Valerie Taylor & Lesbian Pulp Fiction
1955-1965 was the golden age of lesbian pulp fiction. Pulp novels in this period generally presented sensational and scandalized accounts of lesbian life. They depicted lesbians as tragic or conflicted figures who, at best, might find some sense of resolve outside of a lesbian relationship. Books would end tragically with the death or insanity of the lesbain since publications that had a positive or attractive depiction of homosexuality would be censored.
The developing and growing lesbian pulp fiction genre of the 1950s and 1960s was dominated by male writers (some with female pseudonyms) who probably never met a lesbian. They wrote salacious prose with tragic endings for a male audience. However, lesbians read these books, since they were the only deceptions of lesbian life.
Chicagoan Valerie Taylor was one of the few lesbian writers in this period who wrote lesbian pulp fiction. Lesbian writers, while writing within the lesbian pulp fiction genre, sought to change it with positive and realistic portrayals of lesbian relationships and life. Valerie Taylor’s first novel Hired Girl (1953) had no lesbian content. She used the earnings to pay for a divorce and move to Chicago. Whisper Their Love (1957) was her second novel and first to contain lesbian content. In total, Taylor wrote thirteen novels in addition to a large amount of poetry.
In addition to being a writer, Taylor worked on social justice issues. She was a member of the Chicago chapters of Daughters of Bilitis, the second Chicago Mattachine Society, and Mattachine Midwest. Her writings were set in the Midwest and were noteworthy for inserting educational details and discussing homophile organizations and magazines. Taylor strongly believed in the power of fiction as both a way for homosexuals to find community and a way to educate heterosexuals by providing an empathetic view of the homosexual community.
Toward the end of the 1960s, there was an increase in novels with positive depictions of lesbian relationships. This growth was, in part, due to relaxing obscenity regulations. Since these pulp novels were readily available at drug stores and magazine stands, they spread views on lesbian identity and community.