Martin is best known for writing gothic and horror novels and short stories. Martin's trademarks have included using gay men as main characters, graphic sexual descriptions in the works, and an often wry treatment of gruesome events. Some of Martin's better known novels include Lost Souls (1992), Drawing Blood (originally titled Birdland) (1993), and Exquisite Corpse (1996); he has also released short fiction collections: Swamp Foetus (also published as Wormwood, 1993), Are You Loathsome Tonight? (also published as Self-Made Man, 1998), Wrong Things (with Caitlin R. Kiernan, 2001), and The Devil You Know (2003). Martin's "Calcutta: Lord of Nerves" was selected to represent the year 1992 in the story collection The Century's Best Horror Fiction.
Martin has also written a biography of singer Courtney Love (1996) that was officially "unauthorized", but Martin acknowledges that the work was done at Love's suggestion and with her cooperation, including access to Love's personal journal and letters.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s Martin moved away from horror fiction and gothic themes while still writing about gay characters. The critically acclaimed Liquor novels—Liquor (2004), Prime (2005), and Soul Kitchen (2006)—are dark comedies set in the New Orleans restaurant world.The Value of X (2002) depicts the beginning of the careers of the protagonists of the Liquor series — Gary "G-Man" Stubbs and John "Rickey" Rickey; other stories, including several in his most recent collection The Devil You Know and the novella D*U*C*K, chronicle events in the lives of the extended Stubbs family, a Catholic clan whose roots are sunk deep in the traditional culture of New Orleans. Martin hopes to eventually write three more novels in the Liquor series, tentatively titled Dead Shrimp Blues, Hurricane Stew, and Double Shot. However, in late 2006 Martin ceased publishing with Three Rivers Press, the trade paperback division of Random House that published the first three Liquor novels, and is currently taking a hiatus from fiction writing. Martin has described Antediluvian Tales, a short story collection published by Subterranean Press in November 2007, as "if not my last book ever, then my last one for some time." He still writes short non-fiction pieces, including guest editorials for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and a food article for Chile Pepper Magazine.
Martin has often stated that, while he will allow some of his work to be optioned for film under the right circumstances, he has little interest in movies and is not overly eager to see his work filmed. In 1999, his short story "The Sixth Sentinel" (filmed as The Dream Sentinel) comprised one segment of episode 209 of The Hunger, a short-lived horror anthology series on Showtime. Of all his books, only Lost Souls is currently under option, by producer Paul Natale.
Critical essays on Martin's fiction appear in The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004) by S. T. Joshi and Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror by Brian Stableford.
Martin was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has written and talked extensively about his gender dysphoria and gender identity issues. He self-identifies as a gay man; "Ever since I was old enough to know what gay men were, I've considered myself a gay man that happens to have been born in a female body, and that's the perspective I'm coming from", and as of August 2010, has begun the process of gender reassignment. In 2003, Martin wrote that, while gender theorists like Kate Bornstein would call him a "nonoperative transsexual", Martin would not insist on a pedantic label, writing "I'm just me". However, as of May 9, 2011, Martin prefers to be referred to by male pronouns.
He lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Athens, Georgia prior to returning to New Orleans in 1993. He is a fan of UNC basketball, but says his greatest support is for his hometown football team, the New Orleans Saints.
Martin was the longtime partner of Chris DeBarr, a chef, but they broke up in 2011. They have a de facto cat rescue that houses between 15 and 20 cats, and sometimes also dogs.
During Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levee system in 2005, Martin at first opted to stay at home, but he eventually relocated 80 miles (130 km) away to his mother's home in Mississippi. He used his blog to update his fans regarding the situation, including the unknown status of his house and many of his pets, and in October 2005 became one of the first 70,000 New Orleanians to begin repopulating the city.
Since 2005, Martin has been an outspoken and sometimes harsh critic of those who are leaving New Orleans for good. He was quoted in The New York Times and elsewhere as saying, in reference to those considering leaving, "If you’re ever lucky enough to belong somewhere, if a place takes you in and you take it into yourself, you don't desert it just because it can kill you. There are things more valuable than life."
On August 30, 2008, as Hurricane Gustav approached the city, Martin and DeBarr elected to remain in New Orleans. They survived the ordeal unharmed and with minimal damage to their home and property.
On January 6, 2009, Martin was arrested at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in New Orleans as part of a peaceable demonstration in which churches in the Uptown area of the city were occupied to protest their closings. In August 2009, New Orleans's Gambit Weekly publication published reader-poll results naming Martin in second place as an ever-popular "Best Local Author."
On June 9, 2010, Martin officially stated that he was retired, in a post entitled 'I'm Basically Retired (For Now)' on his Livejournal. He stated that he had 'completely lost the ability to interact with my body of work,' then went on to state that business issues were in part a cause of this issue. Along with this, he specifically mentioned being unable to disconnect from aspects of his life relating to Hurricane Katrina. He ended his statement by saying that he missed having relationships with his characters and that he did not feel the need to write for publication.
Poppy Z. Brite has long written some of the most realistic and honest gay male characters, going back to books like Lost Souls and Exquisite Corpse. But when he decided to stop writing horror and write about the New Orleans restaurant scene, he published some of the best New Orleans fiction out there (Liquor, Prime, Soul Kitchen), and created, in Ricky and G-man, two of the most honest gay male characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing about. Second Line is actually a combination of two short novels (novellas) featuring Ricky and G-man that had already been published: The Value of X and D*U*C*K*. In the first, we meet the guys when they are teenagers and starting to realize that not only are they more than just best friends, but also want to go into the restaurant business. D*U*C*K* is a quite entertaining romp about a catering gig the two take on in northwest Louisiana for a duck hunter’s organization. Second Line is a delightful introduction to the characters, and Poppy’s amazing skill as an author. --Greg Herren
DRAWING BLOOD by Poppy Z. Brite is one of the first books to catch my attention as being solidly inside the horror genre and also containing a gay romance. First and foremost, Drawing Blood is spooky. Comic artist Trevor McGee and his fugitive lover Zach meet and fall in love in Missing Mile, North Carolina, where Trevor has returned to confront the memories of his murdered family and deal with the tormented shades –including his own- left residing in the lonely little murder house on Violin Road. So much about this book is iconic of the times and frozen there forever, and yet much more is timeless: being broken early in life, being lost and searching, of the definition of family, and of looking inside rather than out for your own meaning to life. Drawing Blood is for readers who want something a bit darker and more thoughtful, and the angst-filled, youthful relationship between Zack and Trevor is both piquant and profound. Because people tell me I should, I’ll warn you about Poppy Z. Brite’s graphic and sometimes gruesome level of detail, but you will like this book. --Kirby Crow
Poppy Z. Brite wrote Drawing Blood, M/M horror/romancem, a decade before erotic romance e-publishers sought to fill the cross-genre gap. Of course, Ms. Brite was just writing a horror novel that happened to feature two hot gay men, and it just so happened she chose not to close the door on the love scenes. While the horror and gore aspects of this tale aren´t for the faint of heart, the love scenes between Zach and Trevor are handled beautifully. Fellow old school GenX misfits who grew up in the South will also recognize and identify with Ms. Brite´s themes and characters. (Which leads me to my next listing...). --Katrina StraussFurther Readings:
Liquor: A Novel by Poppy Z. Brite
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (March 16, 2004)
Amazon: Liquor: A Novel
New Orleans natives Rickey and G-man are lifetime friends and down-and-out line cooks desperate to make a quick buck. When Rickey concocts the idea of opening a restaurant in their alcohol-loving hometown where every dish packs a spirited punch, they know they’re on their way to the bank. With some wheeling and dealing, a slew of great recipes, and a few lucky breaks, Rickey and G-man are soon on their way to opening Liquor, their very own restaurant. But ?rst they need to pacify a local crank who doesn’t want to see his neighborhood disturbed, sidestep Rickey’s deranged ex-boss, rein in their big-mouth silent partner before he runs amok, and stay afloat in a stew of corruption in a town well known for its bottom feeders.
A manic, spicy romp through the kitchens, back alleys, dive bars, and drug deals of the country’s most sublimely ridiculous city, author Poppy Z. Brite masterfully shakes equal parts ambition, scandal, ?lé powder, cocaine, and murder, and serves Liquor straight up, with a twist.
More Spotlights at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Lists/Gay Novels
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