As far as superlatives go, Marijane Meaker’s got the most.
Meaker is the first American lesbian pulp novelist, and she also has the most prolific and notorious track record of subject matter. Her book Spring Fire was not only the first lesbian pulp novel to be published in the U.S., but was one of the best selling books of the ’50s, selling over 1.5 million copies when it was published in 1952. Off the shelves for four decades, it was recently reprinted and is available for purchase.
Over the past 50 years, Meaker has written more than 40 books, from children and young adult novels to LGBT works and other controversial themes, under six different pen names: Vin Packer, Mary James, Ann Aldrich, Laura Winston, M. J. Meaker and M. E. Kerr. This past May, Lambda Literary honored her with the Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement. A native New Yorker, Meaker continues to be involved in the community from her current home and writing studio in East Hampton.
Meaker always manages to find subjects and issues, and write about them, decades before anyone else dares. Her latest published work, Scott Free, about a transgender detective, was finally released this past March after being rejected consistently by publishers since 1993. Her alter ego Ann Aldrich, was a lesbian reporter, writing the truth about the lesbian scene in the ’50s and ’60s, specifically about “uptown and downtown girls” and “ki-kis,” lesbians who, like Meaker, couldn’t be categorized. “(If you were) not butch or not femme, you weren’t anything.”
Other topics she’s refused to shy away from before they were politically correct include the Mafia, murder, war, AIDS, and gender identification within the LGBT community. Meaker explains why she had to write what she did the way she did, and why she continues to do so: “I like to write about underdogs, because I grew up being an underdog. I always knew I didn’t fit in. But my father was very politically smart, and he taught me to always respect people.” –DP