Vicki Van Lieu was my best friend as a teenager. We used to hang out after school and write stories, and it's through Vicki that I discovered a writer who was very influential in my development. Vicki's mother had a sleek black cat named Rajah, and Vicki and Rajah had a love-hate relationship. So when Vicki stumbled on a book called P.S. Your Cat is Dead, she picked it up immediately.
She lent it to me later, and I fell in love with it. It's the story of a struggling actor whose girlfriend has left him, and it's New Year's Eve and he's all alone. Oh, and p.s., his cat is dead.
Then a burglar breaks into his apartment. Could things get any worse? Well, how about if the burglar was gay, and awoke something dormant inside our hero?
I haven't read the book in years, though I probably should again, just to see if it stands up. But it was really meaningful to me back then, when my own sexuality was more than dormant, and I'm not sure it would have the same impact now.
However, it drove me to read everything James Kirkwood had written. And then I discovered he was the co-author of the Broadway smash A Chorus Line, which opened on Broadway in 1975, the year I graduated from high school. He ended up sharing a Pulitzer and a Tony for his work.
I quickly read everything of Kirkwood's that I could get my hands on, and the homoeroticism of his work, which was very understated, spoke to me in a big way. Like A Separate Peace, the John Knowles novel that sparked the desire to write in me, Kirkwood's work came at a time when I needed to read it, and I'll be forever grateful.