The lure, p.1

The Lure, page 1

 

The Lure
 



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The Lure


  Table of Contents

  Synopsis

  By the Author

  Acknowledgments

  Dedication

  Preface

  One: Fixing the Bait

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  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  12

  13

  Two:Casting the Line

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  22

  Three: Hooked

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  2

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  Four: The Catch

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  About the Author

  Synopsis

  Noel Cummings’s life is about to change irrevocably. After witnessing a brutal murder, Noel is recruited to assist the police by acting as the lure for a killer who has been targeting gay men. Undercover, Noel moves deeper and deeper into the dark side of Manhattan’s gay life that stirs his own secret desires—until he forgets he is only playing a role. Reprint.

  The Lure

  Brought to you by

  eBooks from Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

  http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com

  eBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

  Please respect the rights of the author and do not file share.

  By the Author

  A House on the Ocean, a House on the Bay

  Dryland’s End

  Like People in History

  The New Joy of Gay Sex (with Charles Silverstein)

  Men Who Loved Me

  To the Seventh Power

  Ambidextrous, the Secret Lives of Children

  House of Cards

  Slashed to Ribbons in Defense of Love and other Stories

  An Asian Minor

  A True Likeness: Lesbian and Gay Writing Today

  The Lure

  The Deformity Lover and Other Poems

  The Mesmerist

  Eyes

  Smart as the Devil

  The Lure

  © 1979 By Felice Picano. Preface

  © 2002 By Felice Picano. All Rights Reserved.

  ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-417-1

  This Electronic Book is published by

  Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

  P.O. Box 249

  Valley Falls, New York 12185

  First Bold Strokes Printing April 2009

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

  Credits

  Production Design: Stacia Seaman

  Cover Design By Sheri (GraphicArtist2020@hotmail.com)

  Acknowledgments

  Thanks to Len Barot and Bold Strokes Books for keeping The Lure available for readers old and new.

  Dedication

  This book is dedicated to the memory of Linda Grey

  Preface

  Like most of my fiction, The Lure had its origin in reality. By the mid 1970s, gay life had become so established in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village that when columnist Arthur Bell began reporting on a series of what seemed to be interrelated murders of gay entrepreneurs, many readers were aghast. The series ran for several issues of The Village Voice, then suddenly ceased. Some months later at a social function, I got up the nerve to ask the older, more established Bell why he had stopped publishing what seemed to me to have been the exposé of the year. He replied, “I was told that if I wrote any more, my life would be in danger.” Bell went on to say he wasn’t brave, wasn’t an investigative reporter, that he was more of a gushing fan and gossip columnist. He’d done the articles only because he’d politicked for more gay coverage in the weekly for so long that when the story arose he’d been forced to take it on. He’d never had any intention of finding out who was responsible, never mind putting his life in danger.

  That’s what he said. But as one of the first out writers, Bell was unquestionably brave. And he later wrote and published a strong book of investigative reporting about a gay murder among Philadelphia’s social set, Kings Don’t Mean A Thing. So I had to assume he’d told me a part-truth: He’d been scared off.

  Some time later, in 1977, my second novel, the mainstream psychological thriller Eyes, was a New York Times paperback best-seller and was optioned by filmmakers Renee Missal and Howard Rosenberg—talented, experienced producers working out of Universal Studios. Over lunch in New York, Howard had discussed with me a concept he had for a film about crime in gay lower Manhattan. I can’t recall the exact details: He’d been to a party in the West 14th Street Meat Market area; perhaps he’d been taken to one of the gay sex clubs in the area (the Zoo, the Zodiac, the Mineshaft), and he’d been both intrigued and shocked by what we West Villagers took for granted. He was especially haunted by one particular image involving a meat-packing firm. Perhaps, while I was out in Los Angeles later that year, I might work with him on ideas for gay-themed movies? I said I’d think about it.

  Months later in California, once the Eyes project was shelved, I told Howard I did have a few gay-themed ideas, and completely on spec (i.e., unofficially, without contract and without pay) I wrote a few pages on each. One was about runaway youths becoming hustlers around Manhattan’s 42nd Street. The second was my take on the crimes Arthur Bell had written about. Rosenberg thought neither idea appropriate for a Hollywood movie, but since I’d already worked the second into a full treatment (again totally on spec) I showed that to him. After some weeks, he didn’t return my calls, which in Hollywood means that he was still not interested.

  I returned to Manhattan only slightly fazed. I was planning to launch the first gay publishing house on the East Coast, The SeaHorse Press, using for its debut book my own book of poetry, The Deformity Lover, which I thought could garner publicity for the press. My third novel was already written and in the publishing pipeline at Delacorte Press. I had no set plan for a fourth, but during dinner with Linda Grey, my editor at Delacorte/Dell, I told her of my disappointment over the end of the Eyes film project and how the original treatment I’d presented had also been rejected. Ever alert to a good story, Linda listened carefully to what I related of the treatment, and immediately said she thought it was a terrific idea for a novel.

  As I’d been staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel while in L.A., my original treatment had been typed on hotel stationery, using a turquoise and cream electric last utilized, I swear, by Kim Novak to write thank-you notes half a decade earlier. So I rewrote the piece substantially, as a fifty-page book outline. While doing so, I eliminated Rosenberg’s one
contribution, an image that while perhaps cinematic, was less effective in narrative. A month later, I was offered a book contract and set to work.

  Several things you should know. Today Delacorte is considered a boutique of the Bertelsmann Empire of Knopf, Ballantine, Doubleday-Random House, et al., and exists mostly to publish the yearly Danielle Steel romance. In the mid 1970s, though, before its evisceration via corporate takeover, Delacorte was one of the premier publishers in the world, vying for top-flight authors. In 1977 when my third book, The Mesmerist, came out, I attended a party there with Richard Yates, Jayne Anne Phillips, James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut, Howard Fast, James Clavell, Joseph Heller, and Irwin Shaw! “Class-Commerce” was the theme: Our books were well-reviewed, offered by book clubs, and consistently on one or another best-seller list. Partly this was due to the senior editors, among them Seymour Lawrence, Ross Clairborne, Bill Grose, and Linda Grey: a discriminating, hardworking, and foresighted group.

  The other thing you should know is that there was no such thing as a gay novel in 1977 when I set out to write The Lure. A year later Andrew Holleran’s Dancer From the Dance would be published to acclaim and go into multiple printings. And there were certainly homosexual novels around, some quite good, a few best-sellers. Two of the most notable, John Rechy’s 1963 City of Night and Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, published in 1964, with stories set only five miles apart in Los Angeles, seemed to inhabit utterly individual, utterly unconnected universes. Ditto some other gay touchstones: Burt Blechman’s Stations, Gore Vidal’s City and the Pillar, Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, and Terry Andrew’s The Story of Harold. Yet I knew there were cohesive gay communities. I lived in one—Greenwich Village—and regularly visited others—Chicago’s near north side, San Francisco’s Castro Street, and Los Angeles’s West Hollywood. But where was the literature about this community? One of my goals in writing The Lure was to begin to detail a section of the gay community as I knew it; sort of the way Balzac detailed, piece by piece, much of early 19th-century French society.

  However, I faced one immediate problem: I didn’t really know the underground after-hours club and bar sector of gay Village/Chelsea life that I intended to write about. Luckily, life came to my rescue. Bob Lowe, whom I’d recently grown very close to, had left his earlier career in the theater and ballet and, while trying to figure out what to do, had gone to work in the Cock Ring, a new gay bar that had opened at the Hudson River edge of Christopher Street. A small bar with a little dance floor, in the next two years it became the gay hangout in Manhattan.

  Because he was gorgeous, smart, and friendly, Bob soon became head bartender and was taken into the interconnected world of gay bars and clubs. Soon, I was meeting him at 4 a.m. as he closed up and we’d be off to private clubs or people’s lofts and flats for after-hours parties. As Bob and I circulated, I accumulated data about New York’s gay underworld. Most of it, naturally, I’d never use. I was never privy to how much money was being made—plenty, I guessed—or who exactly owned what. Even so, I soon felt I had a solid enough foundation to write the book. By then, too, Bob had earned enough money to go to law school. Our departure from the scene was hastened when we awoke one day to horrific news: Hell, a gay bar three blocks away, had been the scene of an early-morning armed invasion and the execution-murder of four staff members. The manager was hospitalized with a bullet in his brain. I knew all of them, and Bob was supposed to have been with them that night.

  Bob and I were in the dark as to what exactly had happened, despite considerable insider speculations among people we knew. It had been made to look like a robbery, but when the manager regained consciousness, he intimated to Bob that it had actually been a “hit” by some other group of bar owners. Who, exactly, was never made clear.

  A providential meeting provided a breakthrough. Bob Herron had been my lover briefly when I’d lived on Jane Street. I’d since moved, but he’d remained. During that do-nothing era of municipal government, block associations had formed—tiny community organizations operating politically. At the time of the murders at Hell, Herron was head of the nearby prominent Jane Street Block Association, whose membership included celebrities like urbanologist Jane Jacobs. Herron told me of the hush-hush New York Police Department undercover unit assigned to the West Village since the killings Arthur Bell had written about. He provided me with information about the undercover unit’s doings. Shortly afterward, a telephone repairman I had occasional “matinees” with told me about open telephone lines called loops, as well as how the NYPD—and others less official—utilized them. I’d also begun seeing, as a fuck buddy, a married motorcycle cop from Wantagh, Long Island, who had a cousin on the force in Manhattan, and they did some snooping for me. It all began to add up.

  By the time I had a first draft done, I’d approached my publisher to pull strings and find me a contact within the New York City Police Department. I spoke to my informant three times. He offered nothing; I could ask questions based on data I’d collected, to which he would respond either yes or no. Each phone call lasted five minutes. He said “yes” a lot. I never knew his name, rank, or precinct, but later discovered he was in Internal Affairs, the group of police that investigates police. So I felt my assumptions were pretty accurate.

  Obviously so did someone at the NYPD: They were sufficiently threatened that when the book was published after receiving very strong pre-pub reviews and blurbs—including one from Stephen King—they managed to arrange for one of their patsies to review The Lure in the Sunday New York Times Book Section, calling its concept a total fantasy. The reviewer, author Evan Hunter (The Blackboard Jungle, et al.) was, besides being a police apologist, a closeted queer, and so he performed two betrayals simultaneously.

  Around the time of publication, I received another more overt threat: The place I lived in was shot at several times, leaving bullets in the 1839 brickwork and shell casings on the sidewalk outside the wrought-iron gate. As police “investigated,” I went on a longish book tour/vacation across the U.S.

  The Lure was a hit. It sold very well in hardcover, reaching best-seller status in Chicago, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles. It was the first gay-themed book taken by the Literary Guild Book Club, where they did me the added favor of starring the book in advertisements and catalogs along with a “Warning: Explicit Sex and Violence” sticker. This helped sell even more copies. Used to dismissive reviews of gay books, lit-starved gays perceived Hunter’s piece as a rave and snapped up the novel. I appeared as a “gay author” in bookstores—independents and early chains—across the country. T-shirts were made up, saying PICK UP THE LURE. When the book came out in paperback the following summer, it sold four times as many copies. Stephen King’s front cover quote helped. So did Jim Spada’s line from his Advocate review: “the best gay novel we have.”

  Not everyone liked the book. Many gay politicos felt I was airing dirty laundry or at the least writing about a part of gay life they’d rather keep hidden. For years after, Toronto’s The Body Politic and Boston’s Gay Community News, among other publications, habitually battered my book and me. It certainly didn’t help that a homophobic movie with a similar theme was being released by, of all studios, Universal—a movie called Cruising, ostensibly based on a decade-old, little-known novel by a heterosexual.

  According to Delacorte’s attorneys, the film had discarded its titular source and been rewritten to utilize large chunks—distorted—of my original treatment. I never put the blame on the producers I’d worked with; anyone could have found my treatment and abused it. My publisher, agent, and I considered a lawsuit, but the film was allegedly so bad—Leonard Maltin’s guide calls it “distasteful and badly scripted, presenting the gay world as sick, degrading, and ritualistic”—that instead we let it die a deservedly early death.

  Meanwhile, The Lure was the best-selling gay novel of the year, available in a Dell paperback all over, including at your local drugstore and five-and-dime and on airport book racks. A year later, it was a hit
in England and Australia. In Germany it was published by Schweizer Verlaghaus and became a runaway best-seller. It was even pirated in Eastern Europe! Since then it’s become the best-selling gay book ever in German, retranslated and reissued in 1993, when I did a seven-city book tour of that country. It was quickly translated into Spanish and Portuguese. Since publication in 1979, The Lure has continually been in print somewhere in the world, including in U.S. trade paper and gay book-club editions. It—and its author—have outlasted its severest critics; the most public of whom are either publicly quieted or deceased.

  You’ll be surprised then to hear that the woman responsible for the book coming into existence, the woman responsible for it getting all the publicity it received, always considered the book one of her few publishing failures. Linda Grey expected The Lure to sell a few million copies, like the less-ground breaking novels she regularly saw into print. In hindsight, we now understand that the numbers The Lure reached were as high as any gay book ever sold: Gay readers, while numerous, are still far fewer than was at first assumed. Linda Grey was deeply disappointed by the novel’s sales, and I don’t think even my telling her years later of its long-term and international success changed her mind much.

  Unfortunately, Linda is not with us to see the republication of The Lure in its new edition as a classic of gay literature. Manipulated by far smaller people with better political skills out of the organization she helped build into a giant, Linda died not long ago at a youngish age, needlessly, and to her friends and authors, tragically. Thus my dedication of this reissue to Linda Grey. If it weren’t for her and another woman, my agent of the time, Jane Rotrosen, this book would have never existed.

  Along with contemporary novels like Holleran’s Dancer From the Dance and Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story, The Lure did succeed in bringing gay literature a renown—and income—that eventually helped to solidify queer books as a niche in publishing. The Lure has been taught (whatever that means) in various university literature courses—in one case, alas, displacing a Graham Greene title. Among adepts of psychological thrillers, it’s still considered one of the handful of top books in the genre, along with Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and William Goldman’s Marathon Man —all of them, I note, written at about the same time.

 
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