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…
- Francis “Frank” Morley by Lou Rand
Arguably the first gay private eye (1961).
- Dave Brandstetter by Joseph Hansen
And certainly the best. Still.
- Adonis by William J. Lambert III
- Mark Bradley by Stan Cutler
- Scotty Bradley by Greg Herren
- Archie Cain by Jack Ricardo
- Nathan Doyle & Matthew Spain by Josh Lanyon
- Duffy by Dan Kavanagh (pseudonym of Julian Barnes)
- Dick Hardesty by Dorien Grey
- Jake Lieberman by Stephen Lewis (pseudonym of Teri White)
- Chanse MacLeod by Greg Herren
- Doan McCandler & Binky by Orland Outland
- Kevin J. Porter by John F. Parker
- Russell Quant by Anthony Bidulka
- Neil Patrick Rafferty by Josh Lanyon
- Henry Rios by Michael Nava
- Don Strachey by Richard Stevenson
- Derek Thompson by Kelly Bradford
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.
- Kat Guerrera by M.F. Beal
Generally considered the first lesbian eye (1977).
- Helen Keremos by Eve Zaremba
The first lesbian sleuth by a mainstream publisher (1978).
- Lamaar Ransom by John Calder
One of the first, published in Britain, 1979
- Lauren Laurano by Sandra Scoppettone
The first lesbian eye by a mainstream publisher in hardcover (1991)
- Helen Black by Pat Welch
- Nell Fury by Elizabeth Pincus
- Butch Fatale by Christa Faust
- Kylie Kendall by Clair McNab
- Micky Knight by J.M. Redmann
- Saz Martin by Stella Duffy
- Robin Miller by Jaye Maiman
- Eliza Pirex by Diana McRae
- Caitlin Reece by Lauren Wright Douglas (1987)
- Emma Victor by Mary Wings (1987)
- Jill Fitzgerald by Dorothy Porter (1995)
- Scotti House by Marijane Meaker “with” Vin Packer
- The June 1998 P.I. Poll: No Business for a Lady?
I questioned readers about female private eyes, including their favorite lesbian eyes.
- Down These Mean Streets a Gay Man Must Also Go
An essay by Drewey Wayne Gunn.
- The Lesbian Private Eye
An essay by Megan Casey.