By Jim Fouratt
Lisa E. Davis, forty year+ Villager and retired College Professor, has rebirthed her underground bestselling novel Under the Mink. It went out of print when the publisher died, but copies have been popping up on Amazon book lists for $200 to $900 dollars. Now, back in perfect pulp fiction format: a paperback, with added pictures. Not a moment too soon, as we see the vanishing old Greenwich Village disappearing. Set in 30s 40s, 50s and 60s when bohemian life meant poets, beatniks, jazz players, interracial couples and a whole lot of Maryjane.
Under the Mink looks at a very vibrant lesbian sub-culture. The bars, the mobsters who ran them, the politicians, the madams who served the politicians and all the girls who would play at being boys and their femme partners. Note the choice of the word “play” and contrast that with the new invented gender language we have today. Lisa Davis manages to capture the tone and skill of pulp fiction writers like Damon Runyon and Mickey Spillane with literary lubrication from Erica Jong’s sexual frankness. Davis’ take on drag shows, the straight fascination with gender fluid Villagers, the high drama of an upper class gay boy’s murder, the mobster cover up and the novella-ish drama of the butches and their fems falling in and out of love makes you never want to put the book down.
Sexy and sweet, naughty and almost nice and set in a period when the El train ran along 6th Avenue—the characters leap off the page with the same authenticity as in the movies Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown and any number of 40s and 50s film noir. If we had a Howard Hughes today, he would have cast someone like a young, androgynous Ava Gardner as Blackie Cole along with mobsters Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Most importantly—under the pulp fiction veneer, Davis writes with the insight of an anthropologist on a dig revealing life in a Village that increasingly lives only in older people’s memories and in writers as good as Davis’ imagination.
(cc) jim fouratt