chapter  13
5 Pages

James M. Cain, Serenade

Homosexual males first made an appearance in American mystery fiction in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (Alfred A. Knopf, 1930), in which the characters of Joel Cairo, Casper Gutman, and his gangster sidekick Wilmer are all presumed to be gay. The sexuality of the characters is somewhat muted in that Knopf editor Harry Block asked Hammett to delete the “to-bed and homosexual parts.” Hammett complied to a certain extent, but did leave in a number of clues for more perceptive readers, the most famous of which is Sam Spade’s reference to Wilmer as a “gunsel” (the slang term for catamite).