Breaking the straight trance of received “Titanic” history, San Francisco author Jack Fritscher reclaims gay history by writing a pitch-perfect sex epic of gay survival. “Titanic: The Untold Tale of Gay Passengers and Crew” (San Francisco: Palm Drive Publishing, 2012 53 pp.), “outs” the forbidden gay love story of the world’s most famous cruise, featuring the Unsinkable Molly Brown, the posh lovers Michael Whitney and Edward Wedding, and the working crew including the rugged Balkan Stoker, the redheaded Royal Purser Felix Jones, and the ship’s second carpenter Michael Brice and Third Officer Sam Maxwell.
The “Titanic” sank April 15, 1912, creating a media frenzy. Fritscher said, “In movie-newsreel footage shot three days later on the deck of the rescue ship ‘Carpathia’ immediately after it docked at Chelsea Piers in New York, a dozen of the surviving ‘Titanic’ crew, mostly sailor lads in tight white pants hiding little, showing lots, can be seen in very intimate horseplay, camping around, and posing in life jackets, pretending to faint.”
Of the 885 male crew on “Titanic,” 693, or 78 percent, died. Altogether, 1,352 men perished. If, according to Kinsey, one out of six ordinary men is gay, 225 gay men died. If two out of six in the travel industry are gay, 450 gay men died, making “Titanic” an overlooked but essential chapter in gay history. The novel is of interest for its writing style, its precise accuracy in mixing fictional and historical characters, and its heritage as the first novel dealing with gay men on “Titanic.”
Into this historic realism, Fritscher, writing in top erotic form, inserts the magical thinking of gay eros.
You will never forget this story ripped from the secret pages of a “‘Titanic’ diary”! Fritscher’s fast-paced plot speeds along like a film. It has comic dialogue, high-drama queens, extremely able seamen, class-conscious sex, and the suspense of who will survive this story that begins like a musical comedy and ends with a sinking feeling.
Fritscher looks through the prism of the “Titanic” microcosm to dramatize hidden gay history. It’s an historical peek into how early twentieth-century gay folk, learning to save their own lives, helped invent modern homosexual identity, diversity, and politics.