‘All of Me (Can You Take All of Me?)’ by Dirk Vanden
Author: Drewey Wayne Gunn
September 18, 2010
Part mystery, part “fictionalized autobiography,” part fulmination against Mormons, part reinterpretation of Jesus’s mission as gay, this novel was for me above all a nostalgic revisit to an important stage in my own sexual development.
Dirk Vanden was one of the heroes, the pioneers of the gay pulp movement. Between 1969 and 1971, he published seven novels—works that were viewed seriously enough to cause them to be listed by Ian Young in his great bibliography and by two different contributors to Claude J. Summers’s Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage. Of course, Vanden, like all the other pulp writers, has been mostly ignored by literary critics.
The new novel’s narrator is the 60-year-old Richard Vernor, now a Sacramento, California real estate agent. But under the name Jake Vance, he wrote a seven-novel series back in the late 60s-early 70s about private investigator Hank O’Toole and his sometime lover, Dobbin Dubinski. The title of each book began with Too.
Now, someone is ripping pages from Too Big, the third in the series, about a serial killer using his oversized penis to suffocate his victims, and mailing the individual pages to various gays with a message scrawled across it, warning about a similar grizzly end awaiting the recipient. Vernor himself receives a page, as does 39-year-old David Mackenzie, a part-time writer for the local gay newspaper.
Then sheriffs Steve Rossini and Richard Kendall show up to reveal that one of the pages was found on the body of a male choked to death without a mark on his throat. When another writer—the paranoid, nearly 80-year-old Joshua Adamson, a fervent critic of all religions—receives the same message, he realizes that he also possesses a significant clue towards solving the mystery. But it takes another death for the killer to be unmasked.
Though each character stands as a true individual in the novel, it takes only a short visit to the author’s personal website to discover that Joshua-Richard-David are different aspects of Vanden himself, making a valiant effort to reclaim for a younger generation his part in gay history. May he succeed to the fullest!
ALL OF ME (CAN YOU TAKE ALL OF ME?)
By Dirk Vanden
Paperback, 129 p., $!6.00