- Author: Chris Holcombe
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The Double Vice
The 1st Hidden Gotham Novel
Copyright © 2021 by Chris Holcombe
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Published by Books Like Us, LLC
90 State Street, Suite 700, Office 40, Albany, NY 12207
“Alice Blue Gown” by Harry Tierney and Joseph McCarthy © 1919 by Leo. Feist, Inc. Public Domain.
“Gambler’s Blues” by Carl Moore and Phil Baxter © 1925 by Phil Baxter. Public Domain.
“Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” by Ray Henderson, Lewis and Young © 1925 by Leo. Feist, Inc. Public Domain.
Printed in the United States of America
A Note from the Author
The 2nd Hidden Gotham Novel
Excerpt from The Blind Tiger
About the Author
For David, whose love changed my life.
The author wishes to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of the following people:
David Bishop, for being the personification of hope and joy; Erica Obey and Leanna Renee Hieber, for encouragement and guidance; Wendy Alexander, Kristen Cothron, Alberta Hardison, Tony Holcombe, Sonoko Jacobson, Rob Karwic, Leigh Pettus, and Justin Rudy for being early readers and becoming the very first supporters of these characters; Trista Emmer, for killer (pun intended) editorial edits; Mary Louise Mooney, for her razor sharp eye in helping me finalize the manuscript, and Robin Vuchnich, for the evocative cover.
A Note from the Author
LGBTQ+ terminology has certainly evolved over the years. In doing the research needed for this novel, I discovered that evolution and wish to clarify a few items to avoid confusion.
The terms “heterosexual,” “homosexual,” and “bisexual” as we define them today—which are based in the main on the sex/gender of one’s sexual partners—were adopted in the middle of the 20th century, specifically by the 1940s and 1950s.
But in the 1920s, much of LGBTQ+ terminology was based on an individual’s gendered appearance and mannerisms. Therefore, those men who were more feminine, or dressed in women’s clothing, called themselves “fairies” and “pansies”; and those women who were more masculine, or dressed in men’s clothing, called themselves “bulls” or “bulldaggers.” The terms “drag king” and “drag queen” were not used until later in the century, though “drag” was used (as in, men’s gowns would drag across the floor). Instead drag kings and queens were often referred to as “male/female impersonators.”
Those men who did not adopt a more feminine appearance but still desired other men referred to themselves as “queer.” These men would identify as “gay” later in the century. Women who desired other women were called, as they are today, “lesbians.”
Straight people were referred to as “normal” (please note, this does not reflect the views of the author) and those masculine men, such as sailors, construction workers, etc., who welcomed the advances of “queers” and “pansies” were called “trade.”
Outsiders referred to the LGBTQ+ community in a variety of terms: invert (as in, her internal nature is masculine because she pursues other women, but she is anatomically a woman, thus she is “inverted”), pervert (always used derogatorily), and degenerate (a legal term referring to “degenerate disorderly conduct,” which was often punishable by a prison sentence in the work yards).
I have tried to use the derogatory terms as sparingly as possible, unless it is to demonstrate a character’s prejudice for the purposes of narrative tension. And although drag queens were more casually called “fairies” over the more formal “impersonators” during the early-to-mid-20s, I switched the term with the less jarring “pansy,” which would become more adopted by the late 20s/early 30s (i.e., the “Pansy Craze”).
And now, I hope you enjoy this fictional crime story set in the real queer world of the Roaring Twenties.
He is not one of us.
Dash Parker tried to shut out all the noise around him and pinpoint exactly what it was the man had said—on his birthday, of all days—to cause this hurried thought. Not an easy feat given both the house band and the tiny dance floor of his club, Pinstripes, were hitting on all sixes.
Still facing the dancing men, Dash tilted his head towards the outsider. “I’m sorry?”
The outsider stood just at the edge of his peripheral vision. A darkened shoulder. A faintly outlined jaw. And, of course, the voice.
“A pansy is here. And you will take me to him.”
Ah, it was the “him.”
Every female impersonator Dash knew referred to themselves and others as “she” and “her,” and required everyone else to do likewise. They were “Duchess,” “Doll,” and “Flossie,” not “James,” “Robert,” or “Allen.”
Then there was the belligerent tone, the brusque manner, the clipped accent, the demands—especially the demands. Wanting Dash to take him to a “pansy,” then bristling when Dash had replied he was in the wrong place and ought to try Mother Childs near 59th Street where, at this hour, they’d be showing off their latest drag.
And now, the “him” drenched in contempt.
This was a man who disapproved of the recent changes in the world. A bluenose. Dash pitied those who couldn’t keep up, though he had to admit the world was flying through this decade. Just as fast as the drummer’s sticks across his snare and the dancers’ feet across the floor. Why, here it was, the middle of August 1926, and already so much was different. Women were voting. Telephones were ringing. Radio waves and motor cars crisscrossed the country. The farms shrank, the cities grew. Jazz was quickly becoming America’s music, and secret clubs popped up to celebrate the nature of Dash and many others.
And yet, so much had not changed. Hate, for one. Fear, for another.
This outsider represented both.
How did he get in here?