BY NATASIA LANGFELDER
Sexy, funny, suspenseful, romantic, heartbreaking- Lisa E. Davis’s thriller “Under the Mink” packs a lot of punches into a slim novel. “Under the Mink” takes place in 1949 and stars Blackie Cole – a sexy dapper boi singer/entertainer. Blackie plies her trade at Greenwich Village hotspot “The Candy Box”, which is run by mob boss, Stevie. When Blackie becomes a witness to a violent murder of a gay socialite at The Candy Box, her life is turned upside down. Blackie, motivated to find the killer, is led down a path that changes the course of her life forever.
Personally, my favorite part of the book was the love triangle between Blackie Cole, her new crush, Didi Fletcher-Payne and her abusive alcoholic ex-girlfriend, Renee. Just because good, old-fashioned dyke drama is always fun. Davis also peppers the book with pictures of dapper butch performers and their dames, and that really helps bring Blackie, Didi and Renee to life.
The mob also plays a large part in this story, as Stevie is both Blackie’s protector and her biggest threat. “Under the Mink” was heavily researched through interviews with performers of the era and Davis perfectly captures the symbiotic but perilous partnership between LGBT performers and the mob. It’s an important piece of LGBT history that is often overlooked. Davis sheds light on it without being heavy handed or melodramatic. She describes Stevie’s frustration over not being able to pimp Blackie out to men after shows, due to her unwillingness to become a prostitute. Davis also details the butch lesbians who gave blowjobs to patrons of the bar after the show and the femmes that were recruited into bordellos. The fictional Candy Box operated much like the non-fictional queer nightclubs at the time gave queer men and women a place to express themselves, earn a living and perform in drag, but Davis doesn’t shy away from the fact that this freedom came at a cost.
Davis’s research also manifests itself in the vivid descriptions of 1949’s New York City. The politics are on point and prejudices intact. The dialogue is snappy and pops with 40s era colloquialisms, which are fun and innocent sounding in 2015. But make no mistake, “Under the Mink” is anything but innocent. Davis takes on homophobia, prostitution, alcoholism, racism and murder- dressing it up in a gay tone and lots of slapstick hijinks…Oh! And a ton of sex. If you’re into that sort of thing.
“Under the Mink” is a great as a summer beach read or morning commute page-turner. Just make sure you don’t miss your subway stop!
Pick up a copy of “Under the Mink” here and stay tuned for our interview with Lisa E. Davis!