No one knows the real identity of Della Martin, the author of Twilight Girl, one of the classic lesbian pulp fiction books. Thankfully, Cleis Press has gained permission to republish one of the best examples of lesbian pulp fiction from the 1960s.
Twilight Girl by Della Martin
Back in the 1950s and 1960s a lot of lesbian pulp novels were published. Many of them were sordid tales written to titillate men (and a few women), but had nothing to do with a real lesbian experience. A few rare gems did accurately portray what life must have been like for lesbians living through those times. Twilight Girl
is one of those rare gems.
Twilight Girl tells the story of young butch Lon as she comes to realize she is a lesbian and meets the other gay gals at the local lesbian bar. When she falls for Mavis, girlfriend of wealthy Sassy Gregg, she invites trouble to her door.
Butches and Femme on the Make!
The thing I like best about Twilight Girl is the portrayal of the butch/femme relationship dynamic that was prevalent during the 1950s.
"It's kinda mixed up at first, but you get the hang of it. Like there's girls that're butch...and there's fems, like me..." (p.44)
"The wardrobe was Lon's most practical investment, for it was important, along with absorbing vocabulary and gestures, to dress in the sharpest butch fashion. Clothes, and the male swagger with which they were worn, established a competitive camaraderie with the other butches."(p.52)
Yea for butch fashion!
Classic Lesbian Pulp High Drama
One thing that can be expected from lesbian pulp is soap opera style high-drama. Twilight Girl does not disappoint. Sassy pleads with Mavis, "Oh Mave--Mave, darling, if you weren't around I'd...Oh, God, let go a little..." She moaned the words against the reserved mouth and her fingers dug voraciously into the chill coffee skin."(p.89)
Twilight Girl is written in the colorful language of the era, overwraught with emotion and longing. Jump into these pages for a trip back to the dyke drama of an earlier time.
All's Well that Ends Well
Like most lesbian pulp novels of the era, Twilight Girl
does not have a "happily ever after ending." For a writer to leave the reader with a happy ending was akin to saying homosexuality was a good and moral choice, something that book publishers certainly would not have accepted in the 1950s.
Lon and Mavis don't ride off into the sunset together. It's not pretty for Sassy and the other gals either, but unlike other lesbian pulp novels of the time, at least the girls don't end up with men in the end. Check out Twilight Girl as a great introduction to the cultural phenomena of lesbian pulp fiction.