Gypsy Hot Bloods
Gypsy Hot Bloods might have languished forever at the bottom of a drawer full of taxidermy ears if James Taylor hadn’t come to Florida to buy a unicorn. Taylor—of Shocked and Amazed magazine fame—was visiting Ward Hall, self-described King of the Sideshows, to pick up the aforementioned unicorn. That’s when Hall serendipitously rediscovered the dog-eared manuscript, written during a 1961 tour of Montreal to kill time backstage. Now, years after the heyday of the pulps but right on time for tales of men in love with each other, Taylor’s Baltimore-based Dolphin Press imprint issues Hall’s schlocky novel on better paper than pulps ever knew.
The potboiler follows the sexual pedigree of two generations of gypsies working the “mitt camp” (palm reading) carnival circuit. Beginning with the coupling of the “firm breasted” Rose and her swain Tom, the story quickly moves to the peccadilloes of their gorgeous and oversexed children. Vela, a modern girl embarrassed by her parents’ provincial traditions, is looking for kicks. Vowing not to be sold into marriage, she takes up with swank gorgi (nongypsy) playboy Richard Channing. Little does she know that Richard’s on the down-low—and is also sticking it to her gay brother, John, at least once per chapter.
Despite its occasional flashes of two-fisted wit—such as when a girl on the other side of a hot-mattress hotel wall is described as sounding like a candy bar commercial as she yells “Oh, Henry!”—Hot Bloods suffers from serious language problems. Hall often forgets, sometimes midsentence, whether he’s writing in the first or third person. Sometimes it’s endearing, the hallmark of an amateur caught up in his characters, but more often it’s a mess, such as when Hall declares, “It made Tom very proud and happy to learn Rose had professed her love for me and the desire to marry him and be his wife for the rest of her life.” And then there’s the misprints: It’s doubtful Hall meant (italics added) “The boys both knew what the other wanted, and each did his beat to satisfy the other completely,” but then again . . .
Simultaneously quaint in its euphemistic, shy sex scenes and brash for daring to write about gay love anyway, Gypsy Hot Bloods is the literary equivalent of a bottom-of-the-bucket budget drive-in movie. But if it’s such schlock, why was it so much fun to read?