Here’s an email I received the other day:
“How very nice of you to send along what must be one of the first copies of The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons! I look forward to getting acquainted with Bernie. And I must say, the book itself is very handsome—love the cover illustration. I will take it with me on the plane when I make a brief dash to New York next month for my publisher’s honors event at the Anti-Defamation League’s annual dinner.
“Attached is a snapshot of me just before a panel discussion last night at the San Francisco Public Library. You should know that your name came up and elicited applause! The title of the panel was, ‘The Fabulous World of Queer Pulp, Yesterday and Today.’ We had a really excellent turnout, and people did seem to enjoy it. I always tell them that you and I and Marijane are the last three survivors of that era…”
The email’s author—and the stunning woman in the photograph—is Ann Bannon, whose pioneering lesbian novels were an inspiration when I was writing my own, first as Lesley Evans and then as Jill Emerson. (Marijane Meaker was another role model; I was an avid reader of both her Vin Packer novels of psychological suspense and her Ann Aldrich lesbian nonfiction long before I knew one person wore both those hats.)
I met Marijane a couple of years ago at a film class of Kurt Brokaw’s, and last year I got to know Ann at Gary Lovisi’s annual Collectible Paperback show. I can’t tell you how gratified I was when Ann embraced me as one of the last of the midcentury lesbian novelists. We renewed our acquaintance last month, again at Gary’s show, and, accompanied by her daughter, ducked out for a very pleasant lunch afterward.
But actually we’d met without meeting a few years earlier. Terry Gross devoted an NPR episode of Fresh Air to classic lesbian fiction, and both Ann and I were invited. Terry’s guests almost invariably participate from a distance, although you’d swear she was talking to them face to face. I happened to be in Philly that day, and so arranged to show up in person. During a break, Terry said to me, “But Larry, you’re not actually a lesbian.” “Terry,” I said, “that’s only an accident of birth.”
Well then. Here’s a link to that program, now available (astonishingly!) as an audible.com download for the irresistible price of $2.95.