True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and ‘Straight to Hell’

William E. Jones. We Heard You Like Books, $25 (200p) ISBN 978-0-9964218-1-2
Jones’s raunchy and roving book centers on Boyd McDonald, the publisher of Straight to Hell, a transgressive, pornographic chapbook focused on the raunchy extremes and true tales of gay men’s lives. The magazine was dedicated as much to shock value as to prurient interests, and its tagline was “Love and Hate for the American Straight.” Originally a niche, underground publication, Straight to Hell became something of a cultural touchstone for generations of gay men starting in the mid-1970s. Its pictorials, interviews, and reader-submitted stories painted a unashamed picture of a vibrant if oft-hidden subculture, and it was one of the first and certainly one of the more distinctive queer zines. Jones (Flesh and the Cosmos) includes numerous excerpts from Straight to Hell, sharing the writing and photography that made the publication an underground hit. “Boyd McDonald’s work would have harassed the pleasant slumbers of respectable readers had he ever reached them. He did not, and as a result, comfort, complacency, and mainstream recognition eluded him,” Jones says in the introduction. This biographical retrospective is sometimes narratively aimless, but it sheds light on the era in which the zine was created. “Self-published and crude, Straight to Hell’s sense of urgency was as strong as its contempt for authority,” traits that it clearly took from its troubled, obsessive creator. The subject matter makes this an outrageous offering in its own right, and valuable for its insight and boldness. B&w photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/29/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
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