gay Stud's Trip - a simplification of the art work, continues here. Signifying a change in popular culture/tastes or a means of controlling costs? It marks a definite move away from the more traditional art work previously on display. 

As for the book itself... could you imagine being someone's 'guide' about how to be gay? (As if there's only one kind!) I could see doing it in a manner similar to John Gielgud in the movie Arthur, sort of a gently chiding force in an impressionable one's life. Such a guide would also get to handle his soiled undies and make sure the bedsheets got changed on a regular basis. 

I'm sure that there's a YouTube channel out there which tries to to cover the basics: cruising, douching, gym etiquette, evening wear. et al. Still, hard to imagine a single gay authority. I mean, even the queer eyes for straight guys had holes in their arsenal. Just the fact that they would waste their talents on straight men when there are so many needy gay ones should be a tip off. Why waste all that effort unless there's some kind of imminent pay off, am I right?  

--- ---

Gay Brother
Author: James Harper
Cover Art: Doug Weaver

Oh, no... the return of the floating heads! Gay Brother is a book two of my sisters could have written. Their differing perspectives on my rather chaotic development as a human being would prove three parts ridiculous to every one part tragic. There was some joy and magic along the way, and I think one of them would be able to convey that quite well, while the other would struggle to find any common sense in regards to my decisions. 

Funny, how works of art always reveal themselves to be more about the viewer/reader than the book itself. But that is one of the reasons people read... to find themselves - even in fiction of this nature, or, perhaps... especially in fiction of this nature!

--- ---

Glory Hole
Author: Daniel Evans

Another move toward covers that are a representational graphic than a human depiction of what lies inside. That daisy, by the way, would become a reoccurring theme of sorts, appearing as a motif on at least two other covers at PEC. What it symbolizes, other than 'he loves me, he loves me not', escapes me. If you have a clue, share it in the comments section. 

I was rather disappointed once I finally found this cover. I was hoping for a human scene, but instead, we have this rather tasteful depiction. You would think I would be well acquainted with glory holes, but my rare use of such is due to the fact that I simply don't care for them... at all. I need eyes on me. I need legs and an ass to tell me I'm doing a good job. Still... in the abstract? A totally hot concept.  

--- ---

In Drag
Author: Len Harrington

You may remember this particular cover from a post I did regarding drag in classic gay pulp fiction. This is, indeed, one of my favorite covers, so I have no problem sharing it again. In fact, it is one of the first covers I came upon and was a deciding factor in exploring the whole topic of classic gay pulp novels in more detail. 

Len Harrington is a name familiar to those of you who have been reading this series of posts on an on-going basis. You can see some of his other works, here, here, and here.

--- ---

Queer Pen
Author: Drew Austin

Another floating head! 

Rather like that pseudonym - Drew Austin. Sounds like a newscaster. 

I'm assuming this is about a gay writer stuck in a penitentiary for something he didn't do... or 'crimes against nature', as they used to say in the day. Bet he made plenty of friends behind bars. I know I would. Although, I like my teeth and I've heard...

--- ---

Black Angel
Author: Carl Corley
Cover Art: Carl Corley
"Twelve days in the sex life of the..."

Another Carl Corley! His last for the imprint, actually. Such an exotic cover. 

Perhaps his exit has something to do with the imprint's move away from illustrations, such as this one. 

Whatever the reason, Corley certainly was prolific during this time period. While his move from gay fiction was not permanent, his life's focus did become religious in nature, as did the nucleus of his his art. 
I'll be reviewing one of his novels as part of our look at the PEC French Line series. But which?  Stay tuned in to find out!

--- ---

Queens of the Quarter
Author: William B. Tressner,  Jr.

Ah, New Orleans. Such a fitting setting for a gay pulp novel. I have never been, but it is on the list. Not during Mardi Gras, though. Too many people, too much noise and color... and all those beads! 
One of my former best friends was from New Orleans. He was so sweet and charming, but there was another side to him and when our friendship ended it was messy and rather drama-filled. But I digress. 

You know... even the pseudonym feels authentic on this one. Imagine if Tennessee Williams wrote such a book in an explicit manner? While his publishers would likely to have been aghast and refuse to publish it, you know a certain community would have eaten it up like king cake and pralines. 

--- ---

That's all for today, folks.

We are halfway through this imprint, with 52 more covers to look at. 

Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section. You know how I love to hear from you.

And, as always... thanks for reading!

 Witch Queen of New Orleans - Redbone


Jimmy said...

"Queer Pen" got me as I get hooked on prison stories on Youtube from x-cons. I'm so glad the quarantine is over.

whkattk said...

Fee Males: It appears to me --- maybe --- Olympic athletes who make money on the side by hustling.
I agree, I can't imagine Ed Wood telling that story. One can only hope some young Black man told it to him and he wrote it down. (Wishful thinking.)

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I have no idea what Fee-Males would stand for. And the cover says nothing related to a female?
I laughed at the floating heads mention. Too funny, but true. And I find it rather brave to have written under his own name, especially gay erotica. Gutsy!