Joseph Hansen (writer)
July 19, 1923|
Aberdeen, South Dakota
|Died||November 24, 2004
Laguna Beach, California
Life and works
Although he published almost forty books in a wide variety of genres, Hansen is best remembered for his ground-breaking series of crime novels with Dave Brandstetter, an openly gay insurance investigator who still embodied the tough, no-nonsense personality of the classic hardboiled private investigator protagonist. His first adventure, Fadeout, was published in 1970, and over the next twenty-one years eleven more entries in the series were written: Death Claims (1973), Troublemaker (1975), The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of (1978), Skinflick (1979), Gravedigger (1982), Nightwork (1984), The Little Dog Laughed (1986), Early Graves (1987), Obedience (1988), The Boy Who Was Buried This Morning (1990), and A Country of Old Men (1991). No Exit Books, a British publisher, issued an omnibus volume, The Complete Brandstetter, in 2007 (ISBN 9781842431689).
Hansen also created a second private investigator, Hack Bohannon, a former deputy sheriff who quits the force after fourteen years because of his disapproval of a whitewashed homicide inquiry and runs a horse farm. He collected five novellas in his 1988 book Bohannon's Book (Countryman Press, 1988; paperback reprint, Penguin, 1989 [ISBN 014012053X). A sequel, also collecting five novellas, appeared in 1993 as Bohannon's Country (Penguin, 1993 [ISBN 0670849421]).
Hansen published his first work, a poem, in The New Yorker, in 1952. He also published poetry in other magazines, briefly sang with a folk-music-group on a California radio-station, and had several part-time jobs in bookstores and magazines.
At the beginning of his career as a novelist, Hansen wrote under the pseudonym James Colton or James Coulton, producing novels such as Strange Marriage and Known Homosexual. He also wrote two gothic novels under the pseudonym Rose Brock.
Hansen was also noted for writing poems, teaching workshops, and hosting a 1960s radio-show called Homosexuality Today. In 1970, he helped to found the first Gay Pride Parade in Hollywood. Hansen disliked the term "gay" and always described himself as "homosexual". In 1985 Hansen published A Smile in His Lifetime, a non-genre novel about a married gay man who achieves fame, divorces his wife, and heads into a string of homosexual relationships both good and bad.
Hansen won the 1992 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, as well as a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Mystery from the Lambda Literary Foundation for A Country of Old Men: The Last Dave Brandstetter Mystery (1991).
Hansen was married to artist Jane Bancroft, a lesbian, from 1943 to her death in 1994. He said their relationship was that of "a gay man and a woman who happened to love each other." The couple had one daughter, who later had a sex-change operation. According to a friend quoted in an obituary, Hansen also had two long-term male lovers.
Dave Brandstetter mysteries
- Fadeout (1970)
- Death Claims (1973)
- Troublemaker (1975)
- The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of (1978)
- Skinflick (1979)
- Gravedigger (1982)
- Nightwork (1984)
- The Little Dog Laughed (1986)
- Early Graves (1987)
- Obedience (1988)
- The Boy Who Was Buried This Morning (1990)
- A Country of Old Men (1991)
- The Complete Brandstetter: Twelve Novels (No Exit Press, 2007) ISBN 978-1-84243-168-9
- Bernstein, Adam (December 7, 2004). "Joseph Hansen; Created Gay Detective (obituary)". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- Newton Baird, "Hansen, Joseph" in Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by James Vinson and D.L. Kirkpatrick. St. James Press, 1985. ISBN 0-312-82418-1 (pp. 419-421).