Page 469 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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Jack Fritscher              Chapter 18                       451

             Townsend’s 1972 classic, The Leatherman’s Handbook, that was published in
             February 1994, two months before Preston died on April 28.
                Years later in 2003, Townsend sat in his home office on Sunset Plaza
             Drive  and  asked  me  to  write  a  new  introduction  for  The  Leatherman’s
             Handbook: Silver Anniversary Edition (2004). On his wall, I could not help
             but notice a framed black-and-white head shot of Preston, humbly signed
             to Townsend with a flattering message. When I agreed to write the essay
             that became “Leather Dolce Vita, Pop Culture, and the Prime of Mr. Larry
             Townsend,” I suggested to Townsend that he should keep the leather his-
             tory scholarship about his book in one place, and include Preston’s earlier
             introduction along with mine, which he did.
                According to Edmund Miller in The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage,
             Preston, in his soft approach to hard leather psychology, sentimentalized
             real-life S&M into the “S&M-Lite” of Mr. Benson in the very unsentimen-
             tal hardcore Drummer. He adopted, Miller continued, the faux-shocked,
             faux-appalled, and stand-offish “had-I-but-known tone of [mystery novelist]
             Mary Roberts Rinehart.” With this literary gimmick to explain himself to
             the New York literati he hoped would accept him, he disingenuously dis-
             tanced himself from his own novella as if such “low-grade” writing about
             sadomasochism would damage the “real” literary reputation he craved. This
             attitude was one more motive for his downplaying, in his East Coast cir-
             cuit, the genre of leather literature which he nevertheless, as a businessman,
             continued to mine for a couple more leather novels. Had he but known that
             Mr. Benson, the book he dismissively wrote “for a laugh,” would crown his
             literary legacy.
                I always thought the original manuscript of Mr. Benson as handed to me
             for serialization in late 1978 needed the authenticity of Preston’s very own
             revising and editing, and it made sense that Preston and Embry eventually
             thought so as well. Even though Preston may not have liked it made public
             that the editor-in-chief of Drummer had edited Mr. Benson, as far as I know,
             beyond his general scowling at our editorial meeting, my changes and sug-
             gestions were never objected to by the heat-seeking Preston.
                If pages of Preston’s typewritten manuscript exist, along with all the
             other writers’ and artists’ missing Drummer primary work among some-
             one’s souvenirs, it would be interesting to compare his first-draft “book
             chapters” to the final-draft “magazine chapters” I serialized in Drummer.
             Whipping his first and only draft into shape, I did nothing to subvert his
             authorship or his voice. Although I left all the Benson original pages with
             Embry, who probably threw them into our office closet piled deep with the
             discarded makings of previous issues, I have since found in my possession

               ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 03-14-2017
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