The son of a midwestern general store owner, he moved to California with his widowed mother in the early 1900s and was a local breeder and judge in regional dog shows. He was an eccentric who was happy with a life of little work, ample cigarettes, and gin.
After collaborating with his adopted son on a book on dog breeding, he decided to write a book that would make him rich. Utilizing his son's anthropology research on West Africa, he handwrote Mandingo and his son served as editor. Denlinger's, a small Virginia publisher, released it and it became a national sensation, consumed by the public and derided by the critics.
After its paperback release by Fawcett, Onstott began his collaboration with Lance Horner, a Boston eccentric with a knack for recreating Onstott's style. The two men never met, but they collaborated on several books before Onstott's death, after which Horner continued the Falconhurst saga and penned other pulpy novels set in other eras. When Horner died in 1970, Fawcett signed prolific author Harry Whittington to continue writing Falconhurst tales under the name of Ashley Carter.
Although the Falconhurst series has sold near or over 15 million copies, it (and its authors) remain in the shadows of bestselling popular literature.
Child of the Sun, by Kyle Onstott and Lance Horner, was originally published in 1966 by Gold Medal, one of the most prominent and influential mass market paperback publishers in the country. It was overtly homosexual in theme and content and while marketed to a mainstream, heterodox readership, the jacket copy did not hide its homoerotic subject matter. The cover of the 1972 edition, quoted above, is even more explicit. Curiously, neither cover makes explicit that Varius Avitus Bassianus becomes the infamous Emperor Elagabalus – aka Heliogabalus or Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (not to be confused with Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-Emperor) – whom semi-serious readers of history would have known as the man that Edward Gibbon in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, claimed ―abandoned himself to the grossest pleasures and ungoverned fury.Further Readings:
Novels such as Gore Vidal‘s City and the Pillar (1948), James Barr‘s Quatrefoil (1950) and Fritz Peters‘s Finistere (1951) had all seriously addressed queer themes nearly two decades before. And, in terms of explicit sex, John Rechy‘s City of Night shocked readers with its life and times of queer hustlers in 1963 and his even more explicit Numbers would be published in 1967. More saliently, Mary Renault had been mining the classical-age of homo-lit with The Last of the Wine (1956), The King Must Die (1958) and Fire from Heaven (1969). Of course Renault‘s elegant literary peregrinations won her accolades of good taste and insightful characterization – the inverse of the heaving and pulsating antics of Child of the Sun.
So can anything positive actually be said about Child of the Sun? Well, it is fun to read as long as you don‘t expect much in the way of literature. Like Mandingo and their other American historical novels, Onstott and Horner know how to tell a story in the most basic, page-turning, sometimes even mindnumbing, manner.
Child of the Sun is a fascinating historical pop-culture curiosity that doesn‘t really connect to the great gay novels of the 1950s; by the time Stonewall happened a few years later, it felt old fashioned. This makes it both singular and special; one more tile in the complicated mosaic of what we now call 20th century gay literature. --Michael Bronski, The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered
The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered by Tom Cardamone
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Haiduk Press (March 1, 2010)
Amazon: The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered
The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered, edited by Tom Cardamone, includes appreciations by 28 contemporary writers of significant gay novels and short story collections now out of print. The Lost Library includes an essay on reprints of gay literature by Philip Clark. Published in March 2010, it features a cover illustration by Mel Odom.
The Lost Library won the San Francisco Book Festival's gay category for best book of the Spring season and was named one of the 10 Best nonfiction books of 2010 in Richard Labonté's Book Marks column.
Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps by Michael Bronski
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (January 14, 2003)
Amazon: Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps
Long before the rise of the modern gay movement, an unnoticed literary revolution was occurring, mostly between the covers of the cheaply produced pulp paperbacks of the post-World War II era. Cultural critic Michael Bronski collects a sampling of these now little-known gay erotic writings—some by writers long forgotten, some never known and a few now famous. Through them, Bronski challenges many long-held views of American postwar fiction and the rise of gay literature, as well as of the culture at large.
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