Bestselling writer Lawrence Block wrote lesbian porn as “Jill Emerson” in the 1960s! So says writer Rupert Smith. He confesses the books he writes in his own name are consistently outsold by the gay porn he writes under the pseudonym, James Lear.
His gay country house murder mystery, The Back Passage, outsold books by the acclaimed thriller writer Alan Hollinghurst and there have even been calls from Hollywood for screen rights, he says.
Pornographic fiction, erotica, “one-handed reading”, call it what you will, is a publishing parallel universe. Books sell in large quantities – The Back Passage is now in its fourth reprint – and are gobbled up by extremely diverse audiences. James Lear’s most enthusiastic fans are straight women, who love reading about male/male sex. There’s an alternative constellation of literary stars in the world of porn… who enjoy bigger sales than their legit counterparts.
The internet is largely to thank for the rise of erotic literature; it’s easier, and less potentially embarrassing, to buy dirty books from Amazon than from your local Waterstone’s (who don’t stock them anyway). Thanks to networking sites like MySpace, writers can market their work to its target audience – and, if you can’t find a publisher, who cares? You can publish it yourself, either in print or online. A lively blogging community reviews and discusses the latest releases with a healthy lack of pigeonholing…
If the readers are diverse, the writers are even more so. It’s a field dominated by women, who approach any and every kink with gusto. There are Surrey housewives turning out explicit male homosexual porn. There are specialists in sub-genres like crime porn, horror porn, fetish and historical. In America, there are writers who make a very good living out of nothing but erotic literature.
I once came across a whodunit in a Singapore public library where the detective was a lesbian with a steady relationship. I can’t recall who the author or the detective was. The sex seemed peripheral to the story: the author merely described the relationship without getting into the actual sex up to the point I read.
Give me Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard and Ian Rankin any day.