Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Things Never Went Right...

Gay Way
circa 1972 (no copyright)

This unhappy gay-boy story may be rooted in self-hating stereotypes, but its underlying theme -- that the price of child abuse, exploitation and casual, low-rent sex trafficking increases exponentially -- is shockingly toxic and painfully believable.

Randy is only 16 when Pete, his new stepfather, catches him jerking off to some dirty pictures and rapes him. Within a year Pete is selling his stepson’s ripe ass to every pervert in town and Randy’s mom has made it clear that she couldn’t care less. Randy eventually demands a cut of the profits and has accumulated a substantial nest egg by the time he’s 18. After an anonymous call to the police that gets his mother and stepfather thrown into jail, Randy movs to Hollywood and strikes out on his own and – not surprisingly – becomes the worst kind of hustler, rolling and beating up in a vain effort to quiet his inner demons.

Randy eventually gets arrested and sent to prison, where he learns some new tricks and decides to set his sites higher: Instead of hustling, he wants a sugar daddy or mama and he really doesn’t care which. Fortunately, Randy cleans up nicely and quickly gets a job at the ABC Manufacturing Company, where boss lady Marcia Banning looks like a good prospect, except that she’s already married. But her husband, Ralph, is kinda gay, so Randy gets to work. First he seduces/rapes Ralph, then takes him to gay bars and a gay party that ends with Ralph being gang raped; that, Randy figures, should convince him to leave Marcia. Which Ralph does… but he turns up at Randy’s door, suitcase in hand, just as Randy is scoring with Marcia’s secretary, Rose. She bears uncomfortable witness to Ralph’s last humiliation: Randy mocks him and throws him out, which is enough to convince Rose that she doesn’t want to stay either.

Ralph commits suicide, and Randy – whose veneer of affable normality lies lightly over a sociopathic inability to understand the way most people think and feel – puts the moves on Marcia right after Ralph’s funeral. He rapes her when she resists, and she retaliates by hiring a pair of goons to beat the hell out of him. When he turns to Rose for comfort she tells him to go to hell – she doesn’t know what he did to Marcia, but she can guess. “He had a stupid urge to cry like he hadn’t done since he was a kid,” writes Carter. “The last time he had cried had been the time his stepfather… raped him.”

Randy goes on to get drunk, pick a fight with a barfly that gets him thrown out, picks up a young guy in a nearby park (“there was always a faggot where there was a park,” he figures) and beats him to death just as a cop comes by on his nightly rounds. I’ll leave the rest to Carter: “There was only, suddenly, a quick, hot pain in the small of his back and it seemed as though he had suddenly become lighter, as if his feet had taken wings.
“Then he realized that he was falling, tumbling over and over into the damp grass.
Things had never gone right for him.”

Vic Carter's Things Never Went Right… is terrible porn, depressing and mired in the kind of day-to-day misery that's better than an ice-cold shower for inducing libidinal shut down. But it isn’t a bad book… in fact, it’s a pretty well-written chronicle of the making of a sociopath. The first few sentences are impressively vivid:

“The trouble began for Randy soon after his new stepfather, Pete, moved into the house. Randy hated him; hated lying in his bed at night listening to Pete and his mother fucking in the next room; hated the way Pete ignored his right to privacy and thought nothing of walking into the bathroom when Randy was using it; hated the way he sometimes caught Pete looking at him, as though they shared some really dirty secret.”

They nail a certain kind of teen unhappiness, a mix of restless fury and impotent frustration, while also hinting that there's something about Randy that makes him especially susceptible to negative influences. One might ask, for example, why Randy continues to leave the bathroom door unlocked after the first time Pete barges in while he’s taking a piss. And to his credit, Carter isn’t suggesting that Randy wanted to be sexually abused; he’s foreshadowing the desperate need for attention that drives the adult Randy to rash and brutal acts of violence. All that said, Things Never Went Right… is nevertheless incredibly unsexy and depressing, the polar opposite of a turn on – it’s a cold shower between covers that doesn’t even leave you feeling clean.

And what a cover! For the longest time I wondered why it showed Randy about to bash a girl over the head with a bottle of gin when there’s no such scene in the book (not that pulp paperback covers always go with the text inside), before finally realizing that the pretty, curly-haired person in the low-cut, belly baring blouse is supposed to be a guy. That’s how crude the drawing is, though the uncredited artist clearly took considerable care in his (I assume) rendering of Randy’s muscular torso and crotch.

I assume Vic Carter is a one-off pseudonym: He doesn’t seem to have written any other books and while it’s a surprisingly common name, none of the Vic Carters I’ve run across are old enough to have been writing in the early ‘70s. I hope one day to find out who he is or was; Things Never Went Right… isn’t an overlooked masterpiece, but it’s good enough, particularly considering the constraints of its genre, that I’d love to know where he came from and what became of him.

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