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My Dad, the pornographer


Chris Offutt at home with his father’s files and assorted heirlooms.


— using one finger on his left hand and two fingers on his right. Dad typed swiftly and with great passion. In this fashion, he eventually wrote and published more than 400 books. Two were science fiction and 24 were fantasy, written under his own name; the rest were pornography, using 17 pseudonyms.

In the mid-1960s, Dad purchased several porn novels through the mail. My mother recalls him reading them with disgust — not because of the content, but because of how poorly they were written. He hurled a book across the room and told her he could do better. Mom suggested he do so. According to her, the tipping point for Dad’s full commitment to porn, five years later, was my orthodontic needs.

When I was a kid, my teeth were a terrible mess: overlapping, crooked and protruding like fangs. Mom wanted to work part time and pay for braces. Dad suggested that if he quit his job as a salesman and she typed all his final drafts, they could finance my dental care. Over cocktails in the woods of eastern Kentucky, they formed a partnership to mass-produce porn.

Many of the early publishers used a “house name,” a pseudonym shared by several writers. It concealed identity, which writers preferred, while allowing the publisher to give the illusion of a single prolific author. This was an early attempt at branding, with proven success in other genres: westerns, romance and mystery. Dad didn’t mind. He had experimented with a literary mask at the University of Louisville, using different names for articles in the school paper, as well as in his own short fiction. A pseudonym for pornography provided literary freedom while also protecting the family’s reputation in our conservative Appalachian community.

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