Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The Long Leather Cord
Pleasure Reader/Greenleaf Classics 1971
“Larry Townsend” (1930-2008), whose real name was Bud Burnhardt, was one of a handful of writers who used the throwaway medium of pulp erotica to explore a deeply personal erotic landscape at considerable length and depth. Long before Townsend found his niche with the how-to manuals The Leatherman’s Handbook and The Leatherman’s Workbook, he explored bondage-and-discipline fueled sexuality in pulp novels like The Scorpious Equation and The Long Leather Cord, the nonchalantly transgressive story of teens Chuck and Steve, who move in with their smoking hot dad after their mother and stepfather die in a small-plane crash.
Steve and Chuck quickly learn that he’s simultaneously involved with notorious Hollywood madame Beverly Wickersham and deep into gay S&M role playing with his boyfriend Bill. These revelations both open up worlds of erotic possibility and force the (inevitably) handsome brothers to make mature decisions about their sexuality earlier than the average youngster.
Townsend was driven by a black leather/submission and dominance kink but, like fellow pulp writer Carl Corley, he was a romantic at heart. His little leather boys wanted to be bound, beaten and besmirched, but less by studly strangers than by men who loved them… even if those men wound up being their fathers. Townsend’s “Leather Notebook” column dispensed advice to bondage boys for almost 30 years, first in Drummer magazine and then in Honcho, and he lived with partner Fred Yerkes for 44 years; their relationship ended with Yerkes’ 2006 death.
Townsend stood out from the crowd of pulp auteurs by virtue of his straightforwardly good writing: It wasn’t elegant, but it was clear, accessible and to the point. He dwelled on neither who-did-what-to-whom details nor on swoony emotions: You always know exactly what’s going on and how his main characters feel about it, but the story keeps moving forward at a brisk clip.
Highly ritualized sadomasochism is a specialized predilection, but Townsend managed to make it seem ordinary – not mundane, mind you, but well within the erotic parameters of the average, broad-minded adult (you know, the one with no interest in all-mod-cons dungeon play but susceptible to the rosy glow of a smartly but lovingly-spanked bottom) – without stripping it of its kinky kick.
See also: The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes