THE FIFTH ACOLYTE READER
The Fifth Acolyte Reader was published by the Acolyte Press, a publisher in Amsterdam dedicated to “boy-love” publications, in March 1990. It is the ninth in a series of sixteen anthologies. The stories are by various authors, but all the volumes were edited by the American writer Frank Torey (1928-96). This article serves as both a synopsis and a review of the volume’s content. The original list of contents is represented in brown.
A Note on the Stories [by the book’s editor]
It is rather unusual to find a serious work of homophile or paedophile fiction which makes conscious structural use of Christian myths. Jef Last was openly homosexual (in a period when the concept ‘gay’ was unknown or only emerging), a well-known and widely admired Dutch novelist whose career flourished during the years before and after the Second World War. He was an intimate friend of Andre Gide (their correspondence with one another has been published in book form) and a student of Oriental culture and languages. He was not religious, yet in his story, The Boyhood of Judas, set in Holland around the time of World War One, he patterned at least three of his main characters upon New Testament figures. It reminds us of how different a face early Christianity must have had before it was altered nearly beyond recognition by Saul of Tarsus and Augustine of Hippo. Enclave of Rotterdam published the original Dutch-language edition as a separate book in 1962. The present translation was made by Frank Torey with valued assistance from Dr. Frits Bernard and Dr. Edward Brongersma. Both men knew Jef Last well, as did the artist Mario de Graaf, who provided the cover painting for this volume illustrating a passage in the story (see page 29).
Those who have followed Kevin Esser's career over the past ten years know that he makes use of two rather different writing styles. The first is highly poetic, involuted, at times almost hysterical – one is reminded of the Faulkner of Absalom, Absalom. Its most beautiful expression is in his under-appreciated novel of 1985, Mad to be Saved.
On the other hand he can write straight-forward, concise narrative fiction which disguises considerable artistry – one thinks of his 1988 futuristic novel Dance of the Warriors and most of the dozen-odd short stories which have appeared in previous Readers and the Panthology series of the 1970s and early '80s. In Living in a Dream of Us, Esser merges his styles to bring the reader into two people’s worlds of altered reality which ultimately merge into a kind of erotic hallucination.
When Robert Campbell died in a plane crash in 1989, he left behind unpublished several completed short stories, a number of sketches of stories not yet finished, a two-act play set in an urban youth center, and a body of essays and research material on homosexuality and boy-love during Elizabethan times centered around the theater. Holy Fadas, Decent Food, and Goat Meat had been destined for Singularities, Book Two, (this publishing house brought out Book One in 1989). He lived and worked for many years in Africa, the setting not only of Holy Fadas but of several other of his tales, including the beautiful Pale Black, the World Servant, and the Voice of God anthologized in Singularities, Book One. As one might expect from the present story, Campbell was a tennis enthusiast; he sponsored a number of third-world boys in their sporting careers.
The street boy turned prostitute can be found in virtually any modern city pululating with the poor and corrupt officials. In New York's Latino quarters he is often by puberty a habitual user of drugs and is likely to be all too familiar with the knifings and shootings concomitant with their illegality and high price. Luis Miguel Fuentes is a 14-year-old resident of “Dominican Republic, NYC”. His work was discovered by Kevin Esser, who encouraged him to send this publishing house Josh and John (Or I Just Can't Get Enough). Written with vigor, vividness and an assurance surprising in someone so young, it is not really a piece of fiction but rather a truthful account of friendships and one orgiastic weekend in this remarkable boy's life.
In the Orient, Luis' counterpart may be just as tough-minded, but drugs play a lesser role in the world he inhabits. Leonardo by Dom von Adilaw gives a thumbnail portrait of one such boy as he moves confidently through the alternate world of foreign boy-lovers – his clients and tickets to a better life. One wonders at the motivation of Western journalists, social workers, missionaries and these inflexible international charities purporting to "save" children but whose frequent victories in stamping out "sin" only result in boys like Leonardo being jailed and raped nightly by predatory guards or returning to the rubbish heaps to die, often young, in squalor.
Goudu is the opening chapter of Jacques de Brethmas’ Le Pedalopitheque: A nous les petits Francois! published by The Acolyte Press in 1985, a rollicking, satirical, highly imaginative autobiography of a Frenchman who loves teenagers (especially if they ride motorcycles). His first homoerotic experiences, recounted here, were in a provincial boarding school run by the Jesuits. Jacques de Brethmas assures us that the fantastic, somewhat macabre events described with such humor in Goudu actually took place! This chapter was translated by Dr. Edward Brongersma and has the author's approval. Readers who are delighted by the story and read French for pleasure might wish to look into the rest of the book. One hint: in the second chapter, the ghost of Goudu comes back!
Every boy-lover knows the phenomenon of the healthy adolescent boy who revels in sex with an older man but who never has any doubts that his essential destiny is to be a lover of women. Sometimes his transition to “straightness” occasions great heartache to the man, and perhaps to the boy, too, who feels the friendship which he may have valued most in the relationship slipping away. Uncle George is the third story by I. L. Ingles we have published in the Readers. He is at present completing a post-nuclear holocaust novel which The Acolyte Press hopes to bring out in the near future.
Alan Edward is a many-sided writer whose serious novel, Kit (The Coltsfoot Press, 1983) has become something of a boy-love classic. In it he told of a 12-year-old cured of mental illness by the physically expressed love of a paedophile – and the tale was set, most surprisingly, in an English psychiatric institution. No such heavy themes trouble the serene progress of Smithers in Wild Horizon, published here, as he first pursues vague rumors of a beautiful boy Dorje-Buddha ruling a tiny Himalayan kingdom and then plans his seduction.
There must be few boy-lovers who have not read Hakim Bey’s Crowstone and reveled in its rich adventure and high eroticism. For it he created a delta city of almost palpable physical and emotional decadence, and it is fascinating to encounter in Blackwater, the long, presumably autobiographical poem which concludes this anthology, the prototype of “Suvyamara” – the estuarine wetlands belonging neither to the land nor the sea which boarder Chesapeake Bay. Blackwater is a long, beautiful dream of boyhood love and anguish, a history of old friends and family members, and a new love love rising out of the dark waters of a tidal river. It shows Hakim at the very peak of his creative powers.
Contents [list, synopsis and review]
The most striking novelty of this ninth volume in the series is that two of the stories are autobiographical, rather than fiction, or at least they claim to be and I believe them. This is particularly significant in view of their also being also much the best two. Jacques de Brethmas’s witty mockery of the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and society in his account of the antics of an amiable and voraciously boysexual priest at the Jesuit school he attended aged twelve is one of the greatest treasures of the whole Acolyte series. The only reason for doubting its historical authenticity is the dramatic ending: is it a case of too good to be true or of truth is stranger than fiction? With nothing else to go on, I feel bound to opt for believing the author, who was at least clearly a courageous man. Readers in this much grimmer age should be sad to know, but not, I think, surprised, that the splendid autobiography from which the chapter presented here was taken has disappeared almost without trace: not a single battered copy is for sale and the author tells me he does not have one himself, having long since abandoned his old books in favour of more fashionable concerns.
The other memoirist here is fourteen-year-old American boy prostitute Luis Miguel Fuentes. This is the first published of many accounts he was to give of his sexual adventures. It is fresh, frank, highly original and bound to shock just the sort of people who can do with being shocked. Serious doubts have been raised as to whether Fuentes was not an invention of his alleged mentor and lover, Kevin Esser, who introduced him as a writer. I don’t think this is likely, having read of someone who did a detailed linguistic analysis of the two authors and felt sure they were too different. For me, Fuentes is anyway a much more impressing writer.
If only these two gems were typical of the volume, but it is even more varied in quality than its predecessors, three of the stories being utterly dismal. Much the best of those in between are the short delights by Alan Edward and Dom von Adilow, fun in different ways. Esser’s fantasy recounted here is readable but unimpressive.
Of the three I would not recommend anyone to read, two are by authors who sometimes do far better, Robert Campbell, who is boring here, and Hakim Bey, who is incoherent. Much worse is “Uncle George”. One might think a story about boys of fourteen having sex with a man would have to be pederastic, and I refute its realism on the grounds that its vibes are nothing of the sort. To each his own taste, but I am stupefied that this blatantly gay fantasy was expected to appeal to readers of a boysexual anthology. A similar problem besets the longest story, “The Boyhood of Judas”, which, in sharp contrast, is good, but does not belong in this book because it has nothing to do with its theme.
7. The Boyhood of Judas / Jef Last
The story, inspired by New Testament characters, of Karel, a boy growing up in a Dutch fishing village between 1914 and about 1920 who seeks social acceptance with fake friends and finally finds peace with self-acceptance of his homosexuality. A good story, but hardly to do with “boy-love”.
42. Living in a Dream of Us / Kevin Esser
The author, in bed with his “special boy”, 14-year-old Luis (recognisably the author of “Josh and John” in this book), has him imagine himself in a house in Illinois having explicitly-described sex with three other boys in turn, the last of whom, 12-year-old Bobby has also apparently been having sex with the author for two years. PDF.
49. Holy Fadas, Decent Food, and Goat Meat / Robert Campbell
Immensely tedious and crude banter between two unlikeable tennis-loving Americans travelling in Nigeria, one of them a 15-year-old hustler.
69. Leonardo / Dom von Adilow
A delightful sketch of a winsome 12-year-old boy prostitute in a tropical city sounding likely to be Manila.
73. Goudu / Jacques de Brethmas
The amusingly recounted true tale of “Goudu”, a well-appreciated priest and prolific fellator of boys for 35 years at a French Jesuit school attended by the author when he was 12, his death from heart-attack at a critical moment, and its cover-up.
84. Josh and John (Or I Just Can't Get Enough) / Luis Miguel Fuentes
A lively account of a weekend for which the author, then a homosexually super-enthusiastic and experienced Hispanic boy of 13, invited two inexperienced white boys met in a camp to join him and his 10-year-old brother for a sex orgy in their New York apartment. The narrative is interspersed with plentiful references to the author’s life as a boy prostitute since the age of 8.
92. Uncle George /I. L. Ingles
An initially slow tale about a boy of 14, Lionel, who feels imprisoned living with his blind and widowered father and lusts vaguely for a girl schoolmate, suddenly turns into a purportedly erotic one when his gay uncle of 45 persuades him to expend his virginity in the lovingly-described hairy hole between his fat buttocks as well as to fellate him. All ends as the author evidently thinks it should when these events impel the boy hero to deflower the girl and pass his uncle on to a gay schoolfriend.
118. Wild Horizon / Alan Edward
English traveller Smithers seeks out the boy Dorje Buddha he has heard rules over a little realm high in the Himalayas. Appointed English tutor to the exquisitely beautiful and customarily naked 12-year-old, he proceeds to teach him what he claims are English customs and finds his pupil keen. Hardly Buddhist, but whimsical fun.
125. Blackwater / Hakim Bey
Ten very short writings – they can hardly be called stories – evoking varied American scenes and recounted as if autobiographical, half of them totally irrelevant to the “boy-love” theme of this anthology and all of them incoherent.
Contributed by Edmund Marlowe, 27 June 2022.
 The only copy of Le Pedalopitheque: A nous les petits français! that I have been able to trace is held by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (The Royal Library of the Netherlands). Scans can be made there, or they can be ordered from there by specific chapter, but for this one must know the page numbers of each chapter. Considering the apparent quality of this memoir, anyone would be doing a great public service who was by any means willing to help this website obtain scans so that a translation from them can be made publicly available here.