Interesting Old Article and Interview With Male Bodice Ripper Novelists

I came across this old article from the January 1981 edition of Texas Monthly magazine while researching Kerry Newcomb, formerly known as half of the bodice ripper writing duo Christina Savage. I've typed up the article myself and posted it below, and added links.

Even though Parris Afton Bonds is an unqualified sucess in the historical romance field, her sales don't come close to those recked up by Texas writer Christina Savage. Savage's first book, Love's Wildest Fires, sold over a million copies, and Dawn Wind came out last spring with a major advertising campaign and printing of 800,000.

Christina Savage is two guys named Kerry Newcomb and Frank Schaefer. Newcomb lives in Dallas, although on the day I met them they were both in the Dallas office, an upstairs apartment in a run-down Oak Lawn house. There was a cockatiel loose in the apartment, and I noticed a desk lamp with an upended colander for a shade. Schaefer sat at a dilapidated desk quietly trimming his nails while Newcomb stalked about the room.

"I grew up in the Mid-Cities," Newcomb said. "Actually I was born at the Gemini Drive-in during Attack of the Crab Monsters. These crab monsters would not only kill people but they'd steal their brains and switch them around."

Newcomb went on to talk about Inframan, which I agreed was the classic oriental horror film, and he made an impassioned plea for the John Wayne version of The Alamo.

"When that big, ugly guy comes up to this woman and says, 'Ma'am, ah ain't got nobody ta say good-bye ta. Kin ah say good-bye ta yew?' and then she gets up on her tiptoes and kisses him full on the cheek! Oh, goddam, that was beautiful!"

Newcomb and Schaefer first met at the Dallas Theater Center, where they were both actors and directors. They didn't become a writing team until several years later, after both had tried solitary stints at freelance writing. They worked well together, cranking out horror scripts, PBS documentaries, a slide-tape presentation on the Campfire Girls, and one-minute spots for a governors' conference.

Their first book was a Western. No one wanted to buy it, but it impressed a publisher enough to get them a contract for a slave-plantation novel. Schaefer and Newcomb read Mandingo and Sweet Savage Love and then set to work on Rafe. Since then they've produced, besides the Christina Savage books, action-adventure books like Matanza and suspense novels like Pandora Man. They recently finished the first draft of Yellow Rose, a family saga set during the Texas Revolution that will be published under the name Shana Carrol.

"We got into this," Newcomb explained, "not really liking the genre. We worked at it from the angle of what we could do with these books to make us want to read them. With Dawn Wind we felt secure enough to cut out all the silly characters."

"This new book is unique," Schaefer said, "The couple in Yellow Rose don't even argue that much. It's the only historical romance sage in which the hero is a virgin."
Newcomb and Schaefer write their books in a leapfrog fashion, with Newcomb generally writing the first draft of a chapter and then sending it to Schaefer, who reworks it and sends it back. They work hard and resent being classified as genre writers.

"Dawn Wind," Schaefer said, "will hold its own against ninety percent of the hardback books being published." I had read Dawn Wind and tended to agree. Even though its main male character is named Lion McKenna and it has the usual quota of quivering loins, it also has range and bite. There is an impressive account of the Civil War battle of Manassas, some interesting and complex minor characters, and a concern for topics of more consequence than its characters' unslaked lust.

Even as Newcomb and Schaefer grumbled about how their bodice rippers were not taken seriously, they were making plans to move outside the genre. They had a book in the works called The Ghosts of Elkhorn- which fit into no catagory at all- to be published in hardcover by Viking in early 1982. Meanwhile Dawn Wind, by Christina Savage, was just beginning its brief but prominent shelf life on the racks of every paperback outlet in the country. "Forbidden love," its purple cover said, "dark vengeance, and searing Civil War." Dawn Wind would occupy that position for a few weeks, then it would be supplanted by other books promising stories of secret desires, undreamed-of passions, whispered longings, dark and delicious cravings.

Maybe someday a writer will come along and elevate all this into the realm of lieterature, do for the bodice ripper what Dashiell Hammett did for the detective novel. That's probably a long shot, but would be nice to think that at least some of thise squirming and salivating will not be lost to the ages.
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