Clarksville, TN – In 1978, the Spanish crime novelist José García Martínez-Calín created Gay Flower, a tough private detective reminiscent of Mikey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlow.
Flower’s adventures through the hardboiled underworld of 1940s Los Angeles helped revive crime fiction in Spain and Latin America, but Martínez-Calín is rarely mentioned in academic journals or invited to the genre’s many celebrated literary festivals, like Spain’s popular Semana Negra (Black Week).
Dr. Osvaldo Di Paolo Harrison, Austin Peay State University Spanish professor, said Martínez-Calín is often overlooked because his creation—Gay Flower—doesn’t seduce femme fatales. Instead, the detective prefers their husbands.
“Peninsular and Latin American hardboiled literature tends to exclude homosexual characters in its plots because the publication of hardboiled is a world dominated by men of traditional sexuality,” he said.
Last month, Di Paolo Harrison published his fifth scholarly book, “Queer Noir Hispanico,” in an effort to bring homosexual detective characters out of the margins of the Hispanic world.
“I gathered a small corpus of Hispanic hardboiled books in which homosexuality is present by the incorporation of gay detectives, gay murderers and gay victims,” he said. “This book will continue to diversify the varied and complicated facts of homosexuality in Spain and Latin America.”
The Argentinean press recently named Di Paolo Harrison as one of the top 10 literary critics of contemporary hardboiled fiction, and his growing academic reputation has led to invitations from prestigious literary conferences around the world. Recently, he presented his research at Medellin Negro, a conference organized by the University of Antioquia in Colombia.
In 2014, Di Paolo Harrison received Austin Peay’s Socrates Award for Excellence in Teaching and the University’s Richard M. Hawkins Award for significant contributions to scholarship. His colleagues at other institutions believe this new work is continuing his legacy of important scholarly work.
“‘Queer Noir Hispanico’ is a ground-breaking publication that constitutes a true contribution to the field of Hispanic Studies,” Dr. Daniel Torres, professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Ohio University, said. “It takes the genre of noir narrative in Latin America and Spain out of the closet.”
“Through this book, Dr. Di Paolo Harrison opens a new space for research in areas of Hispanic Noir Literature by placing in the queer elements to his investigations,” Dr. Jeandelize Gonzalez-Rivera, assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacaco, said.
The book, written in Spanish, focuses on 16 novels from different regions, including Argentina, Puerto Rico, Spain, Mexico and Chile.
“Hardboiled novels are probably the most popular readings in the Hispanic world because of the strong social criticism they include,” Di Paolo Harrison said. “It is necessary to acknowledge this genre from a queer perspective.”