Born in 1916 in Andover, the eldest of seven children, John Horne Burns graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard, taught at Loomis for five years, and joined the army in 1942. A gay man could do worse than to be stationed in Casablanca, Algiers, and Italy, and a budding novelist could hardly do better than to spend a violent war reading the mail written by enemy prisoners to censor the compromising lines. He used his experiences, including international cross-class pickups in gay bars in Naples, in his first and best known novel The Gallery, a panoramic story-cycle recently reissued by NYROB Classics. As you see from Nina Leen's LIFE magazine photo above, his debut launched him alongside James Michener and Irwin Shaw. Alas, their career trajectories diverged. Two years later, in 1949, Burns suffered a typical second novel comedown in Lucifer with a Book, and retaliated by moving permanently to Italy. He published his third novel, mawkishly titled A Cry of Children, in 1952, again greeted by bad reviews or critical silence. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1953, died at 36, and this year has enjoyed a renaissance thanks to David Margolick's excellent Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns [Kindle].
Part Jewish and all gay, Herbert List fled his family's Hamburg coffee brokerage business in 1936 and traveled through free Europe taking many of his best known photographs. He was in Greece shooting pictures like this front and this back when Germany invaded the country in 1941. List was forced to return home and later had to join the German army. He spent 1944-45 in Norway making military maps. After the war he joined Magnum but for whatever reason he didn't take many photos. He published three major books of earlier work and eventually gave up photography altogether to concentrate on his enchanting drawings in bright colors, sometimes of happy nude gay couples. In 1988, Stephen Spender finally published his novel The Temple, a roman a clef of his pre-War years in Germany, which includes a List-inspired character named Joachim. List died in 1975 but his style lives on in the work of Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber, among others.