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John Colleton is the pen name of Robert W Marks, a highly respected New York polymath and journalist who died in 1993, meriting an obituary in the NYT. He waited until his sixties before publishing erotica, presumably for personal/family reasons, erotica being what it is. (Note that I’m avoiding that question!)
His erotic output consists of fourteen linked novels which appear partly autobiographical (possibly a wish-fulfilment illusion). They are set in the seventies, in South Carolina and Europe, and they have a strong element of the travelogue, particularly regarding Italy and Sicily, of which he writes lovingly. His plots use and develop mostly the same few basic characters, and they are interesting in their portrayal of the erotic move industry and of the process of writing. They are fairly erudite, and I have found them entertaining, although I admit that failure to read the sequence in chronological order does detract from the non-erotic sections. I am reassured in my interest in these books that Colleton was felt to merit an entry in the magnificent Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature of Brulotte and Phillips.
I am keen to establish what there is to know about Marks in his Colleton manifestation. If anyone can shed any light I’d appreciate this. Any comments on people’s perception of his erotic works would also be appreciated.
Obviously not a popular author! Or maybe erotica is simply exciting its usual public denial!
For information, I add the following:
The list of Robert W Marks' erotic novels (John Colleton) appears to be:
‘The Trembling of a Leaf’ (1971)
‘The Enjoyment of Amy’ (1973)
‘The Pleasures of Cloris’ (1974)
‘Replenishing Jennifer’ (1975)
‘Up in Mamie’s Diary’ (1975)
‘Between Cloris and Amy’ (1976)
‘The Naked Countess of Liechtenstein’ (1976)
‘On Or About The First Day In June’ (1976)
‘Two Nymphs Named Melissa’ (1979)
‘The Seduction of Marianna’ (1980)
‘The Delights of Anna’ (1980)
‘The Enticement of Cindy’ (1981)
‘Barefoot on Jill’ (1983)
‘Interjecting Valerie’ (1986)
I'm preparing a Wikipedia entry on Colleton, including brief synopses. I have found an excellent summary of his work, in the superb 'Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature' of Brulotte and Phillips, by Joseph Slade III, Colleton being one of the very few modern authors honoured by this inclusion in what is a very scholarly (and expensive) work. Slade hints that the 'triangle of lovers' depicted in the novels is based on Marks' private life, and that the other women he depicted drew heavily on his interviews with Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Gypsy Rose Lee, Jayne Mansfield, Kim Novak, and Mae West. We can only speculate how much of the 'action' is simply wishful thinking!
I never knew that Colleton was an pseudonym; I read the first six books on your list as a teenager and the memory of them still brings a tingle! I am fairly sure I read them in order (and I am absolutely positive they were well hidden in my closet!); don't know why I stopped.
I just bid yesterday on eBay for a copy of 'The Enticement of Cindy' and have been outbid already so obviously someone out there is still reading these!
Good to know there's a real following, even if it is small.
Having managed to acquire all of the books, and now nearing the end, I can confirm that reading them sequentially is definitely helpful. However, some are really hard to find at a realistic price.
On the basis of recommendations here and at Amazon, I have ordered up a vintage copy of The Trembling of a Leaf to celebrate surviving another festive period. Looking forward to it - will post my thoughts.
Reading this thread reminded me that I have a copy of The Naked Countess that I picked up secondhand years ago, and read with sufficient enjoyment to keep around. I had failed to catalog it, though.
So I went to the existing LT page for the book (using the new search), and clicked the green "Add to my library." And it added the book to my catalog without any further search!
That double search is one of the clunkier features of LT - be great if they could eliminate it.
Be interested to hear your thoughts on The Naked Countess in more detail, and of any further info on Colleton / Marks that may have surfaced since Clifford's initial posts here.
Well, it was quite a while ago. I do remember the pacing being quite strange (which I found attractive); knowing now that it is part of a larger continuous plot helps to account for that.
Just to report that I've now completed my (mostly sequential) reading of the Colleton novels I listed in my message #2. This way of reading them is certainly the best, I think, even though in general there are few inter-connecting facts amongst them, beyond the basic similarity of their plots.
The exceptions to this general rule appear at the end of the sequence, including the reappearance as narrator of John Dellmore (Amy's nephew), who began the sequence before handing over to the principal narrator, Bill (Beauregard) Benton. The narrative is finally re-assigned to Benton for 'Interjecting Valerie', a book that is unique here in being peppered with back-references. I suspect that this is a sign that Robert W Marks was either finally having problems with his creative muse, or had perhaps decided to close the sequence and felt the need to tie up a few loose ends.
I am now reading 'Ring Twice To Enter', by Mark Ashley, published in 1980, a book which appeared in the middle of the Colleton sequence. This book is somewhat enigmatic, having strong indications of being written by Marks/Colleton, although I have no explicit proof of this. For me, the puzzle lies in the following: 1) Its sensual cover art is a close match to the explicitly Colleton works; 2) Its cover carries a glowing recommentation by 'Colleton'; and 3) 'Interjecting Valerie' contains a statement to the effect that the 'real' author of 'Ring Twice To Enter' is Bill Benton. A curious case of 'nested' pseudonymity which is quite in keeping with Marks' erudite sense of humour. The book differs significantly from the sequence in having a completely distinct set of characters, and also in being perhaps even more sexually explicit.
Thanks so much for this info (and the reviews of individual works in your catalog, CliffordDorset); it has certainly piqued my curiosity. I've entered the Common Knowledge on the basis of your data in Messages 1 & 2 of the thread for author John Colleton and the series Chloris and Amy. I also wishlisted the first three books expressly so I could get good covers associated with the works.
Also, does anyone know if Jill is the same as Barefoot on Jill? If so, they could use combining.
I've got 3 of these books, and I need to get serious and track down the rest.
Thanks for this information on the Playboy 'Jill', of which I was completely unaware! Until this news, I was, in fact, unaware of ANY Colleton editions other than the original ones.
Without sight of it, I must stress, I would be very surprised if 'Jill' proved to be other than an edition of 'Barefoot on Jill', for the following reasons:
1) The character 'Jill' appears ONLY in this book.
2) The 'synoptic' approach of 'Barefoot on Jill' makes it the most suitable Colleton novel for popularisation.
3) Its rather more racy text also makes it the most attractive to the Playboy style.
4) Colleton's somewhat quirky naming of his novels, in this case using the words 'barefoot on', is a puzzlement to most readers, and not least to the 'consumers' of Playboy publications.
Of course, pursuing this train of thought, I feel it's possible that 'Jill' may be an edited version of the original novel. The two should be compared with this possibility in view.
Examples of Colleton/Marks' humour in his titles include use of the words 'in June' in the title 'On or about the first day in June'. Once one learns that June is a female character, an 'in June' double-entendre inserts itself that has nothing to do with the month! 'Up in Mamie's diary' may be seen to have similar (though less explicit) overtones to those with minds tuned in a particular way. The use of the rather odd work 'interjecting' is interesting, in that most of Colleton's characters are interjected, and the usage may suggest Marks' growing ennui with the 'formula'. 'Valerie' is the final Amy/Cloris novel.
Health warning: Since becoming aware of Marks' movie industry connections I've experienced difficulty seeing Sophia Loren movies in a chaste light!
I'm about a third of the way into the first of the series, and have to say I'm very impressed with it: erudite, witty and elegantly written, an erotic novel far more concerned with character than most. This, and the leisured pace, make the sexual episodes all the more intense.
I'm looking forward to reading more - thanks for the recommendation, Clifford!
Colleton drops an interesting list of names on page 121 of Leaf: Huysmans, Gide, Valery, Yeats, Proust, Petronius, Coleridge, Pater.
Another character, Fenwick recommends 'The Georgian set': George Moore, George Borrow, George Saintsbury and George Santayana. "He was also a great admirer of James Branch Cabell . ."
Colleton's style does remind me more than a little of Cabell.
There's no doubt that Colleton/Marks was very widely read. Of course, it will always be a matter of debate whether he dropped famous names for effect, or whether they were really germane to his plot, but as I recognised a goodly proportion of his references I found this quirk of his quite entertaining.
A further area for debate of interest to me is to what extent his erotic preferences might have included erotic chastisement ('spanking'). I felt that Bill Benton's unwillingness to participate in this with Amy might have been a protestation 'too much', that was included to soothe possible popular disapproval. Amy's nephew John is evidently interested, however. Public tastes were less liberal in the 70s/80s than they are these days. The topic is covered in greater detail in Ring Twice To Enter by the possibly related Mark Ashley. Quite possibly we'll never know the truth.
Having read the first two books in the series, I'm in no doubt that spanking was a significant erotic interest for Colleton, if one amongst many. Ring Twice to Enter sounds most intriguing!
Hadn't actually occurred to me that Colleton might have been subject to popular disapproval over this, or, more directly, to actual editorial pressure. I suppose this is because his work reads as the pure indulgence of personal fantasies, but of course he would have had an editor, and of course there would have been a marketing department. At this distance in time and space, it's not entirely clear to me who this series was pitched at. Were they racy mainstream bestsellers, or under-the-counter genre erotica?
I'd also be curious to know how the books were received in Charleston, and how they and Marks are remembered there, if at all. It's not a particularly big city, and the Southern aristocracy described must have been a small world. It may simply be a reflection of the author's skill, but the characters do have the feel of being drawn from life, and the descriptions of places must be enough for a local to hazard a guess at addresses. All of which must surely have made for juicy scandal and speculation!
I've been informed that the family are still sufficiently concerned about Marks' reputation that they're managing to keep a lid on things. Marks himself made this easier by having his double life as two authors, and also possible involvement in a personal menage. I suspect it was this latter, rather than his racy books, that have set the tone for family censorship. Perhaps because my understanding of the 'South' is formed by 'Gone with the Wind' I seem to find such concepts of seemliness and decency rather understandable.
I suspect he wrote his erotic books for pleasure, and perhaps to counter-balance his 'day job' writing prolifically for organs such as the NYT. As well as his movie contacts he certainly had good publishing contacts, and I understand there was a good trade to be had at station bookstalls.
So I just went to Amazon to check out the HC edition of the Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature mentioned back in message #1. It's listed at $415 ("save $24"). Ouch. I think I'll settle for the edited paperback edition.
I was fortunate in that someone put an e-version of the encyclopedia on the scribd site briefly, in downloadable form. Of course I didn't download it! Perish the thought!
It's one of those books that you'd have to be a millionaire to buy, but which you can see why it's worth the price - just look at the pages-long list of expert contributors and imagine even the more coordination of the epic tome. My local library charged me about £5 for a short inter-library loan, and that probably mostly went on postage.
Now the good bit. It's one of the books for which Amazon allow a 'look inside'. The Colleton piece is only three pages, so you can read it for free by doing a search on 'Colleton'. But take care - Amazon allow a severe limit on pages accessed in this service, so set aside enough time to read it!
And a really excellent piece it is too, including a revelation I won't spoil - thanks for the tip!
I'm about halfway through Replenishing Jennifer. I'm loving this series! I find myself wondering what Italian actress he based Caterina on.
Powell's Books has a copy of The Pleasures of Cloris for $35.95.
Too rich for my blood, but I'm keeping my eyes open.
Update: Found a copy of Between Cloris and Amy at a bookstore not too far away (along with a few Grove Press titles that I don't have)!
Road trip this Sunday!
Another update: started Between Cloris and Amy, and it does kind of start off right in the middle of the series, so I broke down and ordered a copy of The Trembling of a Leaf to get a better idea of Colleton's writing.
They're certainly not getting easier to find!
I tried my local library for two of the rarest some years ago, and they couldn't locate then anywhere in the UK - at least that's their story!
I haven't tried to get an inter-library loan for Colleton (I work in a library too), but I have gotten some rather, 'ahem', adult books in the past.
I just checked WorldCat (www.worldcat.org) and found a few:
Interjecting Valerie (or, Legs across the sea) is in one library in America, in Charleston, as is Barefoot on Jill, among others. My guess is that the Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library is close to his home.
Libraries may be hesitant to lend books like Colleton's. They're rare, and they tend to disappear with alarming frequency. So the lending library might be shy about losing the book, or they may go to the shelves and find the book already gone.
That's one reason why you don't see a lot of erotica on the library shelves. Librarians aren't usually as prudish as you might think. It's just that people love to steal those books.
Update: I started The Trembling of a Leaf last night. I'm only 10 or so pages in. It's wonderful. I really want to take my time with this one.
I emailed Carl Kravats and asked him about doing the cover for The Naked Countess of Liechtenstein, he says he did over 250 covers, mostly for Pocket Books, and for mostly other genres. He read the book and gave cover suggestions to the art director, which he said that most of the time they went with his suggestions. Unfortunately, he didn't know the name of the person who shot the other covers for the Colleton series. :^(
Funny-you would think those would be some of the more memorable photo shoots.
Great work, lennynero.
Update: While I was searching on Amazon, I brought up all his books and clicked on "Tell the publisher you'd like to read this on a Kindle." Maybe if we all went over there and asked, they'd get the message and add it.
I'd be a lot more tempted to buy a Kindle or a tablet if I knew I could get Colleton's works (especially with the covers).
And thank you ClffordDorset for your list of Colleton books. I go to it often.
I've now finished all of the John Colleton novels which I've been reading off and on since 2011. As said above, Marks is very witty and erudite and they were a joy to read. Some observations:
- Marks is a VERY well read person, and every book is peppered with references to classical art, literature, and architecture,etc. These books are great travelogues as well, especially of Italy, which figures prominently in most of the books. The other night, I was viewing my blu-ray of Radley Metzger's 'The Lickerish Quartet' and I noted that it was filmed in the Abruzzi region of Italy, and the first thought that came to me was, 'this is where Bill and Cloris drove thru!'
- after the first 4 or 5 books, he settles into a bit of a formula for the plots, but I still enjoyed them, even with the sameness of the plotting. Starting around the 11th book, he does start quoting lengthy passages from earlier books.
- John Dellmore is the protag of the first 2 books, then Bill Benton takes over and is the protag until the twelfth book, where John takes over for that book, and the final two have Bill as the protag.
- starting with the 7th book, Marks introduces a bit of mystery and danger into the mix, to their detriment, in my opinion, with Bill mixing it up with revolutionaries and shooting at people.
- I haven't read Ring Twice to Enter yet, I'll be getting to that one later in the year.
While on the subject of how these books work on so many different levels, Lenny, I should make at least some mention of the Italian art film scene, which provides the backbone of the plot. I believe that Marks met and interviewed Sophia Loren and others, and I suspect his Colleton books drew a lot upon his interest (if not actual complicity) in the genre.
I recently watched Rob Marshall's 'Nine', which deals with the subtext of the genre, and which is a truly superb movie, even though I normally run a mile from musicals. Loren is in it, as is Dench, Kidman, Cruz, and Day-Lewis - a real feast. A neat title, too, for anyone who appreciates Fellini!
I keep hoping that enough of the Marks/Colleton reality will survive long enough in people's minds to outlive the prudish sensitivities of Marks' now-living survivors. I suspect there would be a movie there if some director could be found who avoided all the implicit links!
Not that anyone would be so dastardly to download such a thing, but the Brolotte & Phillips Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature was recently seen as a free download here: http://www.freebookspot.es/Comments.aspx?Element_ID=325125
So according to the Colleton entry, he was involved in a 3-way relationship with his wife and Carson McCullers?! Wow, I guess ole Bob walked it like he talked it!!
Now there's a connection one wouldn't necessarily make off the top of one's head.
Before I click anything, anyone know what's the difference between "normal" and "premium" download?
5 minute download for free vs faster for a fee. Not, as I say, that I would have any idea how such things work ...
And no, there's nothing that springs out in Ms McCullers' Wiki-bio that would say "Well, of course ..."
Oh - except maybe for that bit about her hanging out in Paris with Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams ...
Of course McCullers is a respectable figure, and there's nothing readable that suggests other than a simple friendship. Marks was well known for his New York Times work, and such a relationship would not excite much speculation.
I'm not in contact with any family members, but I was contacted once by a literary resident of Charleston who implied that these would not appreciate any breach of confidence beyond what. I'm not able to give a name, I regret to say.
One might speculate that Marks' interest in 'hanky-spanky' is what relatives find embarrassing. There are some good examples in his Colleton works. I don't know.
Stumbled on a copy of The Trembling of a Leaf yesterday, in a random jumble of erotica at a local bookshop. Four bucks and appears to have all its pages. So - I can start at the beginning ...
What a find! Congratulations. I think that one was my favorite so far.
My unflagging alertness to the possibility of finding another Colleton in used book stacks paid off yesterday with a copy of The Pleasures of Cloris. Not pristine, but adequate condition for my purposes, and just one dollar.
Nice, I was only able to find one book of his at my local used store, the rest I purchased off Amazon.
I just found two quotations from 'Trembling of a Leaf' in Lynn Paula Russell's The Illustrated Book of Corporal Punishment. She enjoyed it. Praise indeed!
Just to say that a copy of 'On or About the First in June' has just appeared on eBay UK, ending 28 March.
Such a shame - no takers on eBay. Wasn't even expensive ...
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