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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Gay Ghastly Holiday

cover image By: Blayne, Sebastian, (pseudonym of Janet Huckins) (female)
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc. (Gold Medal Books 175)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 198: PS3503 .L4868 G39 1951
Contributor: D. DiLandro

General

Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Sebastian Blayne Geographic Locale: New York City; the finale occurs somewhere in coastal California Date of Publication: 1951  |  Original Date: 1951 Setting: urban, very glitzy area of New York City; in/near the Carlton hotel, very upscale neighborhood. Minor characters are occasionally portrayed in slummy areas (prostitution houses, bars -- "inner city" settings) Motives: murder, insanity, self-defense

Plot Summary

Moira Ryan, escaped with her lover, Max Vienna, to California, reflects on the fear of having been attacked and almost killed. She wishes to contact Sebastian Blayne, playwright/detective, who had been helping her, but Vienna refuses this. The narrative flashes back to the events of the previous months, which begin with Ryan's contacting Blayne. Blayne tries to help Moira discover and disarm whoever is trying to kill her, also trying to ferret out the killer of Ryan's maid -- stabbed while wearing her mistress's mink coat. In time, Ryan is attacked twice more, and plans are made to hide her with Blayne's secretary. Blayne himself is almost killed, and while he's recovering, Ryan flees to the West Coast with Vienna. The case is apparently dropped, but several months later, Blayne discovers a clue in the long lost mink that identifies the murderer -- Max Vienna. Meanwhile, Vienna is attacking Ryan, and a shot rings out just as the local police arrive. The novel concludes with Blayne arriving to learn that Ryan actually turned Vienna's gun on him, shooting him in self-defense.


Major Characters

Sebastian Blayne (Edward) "Neddy" to his friends; adult male, older, much of the dandy about him, four previous wives, French poodle is his constant companion, famous and respected playwright

Max Vienna born Max Koernfeldt, Austrian, adult male, mid 40s, receding hairline, dark, wavy hair, olive skin, worked his way up from menial jobs in Austria to owner of the Carlton hotel chain

Josie Vienna adult female, estranged wife of Max Vienna, owner of cosmetics/beauty salon

Igor Torin adult male, Josie Vienna's lover, Russian, of noble birth, bisexual, hairdresser

Felix Vienna adult male, Austrian, Max Vienna's brother, no real occupation but vague trouble with the law

Madame (Mama) Vienna adult female, Austrian, elderly, Max and Felix's mother, supported by Max

Ida Gibbons adult female, Moira Ryan's maid

Beppo adult male, Italian, presumably middle-aged, Blayne's valet

Maggie McMahon adult female, Irish, probably late 20s, red hair, Blayne's secretary

Ronnie Ryan male child, kept at military school, Moira's Ryan's son, student

Jay Ryan adult male, Irish, estranged husband of Moira Ryan, usually drunk, no livelihood noted

Lieutenant Simon Fennelly "Si," adult male, middle-aged, police officer


Weapons

strangulation, beating, kitchen knife, gun


Level of Violence

generally brief descriptions of several violent incidents; violence is conveyed dispassionately


Sexuality

Igor's interest in men is stated; Blayne's and Beppo's is implied. Beppo's rivalry for Blayne's affection with Maggie is stated, but it's a bit unclear what the specific meaning is. Sexual scenes are described "straight" in the narrative; physical actions are mentioned, but most often relegated to "they made love." The central relationship of the story involves adultery from at least one avenue.


Gender Roles

traditional; women play the role of housewife, maid, damsel in distress. Maggie, Blayne's secretary, is portrayed positively, the Modern Woman; but Josie, a career woman, is portrayed negatively. The men are afforded greater latitude; they are portrayed with conventional disapproval if they are suspects or unknown to Blayne; portrayed neutrally or positively if they are a Blayne confidante. Sexist attitudes are generally absent.


Ethnicity

Catholic marriage conventions are ignored, kept only by Mama Vienna, and used cynically, for solely mercenary ends by Josie. The two characters who may be homosexual are decidedly foreign (an Italian and a Russian). While the Viennas are from Austria, they have presumably acculturated themselves more fully to American ways. African-Americans have two points of contact with the main characters, portrayed in a positive light.


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

these are social drinkers, all. Alcohol is portrayed lightly.


Added Features

humorous undercurrent provided by Maggie McMahon and Beppo. Blayne quotes (awkwardly) famous literists often in the style of other writers. The novel is oddly structured, opening in medias res and then flashing back to a time months before the opening action, with shifts in tense and point of view.


Subject Headings

California/ New York (N.Y.)/ Murder/ Dramatists


Psychological Elements

the most overt use of psychology is done by Blayne who has been reading a book about the "catathymic crisis" -- basically a guilt complex. Blayne explains that this crisis is brought on by unconscious guilt feelings, in which a person reacts hysterically, feeling that a "violent act -- is the only solution to a profound emotional conflict whose real nature he does not understand."