London's Sunday Times says Steven Saylor "evokes the ancient world more convincingly than any other writer of his generation," evident across the twelve novels and two story collections of his Roma Sub Rosa series about Gordianus the Finder, including two CWA Historical Dagger Award finalists, Last Seen in Massilia and The Judgment of Caesar, the Lammy nominee The Venus Throw, and the Lammy winner Catilina's Riddle. Saylor may be best known for his 1,200-year epics Roma and Empire, international bestsellers published in twenty-two languages. He has also written two novels of his native Texas, most notably A Twist at the End about O. Henry and a series of murders in Austin in the 1880s. Last month came his sixteenth novel, Raiders of the Nile, which USA Today calls "exuberantly entertaining." He and Rick Solomon, partners since 1976, divide their time between Austin and Berkeley. An essay about their long relationship appears in My Mother's Ghost.
Earlier, Saylor was the bestselling gay erotica writer Aaron Travis. Maybe you don't want academic approval of your taboo-busting porn, but you do want results: Michael Bronski says Slaves of the Empire [Kindle] is "a high point of gay male writing in the second half of the twentieth century" that has achieved "near-mythological status," and he calls Blue Light [Kindle only 99 cents] "a contemporary supernatural masterpiece as frightening as anything H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King ever wrote." Susie Bright agrees, saying it's "perhaps the most fantastic supernatural erotic thriller ever written." She selected his stories for at least two volumes of her mainly straight Best American Erotica series and to celebrate its tenth anniversary she asked readers to name their favorite piece from all ten volumes: The winner was The Hit [Kindle], which Saylor notes was inspired by the movies Carnival Story and Murder by Contract. William Burroughs' and John le Carré's work partially prompted Crown of Thorns about an American spy in Istanbul who submits to "a brutal Turkish stevedore." Other titles in the newly digitized Aaron Travis Erotic Library are Short, Brainy & Hot, Wild West, Wrestling Tales, Military Discipline, Eden and the horrifying Kudzu.
In the early 20th century when Arrow had 94% of market share, much of the shirtmaker's success could be laid with illustrator J.C. Leyendecker -- he used his chiseled boyfriend as the model for the archetypal Arrow Collar Man. Born in Germany in 1874, Leyendecker moved with his family to Chicago when he was eight. He and his brother enrolled at the city's Art Institute before studying art nouveau at the Académie Julian in Paris. They returned to Chicago early in 1899 and by May Leyendecker received his first commission for a cover of the era's most famous magazine, The Saturday Evening Post. Throughout his career he would draw 321 more covers for them, creating the genre of "adorable" domestic chaos, stirring patriotism, family holidays, lovers' foibles, and youthful high spirits (with scrawny nudity) that today we associate with his Eve Harrington protege and successor Norman Rockwell. Leyendecker was slight and disliked confrontation; when his friends warned him Rockwell was stealing his style, he didn't protest. (Being a gay man and an immigrant in the early 20th century may also have amplified his instincts to avoid trouble.) One area in which he maintained preeminence was the blatant homoerotic. Leyendecker's men eternally give one another penetrating looks inside, outdoors, and on deck, and they're always thrusting elongated objects at happy angles from their bodies. He never met a muscle that didn't need to beef up, ripple, or glisten under his expert touch. As his biographers explain, “Neighboring artists shared models with the brothers, which meant a seemingly endless train of attractive Greenwich Village lads parading through their chilly studio in the buff.” One was named Charles Beach. He was 17 and Leyendecker was 28. By all accounts Beach was both hot and not, given to self aggrandizing claims that he did Leyendecker's work (despite not being able to draw), along with the more typical fits of jealousy, insecurity, and tyranny. Margo Channing Norman Rockwell complained he never heard Beach say anything intelligent and called him "stupid." Nevertheless, Leyendecker and Beach moved into a New Rochelle mansion together and threw luxe parties attended by the jazz age set including Scott and Zelda. Inevitably, times changed, the commissions dwindled, and the money ran out. They had to dismiss their staff yet they stayed together a total of 49 years, until Leyendecker's death in 1951 when he instructed his private papers be destroyed. For more, read J.C. Leyendecker or, yes, J. C. Leyendecker.
Leyendecker's artist brother F.X. Leyendecker also had an eye for masculine muscle, as with this barechested blacksmith, and for strategically placed missiles between shirtless swabbies (compare below). He became addicted to drugs and killed himself at 47.