* * * Special Note * * *
This is a bit different for us here at Dead Guns Press. Most of the time, we steer away from erotica and porn lit, but we're making an exception this time for this interview. Don’t worry, there’s nothing lurid about the interview. Also, don’t go thinking you crazy kids can just send me your porn lit. We’re not into it. We thought this would make a nice bit of history telling more than anything. So read on, fellow readers...
- J Thompson. Editor
Admit it. We've all had a read of some of those antique ‘sleaze’ books that were available, or maybe not, to most everyone who frequented back alley erotica shops or maybe those gems were hidden away in the back room of most book stores.
I tripped across my first one in Great Falls, Montana.
There, sometime in 1986, in a dust filled second hand store, was a basket full of vintage paperbacks. The going price was a nickel a book and I ended up buying the whole lot just on the cover art alone. Within this pile of books was a little known gem, an unnerving book titled ‘Blue Bell Whores Die in Red’. There was no cover art. It was just a plain black book with red lettering and the company logo in the upper left corner.
It was one of the most terrifying novels I had read at that time, as well as one of my most treasured just because of the content. I made sure I always had that book whenever we moved from one state to another, and I also made sure no one ever saw it, especially my parents.
Fast forward to the present. Somewhere along the way, I lost the book but it wasn't a big priority as I was juggling jobs and family. Every now and then, it would pop up in my collection, but then drown again in the oceans of life. Finally, after having all the kids move out to face life, I began to concentrate on writing and organizing my book collection.
‘Blue Bell’ came to the surface once more this past month (February) when I became more interested in JT Lawrence. It was buried in a box of other vintage paperbacks in a shed over packed with about three generations of peoples junk.
Who was he? Was this just another phantom name that was slapped on the cover to protect the real author? Maybe a house name slating more lurid titles under one pen name?
Research shed a little more information. A general search revealed a few other JT Lawrences, one being a female author in South Africa or somewhere. I got the break I needed from a lone email from a former editor of a porn book publisher back in the 70’s. He’d seen a post I had mentioning about any info. New Mexico, the email stated, was where JT Lawrence had retired to. He was living with an ex-stripper, author, and ‘body’ artist named Samantha who was a good twenty years younger.
I spent several weeks verifying if he was in New Mexico and found out through one of the many websites dedicated to vintage paperback collectors, that Lawrence was in Santa Fe, New Mexico…right up in my neck of the woods. After a few email contacts I had, I managed to locate him. He was alive and well living ‘almost off grid’ north of Santa Fe.
After a long twelve hour overnight shift and an hour long drive to Santa Fe, we met and discussed things related to a lost era of pulp porn, crime and science fiction…well, mostly porn.
An interview was imminent…
DGP: Tell us a bit about yourself.
JTL: I’ll skip the basics and head straight into this gig. I’m also long-winded as you’ll find out.
I grew up and lived in a small shit-kicker town in east Texas. My father died when I was twelve due to a car accident after coming home from his mistress’ house. I guess he was pretty drunk also and was lucky I wasn’t with him at the time. This wasn't unusual though and there were times he’d take me to the movies, but there was a catch. This was done just so he could tell my mother that we were going to the movies to catch a double feature. I suspect my mother knew better. The rumors were raging around town about my father and some red-headed skirt hooking up whenever they could.
He would drop me off at the movies with some money and go visit this whore that lived around the corner and have a good time. Anyway, I watched a ton of movies during that time frame, and when it got past midnight, when all the ‘decent’ folks were home, the theater would show these ‘Roughie/sexploitation' films to the late night crowd up until about three in the morning. I had to stay at the theater until the old man got done with the whores, then he’d come find me in the theater and we’d go home. Since I can remember though, I always wanted to be a writer. Whenever the films were bad, or a rerun, I would sit and write stories on paper in the dim darkness of the theater. Later I would make books out of these papers.
Anyway, after he died, me, my sister and my mother moved to Pasadena, California where most of her family lived. She got a job and I went to school and got a part time job to help out. I did this until I graduated High School and then went crazy into partying and messing with any broad I could.
DGP: Sounds like good times.
JTL: It was. I really miss those days. The broads were everywhere; dope and booze were flowing out of my ass. But I really wanted to be a writer and I kept writing.
I wrote the original script for ‘Blue Bell Whores Die in Red’ sometime in early ’68 while on a weeklong drunk and dope trip. One morning I was in California, getting blown by some blonde broad, then the next thing I remember, I’m up in South Dakota, in a town called Blue Bell. Apparently me and a buddy had jumped into his ’58 Ford and hauled ass looking to go to the liquor store. We got the liquor, but in the wrong state. Too much acid hits and too much booze I guess. I don’t remember making any kind of road trip and details are fuzzy. Anyway, we’re in Blue Bell, meet a couple broads named Mickey and Sunshine, a couple wanna-be hippies but they were putting out, so we stayed a few months doing the whole hippie life thing. I also was writing during this time frame also, but looking back at those papers, it was all amateur attempts, but I was working my way to a goal.
DGP: Some people might be surprised you served in the military.
I went to Vietnam in late 1971 after my number came up in the ‘Lottery of Death’ in 1970 as I called it. I still cannot fathom that as a ‘civilized’ nation, we would have this God-damned thing called a ‘lottery’ to draft a certain group of poor class kids from across the country to go fight a war. These numbers were hand-picked out of a jar by some fuck head politician who made damn sure, his kids weren’t going to ‘Nam. I did my part though. My country called and I went. I didn’t like the idea of war and after serving in the Army from ’70 to’74, I don’t want or wish war on anyone’s kids. I’ve seen some bad shit while in ‘Nam, but there were good times also. I remember a pillowcase of pot went for five bucks, good shit too. Regardless though, I hate war, I hate the fucking politicians that start them, I hate the corporate machines that gear up trying to make substantial profits off our military and troops dying and getting taxpayer funds doing it. The worst part about these fuck nut bastards, is they wave the American flag, the same one I fought for, claiming ‘fight for Democracy’ while pocketing billions off of the dead and dying.
JTL: Damn right. I believe that there is a time to wage war and a time not to do so. I don’t believe in corporations raping the taxpayers to make their billions upon billions. When the Iraq war fired up, I happened to be living in Durango, Colorado. I went on some anti-war marches with the local college kids. People needed to remember that the schmuck bastard politicians treated Iraq like it was some fucking corporate takeover. I agree that we had to do something about 9/11, there was no doubting that. Nobody and no country should ever do that kind of shit to another country, but we went into Iraq under false pretenses. Supposedly there were these weapons of mass destruction, but we got in there and there were none. So what happens? They go and allow a bunch of business/banker guys to go in and rebuild Iraq to make a shit-pot full of money at taxpayer expense and the blood of our military and the local Iraq people.
DGP: After Vietnam?
JTL: Back to 1974….with duty to country over with, I took back to writing, but the urge to travel somewhere kept getting ahold of me. I took a plane to New York in June of ’75, I found a local bar and went to drinking and writing and living a rather transient lifestyle.
DGP: Is this where ‘Blue Bell Whores’ was finally written?
JTL: As I've said, ‘Blue Bell Whores’ was written in ’68 while on a bad dope trip. It was all fucked up, and when I went and had my sister send me that script out of my stack of writings from California in about ‘75, I realized it needed to be re-written. I sat down and rewrote it but with an extreme horror/crime slant. Now at that time, there were plenty of underground publishers of sleaze books. The mob controlled some of these press’ that made them. I wrote ‘Blue Bell Whores’ and sent it off to Mirage Publishing, who had several publishing venues into the porn industries, including one Doomsday Press. Word was, they were partially owned by some crime family, but I never saw anyone that looked ‘mob’. Doomsday Press took on the script and put it out in January or February of ’76.
DGP: I've found no reference to Mirage or Doomsday.
JTL: You probably won’t either. It was one of the few back alley publishers that came and went overnight. I think they published some four books all told. I had heard that Carlo Gambino, a major mob boss, had ties into Mirage Publishing. When he passed away in ‘76 was when Mirage Publishing went under.
DGP: Financial freedom?
JTL: Financial Freedom? What’s that? Even though it was the year of Independence, I was broke, living in a dorm room with a handful of other guys working menial jobs trying to scratch out a living. I was one of the fortunate ones though and kept writing porn books under different names and shit. I thought that having ‘Blue Bell Whores’ published, I was going to strike it rich, be well known and shit, but none of that materialized. I think I got something like a couple hundred bucks for my efforts. ‘Blue Bell Whores’ also only had something like a few hundred copies printed originally with only small sales. I guess there just wasn’t much passion for extreme horror/crime mixed with porn.
DGP: You said you wrote porn/horror/science fiction books during this time frame?
JTL: Sure did.
DGP: How many titles and subjects?
JTL: I think during this time, I wrote something like eight or nine titles in ’76 alone. In ’77, I wrote about close to a dozen. The years after that, up until about ’83, I wrote two to four titles a year. I went under a whole multitude of different pen names or there were no names on the books. I mean I was writing some pretty bad stuff and my Catholic mother would’ve been embarrassed, so why risk that? I wrote bondage themed crap along with Satan worshipping sex orgy stuff or the plain boy-wandering-in-search-of-self-meets-blonde-farmers-daughter-and-fucks-her-a-bunch-of-different-ways kind of stuff. At one point, I had a few guys on the inside of this one publishing house say I was one of the few that would write about such things and they sold well. Sold well though didn’t mean that I got rich. I was lucky to see a few bucks for my efforts, but sometimes it was enough to pay the rent and buy the next bottle of Seagram Seven. I had some editors try and push me into writing some crap about fucking animals or other weird stuff, but that’s where I drew the line. I’m a big animal lover but not that way. I lost a couple sales with a publishing house over that, but as a writer, you got to hold the line at some point. The one funny conversation was where this editor was explaining verbally and making all kinds of hand gestures to convince me to write a story about a chicken farmer who has to resort to fornicating with his chickens.
Editor (Standing up, eyes up to the ceiling, waving his hand across some distant star filled horizon): Imagine…a farmer…a chicken farmer, ugly as sin that even prostitutes don’t want nothing to do with him even if he paid a million bucks for their services…he’s lonely…
Me: I don’t think I like where this is going.
Editor: Hear me out now…
Me (clinched teeth): Go on.
Editor: So he’s a chicken farmer…so, like I says, he’s lonely and he’s been eyeing this one chicken for weeks. It’s a special chicken, pretty chicken…
Me (hand on forehead): So he wants to fuck this chicken?
Editor (Does the double pistol pointing with each hand and has a wide grin): You got it. We could make a fortune with your writing style.
Me: I’ll pass.
Editor: What? Pass up the chance for a few hundred bucks?
Me: Damn right, I write porn, not gutter trash shit.
DGP: Satan worshiping sex orgies?
JTL: Sure, at one point it was a popular theme for readers for some reason. People get off on the strangest shit. Personally, I’m agnostic at this point in my life but that could well change to me being a born again Christian tomorrow. I’m not totally dismissing the concept of God. I mean, I've got to have a guardian angel or something looking back at some of the shit I went through. I also believe in people’s ability to do right and wrong, unfortunately, it seems we’re more prone to do wrong and bad things, especially when it means we’re looking to gain something from it. I’m not into worshiping the Devil and all that jazz, but I think some of that had something to do with my experience in ‘Nam. I think maybe I was lashing out through my writings that the world was fucked up so why not completely fuck it up some more?
DGP: You said you wrote other titles but where are they?
JTL: I wrote porn under a conglomeration of other names. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't want to embarrass my poor Catholic mother. I just happened to find Mirage appealing and quick to publish my material. Unfortunately, they went out of business after publishing just three or four titles. There was word they were a mob operation who were heavily involved in the world of porn at that time. I wrote under the pen names J, JL or Jack Law being the primary ones. Most of the times, I was publishing under a house name. Also, some publishing houses back then didn't use any author name for the stories and just put out the books with title only.
The problem with the written word of porn was that the seventies were where the industry peaked and waned. People used to mail order these books or go to a store and buy these ‘forbidden books’, which were hidden under a counter in a backroom. It changed, I think, with the advent of the quality of porn films. People had been reading for the last twenty to thirty years, now they wanted to actually see it play out on the screen. There is a big difference in the quality of sex films of the fifties and sixties as compared to the seventies and eighties. There are a whole lot of differences in the sexual interactions between these eras. So books started to fade away. Sure they’re still out there but on a much smaller scale.
DGP = 'Fifty Shades’ could change that.
JTL: It could, but it’s all BS. I wrote a story similar to ‘50’ titled ‘Bondage Queen’, where a shy, small town reporter girl gets to interview some good-looking high roller wealthy guy who has a secret dungeon filled with sex toys of all kinds and a couple of other full-time submissive women slaves. He’s looking for another submissive servant and this girl agrees to be one. The tables get turned when the girl ultimately becomes the queen of the dungeon and he ends up being her submissive slave. So the story ‘50’ is as old as time. From what I understand, ‘50’ was originally a self-published fan fiction piece for ‘Twilight’. That should tell everyone what it’s about.
DGP: What exactly is ‘Blue Bell Whores’ about? I read it sometime in 1986 but events are blurry.
JTL: ‘Blue Bell Whores’ is about two bi-sexual broads from Blue Bell, South Dakota on a killing spree across America. The year is 1968 and they’re driving a hot rod Ford Galaxie 500 XL. They meet guys and gals, fuck them and then kill them in the most deviant, perverse ways. Unfortunately for them though, they happen to have a sex orgy three way with a guy who is Irish mob affiliated. He’s in Kansas for a big time dope deal, which goes south with his death. The family boss back in Boston hears about his right hand man getting wacked by these two women and sends an army of killers after them.
There’s also a Texas Ranger on the women’s trail also. He’s hunting the women down in a black hot rod 55 Chevy, with a partner who is ‘feeding’ him victims to kill. This Ranger is also conflicted about if he wants to bring them to justice or fuck them hard and then kill them. You see, he’s also a serial killer and has needs. He hasn’t decided on anything. Anyway it all ends up in a massive showdown in some ranch in New Mexico. Originally, that setting was in Arizona, but I love New Mexico, so I changed it when I rewrote it again last year.
DGP: One of the things I remember is the saw mill scene. I couldn't help but read and remember that part.
JTL: I know which scene you are referring to and there’s an element of truth there. While in ‘Nam, I witnessed a guy walking across the tarmac one day and unwittingly walked right into the back rotor of a Huey as it was on warm-up. I’d heard he’d gotten a ‘Dear John’ letter and he was all fucked up and his mind was elsewhere. His wife back in the States was banging some other guy, a banker if I recall right. She got knocked up by this banker guy and she was looking to split the sheets. That shit always stuck with me, so I wrote it into the story but changed it to a saw mill setting. Of course the two broads ‘get some’ before old Harold Spencer meets his demise.
DGP: Violence and sex?
JTL: I think the two go hand in hand. Throughout all of time, you got armies conquering other nations and to the victor go the spoils…and the women. It was common practice for say…Roman legions to go have a rape fest on the women of the Germanic tribes after they had just slaughtered their men in battle. The Roman historian Tacitus documented these events well including where Roman officers raped young boys of defeated people. During the Boxer Rebellion, it was also documented that Western Forces raped and looted the Chinese Civilians on a large scale. During the final push into Berlin, it is well documented where Russian Forces raped the women of the German civilian population on a massive scale that appalls the mind. But the same is said in the case of when Germany first invaded Russia. These days, we deal with the fucking serial killer running around doing his or her thing with the twisted notion that violence is a means to achieve sexual satisfaction. So I think there’s a strong correlation between the two in times of extreme violence.
DGP: I note your writings about cars like the black 55 Chevy and the back cover of Moriarty Nights has a Mercury Cougar.
JTL: American iron, it’s what we all love. Even the God-damned tree hugging bastards that claim the world is melting love old time American hot rods. Americans love their cars. I had a 55 Chevy in high school, but wrecked it. In the early eighties I had a bad ass ’69 Cougar with a 428 wedged into it. Lost that car when I had to lawyer up for my court dates. A shame, I really liked that car.
DGP: Speaking about your experiences in the early eighties, what about your incarceration?
JTL: Well there are some misconceptions about that. It’s true I spent almost ten years in Federal prisons. 1984 to 1993. One of the charges was I had smuggled back from ‘Nam a fully functional 9mm Carl Gustav Swedish K. That part was true. Now a Swedish K is a bad ass little gun. It’s sleek, light, and fits well in the hands of the operator. I guess I should’ve known better than to bring it back but I sure didn’t want to see it destroyed by the ordinance guys. I stuffed the thing in my foot locker thinking ‘Oh well, if I get caught, I get caught, but if it makes it stateside….’. I was surprised it made it past Japan, the gateway to the free world to be honest. The military would search everyone’s shit looking for any kind of contraband. I thought I was going to get caught, but imagine to my surprise that it made it here stateside safe and sound in my footlocker.
I had that weapon in my apartment when the feds caught wind of my mini pot farm I had going on. The really fucked up part, was that the feds were actually after my neighbor who was pushing kilos of coke from his ice cream truck business. So, they found this door in his apartment, which I didn’t know about, that also happened to open up to my apartment, so I got busted. What was not true was the allegation I had threatened the President in my writings. I was a working editor for some underground gore-slasher review rag called Blood, Guts and Porn. I wrote small commentaries about the political going ons for the time. The prosecution tried that angle but had no evidence to back it up so it was tossed.
DGP: Moriarty Nights…it’s your return novel. What’s it about and can you go into any details on it?
JTL: I sure can. 'Moriarty Nights' is about two serial killers who befriended each other in a small town of Moriarty sometime in 1988. William Coffer, is a psychopath and teaches a young Jack Shaw on how to kill and not be detected. Together they hunt the Estancia Valley searching for the right victims. Coffer, as is mentioned earlier, is a complete psycho, but Shaw is more subtle and calculating. There’s porn action, killing action and of course, the deal behind the Mercury Cougar called the ‘Meat Wagon’. Coffer drifts off on his own, leaving Shaw to watch over their ‘kill spots’ for years, Shaw waits and kills all over New Mexico. It’s only a matter of time before he’s caught when he murders a politician but then Coffer is coming again to really rile things up. There’s a hell of a lot more to the story though and It’s going to match ‘Blue Bells’ on the body count.
DGP: When’s it due out?
JTL: We’re looking at October of this year, but that could be sooner, or maybe later. It’s in the edit/rewrite stages. I’m excited to get this book out, but we’ll see.
DGP: Any chance we’ll ever see ‘Blue Bell Whores’ come back to print?
JTL: We've been discussing that. I rewrote it last year and that was a bitch and I don’t think it’s complete. I would like nothing more than to see that happen but as to date, it’s going to sit on the back burner. For one, the original scripts are gone, so I would have to rely on the paperback version, which was edited and some parts changed without my knowledge and came out wrong. I discovered this after its original release but there wasn't anything I could do about it at the time. At the present though, we’re on hold, but looking into it.
DGP: I still have a copy of ‘Blue Bell Whores’ but no cover photo or art.
JTL: Originally, there was supposed to be cover art, but when the editors at Mirage and Doomsday read the script again, they realized there was no way they could produce one due to the nature of the contents. It was safer to just make it a black basic cover. Now I did hear that some guys in the UK published a few dozen copies back in the late 80’s that had a cover photo, but I've never seen it.
DGP: Books you read?
JTL: The list is endless. I read a lot these days. I hardly watch anything on television. I did get into ‘Breaking Bad’ when it was on, but nothing more than that. As far as books, I’m into crime fiction and science fiction. I guess I got that reading habit from being in prison for a long period of time.
One writer that comes to mind is Philip Jose Farmer who wrote a soft porn, or maybe hard to some people, titled: Love Song. I read a tattered copy sometime in the late seventies and was blown away by the style of ease of writing he had. I also understand that he only sold a few copies of this great work. I then read Blown and a Feast Unknown, other great works he’d written in that genre of mixing porn, science fiction and horror. So far, I’ve about read everything he’s written, but still have more to read on him. His ‘Riverworld’ series is one of his best works. A great writer.
DGP: What are you doing now?
JTL: Currently working on ‘Moriarty Nights’. I’m also retired living in the Pecos forest with my wife and all the wildlife I can handle. Writing is always at the forefront of my mind. Something more modern, more science fiction and low on the porn scale. We’ll see though….
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