Harlan Greene brings daring gay author Harry Hervey out of oblivion
Harry Hervey, circa 1933; The Damned Don’t Cry—They Just Disappear: The Life and Works of Harry Hervey, due out on December 15 from The University of South Carolina Press
Southern writer, world traveler, and all-around character Harry Hervey was, by any estimation, unforgettable. His lavish travel logs waxed poetic about Indochina—the exotic land that inspired Hervey to don the vibrant sarongs he scooped up there. In the late-1920s, during Charleston’s artistic renaissance, the Texas native swanned around town with his beefcake of a boyfriend, as well as famed Holy City preservationist Susan Pringle Frost.
He even blazed a trail through Hollywood, with his wildly inventive short stories and novels becoming grist for the silver screen, landing stars like Marlene Dietrich (Shanghai Express). So why has the unforgettable Hervey been all but forgotten?
That was among the questions that compelled literary historian, novelist, and Charleston history editor Harlan Greene to devote a good part of the past decade to researching and penning a biography on Hervey, who was curiously missing from the gay literary canon. “I seem to always write books about people who have been written out of history,” says Greene.
All is revealed in The Damned Don’t Cry—They Just Disappear: The Life and Works of Harry Hervey, due out on December 15 from The University of South Carolina Press. Spanning the whole of Hervey’s life from 1900 to 1951, this phenomenally fun, fact-filled read rolls through the fanciful boyhood writings that caught the attention of H.L. Mencken, Hervey’s controversial Charleston days, and his time in Tinsel Town.
Greene’s curiosity was piqued further by Hervey’s 1929 novel, Red Ending, which exposed a Charleston that rarely made its way into print. “Who was this guy? was the question that kept popping into my head as I read it,” says Greene, who was taken by Hervey’s self-described view through “the peephole” and not “the Chamber of Commerce.” Greene’s rollicking, deeply researched account gives a similarly intimate glimpse of this singular literary figure—one that may very well write Hervey back into history.
Photographs courtesy of (Harry Hervey) Harlan Greene & (book cover) USC Press