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Forrest, Katherine V

FORREST, Katherine V.

Born 20 April 1939, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Daughter (adopted) of Leland W. and Mary Gilhuly McKinlay

Katherine V. Forrest has written novels and short fiction in a wide variety of genres, all dealing with lesbian protagonists and intended primarily for lesbian readers. Although she is best known for a series of mystery novels involving a lesbian police detective, she has also written science fiction, erotica, and romances. Forrest is also a noted editor of lesbian fiction, holding the position of senior fiction editor for Naiad Press, the largest publisher of lesbian fiction in the United States.

Forrest was adopted as a young child. Her adoptive parents both died while she was in high school. In 1957 she moved from Canada to the U.S., where she attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She later moved to California and attended the University of California at Los Angeles. She eventually became an American citizen and continued to live in California, primarily in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Forrest worked a variety of jobs before becoming a full-time writer in 1979. Within five years, she established herself as one of the most popular authors of lesbian fiction in the U.S. Her first novel, Curious Wine (1983), was an erotic romance detailing the relationship between two women, Diana Holland and Lane Christianson. Curious Wine sold more than 100,000 copies and is said to be the most widely read lesbian novel since Radclyffe Hall's early classic The Well of Loneliness (1928). In 1994 Curious Wine became the first lesbian novel to be recorded on audiotape.

In 1984 Forrest published two more bestselling novels, in very different genres. Daughters of a Coral Dawn was a science fiction novel in which a group of women leave Earth and establish a lesbian utopia on the planet Materna. Amateur City introduced Kate Delafield, a detective for the Los Angeles Police Department. In addition to dealing with the challenges of investigating murder cases, Delafield must keep her lesbianism a secret in order to avoid jeopardizing her career in a field dominated by heterosexual males. Amateur City was the first lesbian novel to be offered by the Century Book Club of Los Angeles, the first book club for gay and lesbian readers.

Although Forrest continued to write short stories and novels in many different genres, the novels about Kate Delafield quickly became her most famous works. The second novel in the series, Murder at the Nightwood Bar (1987), was one of the most popular. It has been frequently used as a text in college classes dealing with mystery fiction, women writers, or gay and lesbian literature. The novel involves the murder of Dory Quillin, a young woman who had been rejected by her family because she was a lesbian. Plans commenced in 1996 to adapt Murder at the Nightwood Bar into a motion picture.

All the Delafield novels use realistic, suspenseful mystery plots to deal with serious social issues. In The Beverly Malibu (1990), the long-term effects of the political repression of the McCarthy Era of the 1950s are seen in a case involving the murder of movie director Owen Sinclair. Murder by Tradition (1991) deals directly with homophobia as Delafield investigates the murder of Teddie Crawford, an openly gay young man. In addition to confronting the homophobia of her police partner, Ed Taylor, Delafield faces the possibility that her lesbianism may be exposed. Both The Beverly Malibu and Murder by Tradition won the Lambda Literary award for lesbian fiction. The Beverly Malibu was the first hardcover book published by Naiad Press, winning it greater attention from mainstream reviewers than previous novels in the series.

While remaining in the suspense genre, Forrest's fiction took a new direction with the publication of Flashpoint in 1994. A political thriller set in California in the early 1990s, this novel again succeeded in discussing controversial topics while entertaining readers with a fast-paced, carefully plotted story. By the late 1990s, the popularity of Forrest's novels had increased to the point where they began to be published by mainstream publishers in addition to Naiad Press.

As an editor, Forrest collaborated with Barbara Grier on three anthologies of lesbian fiction. The Erotic Naiad (1992), The Romantic Naiad (1993), and The Mysterious Naiad (1994) proved there were many talented authors writing for a lesbian audience. The success of Forrest's work also encouraged many writers of lesbian fiction, particularly in the genre of mystery fiction.

Other Works:

An Emergence of Green (1986). Dreams and Swords (1988). Liberty Square (1996). Apparition Alley (1998). Sleeping Bones (1999).

Bibliography:

CA (1991). Completely Queer (1998). Gay and Lesbian Literature (1993). Great Women Mystery Writers (1994). St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers (1996).

—ROSE SECREST

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