Interview with William J. Lambert III
Do you identify as part of the GLBT community?
Do let me say, though, that I initially explored my sexuality in an age that was far different from the here and now. It was pre-AIDS. "Gay" wasn't quite as chic as it has become. There was a definite derogatory connotation that kept just about everyone who was gay in the closet.
Once realizing (at a very early age), that I was attracted to members of my own sex, I did, for several reasons, make it a point to be sure my first sexual experience was heterosexual. (1) I was always able to get it up for women despite my attraction to guys; hell, I was able to get aroused by a knothole. (2) I didn't want to start with gay sex and find it so good that I never wanted to give women a try. (3) It certainly seemed to me - and was true - that by eliminating women from the sexual equation, I would deprive myself of the potential for a lot of experiences and relationships (sexual and/or otherwise), that might be pleasing and/or beneficial to my writing efforts. Could I, had I not "loved" women, have so successfully written Harlequin SuperRomances? (4) There were some pretty static guidelines as to what was good for a career in corporate America; like, going to the right prep school, following up with attendance at an Ivy-League university, being an Episcopalian, serving in the military, having a wife and children...; I didn't want to give myself more disadvantages than I already had.
Speaking of serving in the military, there was no better way to convince Army brass and fellow soldiers that you were straight than to go with the guys for one good screw of a prostitute. There was the misconception - both in the military and in everyday life on the "outside" - that there was 'straight', and then there was 'gay,' but bisexual didn't exist. I wrote an article about the phenomena for "Gay" entitled "Bye Bye Bisexual".
Today, of course, whether because of "the Plague", or - as has been suggested more than once - because I've "become so damned jaded", I've gravitated almost entirely into the role of voyeur. Though, even when I was in my sexual prime, I was as interested, during sex (whether gay or straight), in observing myself and partner, our reactions, speech patterns, et al, as I was in having a genuinely good time. Such detachment, anyone will tell you, isn't the most conducive to good sex for the people involved. On the other hand, it helped me tremendously, even helps me today, in writing convincing sex scenes.
What have you written?
Things I've done for magazines (gay and mainstream) require another long list. (I'm always surprised to find something I wrote suddenly appear in a gay-history reference book - i.e. Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement).
As for my writings related to queer horror, there's Demon's Stalk, followed by its sequel Demon's Coronation, followed by Valley of the Damned (all for Greenleaf Classics, Inc.), Dog Collar Boys and Too Beautiful (for Parisian Press, under my Lambert Wilhelm pseudo).
What inspired you to write horror-based stories?
Are there any books or movies that specifically inspired your love of horror?
Inspiration for me has always come mainly from necessity. I was publishing a pulp book a month (sometimes more), there for while, and I needed a variety of plot lines. It being a case of - Well, I did a western last month, a leather-men book the month before that, a college-buddies novel before that. And a sci-fi, a fantasy, espionage, and a love story ... What in the hell is left? Ah, another horror story!
Then Greenleaf wanted me to do a monthly book about "ordinary" gay guys with S&M inclinations. Your ordinary gay guy isn't apt to be involved with warring factions in Heaven or Hell, be on a space ship, or be blowing up a Russian bridge. The plot lines became more mundane: the accountant coming home from work to his lover in the "dungeon" of their basement; the bookkeeper coming home for work to his lover tied to a bed in their upstairs attic.
My inspiration to return to any genre, including horror, remains, with few exceptions.
How has the gay community reacted to your books? Has this reaction changed
I’m curious whether people were much more or less uptight about
connecting gay-folk with horror during this time? Were you ever seen as giving
more reason to hate queer-folk
Based on what you said, it really sounds like a tremendous percentage of
the gay community must have read your books. Is this the case? Were pulp novels
incredibly popular then, something that was shared by almost all glbt folk?
Have you had any frightening fans?
That said ... And, let me preface by saying my horror-genre fans never proved more frightening or strange than fans of my sci-fi or romance or male-adventure/espionage, or fantasy, or ... whatever ... novels. When I was writing for Harlequin, I had women thinking the only way I could so probe their psyche was to be a woman in a man's body. Some sci-fi fans thought for sure I'd been picked up by aliens, electronically locked to a spacecraft examination table, and ... well, you know.
I made the mistake, when writing my queer-horror Dog Collar Boys, of setting it in Seattle, where I was living at the time. I made the additional mistake, while researching that book, of spending three months wearing a dog collar whenever I went to gay bars, just to check reactions. When the book came out, it didn't take anyone familiar with the Seattle gay scene long to figure out who wrote the book (although I'd stopped wearing the dog collar by the time the novel hit the stands). What resulted ...
... a lesbian caused a scene by insisting she followed a "summoning formula" from the book and "not one goddamn 'thing' appeared!" As if, were I privy to such a formula, I would copy it verbatim into the text of one of my books for amateurs to summon demons as easily as tourists, at Disneyland, conjured Mickey Mouse or Goofy.
... an elderly gentleman insisted he had Gregiano Medeena's Love Spells and Other Mischief-Making and needed an adept to summon an incubus for sex with his young wife. Was I available? As if I regularly communed with spirits.
... more than one trick commented: "Damn that was good sex! Now, let's summon Anaroth!" More than one - unfortunately - not joking.
A really talented young artist, specializing in drawing phantasm, recently tracked down several of my horror novels and asked, after having read them, if he could include me (based on a photo taken of me at the time I was writing those horror stories), in his proposed drawing: "Coronation of William (by Lucifer)." Since I suspect this particular artist will one day be very famous in his field, do I really want to be so prominent in one of his renditions of Hell likely to be looked on so often by his fans, for years to come? Granted, Michelangelo once painted his enemies in Hell (on a wall of The Sistine Chapel?), but ... anyway, he (the phantasm artist, not Michelangelo) says I can burn the picture if I don't like it. If I do set it afire, will it smell of brimstone? Just kidding!
What do you think the climate was for glbt people overall during that
time? The stuff you read makes it sound like queer-folk were constantly on
worried that they’d be arrested, or beaten, or killed. Was that the case,
in your opinion? If so, do you think that made glbt folk more or less prone
to reading horror?
The military establishment, of course, was certainly gay-paranoid. They were always “209”ing gays and drumming them out of the service. Just after I got assigned to Korea, I was taken on an orientation of the base that included a tour of the local Servicemen’s Club restrooms where new metal toilet-stall walls had been inset to replace the bored-through predecessors used by the latest group of “queers caught and sent packing”. However, even within that hostile environment, a gay community thrived, complete with love affairs between officers and enlisted men, and big holiday blow-outs at the villas of a local resort, Walker Hill. While there were gay soldiers who expressed fear of detection to me, on more than one occasion, I never felt personally all that vulnerable, especially after I learned all of the power games which existed within the military, and how successfully to play them. Assigned back in the States, I never seemed to have difficulty (maybe my friendly vibes?!), in being adopted by the local gay military clique which, despite being careful around the work place, spent each and every weekend ensconced within some local gay hotspot.
Did any of this make gays more or less prone to read horror? In those days, it always seemed to me (and to the publishers) that gays read pulps just to “get off” on the sex scenes. Any book’s elements of horror (sci-fi, romance, leather-man … et al), merely the picture frame for the real purpose of an enjoyable jack-off.
Do you have any future projects in the works?
Where can people get your books?