His second book, Physique, arose out of another long friendship, this time with the photographer and writer John S. Barrington. Rupert Smith remembered his male nude photography from magazines he’d “read” in his teens, and decided to track him down for a profile in Square Peg magazine in 1986. That’s when he discovered that there was much more to him than sexy pictures; he’d led an outrageous bohemian existence, knew and photographed Jean Cocteau and John Lennon and, to top it all, was married with children and grandchildren.
Since the publication of Physique, Rupert Smith has received many letters from men who were witnesses to that extraordinary period of history before the legalisation of homosexuality, when photographers like Barrington and the magazines that they published were a lifeline to isolated gay people. He has continued researching the subject, and will be turning it into another book in the next couple of years.
Another book was commissioned by BBC Books to “edit” Gary Morecambe’s memoir of his father, Eric, the great comedian. In fact, this turned out to be a complete rewrite. Rupert Smith was thanked, alongside a lot of other people, on the acknowledgements page.
Rupert Smith has been working with dancer, director and force of nature Lindsay Kemp on his autobiography since 2003. It’s been a long time coming, because Lindsay is working harder than ever directing opera and ballet, painting and performing in his own right. The book, when it finally appears will be a heavily-illustrated account of Kemp’s rise from the ranks of chorus boys in 1950s West End musicals through the frenzy of fringe theatre in the 60s to his own, inimitable work with the Lindsay Kemp Company in the 70s and 80s. The supporting cast includes Kemp protégés David Bowie and Kate Bush, with appearances from Steven Berkoff, Marcel Marceau, Mick Jagger, Derek Jarman and Princess Margaret.
A few years ago, Rupert Smith was complaining to a fellow writer about his inability to find a publisher for his second novel. It was a fairly typical outpouring of frustration and incomprehension at the state of British publishing. "Have you ever thought of writing porn?" he asked. "It's easy to get published, and you sell a lot of books." As these are the only words that a writer ever really wants to hear, he rushed home and embarked without much thought on a filthy homosexual rewrite of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, entitled The Low Road. He tossed it off in about a month, and it was duly published by the gay porn imprint Zipper Books.
The Low Road sold its edition quickly, and Rupert Smith, alias James Lear, was asked for another – this time a steamy backstage drama modelled on Gerald du Maurier's Trilby, entitled The Palace of Varieties. It took longer, because he took a great deal more care over it, and again, it enjoyed brisk sales. Then Zipper Books ceased publication, and there the story might have ended – but for the fact that James Lear – his "nom de porn" – had developed a life of his own.
Rupert Smith was surprised by the enthusiasm with which these books were greeted, and felt reluctant to let the project fizzle out. Without a UK publisher – none of the straight erotic imprints would touch gay material – he turned to the US, and was picked up by the San Francisco-based Cleis Press. They saw the potential in the third James Lear novel – a country house murder mystery entitled The Back Passage – and published it in 2006. Since then, it's regularly topped Amazon's gay and adult bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic, and, on the UK site at least, has consistently outsold books by respectable literary figures like Alan Hollinghurst and Sarah Waters. (From The Independent)
The Back Passage by James Lear
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Cleis Press; First edition (May 5, 2006)
Amazon: The Back Passage
Amazon Kindle: The Back Passage
Agatha Christie, move over! Hard-core sex and scandal meet in this brilliantly funny whodunit.
A seaside village, an English country house, a family of wealthy eccentrics and their equally peculiar servants, a determined detective — all the ingredients are here for a cozy Agatha Christie-style whodunit. But wait — Edward “Mitch” Mitchell is no Hercule Poirot, and The Back Passage is no Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Mitch is a handsome, insatiable 22-year-old hunk who never lets a clue stand in the way of a steamy encounter, whether it’s with the local constabulary, the house secretary, or his school chum and fellow athlete Boy Morgan, who becomes his Watson when they’re not busy boffing each other. When Reg Walworth is found dead in a cabinet, Sir James Eagle has his servant Weeks immediately arrested as the killer. But Mitch’s observant eye pegs more plausible possibilities: polysexual chauffeur Hibbert, queenly pervert Leonard Eagle, missing scion Rex, sadistic copper Kennington, even Sir James Eagle himself. Blackmail, police corruption, a dizzying network of spyholes and secret passages, watersports, and a nonstop queer orgy backstairs and everyplace else mark this hilariously hard-core mystery by a major new talent.
More Spotlights at my website: elisarolle.com, My Lists/Gay Novels
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