The Angry Peace

HOMOSEXUAL: Oppression and Liberation, by Dennis Altman. Angus & Robertson £2.50.

I believe I am right in suggesting that this is the first book on homosexuality to be published in this country that is the work of an insider. Our bibliographies have tended to begin with Bryan Mageee and D.J. West who. inevitably, took the view of outsiders not so much looking in (such empathy is beyond them) but rather, subjecting homosexuality and the homosexual to the sort of detached examination that reinforces divisions whereby the homosexual is seen as abnormal. There are other books, essays, papers. But always written from a standpoint that sets the homosexual against the writer’s accepted values which, when not psychiatric, tend to be the product of a male-dominated, heterosexual-emphasised culture.

So the first thing to enjoy (and I do mean enjoy: it strikes me as a very joyful book) is Altman’s tone. His natural acceptance of himself and of all gay people is refreshing. This sense of liberation informs all he has to say: for him the homosexual needs no justification, no excuse and of course, no special pleading – that besetting sin of most British writers, straight and gay, on the subject.

So to say that Altman has written a book “on homosexuality” is inexact. In the course of it he examines theories of causation and related attitudes, but this is a part only of a much larger intention which is to define the new self-awareness of homosexuals and to discuss its implications both for gays themselves and for society as a whole. His own experience has been predominantly in America so it is in that context he writes: but it is clear that the pressures on gay people and the resultant secretive, straight-gay scene there is not so very different from that here. It does seem though, that the gay liberation movements in America are far more together, and far more potent (both internally and externally) than those in this country.

Dennis Altman is 27; he graduated from the University of Tasmania, became a lecturer at New York University and is now a lecturer on American politics at the University of Sydney. “Bring an academic and a movement together and one produces a book”, he comments in the introduction.

Academic disciplines are apparent in every paragraph; not merely in the tremendous range of Altman’s reading (there is a most useful bibliography), but in his ability to extrapolate and bring together information and facts from disparate sources, and in his general cool which results in a rational, firm, but never overstated approach. And the bleaker side of academic writing is missing; the dryness, the dullness, the arrogance, the lack of humour. If nothing else (and its a lot else) this book is always an entertaining, enticing read.

I think this is because a lot of experiential autobiography is present. Altman seems continually to be testing his information against himself and his own experience. This means no dogmatic statements and a touching honesty when he comes up against something he hasn’t quite got himself tv gether on. Were the book an attempt to make a massive, final statement this would be a weakness. As it is, it’s a strength. Dennis Altman doesn’t quite know yet how to relate to transvestites and transsexuals; so instead of blundering along he draws on statements from STAR and Red Butterfly and adds his own tentative ideas. This has the important effect of throwing the issue back at the reader, thus making him work too.

It is not my intention here to placate the lazy by digesting Dennis Altman’s thesis and trying to encapsulate his ideas. For this is a book which must be read by everybody. And I hope it will not be read only by those who have already talked, thought and absorbed a lot on the subject of homosexual liberation. Because to them quite a lot of the book, especially the opening phases, is going to come like old news. Altman’s analysis of oppression and detail of the schizophrenic life-style foisted on gays has been made before. What is new, and good news, is that here it is followed to its ultimate conclusion and stated in full without the aggression of a manifesto.

I was looking for something to quote. I have pencilled some fifty-five passages. Here’s one:

The essence of gay liberation is that it enables us to come out… Those who are touched by the new affirmation discover a new perception of how they have been oppressed by society and social norms, and out of this realisation comes both peace with oneself and anger at the victimisation that we and others have suffered… For the homosexual, the new affirmation involves breaking away from the gay world as it has traditionally existed and transforming the pseudo-community of secrecy and sexual objectification into a genuine community of sister/brotherhood…”

Which comes from the conclusion in which Altman posits the end of the homosexual. In essence I think it sums up the tone, the attitude and the message of this excellent piece of work.

Inside The Outsider

ORDER OF ASSASSINS (The Psychology of Murder) by Colin Wilson. Published by Rupert Hart-Davis, £2.25.

Completing Colin Wilson’s ‘murder trilogy’ is Order Of Assassins. The earlier two works were An Encyclopedia of Murder and A Casebook Of Murder. This new volume examines ‘motiveless’ murder, as opposed to the ones committed for economic, passionate or some other definable reason.

Wilson convincingly argues that ‘murder committed for its own sake’ is very much a phenomenon related to the individual’s lack of self-fulfillment and to frustration due to low self-esteem, as well as the obvious tendencies to space-age living to take away any possible ‘adventure’ out of life. The author believes that the ‘will-drive’ is the most important potential force in a man or woman and when this is frustrated it deprives the individual of needed self-expansion and drive.

He notes too that psychotic violence is swiftly becoming one of the most terrifying problems of our age. As the people of the ‘developed’ countries progress from the basic problems of having to gather in the material necessities of life, this leaves the average person with more time to explore his or her own areas of existence and development. To some, the lack of material problems, the banality of urban living, the need to create — amongst other functions – helps decidedly to turn some individuals into walking death machines, capable of the most horrific and violent crimes imaginable.

Wilson also argues that to describe, or categorise, tha deeds of the ‘Moors’ killer, Ian Brady, the novels and ‘fantasies’ of de Sade, as well as the Manson ‘family’ slayings, as being just sadistic, or fulfilling a sexual perversion, is to miss the point. It is in fact all too easy to dismiss these crimes with these labels. The author insists that these fantasies and murders are the perpetrator’s attempts at self-assertation, due – as said earlier – to the frustration of the ‘will-drive’. Whereas an artist can satisfy his/her inbuilt creativity by painting, this new type of killer has no such outlet. He/she is aware of their own ability to create – to assert – but cannot find the medium through which to express the ‘will-drive’.

Throughout the book, Wilson illustrates his arguments and ideas with numerous examples of ‘motiveless’ murder, each adding to the pattern of events which leads him to suppose that this problem needs serious investigating and re-thinking before society can attempt to check the growth of the ‘new assassins’.

An example of what I understand Wilson to be getting at is possibly what the alleged killer of Sarah Gibson, who was murdered at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London, last July, wrote anonymously to the police. He said: “I found a strange sense of power in depriving a body of life”. Surely a sex-killer would have just gloated over the sexual outrages he committed on the lifeless body. It seems as if the real motive for the unnecessary killing by the alleged murderer David Froom, was an act of self-assertion — a destructive act of creation to satisfy an inner craving.

Order Of Assassins is a powerfully relevant book by one of the most important ‘thinkers’ writing today. Colin Wilson’s message is more than just a warning, for it is also an indictment of twentieth century life and its lack of creative evolution.

The answer is certainly not what happened to the corpse of the rooftop gunman in New Orleans recently. After killing the assassin with armour piercing bullets, the lifeless body was riddled with more shells of the type mentioned for another three or four minutes, till it resembled a refugee from a butcher’s shop rather than a dead human being. The question is, why did this 23-year-old man invite death and why did he decide to kill as many others as possible before he met what almost certainly was his inevitable fate? ‘Motiveless’ murder?

The Other Love

HERa novel by Anonymous. Calder & Boyars, £2.50.

I shouldn’t say it but at first I wasn’t especially attracted to this heterosexual pornographic novel, that is a best-seller in the States and written by a “world-famous” author into the bargain. In short, I expected the worst kind of sexist prose when starting to read Her, rather reluctantly.

But the atmosphere of the novel caught my attention from the very beginning and the very brilliant style encouraged me to carry on further than the third page.

The story begins (and ends, like all good cliches do) exactly like a Hollywood musical. Somewhat like the worst of Jacques Demy’s heart-breaking stories. The scenario is carefully undated because, I imagine, of the eternal language of love, and the social context — a small college town in the south of the United States. This places the intrigue on the right level. There is nothing extraordinary or unreal about the two heroes, both of them are middle-aged and free from any emotional ties. They try to forget the social frustrations they have in common by intense sexual activity.

Just a word about Anonymous, whoever he is. For there is never any doubt that the author is a man. And the story’s narrator, who is allegedly a fictional character, is a good old-fashioned male chauvinist all through the novel. Fortunately he is gifted with sensitivity, which allows me to feel some sympathy for him, as well as fascination. Of the female — sorry, the woman – we don’t know very much, except that she has “very good legs” and has a lot of trouble in reaching “real” orgasms. And as she’s forty-two, I found it surprising that she hadn’t tried it with a girl, but she definitely “loves” her lover’s penis, deliciously calling it “Irving”. Her own sex she simply calls “Matilda”.

Despite its limitations, the book is a very complete sexology manual and dictionary. The descriptions are numerous, precise and accurate. Anonymous allows himself several pleasant fantasies about sodomy, neatly packaged and not too kinky.

In fact there is nothing very disturbing in Her. It is only a few hours of pink-jacketed titillation, for everything is very conventional. It’s a lot better than David Reuben’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex and there is a good deal of celluloid romance too.

It Came From The Bog, Honest

THE WILD NIGHT COMPANY (Irish Tales of Terror) Edited by Peter Haining. Introduced by Ray Bradbury. Sphere, 40p.

This collection of horror/ghost stories certainly lives up to its description on the book’s cover.

And as the sub-title states, all the contents are set in, or connected to, Ireland. Also the contributors are either Irish or writers inspired by the supernatural in the ‘Emerald Isle’.

The tales range from traditional winter’s night ghost stories, through to macabre haunting terror produced by the pen of a writer such as H. P. Lovecraft. Magic, mystery and folklore also turn up amongst the 317 pages of the book.

In all there are 22 short stories. Amongst the writers contributing, apart from the one already mentioned, are Daniel Defoe, Sheridan Le Fanu, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, William Hope Hodgson, Lady Wilde. W. B. Yeats and Ray Bradbury.

The Wild Night Company is an extremely fine collection for the connoisseur of horror, fantasy and the supernatural.

My Book Of The Year

Food comes slightly after sex and just ahead of the music of Purcell in my list of favourite things. I read cookery books like novels and occasionally cook like a novelist. But I suppose I have always regarded food from a sensuous point of view, certainly not from a social, political or economic standpoint. Until that is, I read this book called Technological Eating, by Magnus Pyke. It was published in February, is slim (107pp) and quite expensive (£2.50). But it is truly mind-bending in that it bends the thought into all sorts of directions, not all intimately connected with food.

Dr Pyke is President of the Institute of Food Science and Technology of the United Kingdom, but before pelting him with slings of rehydrated potatoes and spun-protein steaks consider his thesis. His book is really about the way in which technology affects social behaviour and he believes (and most surely demonstrates) that by discussing oven-ready chickens and fish fingers we can learn more about what technology is doing than by thinking about communication satellites or nuclear power-stations. This is one reason why his book is so good, so readable, his examples and subject-matter are everyday things that we all have intimate experience of.

He is saying, quite simply, that the application of technology to food is breaking down all hitherto accepted social structures; food becomes increasingly distanced from man. The only possible provenance for a fish finger is a factory, so where do dietary laws come in? Technology is a divisive influence

in society and he compares the fragmentation of Western industrial communities with the coherence of the extended family system “in which claim to quite distant cousinship is a valid title to food, shelter and support”.

I recommend this book for its facts – did you know that a large American engineering firm had devised a lettuce harvesting machine that picks up four rows at once. It is so efficient that only 600 machines would be needed to harvest all the lettuces in the world. The engineering firm is reluctant to manufacture it.

I recommend this book for its ability to move thought from big, unmanageable concepts towards simple, everyday experience that has a greater effect.

I recommend this book for its humanity, wit, sense and eventual optimism, for its sharp criticism of our consumer-conscious society fixed on acquisition and money value.

Tecs Really Pack A Rod

A QUEER KIND OF DEATH; A PARADE OF COCKEYED CREATURES; I, SAID THE DEMONall written by George Baxt, Jonathan Cape, at £1.05 each.

The above three books are not new publications but I like them so much I feel they are well worth bringing attention to. All are detective novels, the first A Queer Kind Of Death is, strictly speaking, the only gay one of the three. This concerns the departure by electrocution of one Ben Bentley, actor and model, from the world of the living. What a world it is as well, slick, bitchy, homosexual Americana, it positively glitters with decadent (in the best sense) wit.

The main suspect of Ben’s murder is his ‘room mate’ Seth Piro hotly pursued in more ways than one, by the best kind of gay detective, brown and beautiful Pharoh Love. This isn’t cheap humour, this is high glorious camp satire and fun with a surprise ending to beat them all, a gem.

A Parade of Cockeyed Creatures introduces another detective, recently deprived by death of wife and son, Max van Larsen. This one concerns the disappearance of Tippy Blaney a poetic but vigorous seventeen year old with parents of doubtful character. Max is helped in his search for Tippy by one Sylvia Plotkin, twelve stone of cuddly kosher sense and sensibility. As Tippy’s schoolmistress she is everything a teacher ought to be, but never is, and a good portion of the novel is devoted to relationship with Max, which reaches a satisfying conclusion.

Lots of camp characters, a necrophile classmate, ‘The Prince of Darkness’, a dirty old man with a taste for twelve year olds, plus an assortment of thugs, kinks and general exotica. Nice.

I, Said The Demon is the last word in ‘a laugh in every line’ humour. Baxt has in this book refined the style of the earlier two into the most superslick distortion of reality. Pure celluloid fantasy most of it, I literally cried with laughter at the most amazing plot and caricatures of characters that has ever crossed my well-read path.

Max van Larsen again, cross with Sylvia Plotkin, because she has written a book on their previous case together. So had Max, and not even a love as great as Abelard and Heloise, Mark Anthony and Julius Caesar, can remain unscathed when Sylvia becomes a literary celebrity. The case this time concerns the disappearance in 1932 of crooked Judge Kramer, his mistress and forty-thousand dollars.

The craziest characters yet, Lita the Judge’s wife, a prima donna who sings in a soundproof room, Chloe and Romona, two ex-Ziegfield girls approaching ripe old age in the Gothic monstrosity of a Church they live in. Also starring a seeress from Seventh Avenue, Gypsy Marie Rachmaninoff whose son is a hunchbacked peeping Tom called Quasimodo, the divine, divine Madame Vilna ex-star of the Yiddish Theatre who delivers lines that will send you rolling over the floor.

This is the best of the bunch, a really slick piece of work, lines like…

“When did you last see your husband?”
“Half way up the Empire State Building swatting aeroplanes.”…

setting the general tone.

A great book which would make a nice present for a friend with a movie camp sense of humour.

The Beardsley Book

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The above is The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors by Aubrey Beardsley. It is taken from Beardsley a well documented biography recently published by Pelican at 5Op.

Fascinating, if academic history of one of the most interesting Decadent artists. At times it is bewildering, especially about Beardsley’s sexuality. But the pictures are nice.

Paper Covered Thrills

ALL IS WELL by Dick Vanden, Olympia Press, 70p.

Another gay goodie from Olympia Press, All Is Well is a much more (dare I use the word) serious book than Frost. It’s the story of a man’s long and tortuous path to reasonable honesty and his inner being. His relationships with his wife and children are vividly portrayed especially with his son Chuck, a 16-year-old sharing his bed with another boy.

Father really begins to come out after he accidentally takes some Mescaline and is saved from the horrors of a bad trip by his son. This turns into the most beautifully described acid trip I have ever read. Vanden slowly and compulsively takes us through a man’s mind as a whole new way of thought hits him with the power of a space rocket.

This is an intricate, beautiful, fantastic, red raw honest novel which at the expense of sounding trite every gay ought to have. Get it, could be good for you.

FROST by Richard Amory. Olympia Press, 70p.

The American way of life in sunny California is the background to this fast (incredibly plotted) gay thriller about a father planning to kill his son told against a landscape of black-white relationships, sexcapades and drugs.

It’s a fast moving but a complicated story. The sexual encounters are unbelievably (wow) exciting and by this I mean the sensually* sexy and not silly unbelievable porn fantasy.

I must say though I enjoyed it much more as an erotic novel than a thriller, but those who like the author’s ‘Loon Trilogy’ will find it well worth reading.

No Sad Tears Or Fantasies

FADEOUT by Joseph Hansen. Published by Harrap, £1.80. (187 pages)

Under various names Joseph Hansen has had published a number of paperbacks, as well as articles and poetry.’Fadeout’ is his first novel to appear in his own name. Hansen and his wife live in Los Angeles, where he is one of the directors of the Homosexual Information Centre and assists in selling their magazine.

The above background information is relevant only to the fact that the subject of homosexuality is treated in this novel in one of the most sensible and realistic ways I can recall reading. None of the worn-out, sad stereo-types, usually served up to represent gays – that heterosexual writers are so fond of – turn up in this story. I strongly recommend any misinformed members of the literary profession to read this book and try to learn something, for slandering gays will not always be legally possible.

‘Fadeout’ is a suspense story, and as such I will not spoil any possible readers’ enjoyment by giving away too many details. The plot involves the inquiries of insurance claims investigator Dave Brandsetter into the non-recovery of Fox Olsen’s body, who is thought drowned after his battered, flattened car is discovered a mile downstream from where it supposedly tumbled off a treacherous road into the river below. With little or no co-operation from the dead man’s relatives or friends, Brandsetter begins to realise that to find the corpse of Olson will not he sufficient. He must also uncover the reasons why he died and exactly how the accident happened. He works hard and relentlessly trying to unravel the mysteries and secrets that stop him from discovering the truth, with an ever-growing personal conviction that the tragedy is less of an accident than the facts first imply. The tale twists and turns, and the final chapters offer the reader one red herring after another before the reality of the situation is revealed.

The hero of the story, Dave Brandsetter, is gay, but his choice of sexuality is purely incidental to the plot. Hansen in no way exploits his character because of his gayness, just intertwines Brandsetter’s personal thoughts and life with the solving of the case he is on. In the first chapters we find him bitter and restless, coping with the emptiness left by the untimely death — through natural causes — of his life partner, Rod. By completely immersing himself in his work he hopes to put to flight the memories of his dead lover that so painfully haunt him. But the loss of a loved one is not used to indulge in romantic, over-sentimentality or trashy artificial melodramatics.

The plot is effective enough for ‘Fadeout’ succeeds well in the suspense novel genre. But because of the general handling of gayness throughout the book, this reviewer finds that the level the book works on is expanded and is socially important to those who know no better than to rely solely on myths and prejudices for their facts. It is a considerable advancement in literature when homosexuals appear as they do here — as people, not tinsel caricatures of human beings.

Dave Brandsetter will be returning in Hansen’s new suspense novel ‘Death Claims’, that by all accounts should be as worthwhile and compelling reading as ‘Fadeout’. And one can rest assured that the author will not have to resort to bucketsful of sad tears and fantasy titillation as substitutes for talent and awareness.

Land of Dreams

THE WORLD’S DESIRE by H. Rider Haggard and Andrew Lang. Pan Books paperback, 40p.

This fantasy was written by Haggard and Lang between 1888 and 1890 as a sequel to Homer’s Odyssey. The three main characters are Odysseus the Wanderer, Menamun, the Queen of Egypt, and Helen of Troy. Helen is the title, ‘The World’s Desire’, the symbol of perfect ideal beauty.

I have since schooldays enjoyed Haggard’s other stories with their tales of lost cities, tyrant Queens and immortal life. The World’s Desire, however, seems to be written with a heavier hand, being somewhat dull and over-Classical; it didn’t hold my interest at all. But then I’m one of those social outcasts who never even liked Tolkien.

Bob Fletcher


UNDERWORLD USA by Colin McArthur. Published by Seeker & Warburg. Paperback £1.10

Colin McArthur’s Underworld USA is a study of gangster/thriller films, that have, in his opinion, been seriously neglected by critics and cinema researchers. He argues that they are an important aspect of American cinema and to ignore them would be to miss the significance of directors working in this area.

The book is in two parts. The first is devoted to the genres, and the remainder of the book to some of the directors who have worked with them. They include Don Eiegel, Samuel Fuller, Elia Kazan and Robert Diodmak. Stills illustrating various aspects of these film makers’ work are abundantly included.

Whilst Underworld USA is primarily for the more serious student of the cinema, it certainly doesn’t mean that it is not of interest and value to the general film fan or devotee of gangster movies.

Denis Lemon


EVENOR by George MacDonald. Pan Books paperback, 40p.

MacDonald wrote in the same century as Haggard but has such a simple straightforward style that he might have penned it last week. Three stories make up the volume, the first and longest is The Wise Woman, almost a moral tale about the transformation of two very different but horrible children. It’s compulsive reading once you begin and told with a nice^sly humour. Second is the Caryason, involving fairies, magic, wine, goblin cobblers and all. The last gem is entitled the Golden Key told in such a beautifully visual style it might have been written in technicolor. Interesting to note that MacDonald’s greatest admirer was C. S. Lewis, of Narnia fame. A good book and well worth the money.

Bob Fletcher


The above is ‘Waterfall’ and is taken from The Graphic Work of M. C. Escher. This soft cover edition is one of the first from a new series of ‘Fantastic Art’ books being published by Pan/Ballantine.

The first two titles are the former and Magritte. The colour reproduction of the latter is superb; so good in fact that we didn’t dare attempt to reproduce it in GN.

The generous size of the books and printing on high quality paper, make them very good value at £1.25. It is extremely pleasing that at long last editions of the work of remarkable artists should be available at such a low price and produced to this high standard.

The series is edited by David Larkin and further titles will be appearing in 1973. All of them sound just as fantastic.

ED: Advance apologies to the publishers if our reproduction standard is not what it should be.


The above is one of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations from the new edition of Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass. Published by MacGibbon & Kee at £3.25, it makes an ideal present for lovers of Alice and her adventures.

Throughout the book. Ralph Steadman’s highly original pen and ink drawings add new life and depth to this classic tale that has delighted children and adults alike since its first publication.

This is the first time the text has appeared exactly like this in print. ‘It is basically the 1897 edition, the last which Carroll himself corrected, but it also includes all Carroll’s corrections for the People’s edition of 1887, which were somehow overlooked in the preparation of the final text.’ This Centenary Edition has been prepared by the Committee of the Lewis Carroll Society.

And despite all that, Alice and the looking glass world come again vividly alive with the invaluable assistance of Mr Steadman.

ED: Apologies to the publishers and Ralph Steadman if our reproduction of the drawing is not up to the same high standard as the book.