29 July 2011

Carl Corley: Sky Eyes (1967)

After reading Hubert Creekmore's Cotton Country (see the post below), I got curious about other obscure Mississippi writers, and then noticed a link at the bottom of Creekmore's Wikipedia entry, which led to some pages of John Howard's Men Like That: A Southern Queer History, which told me very little about what I wanted to know, although the mention of Carl Corley proved a gem.

Corley was born in Florence, Mississippi in 1921, and was an artist in the 1950s, although in just five years – from 1966 to 1971 – he published 22 erotic gay pulp novels. The cover art (see above) was always his own.

Sky Eyes begins with a stagecoach ride in 1831 from Louisiana (where Corley moved to) to Fort Adams in south-west Mississippi, during which the young, innocent and strikingly handsome Vik Alta meets the older hunk Rafe Savage. After a night of unbridled oral and anal sex, they continue up the Natchez trace, until the stagecoach is attacked by Choctaw indians, the driver and Rafe are killed, and Vik is taken prisoner.

Cutting things short, Vik (renamed 'Sky Eyes') becomes a sex slave to the (male) leader Neshoba, although their first encounter makes Vik a very willing one. The narrator is very quick to stress how civilized the Indians are when compared with their white counterparts:

'They were tactful - Vik grew to learn – ambitious, grave, humble on occasion if it were warranted, were clean of body (though he had not considered so at first) even going swimming in the river when it was edged with ice, and adhered, with strict obedience, to the laws of their tribe. Unlike the white man, they did not steal from one another (though they stole with relish from the paleface) did not commit adultery, rape nor incest, and did not kill, except in lust for domination of the tribe; a lust strong in the heart of every brave who longed to become chief of the Hiwannee and the Kewannee.'


'[T]he males were all extremely well proportioned in bone and muscle; were golden smooth of complexion, boasted shiny manes of jet black hair, and wore hardly enough to hide their nakedness.'

It seems that Vik has accidentally stumbled on some kind of paradise.

Soon, Neshoba and Vik develop a strong love for each another, and they get married. One day shortly after, though, when Neshoba and friends are out attacking a wagon train, Nik can't resist having sex with the virgin squaw Winona, although a member of his tribe sees the girl entering the honeymoon tepee and tells Neshoba, who blows a fuse. Winona's punishment: being strung up, her breasts hacked off, and a poisonous snake shoved right up between her legs. This is the first prong of Vik's punishment – the second is that Neshoba is no longer going to lay a finger on him.

Out on his own one day, Vik is amazed to meet Rafe, who in fact survived, and has come to take Vik back to white man's land. After some hesitation - well, he certainly deeply loves Neshoba, but what does that mean if he can't express it to him - he decides to go back with Rafe. But Neshoba has sent out a scout to watch Vik, definitively sinks a tomahawk into his rival Rafe's head, and gives Vik the choice: either return freely to Fort Adams and white civilization, or stay with him with the Indians. The problem is, Vik wants to return to the loving sexual relationship he had with Neshoba before his heterosexual dalliance with Winona. That's not a problem, says Neshoba: everything will be as before. So Vik agrees.

There are more than a few creaky elements in this novel - what do you expect with someone who seems to write faster than Amélie Nothomb? But the interesting thing is the subversion of sexual norms, especially bearing in mind the date this was written: utopia, the (admittedly very violent, especially when jealous) noble savage, and  the eternal triangle are all seen within a homosexual context.

Most of Corley's books aren't readily available, and I suspect that the printrun was very small. Not one of his novels is listed in the Library of Congress or British Library catalogs. It is probably impossible to find any of his books online at a reasonable price, but Sky Eyes is online here. It's in four sections - to move to the next, simply change the number at the end of the URL from '1' to '2', etc.

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