George Leonard Baxt was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian/Jewish immigrants. After working for several years as an agent he moved to Britain in the late 1950s and began a new career as a writer for television and the cinema. His most notable screenplays include three collaborations with director Sidney Hayers noted for their taut suspense and black humour: Circus of Horrors (1960), the thriller Payroll (1961) from the novel by Derek Bickerton and Night of the Eagle (1962) which he re-wrote following a draft by Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, though his credit was omitted from the US version which was released as Burn, Witch, Burn.
In 1966 be published A Queer Kind of Death, his first novel, which was met with considerable acclaim, not least for his creation of gay black detective Pharoah Love. The influential New York Times critic Anthony Boucher said in his review that, "This is a detective story, and unlike any other that you have read. No brief review can attempt to convey its quality. I merely note that it deals with a Manhattan subculture wholly devoid of ethics or morality, that staid readers may well find it "shocking", that it is beautifully plotted and written with elegance and wit … and that you must under no circumstances miss it." A critical analysis of the book can be found in The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered. Love would be the central figure in two immediate sequels Swing Low Sweet Harriet (1967) and Topsy and Evil (1968) and also two later novels, A Queer Kind of Love (1994) and A Queer Kind of Umbrella (1995).
Baxt also wrote a long series of period mysteries, combining his love of detective stories and Hollywood movies by featuring real celebrities solving fictional murder cases in the style of Stuart M. Kaminsky's 'Toby Peters' books, starting with The Dorothy Parker Murder Case (1984) and concluding twelve volumes later with The Clark Gable and Carole Lombard Murder Case in 1998, often featuring detective Jacob Singer. Baxt himself appears as a character in The Tallulah Bankhead Murder Case (1987), which is set in 1952 during the HUAC hearings.
A Queer Kind of Death by George Baxt. The first book in Baxt’s Pharaoh Love detective series is really the only one to bother reading and it is certainly worth the read! Though some may be put off by the 1960's casual racist tone of some of the language, the reader must try to remember that when it was written, the notion of political correctness did not exist. If you can put the offensively racial language into the context of the period, you’ll find an enjoyable detective novel with the ultimate surprise ending of all time --Hal Bodner.
As an openly gay fictional sleuth, Pharoah Love is the godfather of Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter, Michael Nava's (gay Latino) Henry Rios, Katherine Forrest's Kate Delafield, and others. But Hansen (beginning in the late 1970s), Nava (in the mid-80s), and Forrest (80s-90s) wrote considerably better mystery novels than A Queer Kind of Love. Fortunately, so did George Baxt. He even wrote better Pharoah Love novels, in sequels Topsy and Evil (1968) and especially A Queer Kind of Love (1994). I don't believe I ever recommended A Queer Kind of Death to anyone the first time I read it; and I would only do so today to a mystery novel fanatic (someone who reads the genre indiscriminately), or a student of black gay literature (in spite of Mr. Baxt having been white). To the extent it works at all anymore, A Queer Kind of Death works as a period piece, a relic of a very different time, its allusions to short-skirted blonds dancing the frug, the Beatles wanting to hold your hand, and of course, those millions of ―cats‖ giving the book a paisley-print ―Austin Powers‖ campiness 40-plus years after its initial publication. --Larry Duplechan, THE LOST LIBRARY, gay fiction rediscovered.Further Readings:
A Queer Kind of Death (Alyson Classics Library) by George Baxt
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books (July 1, 2000)
Amazon: A Queer Kind of Death
New York detective Pharoah Love believes the death of a young, handsome actor-model-hustler was no accident. But who killed him in his bathtub? His ex-lover? His agent? His reclusive sister? Pharoah Love thinks it might be one of these, but how do you outsmart an ingenious killer? This novel has been optioned for a film to star Lawrence Fishburne.
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.
Gay Detective Novel: Lesbian and Gay Main Characters & Themes in Mystery Fiction by Judith A. Markowitz
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Mcfarland & Co Inc Pub (October 2004)
Amazon: Gay Detective Novel: Lesbian and Gay Main Characters & Themes in Mystery Fiction
Gertrude Stein called it "the only really modern novel form that has come into existence," yet the mystery genre was a century old before it featured its first gay main character in a novel. Since then, gay and lesbian detective fiction has been one of the fastest growing segments of the genre. It incorporates gay and lesbian cultural elements and offers crossover appeal. Its authors call upon a century of development in the mystery genre, while providing new, more accurate images of lesbians and gay men than generally found in mainstream literature and popular media.
This groundbreaking study of gay and lesbian detective fiction examines mystery series and historically significant stand-alone novels published since the early 1960s. Part I is an overview that describes how these novels make gay and lesbian life visible and forge new, powerful images. It also examines how they fit into the larger history of mystery fiction. The series analyses in Part II are grouped according to the type of main character (police officer, private investigator, amateur sleuth, etc.). Each section discusses main and secondary characters of that type, characteristic themes for the group, and more. The analyses of individual series cover main characters, themes, plot points and other elements. Comments from authors interviewed for this book play a central role in those analyses. Part III lists series-spanning themes (e.g., homophobia, the closet, gay marriage) and the novels and series that address each of those themes.
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