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Flatbush Flashback

Will It Ever End?

Twelve years ago, when my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, was published, Amazon was a company I loved. After having had the book rejected by every publisher in creation for 18 years, it was thrilling to watch Nowhere Man shoot up the sales rankings to heights that I’d never imagined possible. Not only was Amazon instrumental in turning the book into a bestseller in multiple countries and multiple languages, but anytime there was a problem with the book’s page, I was able to call my Amazon contact and she’d fix it immediately while I was holding on the phone. It all seemed miraculous.

I’m not going to go into any detail here about what’s going on with Amazon now. (If you’re interested, there’s an excellent article in the June 25 issue of The New Yorker that spells it all out; you can read the abstract here.) But if you’ve been following this blog, then you know that I’ve been having my problems with Amazon. It took three months before they gave the paperback edition of Beaver Street a buy box, meaning that it was impossible to order the book directly through Amazon. Though the company attributed the absence of a buy box to a variety of ongoing bureaucratic and computer problems, and told me that they’d never ban a book due to its content, most journalists and readers I spoke to about the book’s unavailability perceived the matter as a case of Amazon banning Beaver Street because of its explicit sexual and volatile political content.

It was only after I told Amazon’s PR department that the New York launch event, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, was turning into a public protest against the banning of Beaver Street that a buy box appeared on the Beaver Street page. But that wasn’t the end of it—the book still remained unavailable close to 100% of the time. Amazon would order one copy of Beaver Street. It would sell within a couple of hours. And it would again be out of stock for the next 9-11 days. This was the situation as Bloomsday on Beaver Street rolled around.

The Bloomsday MC Supreme, Byron Nilsson, is, among many things, a professional journalist, and he intimated on his blog, on March 28, the day the book was published, that there appeared to be something unusual happening with Beaver Street on Amazon. At the Bloomsday event, which was, indeed, a celebration of literature that some had branded as “smut” and “filth” (like James Joyce’s Ulysses and Beaver Street), Nilsson spoke eloquently about my Amazon problem, and described what was happening as “passive-aggressive book banning.”

So, where does this issue stand now, ten days after the event? Yesterday, Amazon appeared to have more than one copy of Beaver Street in stock. As of this morning, there’s one left. Will it ever end?

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MC Supreme

Byron Nilsson takes a break from his Master of Ceremonies duties at the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street. Photo © Bette Yee.

Originally, I was going to be the MC for Bloomsday on Beaver Street. It was a job I didn’t especially relish and one I’d never done before. But like virtually everything else having to do with Beaver Street, it became a case of: If you want something done then you’ve got to do it yourself. So, I was game.

Then, Byron Nilsson, who was scheduled to read and sing a song at the event, asked me, “Who’s the MC?”

“You are,” I said.

Byron, a seasoned and multitalented stage performer, as well as a professional writer who was one of my primary contributors when I was editing porn magazines, accepted the job eagerly, thereby becoming a triple threat: MC, guest reader of both Beaver Street and Ulysses, and guest singer. He did it all flawlessly.

As MC, he moved the show along in an entertaining and professional manner, concisely explaining why we were celebrating Beaver Street on Bloomsday; judiciously noting the anniversaries of Deep Throat and Watergate and deftly pointing out their connection to Beaver Street; succinctly describing Amazon’s so-called “passive-aggressive banning” of Beaver Street; and doing an especially good job of telling the story of how, 92 years ago, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, led by Anthony Comstock, succeeded in having Ulysses banned in the U.S. for obscenity because of James Joyce’s description of Leopold Bloom masturbating, which is, perhaps, the most poetic description of the male orgasm in the English language.

With a polished and theatrical delivery, Byron read this notorious passage from Ulysses, and then followed it with an equally stunning reading from Chapter 11 of Beaver Street, “The D-Cup Aesthetic.”

And his a cappella rendition of an Irish song, “The Photographer,” full of double entendres, was a showstopper, as well. My sister-in-law, I noticed, practically fell off her seat laughing.

So please, give it up for Byron Nilsson, who from now on I shall call MC Supreme!

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The Long Road Back

There's no question that Amazon's computer glitch/bureaucratic snafu, which virtually everybody perceived as an overt attempt to ban Beaver Street because of its explicit content, did tremendous damage to the book's sales. Amazon is the primary way that people in America buy books. And for the three months that the Beaver Street print edition was unavailable directly from Amazon, I was on the road and on the radio promoting the book and trying to explain to people why it wasn't available from Amazon.

Those months are lost, and I’ll never get them back. But that’s the book biz, where it often seems miraculous if anything goes right. And there’s nothing I can do but keep promoting and keep believing that over the long run, readers will recognize Beaver Street as the serious and “enormously entertaining” (as one critic said) work of literature that it is, and it will endure in the marketplace as has my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man.

I feel like a sports team that’s come off a rough road trip, where I played well but got some bad calls. And now I’m about to play a crucial game on my home court. That “game” is Bloomsday on Beaver Street, which takes place this Saturday, June 16, at the Killarney Rose at 80 Beaver Street in New York City. It’s going to be a wild launch party, a celebration of literature that was branded pornographic, like Ulysses and Beaver Street. Some very special guests will be reading from Beaver Street and there will be live music provided by HooP, an extraordinary guitarist, and singer-songwriter Mary Lyn Maiscott, my wife. (You can listen to clips from some of her songs on CD Baby.)

Bloomsday on Beaver Street will be the first step in a long road back to attempt to make up for what was lost. As of last night, the event got its first bit of ink… in two “adult” trade mags, XBIZ and XFANZ. Let’s call it an auspicious start.

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Amazon Blinks: Beaver Street Gets Buy Box

Score one for The Daily Beaver: Just as Bookexpo America opens in New York, Amazon has added a "buy box" to the print edition of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, thus ending a three-month battle to achieve what should have been routine. It's now possible to buy Beaver Street directly from Amazon and take advantage of free shipping with Amazon Prime. If I sound like an advertisement, please forgive me. This has been a long time coming.

An Amazon rep called yesterday to break the news. He sounded genuinely upset that anybody could think that Amazon had banned Beaver Street due to its content, as I’d been reporting here. He assured me that that wasn’t the case.

I told the rep that I believed him. But I also said that every time I tried to explain to a reader or an interviewer that, according to Amazon, the reason the book wasn’t available was because of computer glitches and weird bureaucratic snafus having to do with licensing, nobody believed me. “Dude,” everybody would tell me, “Amazon banned your book.” After hearing this for three months, and getting nowhere with Amazon, I started to believe it, too.

Amazon, however, is sensitive to the idea that they’d ever ban a book due to explicit sexual content. And what finally got through to them, what finally motivated somebody within their bureaucracy to wake up and add a buy box, was a letter I wrote to the Amazon public relations department, telling them about the Bloomsday on Beaver Street event scheduled for June 16, in New York. I said that one of the reasons for the event was to publicly protest Amazon’s banning of Beaver Street. This was clearly something that Amazon did not want to see happen.

I also talked to the rep about the issue of fairness, pointing out that because of what amounts to a clerical error, I’d lost three months of sales. “How is Amazon going to make that up to me?” I asked him.

Let’s just that that, as of today, this remains an open question, though I fully expect Amazon to do the right thing and use their vast resources to give Beaver Street a well deserved promotional boost.

In the meantime, I’ll return to organizing Bloomsday on Beaver Street as the celebration of literature, in the spirit of James Joyce, that I’d originally intended. Read More 

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Some Thoughts on Book Banning on the Eve of the BEA

I've been writing a lot about Amazon lately because of the absurd and destructive problems they've created for Beaver Street. If you've been reading this blog, then you know that despite my own efforts, and the efforts of the publisher and the distributor, Amazon has been unwilling or unable to make the print edition of Beaver Street available in the U.S. Concerned readers and members of the media who've asked me about this perceive the problem as a conscious effort on Amazon's part to ban Beaver Street because of its explicit sexual content. (This so-called book banning will be one of the themes of the New York launch event on June 16, Bloomsday on Beaver Street.)

I bring it up yet again because Book Expo America (BEA) begins tomorrow in New York, and one of the reasons I’m going there is the possibility (as slim as it may be) that somebody from Amazon will meet with me and be willing to work to resolve the problem. Treating the banning of Beaver Street as an aggrieved author has thus far gotten me nowhere. It occurs to me that it’s now time to put on my investigative journalist hat and demand answers from a stonewalling corporation.

If I seem obsessive about this Amazon issue, it’s because I am. And the longer it drags on with no resolution in sight, the more obsessive I become. Is it really necessary to point out that I spent seven years writing Beaver Street, another two years looking for a publisher, and the past 14 months running around Europe and the U.S. promoting it? One of the few things I expected in return for this decade-long ordeal was for the largest distributor of books in America to make my work available in all formats. Amazon has not done so, and that is unacceptable. Read More 

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Top 10 Events of May 2012

Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn, hosts of the Sirius XM Playboy radio show You Porn.

It's been a helluva month. Allow me to share some of the highlights and lowlights:

10. A blogger in England puts my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, on his list of "Top 10 Books," among the works of such commercial powerhouses as Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, and C.J. Sanson. This has happened dozens of times before, and each time it does, it reminds me anew that 12 years after publication, Nowhere Man has achieved "cult classic" status.

9. A rave review of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, in an Italian magazine, calls the book “daring,” “an unforgiving but truthful portrait,” and a “must for… Beatles fans.”

8. The Italian edition of Nowhere Man sells out its first printing, but Italy, like the publishing industry itself, is in such a state of economic and political chaos, nobody seems to know if there will be a second printing.

7. My wife and I spend a blissful week in Santa Barbara, at our friends’ house, “Casa de los patios,” as it’s called. We begin each day sipping coffee on one of five patios, gazing at the mountains in the distance. “Another goddamn beautiful day,” says the mistress of the house each morning, as she comes trotting onto the patio with her four dogs.

6. For the fourth consecutive month, this website hits a new high in traffic.

5. I read and sign Beaver Street at Book Soup, the legendary independent bookstore on Sunset Strip in L.A.

4. I’m interviewed about Beaver Street on The Tiffany Granath Show on Sirius XM Playboy radio.

3. After a year of hustling and promotion, the first printing of Beaver Street sells out in the U.K. There will be a second printing… sooner or later.

2. Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn interview me about Beaver Street on their Sirius XM Playboy radio show, You Porn. Christy shows me her extraordinary (and ageless) breasts. Paul Slimak (Henry Dorfman in Beaver Street) calls in as Erich von Pauli, the character he plays in the Beaver Street promotional videos, and has everybody in the studio cracking up as he threatens to launch his V-2 missiles. It’s one of the best hours of radio I’ve ever participated in.

1. Claiming at various times “technical problems,” that they don’t have the right to sell the book, or that the book is “unavailable,” Amazon effectively bans the print edition of Beaver Street in the U.S. and there appears to be nothing anybody can do about it. Read More 

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The Banning of Beaver Street

Beaver Street is a book that deals with explicit sexual themes while launching a full-frontal assault on the outrageous hypocrisy of Republican anti-porn warriors who were either convicted of multiple felonies and sent to jail or were forced to resign from office in disgrace to avoid criminal prosecution--notably Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, Charles Keating, and Alberto Gonzales.

Because of this, I thought that there was a decent chance that somebody might try to ban the book, leading to controversy, a flurry of media attention, and a few more sales. What I had in mind was a group like Focus on Family, a fundamentalist Christian organization that I cited in Beaver Street because their founder, James Dobson, an “evangelical pediatrician,” had served on the Meese Commission on Pornography, which, in 1986, attempted to outlaw pornography in America.

Well, it’s time to file my little fantasy under: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Though Amazon U.S. has not exactly banned Beaver Street—they are selling the Kindle edition and allowing outside vendors to sell the paperback edition—they are not selling the paperback edition themselves, which means that they’ve made it extremely difficult for anybody who doesn’t want to read Beaver Street on a plastic machine to get their hands on it.

Amazon claims they’re doing this because they haven’t been given the right to sell Beaver Street in the U.S., which is simply not true. The distributor and the publisher have repeatedly reaffirmed Amazon’s right to sell the book in the U.S., but Amazon has repeatedly ignored them and continues to insist that they don’t have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

None of the readers, potential readers, and journalists whom I’ve spoken to about this believe that Amazon is so inept they’re unable to correct what amounts to a minor clerical error. They think that Amazon has banned the book due to its explicit sexual content, and nothing I say can convince them otherwise.

So, if perception is reality, then I’ve gotten what I wished for: Beaver Street, like James Joyce’s Ulysses, is a banned book.

Which is one more good reason to join me June 16 at the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street to celebrate Bloomsday on Beaver Street and express your distaste for any organization that, intentionally or by benign neglect, bans books.

And, if you’ve got a little free time, do me a favor: Write to Amazon. Let them know that you don’t appreciate them banning books of any kind, even if they swear on a stack of Kindles that they haven’t banned it, that they simply don’t have the right to sell it. Read More 
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Amazon Case #34451451

Regular readers of this blog are aware that the paperback edition of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography has been unavailable directly through Amazon U.S. since its publication here last month. Though Amazon has made the Kindle edition available, and is allowing outside vendors to sell the paperback edition, they claim that they themselves do not have the right to sell the paperback edition in the U.S.

Since becoming aware of this problem, my publisher, Headpress, the distributor, SCB, and I have repeatedly told Amazon, by e-mail, by telephone, and by letter, that they do have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

Amazon continues to insist that they do not.

Yesterday, in fact, I received a phone call from a woman at Amazon Author Central. She told me that the reason Beaver Street does not have a “buy box,” as Amazon calls the button you click to buy the book directly from Amazon, is because Amazon does not have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

I told her that Amazon had received a letter from the distributor over a month ago confirming that they had full distribution rights for Beaver Street throughout North America. I read the letter to her.

The woman repeated that Amazon does not have the right to sell Beaver Street in the U.S.

The conversation went around in circles. I told her that dealing with Amazon was more frustrating than dealing with the IRS.

The woman gave me a case number: 34451451. She said that this number should be used in any future dealings with Amazon.

When I hung up the phone, I felt as if I’d just played out a scene in a Kafka novel—probably one that doesn’t have a buy button.

I know this much: When any corporation, large or small, is unable to solve simple problems quickly—and adding a buy button to Beaver Street is about as simple as it gets—it’s symptomatic of deep-seated systemic problems throughout the corporation.

I look forward to discussing case #34451451 with Amazon at the BEA next month.

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The Patience of Gandhi? Really?

It's enough to make me wonder if a higher power has been reading "The Daily Beaver," and has decided to test if I really do, as I wrote the other day, have "the patience of Gandhi." Apparently, I do not. Apparently, under certain conditions, serenity eludes me, and I can be driven to fits of irrational screaming and cursing the very existence of a higher power.

Regular readers of this blog are aware of the problems I’ve been having with Amazon: One month after publication, the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street remains unavailable directly from Amazon U.S., though it is available virtually everywhere else. I’ve been working calmly and patiently with my publisher, the distributor, and Amazon to sort this out.

Then, about a week ago, my two-year-old computer, a Gateway PC, crashed and was pronounced dead. Since the cost of resurrection was more than the computer was worth, I remained calm and bought a new computer, the one I’m typing on now. But in the course of setting up this computer, I accidentally overwrote all the files from the Gateway that were backed up on the external hard drive. My first thought was that I’d just wiped out two years of work. That was when I lost it. You would not have wanted to be around me at that moment.

But I calmed down a few hours later, and realized that not everything was lost. Much of my work was also backed up on an assortment of CDs and thumb drives. And, theoretically, the Gateway hard drive is still working, so everything can be taken off there. In other words, I’m dealing with a major headache rather than a total catastrophe.

This morning I keep telling myself to concentrate on the positive: my reading at Book Soup, where Beaver Street remains a featured title of the week, and my interview with Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn on satellite radio, for example.

I’m doing that. I’m feeling OK. I’m a writer surviving in 21st-century America, and in this business, survival is success. Read More 
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Another Reader Heard From

As I continue to wait with the patience of Gandhi for the Amazon technical team to make Beaver Street available in the U.S. directly from Amazon, I see that yet another five-star review has popped up. The critic, Scoobird "MR," from Long Beach, New York, is writing about the Kindle edition, which has been available for months. Since the review is short and to the point, I'll quote it in full.

“The book was a great read...very well-written and a page turner, too. While I am not a porn aficionado, I do love history. This is one, excellent history of a movement whose real background and players are not well known to most out of the industry. If you are looking for your next good read, this should be the book.”

Well, thank you, Scoobird. Glad you enjoyed it.

I will now return to my regularly scheduled session of sitting on the floor in the bogus position and chanting Om. Read More 
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Amazon, Oh Amazon

Yesterday I wrote about how, three weeks after publication, the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street is available pretty much everywhere, except directly from Amazon U.S., even though they have the book in stock. This is not a good situation. Writers and publishers need Amazon to reach the widest possible audience, and there’s no way around it. If a book is not available directly through Amazon in the crucial days after publication, it causes enormous problems.

Today, I asked somebody at Amazon what’s going on. They told me, essentially, that technical problems within their system are preventing the book from being made available, and that they’re working on it.

I continue to hope for resolution.

And I can tell you this much about Amazon: In 2000, when Nowhere Man was published, Amazon was instrumental in making the book a bestseller, and for that I’ll always be grateful. Yes, Amazon is a different company now, and it’s a different world out there. But for an author, there’s still nothing like the rush of looking at your book on Amazon and seeing that sales ranking shooting towards the toppermost of the poppermost.

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What Would Gandhi Do?

Learning to accept the fact that most things are beyond your control, and remaining serene and positive in the face of forces that appear to be conspiring daily to drive your career into a ditch are two of the most difficult aspects of being a professional writer.

I mention this today because I’m having an extremely difficult time accepting the fact that there’s nothing I can do about Amazon, and, apparently, there’s nothing anybody else can do about Amazon, either.

“Why,” a number of people have asked me, “is the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street not available directly from Amazon US when it is available from Amazon in every other country that has an Amazon?”

The short answer is: I don’t know.

Yes, I hope this problem will soon be resolved. And until it is, like Gandhi, I’m going to sit on the floor in the bogus position and chant Om.

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Get Your E-Beaver Now

The print edition of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is scheduled for publication in the US on March 23. But much to my surprise, the e-book has jumped the gun and is now available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook formats for the unbeatable and numerologically auspicious price of $9.99. (It’s also available on Kindle in the UK, and on various generic e-reader apps.)

So if you’re one of those people who love to read e-books on a sleek little tablet, why wait for the print edition? Download your copy of Beaver Street now!

Thanks for reading! And if you should see Beaver Street available as an e-book on any other sites, please, let me know.

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Toppermost of the Poppermost

Last night, after six months of nonstop promotion on two continents, Beaver Street surged, albeit briefly, to the top of the heap. True, the heap in question is Amazon UK's Bestsellers in Pornography Biographies. But it is a heap that includes such classics of the genre as Jenna Jameson's How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Ron Jeremy's The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz, and Annie Sprinkle's Post-Porn Modernist.

I’ll take my number ones where I can get them.

This sudden surge, I imagine, can be attributed to my two recent interviews on The Sleazoid Podcast, as well as word of mouth. As I’ve been saying all along, Beaver Street is a page-turner. Once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down, even if porn isn’t a subject that particularly interests you. Because the subject matter of Beaver Street goes far beyond porno. Don’t take my word for it. Read some of the Amazon reviews. Or just buy the damn book and see for yourself.

I’ll also go so far to say that this is going to be the first of many number ones, brief and otherwise, in numerous categories both on Amazon UK and Amazon US, when the book is published here in March 2012. How do I know this? I just do. Call me a prophet.

In the meantime, I’ll take a day to quietly celebrate Beaver Street's first visit to the “Toppermost of the Poppermost,” as a certain British rock band used to say. Read More 

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Act Naturally

The good people of The Sleazoid Podcast wouldn't be the first to suggest that Beaver Street is a movie that needs to be made. R.C. Baker, of The Village Voice, said in his Amazon review, "Vivid and funny, Beaver Street moves at a cinematic pace, a period piece that picks up the story of modern porn where Boogie Nights leaves off." And, of course, I, too, have entertained such big-screen fantasies, musing over the possibility of Martin Scorsese directing (Who does sleazy and gritty better?), Justin Timberlake portraying a younger me, and Paul Slimak, whom I call Henry Dorfman in the book, playing himself. (Check out Slimak's work in the Beaver Street promotional video, above.)

Whether or not a filmmaker comes along and snaps up the rights to Beaver Street is obviously beyond my control, and I’m not about to max out my credit cards producing the movie myself. But with Beaver Street scheduled to be published in the US sometime in 2012 and Nowhere Man about to undergo an Italian Renaissance, I’m feeling unusually optimistic.

So, I’m putting the idea out there, my daily message in a bottle: Come on, Hollywood, let’s make Beaver Street, the movie. If it ain’t a natural, I don’t know what is.

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A Dirty Book with Universal Appeal?

As I prepare for Beaver Street's inevitable US publication sometime in 2012, it has come to my attention that the book has achieved an unusual cultural hat trick, so to speak.

The highbrow critics (H-Net) like Beaver Street.

The middlebrow critics (Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) like Beaver Street.

The lowbrow critics (Bizarre) like Beaver Street.

And if you add the sex critics (Erotic Review) and the chorus of professional, semi-professional, and amateur critics on Amazon US and UK who have weighed in with unanimous five-star reviews… well, one might be tempted to argue that Beaver Street is a dirty book with universal appeal.

But one would be best advised to hold his or her tongue until Traci Lords, the right-wing media, and others with delicate sensibilities render their opinions.

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Beaver Street: Well researched, Smartly Written, Surprisingly Funny

Beaver Street's first brush with notoriety occurred nine years ago, when The New York Times ran an article partially inspired by an embryonic Beaver Street manuscript. "A Demimonde in Twilight" profiled a number of literate porn writers surviving in New York City in the declining days of magazine publishing. Two of those writers, "Izzy Singer" and "Maria Bellanari," are major characters in Beaver Street. (They went by different names in the article.) The story also discussed the connection between magazines like Stag and Swank, writers like Mario Puzo and Bruce Jay Friedman, and Marvel Comics, a "secret history" that I explore at length in Beaver Street.

It was written by Matthew Flamm, a journalist who’s been instrumental in bringing attention to my work. In 1999, Flamm was the first one to write about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. His item in Entertainment Weekly sparked a conflagration of media coverage that put Nowhere Man on best-seller lists in five countries.

Flamm has at last read the published version of Beaver Street, and has posted his distinctly New York-flavored review on Amazon. I will quote it in its entirety below:

Robert Rosen’s Beaver Street is both an absorbing memoir of a writer's struggle to make a living and a brief history of pornography as it grew from a mom and pop business into the industrial giant it is today. But this well researched, smartly written, surprisingly funny book is also a one of a kind tour through a fast-disappearing underbelly of American popular culture. Rosen, a pre-gentrification New Yorker, fell into porn when it still held a certain countercultural allure. His cast of characters includes hapless, aspiring artists, shrewd businessmen (and businesswomen), all-out neurotics, sexual desperados, and conniving egomaniacs. Kind of a cross section of a broken down IRT local train circa 1980. Beaver Street shows us an alternative Grub Street, one that many of us never knew existed.

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The Victim

A Traci Lords model release from 1984. Using fraudulent ID, the 16-year-old runaway passed herself off as 21.

The other day I wrote about how Amazon was unwittingly selling vintage issues of men's magazines containing pictures of Traci Lords, the porn superstar who was underage for her entire career, and whose deception nearly destroyed the adult industry 25 years ago. As this latest development shows, Lords’ ancient actions, which I’ve detailed in Beaver Street, continue to reverberate.

Thus far, however, only Curtis Cartier of the Seattle Weekly has been covering the story, and he’s provided an update.

According to Cartier, Amazon has pulled most of the issues (apparently provided by extremely foolish and/or ignorant “marketplace sellers”) containing pictures of Lords. Though he said that one image of an issue remained—the August 1985 Swank, with Lords on the cover—that, too, has since been removed.

Cartier also noted that Lords has been tweeting about Amazon.

Tweet #1: I just found out that Amazon is selling my old kiddie porn mags. Not ok.

Tweet #2: Amazon = losers of week for selling child pornography.

Tweet #3: I wish I had a legion of lawyers to kick Amazons ass. Aren’t there enough attractive willing adults out there to exploit?

Tweet #4: All this Amazon drama has driven me to sobriety.

Some things never change. A middle-aged Traci Lords who, beginning in 1984, used a fraudulent passport and driver’s license to systematically seek work in the porn industry still refuses to take any responsibility for what happened. “I was drunk! I was stoned! I was victimized!” she said 25 years ago, when the scandal broke.

She still knows how to play the victim. Read More 

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Greetings from Beaver Street

Yesterday, Headpress, the publisher of my book Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, began running this blog, The Daily Beaver, on their site. So, as of this morning, I’m now communicating with a new audience—the Headpress audience who, I’m told, is global, literate, edgy, and well outside whatever passes for mainstream these days. This perhaps explains why Headpress published Beaver Street in the first place.

For those of you who’ve not read this blog before, let me be clear about its purpose: I put a lot of effort into writing Beaver Street and then finding somebody to publish it. Now that it’s out there, I want to bring it to the attention of the widest possible audience. That would be you. So, if you’ve already read Beaver Street, thank you very much. If you haven’t read it, then I urge you to buy a copy—directly from Headpress. (I hear they still have a couple of signed copies in stock.)

If you’re not familiar with Beaver Street, then please check out some of the press material on this site. The critical response has thus far been extraordinary, which makes me feel—Dare I say it?—hopeful.

But this blog is more than just a vehicle for self-promotion. Beaver Street is investigative memoir that shows the history of the late 20th century though a pornographic lens. It’s a personal journey through sex, politics, economics, and culture. And much of what I write about remains relevant to today’s headlines. The centerpiece of the book, for example, is an exploration of the Traci Lords scandal, which began 25 years ago this month. Lords, the most famous porn star of her generation, revealed in July 1986 that she’d been underage for her entire career. The fallout from the scandal nearly destroyed the adult industry.

Yesterday, The Seattle Weekly ran a piece on their website about how Amazon is selling old issues of High Society, Oui, Club, Stag, and Penthouse containing images of an underage Traci Lords—the very images that had nearly destroyed the industry 25 years ago, and remain illegal “child pornography” today, even though Lords is now middle aged.

I, for one, can’t wait to see how this story plays out, and will update it here as information becomes available. Read More 

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The Best Book of the Year

I was going to continue deconstructing the art of Sonja Wagner, but since today is my birthday, I’m going to celebrate going 11 for 11 with five-star reader reviews for Beaver Street on Amazon UK (and eight for eight on Amazon US, where the book isn’t even published yet).

One review on the UK site, posted by “10, Mathew Street,” calls Beaver Street the “best book” of the year.

Well, that’s saying quite a bit, and the year isn’t over yet. But I have no doubt that Beaver Street is the best book 10, Mathew Street—a Beatles site based in Spain that has been amazingly supportive of Nowhere Man—has read in the past seven months.

So, Beaver Street sends a big gracias to 10, Mathew Street! And thanks again to everybody who has posted those wonderful reviews.

If anybody out there would like to give me another five-star review for my birthday, well, that would be nice—but only if you really mean it.

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A Wickedly Honest Personal Memoir

Over the past week, more five-star Beaver Street reader reviews have been posted on Amazon UK and US. Below are pull quotes from three of them.

Dear readers, these reviews are vital. If you read the book, please don’t hesitate to share your opinion with the world. But remember, Amazon is very strict about “inappropriate” language. So, in the immortal words of George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer, “Watch what you say.” And, of course, I send out a big, heartfelt thanks to everybody who has posted a review!

“Robert Rosen has an uncanny knack for combining fact and filth in Beaver Street, resulting in an account of the porn magazine industry that is both detailed and informative, as well as accessible and riveting.” —Sarah

“The subject is dark but Rosen maintains a level of humour which results in an engaging, absorbing, compelling read. One for the wish list.” —palmera6

“Vivid and funny, Beaver Street moves at a cinematic pace… This wickedly honest personal memoir of the 80s and 90s sex industry segues from a behind the scenes look at porn shoots to hilarious office banter amid the cramped cubicles of fetish magazines.” —R.C. Baker

“Among the fascinating portions of this personal history is the eye-popping account of the corporate history of America's old-line porno mags—the famous writers who started out with the progenitors of the medium, and the overlap between porn magazines and the creators of some of the most successful and famous comic book superheroes. What is also fascinating, and perhaps surprising, is the number of women working on-staff at these ‘men's magazines.’ Those stories alone are worth the price of the book.” —CentralCoast Read More 
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The Real Life of a Beaver Street Character

There’s a lot of talk in the writing biz about Amazon’s Kindle, not all of it good. But one thing is undeniable: Kindle has given authors the ability to publish their work at no cost, distribute it globally, and collect royalties on it—without the need of a traditional publisher. In short, it’s changed the rules of the game, and like it or not, e-books, Kindle or otherwise, are the industry’s future.

With that in mind, I downloaded the free Kindle app for PC, invested $2.99, and read a short story titled “Learning to Be Cruel.” Why? Because “Irv O. Neil,” the author of this deranged bit of semi-autobiographical fiction about a middle-aged freelance writer who’s sexually humiliated by a gorgeous young Chinese woman, is “Izzy Singer,” one of the main characters in Beaver Street. It’s his first venture into the realm of Kindle.

In the years that I toiled in pornography, I published a lot of Irv/Izzy’s work in magazines such as D-Cup. But I’ve never read a story of his like this one—due to censorship regulations, I wasn’t allowed to publish stories about humiliation and degradation.

“Learning to be Cruel” shocked me, probably because I got the sense that Irv/Izzy is writing from the heart, and may personally enjoy having sexy young women treat him in a manner similar to what he graphically and realistically describes in the story. (I shall not enumerate the details here.)

Though not my “cup of sleaze,” as Irv/Izzy might say, this skillfully rendered tale has given me additional insight into a character in my own book, showing me a dimension of his personality that even after 27 years, I never fully grasped.

“Learning to Be Cruel” is not only a good companion piece to Beaver Street; it’s the brave work of a man who has mastered the short story form. Or perhaps I should say, a man who’s been enslaved by it. Read More 

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Blows Against the Empire

I’m pleased to report that my campaign to get Beaver Street readers to post reviews that don’t run afoul of Amazon UK and US censorship regulations has gotten off to a promising start.

Here are some pull quotes from the five-star reviews that have popped up over the past week:

“Brilliant!” —David Comfort

“I’ve just completed Beaver Street and could not put it down… a perfect (and perfectly outrageous) mix of personal experience, research, reporting, and conclusions.” —Poison Penn

“A real treat and impossible to put down… essential reading.” —P. Slim

“Mr. Rosen has stripped American society [of] its clothes with his very beautifully written tale.” —J. C. Malone

Thank you all so much! And please, keep those reviews coming. Read More 
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The Beaver…

…is taking summer weekends off.

If you need an assignment to get you through the weekend, may I suggest posting a Beaver Street review on Amazon.

See you Monday.

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The Profanity Problem on Amazon US

Yesterday I wrote about the problems readers were having posting Beaver Street reviews on Amazon UK—a computer was flagging sexually explicit keywords, and rejecting the reviews. But when a fellow author and professional critic, David Comfort, wrote to Amazon UK to ask why his review wasn’t posted, a human being read the computer-rejected review and posted it exactly as Comfort had originally written it.

After his review was posted in the UK, Comfort then contacted Amazon US to ask the same question: Why wasn’t my Beaver Street review posted?

Here is Amazon’s response:

Hello David,
I read your recent review of “Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography” and found it violated our guidelines. I did notice that it has been approved on the Amazon UK site, but we don’t allow profanity in our US Customer Reviews.
Your review couldn’t be posted on Amazon.com as written. I would recommend revising your review and submitting it again. Specifically, the following parts cannot be posted on Amazon.com:
”cocksmen,” “blowjob,” and “newcummer”
Please take a look at our Review Guidelines for information about acceptable review content.


Comfort censored his review and Amazon US posted it. Cocksmen became studs. Blowjob became fellatio. Newcummer became freshman.

Dear readers, keep in mind that Amazon reviews are vital to the success of Beaver Street. If you’ve read the book and have something to say about it, please post a review—but watch your language, especially in the US. If Amazon doesn’t post it, ask them why and they will tell you, just as they told Comfort.

Though Beaver Street has not yet been published here, it is available through marketplace sellers on Amazon US, or through me. (Click on “Contact,” above, and send me an e-mail. I’ll send you the details.)

And thanks for reading (and writing)! Read More 
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A Note to My Readers About Amazon UK Reviews

Fortunately, I’m not the only person who’s been wondering why, up to a few days ago, no reader reviews of Beaver Street had appeared on Amazon UK, where the book is readily available.

David Comfort, author of The Rock & Roll Book of the Dead, and a professional critic, looked into the matter after he submitted a review to Amazon UK—similar to his review that ran on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website—which was not posted. He wrote to Amazon to ask what was going on and received the following response:

Hello Mr. Comfort,
We encourage all feedback on the Amazon.co.uk website, both positive and negative.
However, it has come to our attention that your review of “Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography” does not comply with our customer reviews guidelines as:
We don’t allow obscene or distasteful content including sexually explicit or sexually gratuitous comments in Customer Reviews.
It is focused on the author and their life rather than reviewing the book itself.


Comfort then sent the following letter to Amazon UK:

Amazon UK Editors:
Are you still in the Victorian Age, or the 21st Century? If the latter, you should find nothing sexually explicit or gratuitous in my review of “Beaver Street.” Please point out the four letter words.
As for your objection that the piece is focused on the author, not the book itself—if you READ the book, rather than blindly pontificate, you will discover that it is AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL and all about the author and his experiences.
If you fancy yourselves as a moral police—not a Free Speech protective bookseller as your customers imagine—please let us know so we can take our business and reviews elsewhere.
David Comfort


The result: Comfort’s review was read by a human, rather than scanned by a computer for objectionable language, and posted exactly as he’d originally written it.

So, a word of warning to future readers of Beaver Street who will be submitting reviews to Amazon UK: Be careful with your language. Read the Amazon customer review guidelines. And if you submit a review that’s not posted, then write to Amazon to find out why. You may get an Amazon human to read it and post it.

Tomorrow: David Comfort corresponds with the good people at Amazon US.

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The Daily Beaver

If I’m reading the following tweet correctly, yesterday Beaver Street hit #3 on Amazon Japan:

otona_amazon 洋書/ #3: Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography.

That’s amazing news, and I can only wonder what’s going to happen when the book’s translated into Japanese. So, thank you Japan!

Also, Beaver Street was mentioned in Galley Cat, which is cool, because the site, part of Media Bistro, is about as mainstream as it gets. So, thank you Galley Cat! Appreciate the attention.

And don’t worry, dear readers, I’ve not forgotten about Senator Orrin Hatch, who continues to make headlines with his demand for more vigorous porn prosecutions. We’ll get back to him soon enough.

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Beaver Street Is Now Available for Pre-Order

The publication date is still six months away, but Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is now available for pre-order on Amazon UK for £11.95. There is no better way to join the Beaver Street Literary Insurgency. Read More 
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