Today’s Pulp Friday offering is a piece of vintage lesbian pulp fiction, Joan Ellis’s The Third Street. The version above is a 1974 reprint by Horwitz offshoot Scripts Publications of the Midwood Books edition published in 1964.
The author, Joan Ellis, wrote a large number of campus and lesbian sex pulp books in the sixties and has featured on this site previously.
Lesbian pulp fiction was actually a huge sub-genre of pulp in the late fifties and sixties. While some of it was written by women, many of the books were authored by men ghosting as women and were purely exploitative in nature.
Common plot themes included suburban housewives as illicit lesbian lovers, lesbians in prison and tortured lesbian lovers trying to hide their love in red neck small town American. Lesbian pulp fiction was also often closely associated black magic, witch craft and bondage. Similar strands of books existed featuring gay male men.
Interestingly, despite the sleazy nature of these books, a number of cultural commentators have commented on their subversive nature and the role they played to some women struggling to come out in the fifties and sixties.
Their very existence in fifties small town America was often a validation that alternative sexualities existed.
As one commentator put it: “The act of taking one of these books off the drugstore rack and paying for it at the counter was a frightening and difficult move for most women. This was especially true during the atmosphere of the McCarthy trials…Although tame by today’s standards…these volumes were so threatening then that women hid them, burnt them, and threw them out.”
The back cover text for The Third Sex will also give you a great idea about the themes these books explored:
This was where they came … the lonely and love starved, the lovely and the promiscuous, seeking new thrills, searching for a partner … a special kind of partner.
This was where they met … the tormented female artist and the amoral young model, baring their secret needs and feeding their secret hungers … needs and hungers condemned by society.
They walked together into a world of exotic evil.”