Indecent Advances (Hardback)
A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall
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Indecent Advances is a skilful hybrid of true crime and social history that examines the often-coded portrayal of crimes against gay men in the decades before Stonewall.
New York University professor and critic James Polchin illustrates how homosexuals were criminalized, and their murders justified, in the popular imagination from 1930s ‘sex panics’ to Cold War fear of Communists and homosexuals in government. He shows the vital that role crime stories played in ideas of normalcy and deviancy, and how those stories became tools to discriminate against and harm gay men.
J. Edgar Hoover, Kerouac, Burroughs, Patricia Highsmith, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg and Gore Vidal all feature. Published around the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in 1969, Indecent Advances investigates how queer men navigated a society that criminalized them. Polchin shows how this discrimination was ultimately transformed by gay rights activists before Stonewall, and explores its resonances up to and including the policing of Gianni Versace’s death in 1997.
“In his revelatory and meticulously researched book, James Polchin has discovered a forgotten chapter of queer history hiding in plain sight: in sensationalistic newspaper articles documenting decades of anti-gay violence, often in coded terms. Looking at gay life through this novel lens offers an entirely fresh take on what previous generations endured. Like the best true crime stories, Indecent Advances is both brutal to read and impossible to put down.”
“A grisly, sobering, comprehensively researched new history.”
“A reflective, thoughtful first book that perfectly blends true crime and the history of discrimination against gay men in the 20th century.”
“Thoughtful, accessible and well-researched, Polchin’s book offers useful insight into some of the lesser-known cultural currents that gave rise to the gay rights movement. An enlighteningly provocative cultural history.”