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Pioneering novelist of mysteries with gay protagonist dies

The LA Times has an obit on Joseph Hansen, who created the first gay protagonist in the mystery genre, Dave Brandsetter.

Hansen, an activist for sexual rights who wrote for pioneering gay magazines, died Nov. 24 at his home in Laguna Beach, said a family member. The cause was heart failure due to a long respiratory illness.

Five early Hansen novels and a collection of short stories that dealt frankly with homosexual subject matter had been released by small publishers under the pseudonym James Colton when Harper & Row published his first Brandstetter mystery, “Fadeout,” in 1970.

Like other fictional sleuths such as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe or Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Hansen’s middle-aged protagonist was tough, smart and self-assured. Indeed, Brandstetter was the mystery genre’s typical shamus except for one thing: He dated men instead of women.

“My joke,” Hansen told the Orange County Register in 1998 after moving to Laguna Beach from Culver City, where his home had been wrecked in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, “was to take the true hard-boiled character in American fiction tradition and make him homosexual. He was going to be a nice man, a good man, and he was doing to do his job well.”

Tip to House Blend reader Jon for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding