- The Damned Don't Cry—They Just Disappear: The Life and Works of Harry Hervey by Harlan Greene
In the final chapter, "Aftermath," of The Damned Don't Cry—They Just Disappear: The Life and Works of Harry Hervey, Harlan Greene, the head of special collections at College of Charleston and winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction for his 1991 novel What the Dead Remember, recounts a call he received from Susan Dick Hoffius, director of archives for the Georgia Historical Society. Hoffius had just received several boxes of materials belonging to Carleton A. Hildreth and Harry Hervey. The boxes were discovered on the side of the road in a Savannah, Georgia, residential neighborhood and were fortuitously delivered to Hoffius, who knew of Greene's obsession with Hervey, this often-overlooked southern author of the 1920s and 1930s. Hervey's life story, in many respects, becomes a way for Greene to establish a literary heritage of southern gay authors who are gone but not forgotten.
Greene reconstructs as much of Hervey's life as is knowable or presumable from the artifacts that Greene has managed to discover during years of intensive study into the life of this elusive author. Hervey proves to be a challenging subject, as he continuously reconstructed his own experiences in interviews and letters meant to advance his career and promote his work. Hervey, whose initial popularity arose from his novel Ethan Quest (1925), is described, like Quest, as an American who cannot be satisfied with the status quo. He must seek out love and desire in the hidden recesses of exotic locations with foreign characters and cultures that are not [End Page 731] bound by the same expectations of his civilized home. Though very much a dashing and fair young man, Hervey's younger lover Carleton Hildreth appears as the prophetic manifestation of Quest's own "'dark Polynesian boy'" (p. 49). Through the description of Hervey's travels (alone, with his mother Jennie, and with Hildreth) and literature, Greene reconstructs the meaning behind the myriad artifacts collected by Hervey over the years because they, like Ethan Quest's "Gay Sarong," meant "'all the things I've wanted to do and couldn't'" (p. 47).
Greene next focuses on Hervey's life in Savannah, by necessity, and Charleston, by choice. Complications abounded as Hervey's Red Ending (1929) exposed a corrupt underbelly to Charleston's superficially genteel population and as his struggles with poverty resulted in most of Savannah viewing him as a person who could not pay back his debts. Despite his complicated relationship with many inhabitants of these two cities, they are where he returned after his bouts with fame, as a Hollywood scriptwriter and New York playwright.
From his Hollywood sensation Shanghai Express (1932) to his best-known novels The Damned Don't Cry (1939) and School for Eternity (1941), Hervey built a career that eschewed censors while celebrating sexually aberrant behavior that did not become a mainstay in American literature for decades after his death in 1951. By rediscovering and highlighting the contributions of this author to American literature and history, Greene is helping reshape how history is read and understood, allowing for a much-needed rediscovery of the gay authors from the past who were brave enough to travel down "the blue road of romance" (p. 26).