What Were Once Vices…

Notable Gay and Lesbian Eyes

Sam Spade seemed to take some genuine pleasure in belittling and slapping around both Wilmer (that gunsel!) and Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon, but homosexuals (and transsexuals) have already been treated more or less the same way in the genre for decades–and would continue to be so for decades to come. When they weren’t being reduced to campy comic relief, they were generally gender-confused homicidal freaks or pathetic perverts to be viewed with pity, if not outright contempt.

That all (finally!) started to change (thankgawd!) in the sixties, thanks to Lou Rand’s landmark The Gay Detective (1961), a campy but sympathetic treatment featuring “fierce but fey” private dick Francis Morley, and especially with the publication in 1970 of Joseph Hansen’s Fade Out, featuring a tough-minded, middle-aged insurance investigator, Dave Brandstetter, who just happened to be gay, and was about as camp as an actuarial spreadsheet.

Here, then, are a few of the more popular or significant gay, lesbian and transgender eyes…

Gay Men


Hand in hand with the success of women sleuths in general in the eighties came the rise of the lesbian eye. Who knew? While Kinsey, Sharon, V.I. et al were assaulting the mainstream bestseller lists, in alternative and women’s bookstores, readers first began snapping up lesbian novels featuring lesbian P.I.s by the armful.

Mostly printed by small, independent presses (Naiad, Seal, Crossing, Womansleuth, etc.), lesbian private eyes were suddenly everywhere. The books weren’t always great, and some seemed rather formulaic (by 1989, The Village Voice was snarking that “If it’s a Naiiad book, you can bet she’ll be in bed with some cute thing by, oh, page 120.”).

Still, there was no doubt that the dyke dick had arrived.



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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