James Lear


James Lear is the nom de plume of a prolific and acclaimed novelist. As James Lear, he is the author of The Back Passage, The Secret Tunnel, Hot Valley, The Low Road, and The Palace of Varieties. He lives in London.

Straight Up

"This might make a nice change-of-pace for erotica fans and mystery lovers alike, so if you want a book that packs heat, grab this one."
Dallas Voice

"It's exciting, compelling and a rip roaring read of a story. I'll definitely be reading more Dan Stagg mysteries."
The Romance Reviews

"This dazzling, fast-paced, roller coaster of an adventure story does not disappoint. With plenty of scintillating twists and turns, smoldering sexcapades, and the provocative, darkly-humorous narrative of Dan Stagg at its wheel, this is action/adventure that takes you places. Deep into the dark, seedy underbelly of the human mind and then deeper, into the vulnerable, soft places of the human heart. Top all this off with a visceral and tender ending and you’ve got what I would call a hole-in-one winner, one that I can’t wait to read again and again."
Rainbow Book Reviews


Kara Wuest ran into James Lear on his daily walk through Hyde Park. She spoke to him about the recent publication of his new novel Hot Valley.

Kara Wuest: What was the inspiration for Hot Valley?

JAMES LEAR: All of my novels are reworkings of existing sources, either novels, plays or films, that have strong homo-erotic subtexts. The first one, The Low Road, made explicit the homosexual elements of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, for instance. Hot Valley was directly inspired by Cold Mountain, hence the title, but it takes as its source the whole genre of American Civil War literature and film – Gone with the Wind, Ride with the Devil, The Red Badge of Courage and so on. It was also written directly after seeing Brokeback Mountain and reading Christopher Booker’s brilliant but extremely homophobic Seven Basic Plots. I wanted to write a big sweeping American adventure with a gay love story that doesn’t end in tragedy.

KW: Hot Valley takes place in the midst of the Civil War. What kind of research did you do?

JL: Obviously I’m not quite old enough to remember the Civil War, so I read a few books and scoured a lot of websites and watched some movies. But to be honest, you have to wear your research lightly in these things. It’s an erotic novel, not a historical novel, and I’m making absolutely no claim to have historical insight. The great thing about the Civil War is that it created tensions between people – neighbours suddenly became enemies, and society was militarised. Any situation that is fraught with tension, and in which rank and power are imposed on people, is good for sex writing. The main bit of research centred around the St. Albans raid, a real event in 1864, when a gang of convicts and deserters rallied under the confederate flag to lead raids over the Canadian border into Vermont, to steal money for the confederate treasury. I loved the idea of a rag-tag private army of social outcasts, so I made that the central episode of the book

KW: Were there any surprises in your research? Did you find any record of interracial, same-sex couples?

JL: There is some suggestion that there was homosexual behaviour in the military camps on both sides. And generally, it was a time of social decadence, particularly in cities like Richmond. There are some great little incidents (like Jefferson Davis allegedly being captured in drag) that add to the atmosphere. And one of the biggest surprises was that black soldiers actually did fight for the Confederates towards the end of the war. I didn’t find any record of interracial same-sex couples but obviously these things were happening. I thought it would be a neat way of racking up the tensions and providing an explosive finale.

KW: You do a wonderful job of writing compelling literary fiction with steamy sex scenes. Which is easier to write - the book's setting or the sex?

JL: The sex can be difficult because it’s so difficult to type with one hand. I started writing these books with only one thing in mind: to get the reader off. The plot and the setting were really just a vehicle to get the reader from one sexual situation to the next. But it soon became apparent that readers were enjoying the stories and the non-sexual narrative as much as the sex scenes, so I try to make sure that all the elements work well together. The key is to keep my tongue firmly in my cheek and never take any of it too seriously. Any attempt to write about sex in a serious or literary way is absolutely doomed. If you keep it light and funny you can make it much, much dirtier.

KW: Your previous Cleis book, The Back Passage, uses a lot of conventions from cozy mysteries but also upends them with flamboyant, camp characters. Is there an Agatha Christie character that you wish was gay?

JL: The Back Passage was directly inspired by Gosford Park, the Robert Altman movie, which had a lot of gay undercurrents, and by a British reality TV show about life in Edwardian country houses, which was full of incredibly sexy footmen and bootboys. But in a more general way, it was an act of homage to Agatha Christie, who is one of my all-time favourite writers. I think her whole fictional world is very queer, although she’d have hated the suggestion. Poirot is a right old queen, and Miss Marple is an extremely camp old lady. I love the idea of taking that surface of English manners and infesting it with sex. I don’t really want any of Agatha’s characters to be gay, because I wouldn’t want to interfere with perfection, but this is my version of her work, with a sexually insatiable detective hero instead of a fussy old Belgian or a nosy old lady.

KW: What's next?

JL: I’m bringing back Mitch Mitchell, the detective hero of The Back Passage, for another adventure, this time set largely on a train from Edinburgh to London. It’s a reworking of all those great train stories like Murder on the Orient Express, The Mystery of the Blue Train, Strangers on a Train and so on. After that, I may turn my attention to the ancient world. Rome, the TV series, is due for a massive queering.

KW: What is your favorite pick-up line?

JL: “It’s time for your rest now, Mr Lear.”