I’m going to jump ahead in my narrative for a wee bit today and tell you about a very happy surprise waiting in my mailbox when I returned from my Magical History Tour. In keeping with the theme of ghosts, demons and sexual mysteries of our nation’s past, my welcome home gift was a contributor’s copy of Bitten: Dark Erotic Stories, edited by American erotica’s guiding visionary, Susie Bright.
I’ve just finished reading the book to the very last sexy, unsettling story and it’s magnificent. It will definitely please readers with a taste for the supernatural, fans of "True Blood," and other cutting-edge cool readers, but, as with all Susie Bright anthologies, the depth and sophistication of the stories provides enjoyment beyond any particular theme. These are simply beautifully written and very sexy stories that show erotica can be multi-layered, complex, and thought-provoking. When a story excites my body and my mind, the combination is utterly bewitching.
I really did enjoy every story in the book, but I’ll mention a few personal favorites. Sera Gamble’s “The Devil’s Invisible Scissors” immediately drew me in with its provocative imagery. A literal femme fatale is charged by the devil with the task of snipping one “energy string” from her lover’s soul (and she has many victims) each time they join in carnal union. Without giving too much away, this story is definitely as seductive as its protagonist and the final erotic scene had me remembering all too viscerally what erotica is supposed to do to you when you're reading it in bed at night.
I also enjoyed Allison Lawless’ “The Unfamiliar,” about a neophyte witch who unwittingly conjures a lover who can take many forms. Especially loved that scene in the shower. Perhaps I should come clean myself at this point, but although I’m a fan of historical ghost stories—they feel like a bridge to the past for me--I’m pretty particular about my supernatural stories. They need to be smart, the images must rise above cliche, and this story definitely delivers the goodies. A nice follow-on was Tsaurah Litzky’s “The Witch of Jerome Avenue,” a bracing move from a witch’s shadowy spell room to the wry and all-too-real landscape of Brooklyn. Litzky’s sense of humor is marvelous as always and I found her throw-away descriptions of the father’s coupling with his mistress in the basement strangely compelling and sexy. A kind of alchemy in itself.
That’s the thing about Bitten—the magic is everywhere.
I have room for two more favorites: Shanna Germain’s “Smoke and Ashes” is full of foreboding, and the ghostly presence of the lover who "directs" the narrator's adventure in absentia is absolutely mesmerizing. “Nothing” happens and everything does. E.R. Stewart’s “Cross-Town Incubus” was another story that bewitched me totally with a sentence here, an image there, that linger still in my memory.
Really, they’re all good and they’re all “dark” in a way that will surprise you.
I also wanted to give a little background about my story, “The Legacy,” which is, admittedly one of the more subtly dark of the stories in the anthology. However, the genesis of the tale is as bloody and creepy as you could wish for. You see, this apparently ordinary tale of a book of explicit photographs was inspired by the murder of Bob Crane, the actor who played Colonel Hogan in that rather bizarre comedy about a German POW camp, “Hogan’s Heroes.” During seventh grade, I was a big fan of this show and watched it every afternoon after school, even then aware of what a strange premise this was. Of course, the good guys always won by guile and smarts over the bumbling Germans, so it was also immensely satisfying.
I never was attracted to Hogan himself. Obviously he had Fraulein Hilda (later his real-life wife) to keep him busy, and he struck me as kind of…oily, all the way down to the gleam on his flyboy’s jacket. Anglophile that I was, I liked Corporal Newkirk for his accent (little did I know what a huge womanizer Richard Dawson was in real life) and the African-American communications engineer James Kinchloe, who was so smart and always pulled off the fancy schemes thanks to his expertise in radio, telegraph and his fluency in French and German. I regularly fantasized about sneaking into the camp through the tunnel and offering comfort to my favorite prisoner of the moment. Said prisoner was always terribly in love with me and spent every waking hour dreaming of me and waiting for my midnight arrival.
My obsession with “Hogan’s Heroes” gradually faded, but I was still affected by the news of Bob Crane’s murder, a bloody affair apparently triggered by his huge collection of pictures of naked women, whom he’d personally photographed before and/or after having sex with them. Who knew Colonel Hogan really did lead a dark secret life behind his smiling exterior? When I first heard about this, the murderer was suspected to be the boyfriend or husband of one of Crane’s “models.” But later I saw a very interesting movie on the topic, Auto Focus, which suggested a different scenario. I recommend the movie merely for the bizarre sex scene in Colonel Klink’s office. Talk about an image that’s hard to get out of your mind…
Anyway, this idea of a secret collection of photographs of naked women—not commercial porn, but self-produced photographs that represented sexual conquests—really intrigued me. The idea simmered in my creative pot for years before I was finally ready to write it down. When I did, it came out fast. I finished the story in a week. This is the story that appears in Bitten, and I thank Susie for feeling the occult sense of doom bubbling away beneath the apparently sunny exterior—just like everyone’s favorite hero, Bob Crane.
So, if you’re a fan of the mysterious, the uncanny, the inexplicable, do pick up a copy of Bitten. Even if you think you aren’t, I’d say there’s a good chance you’ll be seduced by this gorgeous and beautifully written book.