City of Night

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
City of Night
First edition cover
AuthorJohn Rechy
Cover artistRichard Seaver[1]
CountryUnited States
GenreGay novel
PublisherGrove Press, Inc., N.Y.
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages410 pp

City of Night is a novel written by John Rechy. It was originally published in 1963 in New York by Grove Press. Earlier excerpts had appeared in Evergreen Review, Big Table, Nugget, and The London Magazine.

City of Night is notable for its exposé approach to and stark depiction of hustling, as well as its stream of consciousness narrative style.

Plot summary[edit]

A young man (Rechy uses the term “youngman” when referring to hustlers) travels across the country while working as a hustler. The book focuses chapters on locations that the youth visits and certain personages he meets there, from New York City, to Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Orleans. Throughout the novel, the unnamed narrator has trysts with various peculiar characters, including another hustler, an older man, an S&M enthusiast and a bed-ridden old man. All of these relationships range in the extent of their emotional and sexual nature, as well as in their peculiarity.

The book includes writing about the Cooper Do-nuts Riot, which happened in 1959 in Los Angeles, when the lesbians, gay men, transgender people, and drag queens who hung out at Cooper Do-nuts and who were frequently harassed by the LAPD fought back after police arrested three people, including Rechy. Patrons began pelting the police with donuts and coffee cups. The LAPD called for back-up and arrested a number of rioters. Rechy and the other two original detainees were able to escape.[2]

Reception and influences[edit]

The narrator shares many characteristics, including his ethnicity and relative age, with the author at the time. The author uses curious methods to achieve verisimilitude, for instance, omitting the apostrophe in contractions, in order to recreate the speech of characters who are barely literate.

Pornographer David Hurles wrote that "Rechy's story set me free... His story told me of a world I had only hoped might really exist. The effect was visceral, sexy, fightening, and it made my spirit soar. In 1965 this book helped lure me to California."[3]

The book has been noted as an influence by The Doors. A curious object of note is the reference to City of Night in the song "L.A. Woman". The Los Angeles-based portion of the book relies heavily on characters who are drag queens and transgender, which would seem to leave the object of the song as sexually ambiguous.

City of Night inspired film director Gus Van Sant to write the screenplay for My Own Private Idaho.[4]

Toby Ross in his film "Paper Dreams" makes a clear mention of the book and the influence it had on his career and thousands of young men who used this book as an inspiration for migrating to the big cities and imitation the protagonist's life style.

City of Night was ranked number 22 on a list of the best 100 gay and lesbian novels compiled by The Publishing Triangle in 1999.[5]


  1. ^ Modern first editions - a set on Flickr
  2. ^ Faderman, Lillian and Stuart Timmons (2006). Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. Basic Books. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-465-02288-X
  3. ^ In a review of the book on, posted June 19, 2000, retrieved 2014-08-14
  4. ^ Fuller, Graham (1993). "Gus Van Sant: Swimming Against the Current". Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and My Own Private Idaho. Faber & Faber. pp. xxi.
  5. ^ The Publishing Triangle's list of the 100 best lesbian and gay novels


  • Bronski, Michael (2003). Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps (1st ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-25267-0.
  • Gunn, Drewey (2009). The Golden Age of Gay Fiction (1st ed.). Albion, NY: MLR Press. ISBN 978-1-60820-048-1.
  • Sarotte, Georges-Michel (1978). Like a Brother, Like a Lover: Male Homosexuality in the American Novel and Theatre from Herman Melville to James Baldwin (1st English ed.). New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-12765-3.
  • Slide, Anthony (2003). Lost Gay Novels: A Reference Guide to Fifty Works from the First Half of the Twentieth Century (1st ed.). Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press. ISBN 978-1-56023-413-5.

External links[edit]