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About Larry Townsend
Townsend probably did more than anyone else to create and shape the gay leather subculture in North America. While dealing with sexual practices that not everyone feels comfortable with, Townsend always advocated an ethical approach that emphasized mutual consent between adult partners and the importance of tending to the other person's needs. His authoritative but principled voice for sexual liberation will be missed by his many readers and fans.
- Alistair Williamson
"Larry Townsend leaves a legacy in leather and pulp"
The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide (Vol. 15, Issue 6)
An Obituary for Larry Townsend
The Leather Archives & Museum's Leather Times number 2, 2008 included the following obituary writen by Jack Fritscher. It won the National Leather Association International's "Cynthia Slater Non-Fiction Feature Article Award" in 2009. It is reposted here with the author's permission.
Spill a Drop for Lost Brothers:
The Legendary Larry Townsend
27 October 1930 - 29 July 2008
by Jack Fritscher
LARRY TOWNSEND, author of the iconic 1972 Leatherman’s Handbook, died at 2:40 PM, Tuesday, July 29 at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Born a Scorpio with Aries rising on October 27, 1930, he was 77 when overcome by complications from pneumonia. Writing for forty years under the pen name “Larry Townsend,” he authored nearly one hundred novels including Run Little Leather Boy (1968), The Faustus Contract (1969), and the gay heritage landmark guide The Leatherman’s Handbook (1972) at such erotic presses as Greenleaf Classics and the Other Traveler imprint of Olympia Press.
Dissatisfied with those straight publishers’ corporate policies regarding royalties and copyrights, he broke free as an independent artist-writer in 1973 and founded LT Publications, the first dedicated gay leather book publisher in history.
Because Larry Townsend noted specifically in his Leatherman’s Handbook, and throughout his life, that vanilla gay history has always suppressed leather history to keep it invisible, it is worth noting that for four years, Larry Townsend was the only specifically gay book publisher in America.
In the timeline of gay book publishing, Felice Picano did not found his SeaHorse Press in Manhattan until 1977, and Edmund White’s Violet Quill authors did not meet until 1980.
As author and publisher, Larry Townsend set his mission on marketing to fervent gay readers who lived in small US towns with no gay bookstore, and to Europeans eager for American leather literature. He was a mail-order retail genius. His books, distributed internationally, have been translated into many languages, and have sold more than a million copies.
Preppie Boy to Staff Sergeant to Sex Tourist to Leatherman
Born in New York and growing up as a teenager of Swiss-German extraction in Los Angeles a few houses from Noel Coward and Irene Dunne, he ate cookies with his neighbor Laura Hope Crews who was Aunt Pittypat in Gone with the Wind. He attended the prestigious Peddie School, came out at the primeval LA leather bar “Cinema” on Santa Monica Boulevard, and was stationed as Staff Sergeant in charge of NCOIC Operations of Air Intelligence Squadrons for nearly five years with the US Air Force in Germany (1950-1954). During his European service, he day-tripped through Europe reading sadomasochistic literary classics in cafes and gathering post-war leather intelligence in cottages—all later reported in The Leatherman’s Handbook.
Completing his tour of duty, he entered into the 1950s underground of the LA leather scene where he and film star Montgomery Clift shared a lover. That romantic triad ended when Clift spirited the ham in their sandwich away to Cuba for the wild New Year’s Eve before Castro marched his revolution into Havana on January 8, 1959.
In the mid-1960s, he began photographing each of his dungeon partners for a scrapbook which he continued to fill for most of his life. With his degree in industrial psychology from UCLA (1957), he worked in the private sector and as a probation officer for juveniles with the Forestry Service. He was a lifelong animal lover famously favoring Doberman Pincher dogs, and Abyssinian cats who were the only creatures ever able to top him.
Introducing the Leather “Archetribe” to Itself
Larry Townsend began his pioneering activism in the LA politics of gay liberation in the early 1960s. By popular culture or academic standards, The Leatherman’s Handbook, published when he was 42, is a rather extraordinary study written by an eyewitness participant. Even though his queries and conclusions were mostly based on the pre-Stonewall leather culture of leather males, leatherfolk of all genders (including female leatherboys and FTMs) have for years, according to a diversity of fan letters in his files and responses at live conferences, read, enjoyed, learned, and adapted to themselves the basic leather tropes and codes of the leather lifestyle from his Leatherman’s Handbook. Only totally dumbed-down persons would fault The Leatherman’s Handbook for having a pure 1972 point of view and not a politically correct 2008 point of view. Its principles, as examined specifically in “The Prime of Mr. Larry Townsend,” the Introduction to the 25th Anniversary edition, are timeless. Larry Townsend, frankly, loathed anything politically correct.
Stylistically, he was one of the first leather authors to coin new portmanteau keywords tying leather and sex and men together to form the now standard vocabulary of leathersex and leathermen. He also dug deep to the rugged roots of Anglo-Saxon frankness to spell cum the nasty way so that it looks to the eye as onomatopoeic as it sounds.
Miffed at the queenstream’s relentless pop-culture disinformation about leathermen, including that which would become the editorial attitude of The Advocate, he stormed the barricades of the politically correct and leather-hating “sweater crowd” when he wrote this opening paragraph in his “Introduction” to The Leatherman’s Handbook:
There have been many books printed over the last few years dealing with various aspects of homosexual behavior and lifestyle. In all of these the leatherman is constantly neglected or ridiculed by the fluff or the ‘straight’ reporter who wrote the book. In reading these previous efforts...I have been more than a little annoyed. So have many of my fellow leather people.
As a teenager, three months older than James Dean, he was an upstart 1950s rebel with a cause, seduced by the charisma of Brando in The Wild One and by the totemic leather photography of Chuck Renslow and Etienne at Kris Studio. As a man and a psychologist in the 1960s and 1970s, he was a “leather identity” author intent on securing gender legitimacy for leathermen uncloseting their virilized selves in a Stonewall culture of gay liberation whose media image and sexual politics were dominated by effeminacy and drag.
When Drummer betrayed the masculine-identified trust of its readers with its absurd camp cover of Drummer 9 (Halloween 1976), psychologist Larry Townsend was not surprised to learn of outraged men threatening to cancel their subscriptions because they judged “camp” to be taboo in Drummer where masculinity was totem. As a unit of measure of leathermen’s mindset in the 1970s, the words most repeated in the Drummer classifieds in which readers wrote personal ads identifying themselves, as well as what quality they were seeking in sex partners, were masculinity and masculine.
In 1972, as president of the “Homophile Effort for Legal Protection” which he helped found in 1969 to defend gays during and after entrapment arrests by the LAPD, he led a group in founding the H.E.L.P. Newsletter, the forebear of Drummer magazine founded in LA in 1975. Larry Townsend himself chose not to accept an invitation to be a co-founder of Drummer because, among other reasons in the cage-fighting that was the LA social scene, he did not want to be part of a magazine with a demanding deadline every thirty days.
The Empowerment of Self-Fashioning Leather Identity: Reporting a Lifestyle Creates the Lifestyle
Nevertheless, Larry Townsend’s influence shaped the psychology and the business plan of Drummer. According to the new leather-heritage book Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer, Larry Townsend invented a synergistic formula of “marketing and identity” for 1970s men self-fashioning themselves as homomasculine men in that first decade of gay lib when women were self-fashioning themselves in feminism. In principle, his Leatherman’s Handbook reported the leather lifestyle and thus generated more of that emerging leather lifestyle.
Absorbing Townsend’s synergy of book publishing into its magazine editorial policy, Drummer built its monthly issues and its circulation by reporting on the homomasculine leather lifestyle it was creating, and thus empowering. For instance, leather history’s first cigar-fetish feature, “Cigar Blues,” and first cigar fiction, “Cigar Sarge,” in Drummer 22 (May 1978) caused the debut of cigars in leather bars five minutes after the issue hit the newstands.
Townsend’s pioneering Leatherman’s Handbook was the first important nonfiction analysis of leatherfolk in the twentieth century. It pairs perfectly with William Carney’s leather-identity novel The Real Thing (1968), a book which Townsend admired and cited specifically in his Handbook.
As a writer and photographer and as a leather player, Larry Townsend was an eyewitness of evolving gay liberation in Los Angeles bars and bike clubs, including the political outfall of the infamous LAPD raid of the Drummer Charity “Slave Auction” at the Mark IV Bath on April 10, 1976, when forty-some leatherfolk were arrested and charged with breaking a Civil-War-era law forbidding “slavery.”
He himself was not arrested because he had spent the evening practicing “slavery” in his own photo-studio dungeon at his home in the hills on Sunset Plaza Drive above West Hollywood where many a bound-and-gagged slave experienced an S&M session feeling Larry’s greatest “hits” while his stereo speakers boomed out tapes of the ominous, fervent hammer blows of Mahler’s Sixth as well as his dark terminal Ninth. Townsend, who could have written a Rashomon novel about the Drummer “Slave Auction,” documented his subjective version of that highly charged debacle between the besieged leather community and the fascistic LAPD Police Chief Ed Davis in his historical “Introduction” to the book Gay San Francisco.
Leather Community Volunteer
For more than thirty years, whenever a leather organization or fundraiser invited him to speak on a conference panel or to read from his work or to judge a leather contest, Larry Townsend rarely turned down any opportunity to help his hosts succeed. He was honored with many awards from the leather community, including a Forebear Award from the Pantheon of Leather. In the 1990s, he spoke versions of his own personal oral history into the microphones of interviewers Jack Rinella for the Leather Archives & Museum and Bob Wingate for Bound and Gagged Magazine. His last public appearance was at Graylin Thornton’s “Mr. San Diego Leather Appreciation Dinner” in San Diego during March 2008.
He was as much a celebrity in London and Berlin and Manhattan and Chicago as he was in Los Angeles. In San Francisco, late in his life, even after the VCR and the Internet began making books an endangered species, he could pack a crowd into A Different Light Bookstore at 18th and Castro. In 1996, the audience loved seeing him make an entrance into that bookstore with a nearly naked young leather slave on one leash, and his Doberman dog on another. When both slave and dog “sat” at his stern command, he brought down the house.
Don’T Fuck With “The Townsend”
Writing in the Bay Area Reporter, venerable leather columnist Mister Marcus noted that the death of his peer was a loss to the “leather universe.” Larry Townsend was a huge personality who lived life large as a twentieth-century artist whose moods could have been charted by the National Weather Service, and whose roiling Rolodex of friends and frenemies might well be turned into a plot with arias like the operas he loved. At the Los Angeles Opera next season, a new young couple informal clothes, not knowing whom they replace, will smile as they sit down taking their turn in a treasured pair of permanent seats surrendered only in death by the leather couple who through the years never missed an opening night.
In the way that Larry Townsend had dumped exploitative publishers like Greenleaf Classics and Other Traveler thirty-five years before to protect his earliest copyrights, he died pressing a wildly scandalous law-suit—chronicled by Publishers Weekly—against many GLBT bookstores and a contemporary publisher he alleged had violated the intellectual property of his latest copyrights by reprinting his books without authorization, and without paying royalties.
In the last week of his conscious life, he made a mea culpa decision to remove most of the GLBT book-stores from his lawsuit because he realized the book-stores were not part of his alleged problem with the publisher. The lawsuit itself exhibits something of his character. Of all the gay civil rights he championed, his lifelong passion was to alert GLBT people not to be so masochistic that they sign over their copyrights to publishers in order to have their writing, drawings, photographs, and videos make it into print.
Aware of the importance of legal paperwork to gays and to the preservation of gay culture, Larry Townsend in 2007 wrote a codicil to his will designating that his manuscripts, correspondence, taped interviews, original photographs, and artwork be collected and archived at the John Hay Library at Brown University because it is a private institution that receives no public funds and so cannot by censored by the kind of lawmakers and politicians who censored the leathersex photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe in 1989.
The Drummer Salon
Along with Robert Mapplethorpe, and Robert Opel who streaked the 1974 Oscars, Larry Townsend was a member of the sex, art, and salon around Drummer. “I’m not a Drummer writer,” he wrote of him-self, “I’m a novelist whose books were often excerpted in Drummer. In 1978, Jack Fritscher, the new editor of Drummer, took me to supper and began to convince me over pasta that the San Francisco Drummer of the late 1970s was a different Drummer than Los Angeles Drummer. After more months of Jack’s friendly persuasion, I came on board because so many of the fans of my books were also Drummer subscribers.”
Larry Townsend’s signature “Leather Notebook” column appeared in Drummer for twelve years from 1980 to 1992, and continued in Honcho to Spring 2008.
Paging Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman: “Time To Say Goodbye”
Larry Townsend’s last novel TimeMasters was pub-lished April 2008. His last writing was his “Introduction” to the book Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer subtitled A Memoir of the Sex, Art, and Salon of Drummer Magazine 1975-1999 (June 2008).
His domestic partner of forty-three years, Fred Yerkes, died July 8, 2006.
When gay marriage became legal in California on June 16, 2008, Larry Townsend said, “I’d like to have someone to marry. Fred and I would have been married. Thank God, though, for the domestic-partner law because it saved me so much trouble when Fred died.” Four weeks later he was unconscious in Cedars Sinai ICU. Two weeks later, without regaining consciousness and surrounded by his family, he died, fifteen minutes after his Power of Attorney documents specified he be taken off life support.
At his own request, Larry Townsend was cremated with no funeral or memorial service. A suitable keening might be an hour spent reading from one of his novels or from The Leatherman’s Handbook.
He is survived by his sister, a nephew, and two nieces who were present for him in his life and who cared for him during his final illness.
Larry Townsend: What’S Next?
Palm Drive Publishing, with whom Larry Townsend often collaborated, has announced a new book with the working title The Larry Townsend Memorial Anthology scheduled for publication in 2009. The “Call for Sub-missions” seeks essays, letters, interviews, reviews, and photographs. The book is open to everyone of every diversity. Details are posted at www.PalmDrivePublishing.com.
Further reading and research specifically about Larry Townsend and The Leatherman’s Handbook — all fact-checked and approved by Larry Townsend — can be found in Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer. That book is available two ways: 1) for sale as a low-cost paperback, and 2) for free as a series of no-cost “free and green pdfs” accessible to all with a SEARCH feature at www.DrummerArchives.com.
Editor’s Note: For more than thirty years, leather authors Jack Fritscher and Larry Townsend were longtime friends often collaborating on books such as the S&M anthology Rainbow County and Other Stories which won them the 1997 National Small Press Book Award for Erotica and was published by Townsend’s LT Publications. Fritscher, often photographing Townsend in stills and video, is also the founding San Francisco editor of Drummer and the author of fifteen books including Leather Blues (1969); the epic Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir of San Francisco 1970-1982, reviewed by The Advocate as “the gay Gone with the Wind of leather”; the nonfiction biography Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera, and the leather-history “Silver Anniversary Introduction” to Larry Townsend’s Leatherman’s Handbook.
The Biography of Larry Townsend
The Life and Times of the Legendary Larry Townsend
by Jack Fritscher (Author), Mark Hemry (Editor)
Palm Drive Publishing
July 29, 2021
WINNER! INDEPENDENT PRESS AWARD - GOLD MEDAL LGBT Nonfiction
WINNER! INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER BOOK AWARD - BRONZE MEDAL LGBT Nonfiction
As described by the publisher on Amazon.com and other sites:
A lively memoir of West Hollywood author-activist-influencer Larry Townsend whose signature Leatherman's Handbook was a founding text for gay men worldwide in the 20th century. Celebrating Townsend's 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his Handbook, this homage to Townsend written by his close friend of 40 years is vivid as a screenplay. Like a biographical film comedy sauced with honest realism, it stars the best-selling author of nearly 80 books who, long before the glitter bomb of Stonewall, helped found the new world of gay publishing, politics, and popular culture.
The propulsive text, based on the testimony of intimate friends, especially his "Leather Wife" Jeanne Barney, reveals the rise and fall of the private man in all his unvarnished glory struggling behind his public persona even as he fights for the rights of other independent authors, and ends his life in a huge scandal of self-defense, suing floundering gay bookstores to protect his copyrights.
The illustrated memoir offers readers unfamiliar with Townsend's leather milieu a charming and intimate profile of the author as a psychologist, author, and healing mentor whose Handbook was such a years-long bestseller that he literally educated American and international gay popular culture about the nature of leather people, principles, and practice. In Europe in 1977, Der Spiegel reported that in the world scene of leathermen, "The Leatherman's Handbook by a certain Larry Townsend is considered their Bible." He was an entertaining teacher who was not didactic, prescriptive, or old guard. His writing was a declaration of gay diversity. He challenged politically-correct mainstream censors condemning as pornography the consensual sadomasochism he championed as a kind of empowering analgesic ritual for men trying to cope counterphobically with PTSD caused by exposure to lifelong homophobia.
This memoir unwrapping gay history spotlights the operatic Townsend, founding president of the Hollywood Hills Democratic Club, through revealing quotes from his own writing. It breaks down the barriers between so-called "low" and "high" culture and focuses on filling in the gaps that a neglect of gay popular culture by the politically-correct gay establishment has made in our understanding of the workings of broadband gay society.
What Townsend wrote in 1972 describing his own Handbook applies to Fritscher's 2021 handbook about Townsend: "...a definitive exploration of the gay S&M leather scene...written by a qualified writer who has observed it all from the inside." Jack Fritscher, PhD, qualified as a founding member of the American Popular Culture Association in 1968, is the 1970s editor-in-chief of Drummer who invited Townsend to write for that magazine for twelve years. Fritscher, who stayed true to his friend to the scandalous end, is the perfect eyewitness in this candid documentary memoir of gay history. A fascinating, witty, and wise story of leather lives well lived from the 1950s to 2008.
- Michael Flanagan Larry Townsend: celebrating the man behind 'The Leatherman's Handbook' ebar.com. September 21, 2021.
- Les K. Wright. Book Review. leskwright.com. March 22, 2022.
This biography is no longer listed the publisher's web site, but copies in new condition are available for purchase elsewhere online.
Books by Larry Townsend
Except where noted, the following book descriptions were lifted from the (now defunct) larrytownsend.com web site.
- The Leatherman's Handbook (1972) -
Back in the seventies, it was still a very risky proposition to attempt a gay publication of any sort. But in the California Seventies, books like "Song Of The Loon" (from the sixties) and eventually the likes of "Tales of The City" began breaking down the barriers, allowing homosexual men to be presented not as crazy or unstable, but as regular people in love. Larry Townsend went even farther out on a limb. He sat down in 1972 and spelled out, for the first time in book form, the codes of conduct that the underground Leather Scene and S&M men lived by. There were also several accounts of steamy real life kink encounters. This was unheard of. Even now, with a much wider variety of books available on how to and relationship studies, not to mention my own writings, it is hard to remember a time when Larry's book was such a shocking event. Voluntary servitude and fetishistic behaviors are given a great deal of coverage here, and the amazing thing is just how much most of Larry's original foundations remain relevant. Even more to the point is just how much the format of "The Leatherman's Handbook" has become the blueprint for so much of our community's guidebooks; A little journalistic information followed up with some hot episodes. Still, "The Leatherman's Handbook" remains a viable source of both etiquette and education in addition to its historical value. Quite possibly one of the most important books about the side of Gay Life that many would like to ignore, but is with us and vibrant and exciting for those who have taken this intimate discovery. A classic.- Tim Brough on Amazon.com. April 13, 2006
- The Leatherman's Handbook II (1972) -
Larry Townsend's "The Leatherman's Handbook II," like its 1972 original, still spells out the codes of conduct that the underground Leather Scene and S&M men lived by and the numerous accounts of steamy real life kink encounters remained, though now with addendums about safety and health issues.- Tim Brough on Amazon.com. April 13, 2006
- The Original Leatherman´s Handbook LT Publications, Beverly Hills. (1993)
- Ask Larry. Masquerade Books. (1995)
The collected wisdom of Townsend's Leather Notebook column for Drummer magazine and a careful consideration of the way life has changed in the AIDS era.
This is a compilation of L. T.'s Leather Notebook column in Drummer Magazine, from 1980 through 1992. It is organized chronologically by general category, and includes some sage as well as some humorous advice from the Maestro of SM. The original questions and answers are given as they were submitted to Drummer, and most are followed by additional comments which make the book more cohesive. For most of its run this column received heavy reader interest, and when it was terminated in 1992 the author transferred immediately to Honcho Magazine, where it is still a monthly feature. Trade paperback format. A Richard Kasak Book.
- The Leatherman's Handbook: Silver Jubilee Edition (1997)
The Leatherman's Handbook is Number 46 on Lambda Book Report's end-of-the-millennium list of 100 Gay & Lesbian Books that changed our lives.
Leather-specific writing first transcended the purely pornographic with the publication of Larry Townsend's Leatherman's Handbook (1972), a how-to manual of sorts that initiated many more men into leather than the private clubs and informal networks of the previous two decades ever could have.
- Matthew D. Johnson, "Leather Culture"
Ask any male leather titleholder what book one should read to learn about the leather community, and he is bound to say The Leatherman’s Handbook by Larry Townsend. This 1972 guide is highly regarded for being THE book that brought SM / fetish out into the open. Decades before E. L. James introduced bored suburban housewives to a little kink in 2011’s Fifty Shades of Grey, Larry Townsend’s manual of BDSM told it all. Filled with chapters devoted to various aspects of play and personal anecdotes, The Leatherman’s Handbook is considered to be the bible for gay BDSM.
- Rodney Burger
Larry Townsend's Leatherman's Handbook was an Immediate cult classic when it first came out in 1972. It's publication was the first step in bringing leather sex into the open in the gay world. Its instant popularity proved just how interested men were in the previously taboo subject.
- John Preston, 1993
What L.T. offers in the Handbook are principles learned through years of experience in the SM playing field, and he invites you to agree or disagree with his ideas and conclusions…a pioneering work in gay SM.
- Victor Terry, 1997
The groundbreaking 1972 publication of Larry Townsend's Leatherman's Handbook is as remarkable a construct as Stonewall itself, because it was a declaration of independence for 'Anatomically correct' homomasculinity.
- Jack Fritscher, 1996
- The Gooser (a.k.a. The Gay Adventures of Captain Goose) (1969) - L.T.'s first published novel. It is a hot adventure tale, set in colonial America when bond slaves were still being sent from England and the colonists still used punishments such as stocks to enforce their puritanical laws. Young, handsome Jerome Gander rebels against his slavery and becomes a dreaded highwayman. There are elements of a spoof here and there, but the sex is the kind that made the Maestro famous, and the ending - well, suffice it to say that it is far different from anything else this writer ever did.
- 2069: A Science Fiction Trilogy - This book is comprised of L.T.'s first three sci-fi novels: 2069, 2069+1, and 2069+2. Presented here as one book, it tells the story of earthmen's first leap into the far reaches of space. Because gaysex has become the norm for spacemen, the lover relationship of our two heroes as accepted and strengthened as they encounter a series of diverse and sometimes frightening aliens. As a trilogy, this books has enjoyed an unprecedented popularity, being among the best-sellers in many gay bookstores, as well as in feminist book outlets all across the country.
- 2069 (1969)
- 2069+1 (1970)
- 2069+2 (1970)
- Kiss of Leather (1969) - L.T.'s first leather novel, a murder mystery involving cops and gay cyclists, where the classic police homophobia becomes a factor as two of the young motorcycle cops are revealed as gay - not only gay, but playing bondage/SM games with the cycle club members. In its original form, L. T. considered this his worst novel, but it has since been re-edited and, ironically, has been translated into both German and Japanese.
- The Faustus Contract (1969) - L.T.'s first novel with a really dark, brutal story to tell. It is set in 1960s Hollywood, where the underground of hustlers and petty street criminals are willing to do anything for a few bucks. This includes murder for hire, but the price is often considerably more than the buyer has planned to pay. Very heavy brutality, as hatred and the need for revenge transform simple murders in acts of retribution and imaginative, terrifying terminations.
- The Fairy King (a.k.a. ManSword) (1970) - A novel based on the life and times of Henri III of France, and as such is a story of sex and intrigue during the Renaissance. A spin-off from the timelines developed for his big novel CZAR!, L.T. gives us a novel of extraordinary historical insight, liberally supplied with intrigue, swordplay, sex and lusty mayhem. The cover was not the author's choice. Although very fond of Rob Crystan in his many SM porno roles, the Maestro did not feel that the teddy bear tattoo was appropriate on the cover of this historical novel. Sorry about that!
- Billy's Club (1970?)
- The Construction Worker (a.k.a. Joven-Cachoteca) (1970) - Originally published by Greenleaf Classics as Jovencachoteca (L.T.'s own title). In this novel, a magnificent hunk finds himself in a legal bind that forces him to leave for foreign parts. Deep in a Central American jungle, where he is supposed to be working on a new building project, he stumbles onto a strange cult whose brutal rites and mysterious, psychic powers lead him into some wild and lusty encounters from which he barely escapes with his life and his family jewels intact.
- Mickey's One (a.k.a. Mind Master) (1970)
- The two "Leather Ad" novels (1970) - A pair of L.T. cult classics. These novels were in the first Greenleaf Classics trade paperback series, and later were reissued as regular pocketbooks. The old Advocate called them "primers of S&M.;" The central premise of the two books is very basic. In the first, a curious young man places an ad in a gay newspaper, seeking experience as a bottom (an "M"). All through his series of wild adventures, he keeps dreaming of the time when his friend Bobby might take up the scourge and become his Master. In the second book Bobby does just this, but goes a little further and advertises as a Top (an "S") seeking bottoms. The wild adventures that ensure include one of L.T.'s most applauded descriptions: the fantastic happenings at San Francisco's infamous Embarcadero YMCA. The setting is 1960's Los Angeles and San Francisco, and points between. Surely two of the most unrestrained sex romps in the L.T. library.
- Leather Ad-M (1970)
- Leather Ad-S (1970)
- Beware the God Who Smiles (1971) - The story of two young hunks sent back in time to ancient Egypt, where they experience that lost world's unique and painful slavery. Their initial mistake was to sneak into a private museum at night, and playfully worship a statue they took to be Anubis. When it turns out they have uttered the magic phrases to the evil Seth instead, their fates are sealed. Or are they? A very exciting adventure tale, in which love and sex help see them through. Story has received extensive fan mail over the years, since its original Greenleaf Classics edition
- Run Little Leather Boy (1971) - L.T's classic tale of SM coming out. It was probably the most popular of the Maestro's novels at the time of its publication by Olympia Press, just a few months before the Leatherman's Handbook. At times the story is dark, always lusty and rife with enough humor to make the whole novel come alive. Young, innocent Wayne Hoffsteader learns the ropes as a bottom after his family sends him to England to live with his uncle Bert. Little do his parents realize that Uncle Bertie has SM connections in Bavaria, where he sees to his nephew's complete indoctrination within the walls of an ancient castle.
- The Scorpius Equation (1971) - A science-fiction novel involving a conflict between two major space nations, one of which is ruled by an aged emperor whose passion is riddles and puzzles. In order to avoid a major conflict, Alpha - our lusty hero - must solve the ultimate equation. This is such a strong story, its major criticism has been that the sex sometimes gets in the way. Originally published by Olympia Press, to very extensive acclaim.
- The Long Leather Cord (1971) - An exciting novel about a contemporary father and his two sons, although for some reason the BadBoy editors insisted that the father become a non-blood relative (i.e., a stepfather) in this edition. Even with this minor change, the story is still a breathtaking trip of fear and uncertainty, involving SM sex, motorcyclists and murder. This is probably L.T.'s most plagiarized novel, having been ripped-off and published in unauthorized editions at least twice that we know of. Guess someone must have liked it!
- Run No More (1972) - The sequel to Run, Little Leather Boy. It was originally sold to Olympia Press, but the company went into bankruptcy before it could be published. Thus the first printing was the L.T. Publications edition in 1973. This novel picks up where the original leaves off, getting into still heavier SM and eventually into a murder mystery at Mad King Ludwig's old German castle. In its initial Drummer review, Run No More was acclaimed as even better than the original.
- Tales of the Naked Slave (1990)
- Master's Counterpoints (1991) - The first of L. T.'s Bruce McLeod mysteries, this one has the handsome shrink seeking to find the pair of rapists who are kidnapping and abusing a series of hunky young studs. Set in Beverly Hills, CA, the novel graphically depicts the abuses suffered by the victims, as well as the on-going love and sex within the McLeod household. The ending is one of the Maestro's most memorable, as the rapists receive an appropriate reward. One of five finalists for the Lammy Award. Trade paperback, now in its second printing. Has also been translated and reissued in German. Originally Alyson Publications, now Advocate Publications.
- Dream Master and Other SM Stories (1992) - A collection of the most popular short stories and novelettes from the L. T. Publications private collection - limited edition books that were sold only by mail order or through selected specialty stores. Thus, these hot, hard-hitting tales are available to the mainstream market for the first time. They include stories of: fantasy and science fiction: a cat burglar who discovers how to serve a Master; a handsome young German who must survive the rigors of a Nazi concentration camp; a head-trip fantasy on a college campus; a science-fiction tale of robots and mastery in outer space; and the enslavement of a young teacher by his student in a high-toned East Coast prep school.
- One For The Master, Two For The Fool: A Bruce MacLeod Mystery (1992) - This second Bruce McLeod mystery involves our lusty psychiatrist in the pursuit of a murderer in his own Beverly Hill neighborhood, after the nephew of close friends becomes a suspect, and Bruce has to prove him innocent. The SM love affair between Bruce and his handsome actor-lover Frank continues to develop as the tensions mount and their very existence is threatened until Bruce solves the mystery with the help of several unexpected allies. Also a finalist for the Lammy Award, and also available in German language edition. Alyson Publications.
- The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1993) - Originally published by Olympia Press under the byline "J. Watson," and consequently few people realized that this clever pastiche was penned by our own Maestro. If you ever wondered about the Holmes-Watson relationship, wonder no more. In this wonderful spoof The Diogenes Club becomes an SM association, Mrs. Hudson is revealed as a retired drag queen, and A Study In Scarlet becomes A Study In Lavender Lace. And the murder weapon? You'll never guess! Translated and published in German.
- The Case of the Severed Head (1994) - An original L.T. Publications mystery novel. Set in contemporary West Hollywood, it weaves a convoluted tale of grisly murders set against a background of friction between leatherman; homophobic skinhead punks; hostile, resentful cops; and the vagaries of our criminal "justice" system. A very fast-paced, insightful novel that has been translated into German and published in Europe.
- Chains (1994) - A very controversial novel at the time of its original publication as an L.T. Publications release. It is the story of gay leathermen, crime and deceit in 1970s Los Angeles. Several of the characters are based on real-life people, and the convoluted story line makes very fine distinctions, indeed, between hero and villain. The suspense is such that the reader finds it hard to put the book down, and quite a few men have written to say how closely some of the described experiences came to their own. This novel has been translated and re-printed in Japanese. This is another story were sex is less important than plot.
- Of Men, Ropes and Remembrance: Stories from Bound & Gagged Magazine (1997) - Of Men, Ropes & Remembrance is a tantalizing collection of L. T. stories that he originally wrote for Bound & Gagged Magazine, and which were first published between 1993 and 1997. These short pieces are mostly first-person accounts of young men being introduced to bondage and SM. They are basically written in a lighter mode than many of L. T.'s other tales, mostly because they are presented as basically true accounts by the man telling the story. A few are actually based on fact, but the author now admits even these have been considerably enhanced by his ever lusty imagination. We are thus treated to an action packed collection of incredibly arousing short stories, plus a couple that were deemed a bit heavy for the B&G format and hence never previously published. The book starts with some comments by Bob Wingate, founder and publisher of Bound & Gagged, and concludes with some correspondence - to and from the author - concerning the proper definition of slave
- Master of Masters (1997) - Master of Masters is "mainstream" Larry Townsend - a science fiction novel with heavy SM content. Originally written as a serialized feature in the author's privately published Leatherman's Workbook collections, it has now been completely revised and organized into a proper novel. As such it is a story of lusty men seeking their fortunes in deep space, long after Earth has ceased to exist and their own world has rejected them because of their same-sex, SM proclivities. Under the stern command of the Master, this small group of adventurers must seek out a permanent refuge where they can attract a large enough community to support their lusts and to defend against the establishment forces that seek to destroy them. They are destined to enslave or become enslaved, with each man forced to assume his proper role within the hierarchy aboard The Ship, where the Master of Masters must solve his own dilemma of love and lust against a background of constant danger, deceit and high adventure. The book is lavishly illustrated, with all of the original Sean drawings.
- Tales of Experimentations, Punishment, and Revenge (1998)
- Czar! A Novel of Ivan the Terrible (1998) - A hardcover epic of extraordinary proportions. It is a story of grand adventure,conquest and greatness that gradually degenerates into the chaos of madness, cruelty and betrayal. Against a meticulously researched historical background, CZAR! is a rousing tale of royal intrigue, sexual politics, love and human frailty. The author not only depicts the historical characters as real people, with all their genuine passions, lusts and emotions, but he describes the Byzantine intrigues of Ivan's court along with their sometimes deadly results, including the punishments and tortures suffered by the losers of these conflicts. Despite the author's long-established reputation as a leading gay writer, CZAR! is not a "gay novel." It does, however, contain a heavy element of sado-masochistic behavior, the other area in which L. T. has become an established authority.
- A Contagious Evil, The Mind of a Serial Killer (1998) - This is probably the darkest and most controversial of all the Larry Townsend writings. Our story concerns the relationship between a serial killer and the young journalist who interviews him after his conviction for a single murder. As the interviews progress it becomes apparent that there are many more killings than have come to light. Then, the more deeply the young reporter digs into the past of this outwardly normal, intelligent man, the more he begins to fear for the underpinnings of his own emotional stability. . .his, and for that of other men whose lives are touched by the deadly evil the underlies the civilized veneer of this serial killer. When, shortly before the murderer is to be executed, a new series of killings begins that seem to be copycat versions of the originals, a real sense of terror pervades the atmosphere as friend begins to distrust friend. All of this builds to a truly hair-raising climax.
- Stalked: An Anatomy of Sexual Obsession (1999) - Larry Townsend's 39th published title. Following in the wake of Larry Townsend's phenomenally successful 1998 novel, A Contagious Evil, The Mind of a Serial Killer, we are proud to offer L.T.'s latest novel, STALKED, An Anatomy of Sexual Obsession. This new work is actually the third in our series of mystery/suspense thrillers from this author. The first was The Case of the Severed Head, published in 1994.
In addition to be being the leader in leather/SM writings of high literary quality, Larry is extremely prolific. This latest novel finds Larry delving once again into his store of psychological savvy to construct the character of an obsessive stalker, driven to acts of terrible savagery in his desperate need to possess the man whose life touched his only briefly, but left such an indelible impression that he cannot forget him. Glenn, the street hustler turned murderous stalker, is helpless to control his lusts. His every waking moment compels him down the blood-strewn path that must lead to his eventual destruction. In the meantime, Ryan, the young man who has inspired this unwanted devotion, has achieved the dream of so many Hollywood hopefuls. He has landed the lead in a major motion picture, and he has moved into a completely different world from that which he shared, however fleetingly, with Glenn. His sudden success and rapid acquisition of fame and fortune have placed him beyond the hustler's reach. He has taken a lover and started to settle into a comfortable lifestyle, until the unstable pursuer finally finds him and threatens his very existence, eventually forcing a truly dreadful climax.
- The Hounds of Hell and Other SM Stories (2000) - This exciting collection is the third anthology of Larry Townsend stories to be released by us. It features the Hounds of Hell novella as the centerpiece, along with seven L.T. short stories, six of which (like Hounds) have been published in years past (some many years ago). They are mostly historical settings, like The Hittite (ancient Egypt), The Youthfuls and Prisoner of War (WWII), or Covenant of Pain (17th century England). There is also the unpublished A Man of Caste and Arrogance, set in Boston and London prior to the first World War.
All of these tales are written in the classic L.T. style, and involve a wide variety of SM activities, each appropriate to its particular time (setting). Fans of long standing may recognize some titles from the 1970s-80s Letterman's Workbook series, but we have also included Aladdin: Or the Wonderful Lamp, a piece Larry did for a collection of gay fairy tales, while Covenant of Pain was originally written for one of the Hellfire run books. If you missed the original printings, here's your chance to own some of the classic tales that made Larry Townsend the leading leather/SM writer of our century.
- A Binding Passion (2002) - A collection of 18 short stories by Larry Townsend. 16 were written for Bound & Gagged Magazine; the remaining two are longer, heavier tales taken from the author's privately published Treasury of SM series. The settings vary widely, rainging from post WWII Europe to contemporary Americana, to the jungles of Guatemala, to a futuristic space station. In all, they comprise a startling overview of the author's unique, imaginative treatment of his character's sexuality and passions, their loves and lusts, their sometimes foolish, sometimes noble motivations. In all, this is an anthology of human sexual experiences, many suggested by the author's personal observations of the SM world, then putting together a story based on the premise "What if?"
- A Slave's Gambit (2007) - L. T. novel about American twins kidnapped in Rome and sold as sex slaves to Arab Masters. Their eventual revenge is harsh and deadly! Cover art by Olaf.
- TimeMasters (2008) - Science Fiction
- The Larry Townsend Photo Collection
A breathtaking album of bondage pics, all shot by the author, many in his own dungeon. Features some of the hottest men in the Los Angeles, West Hollywood area. You will note that Larry has used his favorite model, Chris Allen, on the cover. The photos inside include a good cross-section of L. T. 's photos, both in his dungeon and also during the Bob Jones Video Weekend, held at an exclusive gay/SM compound in Tennessee (surrounded by rednecks!). 8 1/2" x 11" format, on high quality glossy paper.
- Larry Townsend's Second Book of Men in Bondage
Awards and Honors
- Award from the West German government for saving a boy from drowning in the Rhine River in 1955
- The Lifetime Achievement Award from LeatherFest Los Angeles in 1995
- The Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Leather Association International in 1995
- The Steve Maidhof Award for National or International Work from the National Leather Association International in 1995
- The Special Community Award from Christopher Street West in 2000
- The Forebear Award as part of the Pantheon of Leather Awards (sponsored by the Leather Journal) in 2002
- The Obelisk "Lifetime Acheivement Award" from the Erotic Authors Association in 2002
- Posthumously inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame in 2016
Links for Larry Townsend
- Numerous items about Larry Townsend appear throughout this site's version of the Leather History Timeline.
- About Drummer Magazine
- JackFritscher.com including:
- "Leather Dolce Vita, Pop Culture, and the Prime of Mr. Larry Townsend" by Jack Fritscher, PhD (i.e., The introduction to The Leatherman's Handbook: Silver Jubilee Edition)
- "Who Lit up the 'Lit' of the Golden Age of Drummer?" by Larry Townsend
- Larry Townsend Keynote 2008 by Madoc
- The Larry Townsend collection in the Archives at Yale