If you usually skip this sort of post, trust me–don’t this time. It’s worth the read.
I actually read this one a while ago, but I totally forgot to review it! I bought this a while ago, and it’s probably one of the more famous gay pulp fiction covers out there. Granted, it doesn’t promise bondage, but with the tag line “They were teammates and shame-mates!”, it’s pretty hard to resist. As it turns out, the story is pretty incredible. I do give away much of the plot, because I don’t know if I would have believed it if I hadn’t read it for myself. But in case you do want to read this (and I do recommend it), I’ll warn you before any major spoiler alerts happen, so you can still get a sense of things.
So this was published in 1967, and in my opinion, it’s quite different than what you may expect. It seems to reveal perhaps some hidden truths behind the perception of what it was like to be gay in that time (which, again, is the main reason I bring up a review of a book many of you will probably never read).
Even just doing a quick flip though this book, you can see immediately it isn’t just the typical porn odyssey that we saw with Bound for Pleasure or Adventures of a High School Hunk. This comes across more as a genuine narrative, with sexy scenes given much less priority–although don’t get me wrong, they do happen.
Like I said, I actually read this a while ago, so forgive me if I get a few details wrong. But the book begins with our 18 year old high school hero, Dean, dating the girl next door of his dreams, Karen. Things are going well, and they may be ready to go the next step, but both are hesitant. At practice, Dean sees teammate Tommy get grabbed from the showers, and pulled out against his will by team captain Frank and a few of his buddies when they think they’re alone. Dean doesn’t exactly see what’s happening, but it sounds like an initiation… and probably the kind that many readers here would fantasize about. Coach Archer comes across as a bit predatory. While later seeing a naked Frank in the locker room, he comments to Dean, “Magnificent specimen, isn’t he? He has a body that he coordinates perfectly, on the field and off. It’s a pleasure to watch the ease and rhythm of a natural athlete.” You can already see why I thought this book was something else. I think a teacher would get fired for that nowadays.
In an even stranger twist, it’s actually Tommy who comes up to Dean later. Tommy confesses that Frank and his friends had his way with him, but it wasn’t all that bad. It’s implied he actually liked it. He then tells Dean: “I love you, Dean. I can make you happy.” Dean takes a step towards him, and Tommy interrupts, “No! No, Dean! I’ll crawl for you. Look. I’m on my knees. Look, Dean baby!” I love the use of the word “baby” there; it really tells you the time period this book was written. In any case, it again pretty much sounds like a fantasy for most readers of this blog, and he does start to blow Dean (though it’s put far more delicately). Dean pulls away, however, very confused, and runs off.
In the meantime, he speaks often to his female English teacher, Mrs. Tennyson. He trusts her, and she seems to like him, although she also seems to despise Coach Archer and many of the football players. This following quote speaks some volumes, which begins with Mrs. Tennyson speaking with Dean:
“All right, let’s say the word. Let’s bring it out of the dark closet.”
“It’s a long word.”
“A terrible one.”
I suppose it’s a sign of the times. But if the trusting Mrs. Tennyson seemed normal, she then takes the bizarre step of fixing up Dean with her daughter, Fay. And, uh, she hints very strongly that Fay puts out. And maybe that’ll help. In the end, he resists her, but now he’s more confused than ever. As if this weren’t enough, he’s hearing from many people (including Mrs. Tennyson, if I recall) that is innocent girlfriend Karen may not be so innocent. In fact, she may be the school slut, having done it with practically everyone except Dean, who she treats as her trusted best friend (fag hag, anyone?). In fact, Dean catches her doing it with his nemesis, Frank, when he sneaks over to her house and overhears it.
Are you intrigued? If so, you may want to skip ahead to the next horizontal line, because I give away quite a bit of the rest of the plot, and it only gets stranger and more unbelievable from here.
In the meantime, Frank is determined to “initiate” Dean. During an outdoor camp that Coach Archer brings them too (and after overseeing a shirtless scrimmage), Coach Archer stays behind as the rest of the boys go out hiking… but everyone seems to know something’s up. Dean ends up naked, forced to crawl, and is generally used by all. However, while the set up is pretty hot, the actual sex part is sort of glossed over.
Then, in perhaps the strangest twist in the book, after the camp is over, he goes back to Mrs. Tennyson. And she seduces him! And they sleep together! Did anyone see this coming? Not me!
With the renewed confidence one gets from sleeping with their female English teacher after being raped by his male teammates, he returns to the locker room and proceeds to beat up Frank, and threaten Coach Archer with exposing all the goings on. He also breaks up with Karen, implying that maybe he likes boys. But guess what? He goes back to Mrs. Tennyson, and he agrees to date Fay after all. Mrs. Tennyson, in all seriousness, speaks the unbelievable line: “…what would you think of a boy going with a girl after he’d slept with her mother?” Which is pretty much how the book ends! It’s left unclear if Dean is gay or not, or just in a terrible self-denial.
I did leave out a few details, with his kindly and knowing Grandfather, and I may have glossed over a few other memorable moments and/or put them out of order. But as you can see, the plot twists are quite astounding. Personally, I gather that this is ultimately an exercise in self-loathing, which may not be surprising for the times.
I’d be curious if anyone else reads this one, and is entertained by it (because there’s no denying, it’s damn entertaining) as much as I was. Of all the books I’ve read of this genre, this is the one I recommend the most, because it’s not like the others. There’s an actual story here. Maybe not one that makes sense, but that also seems to be half the fun. Go seek it out. If nothing else, the cover will be a good conversation piece.