Once upon a time, the multitude of lesbians lived closeted, secret lives, isolated from others and often from their own true feelings and aspirations. There was no Internet, no gay radio, no magazine or journal or organization to turn to for affirmation. Until the 1950s, precious few books reflected anything at all about the lesbian experience. This changed in 1950 when Fawcett Publications inaugurated the Gold Medal imprint and kicked off a wave of pulp fiction publishing that included both gay and lesbian novels. For the first time in history, women could find cheap paperbacks featuring lesbians, and the books sold in the millions. Pulp novels constituted one of the first steps toward lesbians having a written presence in any kind of literature. As Katherine V. Forrest writes in the introduction to LESBIAN PULP FICTION:
"The importance of all our pulp fiction novels cannot possibly be overstated. Whatever their negative images or messages, they told us we were not alone. Because they told us about each other, they led us to look for and find each other, they led us to the end of the isolation that had divided and conquered us. And once we found each other, once we began to question the judgments made of us, our civil rights movement was born" (p. xviii).
In moving style, Forrest also writes of finding in 1957 a copy of Ann Bannon's ODD GIRL OUT, "a book as necessary to me as air" (p. ix). How fitting that Forrest should edit this wonderful homage to these early writers when her own works are frequently cited as having the same effect upon other women as Bannon's work had upon her. CURIOUS WINE (1983) is frequently cited by lesbians as a book that saved their lives. I believe it when Forrest writes, "I write my books out of the profound wish that no one will ever have to be there again" (p. ix).
To spotlight those early pulp novels, Forrest has selected twenty-two excerpts by nineteen authors including Ann Bannon, Vin Packer, Paula Christian, Tereska Torres, Valerie Taylor, and Marion Zimmer Bradley writing as Miriam Gardner. Among reasons for selecting these particular excerpts, Forrest cites pioneering status, sexual content, happy endings, reflections of the times, and quality of writing. Many of these books have been reprinted (several by Cleis Press), and with a little diligence, all of them can be located and purchased. Each of them is well worth reading in its entirety, but this wonderful collection will provide hours of delight and enjoyment to anyone willing to enter into the sexually intrepid world of lesbian paperback novels. An essential text for all libraries, both private and public, this book is highly recommended. ~Lori L. Lake, Midwest Book Review