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"...set in the days when sleazy sex was still safe, and there is plenty of sleaze to go around. Fiction, but more truth in it than most Sunday school teachers will ever believe."

Leather Lit 101
by Jack Rinella

Nobody's surprised when I say that there weren't a whole lot of Leather folk in the small city where I came out as a Leatherman. I got a lot of my early SM experiences because I traveled for a living. In my home town there were two guys who showed me ropes and taught me about the business end of a paddle.

But there was a lot more to my "education" than raw sex. Fact is, most of it came from books and magazines. My first leather-style relationship used Mr. Benson, (Bad Boy Press, New York, 1992), a novel by John Preston as a guide. My slave at the time was expected to live and care for me as Jamie would for Mr. Benson.

Like everyone else, I had read Larry Townsend's Leatherman's Handbook, (LT Publications, Beverly Hills, 1998). Truth is, I'm old enough to have read the first edition. Its scenes turned me on; its instructions (revised for the age of the plague) are as valid today as they were then. Years later, the things I was only reading about have been proven true by experience.

George Stambolian's Male Fantasies/ Gay Realities, (The Sea Horse Press, New York, 1984) wasn't exactly a book about Leather, but his chapter interviewing the masochist (which I quoted a few weeks ago) gave me a perspective on dominance and submission that helped overcome my fears of being a top. The book is good for anyone coming out and has occasional passages that refer to Leather.

One of the most important books in Leather Lit is Urban Aboriginals, by Geoff Mains, (Gay Sunshine Press, San Francisco, 1984). Geoff originally wrote this as a Master's Thesis but don't let that stop you from reading it. He's done thorough (if now a bit dated) research into gay SM. His understanding and explanations include physiology, psychology, sociology and a lot of real hot men.

You won't pass Leather Lit 101 without reading Urban Aboriginals.

When it comes to authors I've read and re-read, John Preston tops the list. His work is erotic, informative, and instructional. His fiction holds one's attention, causes positive, groin-centered reactions, and gives the mind explanations, insights, and ideas all at the same time.

I've already mentioned his classic, Mr. Benson. I Once Had a Master, (Alyson Publications, Boston, 1984), is another of those books that originally turned me on to Leather. It is primarily a novice's journey into Leather. It's a good chance to see how one character, in this series of short stories, becomes progressively more accustomed to seeing himself as a Leather man. His fictional journey is not uncommon for each of us and so holds meaning.

For the Love of a Master, (Alyson, Boston, 1987) and In Search of a Master (Kennsington, New York, 2002) make wonderful reading as well. Not only are they great stroke books but they have plot, character, humor, and insight. They present the world of the "Network". Here the fictional wealthy buy and sell men and women who have freely indentured themselves as sexual submissives.

Those who would sell their sexual service are trained and groomed to please the most demanding request. It is all properly covered by contracts, rights are protected, intimate pleasures sold. Slavery in America? I can't help but believe that it happens. I'd like to get an invite to the Auction (and of course the necessary funds to do some bidding).

Entertainment for a Master, also by Preston, (Alyson, Boston, 1986) is the story of a party the narrator held in San Francisco. It reads as if it could be true, and if it wasn't, then it should have been.

A bit more esoteric (but far less fictional) is Jack Morin's Anal Pleasure & Health. Anal eroticism is hardly limited to the Leather scene. This book, written by a Ph.D. gives lots of ideas and practical suggestions. It answers questions that most of us are too shy to ask.

In the area of purely delicious erotica and a bit further from mainstream Leather is the Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice writing as A. N. Roquelaure. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty's Punishment, and Beauty's Release (Penguin Books, New York, 1983) will keep all of you warm this winter, no matter how cold the Chicago winds blow.

Like Preston's fiction, the Beauty trilogy offers sensuality with insight. It is pure fantasy set in some ancient European Kingdom where the Aristocracy surrenders their young adult princes and princesses to sexual slavery. These books offer a fictional, but enlightening, viewpoint on pain and pleasure, submission and desire.

Mineshaft Nights by Leo Cardini (First Hand Books, Teaneck, NJ, 1990) is a series of short stories about what may have been Leather's hottest bar. It's set in the days when sleazy sex was still safe, and there is plenty of sleaze to go around. Fiction, but more truth in it than most Sunday school teachers will ever believe.

Another book by Larry Townsend, Master's Counterpoint, (Alyson, Boston, 1991), proves that good SM can also have a good story line. This mystery novel, complete with sex, psychology, and realistic narrative, has enough SM to make my list, but will be appreciated by the mainstream set as well.

Other books that should be mentioned, but don't rate as high on my list are Leather Blues by Jack Fritscher (Gay Sunshine Press), Corporal in Charge of Taking Care of Captain O'Malley, (Gay Sunshine Press, 1984), Leathermen Speak Out, edited by Jack Ricardo (Leyland Publications, San Francisco, 1991), and The Brig (not for the faint hearted -- and out of print anyway).

It may be near the end of my list, but Leather Folk, edited by Mark Thompson, (Alyson Press, Los Angeles, 2001), is very near to my heart. As a reviewer in Manifest Reader wrote "It's sexy, startling, informative and challenging. Its starts where we live --in our leathers-- and takes off on an explanation of the realms where sex magic meets spirituality."

Most of these books can be ordered at your favorite bookstore.

Copyright 1992 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

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