Marshall Thornton Re-Introduces James Kirkwood


If you are passionate about anything, then there is probably a nugget – no matter how big or small – that you can look back at as having inspired it all. In the area of M/M romance and gay fiction we all came to the genres in different ways, are interested in different aspects. Add it all together and we all become walking, talking, blogging advertisements for our most treasured authors.

Here is Marshall Thornton to share a gem he hopes will continue to inspire new readers for a long, long time.

Re-Introducing James Kirkwood

I don’t consider myself an m/m romance writer. That might seem odd since I’ve published with two m/m publishers, will be attending GayRomLit this year, and have a large number of readers who are m/m fans, but it’s true. I view myself as a gay writer. Since the demise of several small gay publishers, and the larger publishers’ abandonment of mid-list writers, many gay writers have found homes with m/m publishers, which I think is terrific. There’s a great deal of crossover between the genres so it’s good for writers and readers.

While there are distinct differences in the work itself, there are also differences in approach. Where an m/m writer might look to writers like Josh Lanyon, Laura Baumbach and Erastes for inspiration; a gay writer is more likely to study Armisted Maupin, Alan Hollinghurst, or Christopher Bram. One of my personal touchstones is the gay writer James Kirkwood; I thought I’d take this blogging opportunity to introduce him to a new audience.

James Kirkwood is best known for co-authoring the book to the musical A Chorus Line. He and Nicholas Dante won the Pulitzer Prize, the Tony and many other awards for their work. He is also the author of five novels, all with significant gay elements. They are: Some Kind of Hero, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, Good Times/Bad Times, There Must Be a Pony, and Hit Me With A Rainbow.

My favorite of these is P.S. Your Cat is Dead, which is, coincidentally, the only one of his novels currently in print and with a kindle edition. The jacket for P.S. Your Cat is Dead reads “It’s New Year’s Eve in New York City. Your best friend died in September, you’ve been robbed twice, your girlfriend is leaving you, you’ve lost your job…and the only one left to talk to is the gay burglar you’ve got tied up in the kitchen…P.S. your cat is dead.” It’s a great description of a novel that is funny, warm, engaging, and also happens to be sexy as hell.

I originally read the book sometime in the early eighties, probably on the Chicago El, as I did all his novels. I re-read P.S. Your Cat Is Dead about two years ago when I was writing my novel, Desert Run. My book would be classified as a gay-for-you story, something I naively did not know when I wrote it. P.S. Your Cat Is Dead is also a gay-for-you story, though the category did not even exist in 1972. In fact, I think a couple of Kirkwood’s books fit this category.

During the writing of Desert Run I decided I should look at P.S. Your Cat Is Dead since I remembered Kirkwood had done such an excellent job depicting how a person moves from the perception of themselves as straight to accepting they are capable of a same sex relationship. Kirkwood did a terrific job with that arc, and I hope I came to close in my own book.

You could say that most of Kirkwood’s work deals with homosexuality in a heterosexual context. For example, in Some Kind of Hero the main character is straight but has a love affair with a fellow prisoner in a POW camp. Few of his characters are exclusively gay and I think it’s for this reason that he’s sometimes left out of discussions of gay fiction. Though, at this time, I feel it’s exactly the reason to include him. I also think that, though it didn’t exist when these books were written, any fan of m/m romance would enjoy Kirkwood’s books.

I recommend them highly.

To see more about James Kirkwood: WIKI | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | HALF.COM



Marshall Thornton is an award-winning novelist, playwright and screenwriter living in Long Beach, California. He is best known for the Boystown detective series, which received an honorable mention in the 2011 Rainbow Awards and is a finalist for the 2011 Lambda Award for gay mystery. Other novels include the erotic comedy The Perils of Praline, or the Amorous Adventures of a Southern Gentleman in Hollywood, Desert Run and Full Release. Marshall has an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, where he received the Carl David Memorial Fellowship and was recognized in the Samuel Goldwyn Writing awards. He has also had plays produced in both Chicago and Los Angeles and stories published in The James White Review and Frontier Magazine.

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