Smith, Rupert 1960- (James Lear)

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Smith, Rupert 1960- (James Lear)

PERSONAL:

Born May 13, 1960, in Washington, DC; partner's name Marcus. Education: B.A.; University of London, Ph.D., 1986.

ADDRESSES:

Home—London, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer.

WRITINGS:

(With Jayne County) Man Enough to Be a Woman (autobiography), Serpent's Tail (London, England), 1995.

Physique: The Life of John S. Barrington (biography), Serpent's Tail (London, England), 1997.

I Must Confess (novel), Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1998, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 2007.

On the Edge (novel), BBC Worldwide (London, England), 2000.

Fly on the Wall (novel), GMP (London, England), 2002.

(With Gary Morecambe) Life's Not Hollywood, It's Cricklewood (biography), BBC Books (London, England), 2003.

Service Wash (novel), Serpent's Tail (London, England), 2006.

(With Michael Barrymore) Awight Now! (biography), Simon & Schuster, 2006.

TELEVISION TIE-INS

The Forsyte Saga Companion, Granada Books (London, England), 2002.

Cold Feet: The Complete Companion, Granada Books (London, England), 2003.

A Year at Kew, BBC Books (London, England), 2004.

EastEnders: 20 Years in Albert Square, BBC Books (London, England), 2004.

Strictly Come Dancing, BBC Books (London, England), 2005.

The Museum, BBC Books (London, England), 2007.

ADULT GAY FICTION; UNDER PSEUDONYM JAMES LEAR

The Low Road, MPG (London, England), 2001.

The Palace of Varieties, MPG (London, England), 2003, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 2008.

The Back Passage, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 2006.

Hot Valley, Cleis Press (San Francisco, CA), 2007.

Television critic and contributor of features to the Guardian. Contributor to periodicals, including Radio Times and Gay Times.

SIDELIGHTS:

Rupert Smith is a writer who has published work in a wide variety of genres. His efforts include companion books to television series, several biographies, and a number of mysteries. He also publishes gay erotica under the pseudonym James Lear. He worked as a ghostwriter on his first publication, Man Enough to Be a Woman. This biography was cowritten by its subject, the performer who uses the stage name Jayne County. County had been born Wayne Rogers in a small town in Georgia but came to fame as a cross-dressing singer during the "glam rock" era in the early 1970s. County was a lesser-known contemporary to famous acts such as David Bowie, Johnny Rotten, and Debbie Harry. In the book County reveals that he has taken female hormones for years but never had a sex-change operation. He recounts arriving in New York and mingling with Andy Warhol's circle of models, artists, and personalities. He first performed as Wayne County and the Electric Chairs and was part of the British punk rock movement at its beginning. As Jayne County, the singer took on the identity of a punk-influenced chanteuse. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Man Enough to Be a Woman a book that affords "a raw and raunchy tour of the transsexual side of the underground music scene," one that is "by turns mindlessly rambling and hilariously brash."

Smith's next book, Physique: The Life of John S. Barrington, told the story of Barrington, a man who was a husband and father but who also had many homosexual liaisons. Barrington gained notoriety as a photographer of male pornography in England during the post-World War II period. These "physique" photos, as they were called at the time, were innocent by modern standards. Nevertheless, Barrington ended up serving a jail sentence because of them. A reviewer for PublishersWeekly felt that Smith perhaps overestimates Barrington's importance in the cultural world, but he also stated that the author "has the merit of writing clear prose and being surprised by none of the twists and turns of Barrington's ultimately unsatisfactory life."

Service Wash, one of Smith's novels, is a mystery, described by a Kirkus Reviews writer as a "fast-paced, homoerotic whodunit." The central character is Paul Mackrell, a writer who spends more time looking at online pornography than he does writing. When Paul is asked to ghostwrite the autobiography of Eileen Weathers, a famous soap-opera actress who is rumored to be a transsexual, he takes the job because he needs the money so much. He finds it more challenging than he had imagined. First of all, Eileen's draft of her story consists of one long, unbroken paragraph, and Paul realizes he will have to write the whole thing from the beginning. Then he is faced with the problem of discerning the truth about Eileen. As he visits Eileen's mansion to do research, he becomes involved in a sexual relationship with Danny, Eileen's enigmatic valet. The initial questions Paul sought to answer were relatively simple, such as whether or not Eileen is a transsexual. Yet he is soon faced with more complex puzzles, after Eileen's husband and his mistress are killed in an apparent accident. Suspicion falls on Eileen and Danny. The story provides Smith a chance to satirize British tabloid journalism and the country's legal system. Along the way, he projects "the campy quality to which so many American writers aspire without ever mastering," wrote Drewey Wayne Gunn in a review for the Lambda Book Report.

Smith told CA: "I've written ever since I was a child, and I've been a journalist for most of my working life, so writing books is a natural extension of that.

"I get most of my direct inspiration from my friends' messy personal lives, bad TV, and watching the street life outside my window. On a literary level, the books Vile Bodies, Scoop, and Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos; Little Me by Patrick Dennis; and Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal are my constant touchstones.

"Ideas come at strange times and I write them down. They then fester and congeal for a while, before taking shape. I plan very carefully, and then write quickly. I like to leave the draft for a few weeks to settle, before editing.

"The most surprising thing that I have learned as a writer is that women, both straight and lesbian, love reading about gay male sex.

"My first novel, I Must Confess, is my favorite because it's my first novel.

"Primarily, I hope that my books entertain; so many contemporary authors seem to have forgotten that entertainment is their main job. That's why there's always a lot of jokes and a lot of sex in my books. Secondly, I hope my books form a kind of commentary on culture and sexuality—I've always tried to say something about the tensions between our public and private lives."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2007, review of Service Wash.

Lambda Book Report, fall, 2007, Drewey Wayne Gunn, review of Service Wash, p. 27.

Publishers Weekly, March 11, 1996, review of Man Enough to Be a Woman, p. 57; December 1, 1997, review of Physique: The Life of John S. Barrington, p. 40.

Rolling Stone, May 16, 1996, Bill Van Parys, review of Man Enough to Be a Woman, p. 64.

ONLINE

James Lear's MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/jameslearfiction (January 27, 2008).

Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (July 15, 2007), Tony Ross, review of Service Wash.

Rupert Smith's MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/rupert_smith (February 8, 2008).

Rupert Smith Home Page,http://www.rupertsmith.org.uk (February 8, 2008).