John Colleton – The Erotic Pen-Name of Robert Walter Marks
‘I must apologise for my writing. I am prolix; I write too much. When I write, as when I talk to Cloris about her or my wayfarings, I dwell on detail – because only detail distinguishes the fine distinctions of place and feeling, gives uniqueness to the moment. And for such reasons, I tell myself, I am often indiscreet, ungallant, indelicate. A writer thrives, I maintain, on the revelation of ideas and acts which more fearful citizens would keep hidden; or would express or perform only on some Walpurgis night, when witches ride their broomsticks and chaos is king.’
John Colleton, ‘The Seduction of Marianna’, 1980.
Robert W Marks, who died in 1993, may currently be best remembered in the field of literature for his book ‘The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller’ (Doubleday, December 1973), but his more substantial output as a writer of stylish erotic novels surely deserves greater recognition than it is generally given. His New York Times obituary ( refers somewhat coyly to these novels as ‘historical romances’ (presumably out of respect for his surviving wife, Alice), but it also tells us that he wrote for the magazines Esquire and Coronet, and that he worked in New York for more than forty years.
The best sources of information on Marks himself, particularly regarding his incarnation as an erotic writer, seem to be those provided by Gaétan Brulotte and John Phillips, in the ‘Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature’, and the piece in his New York Times obituary. Marks’ papers are held as a special collection at the College of Charleston.
Robert Marks was born in Charleston, in 1907, and he died there, aged 85, after a long and successful career as a journalist and wide-ranging writer. He clearly had a sharp intellect that encompassed many areas of knowledge, including science, history and geography. It is thus quite natural that he should adopt the name John Colleton for his pen-name for the writing of material that was not completely acceptable in the politest, most decorous layers of society. His affection for the area of his birth, around Charleston, South Carolina, would have made him keenly aware of a previous holder of this name, Sir John Colleton (1608-1666), who gave his name to Colleton County, South Carolina. Several of his novels are extensively set around that area, particularly in Charleston itself.
Sir John Colleton (1608-1666) was awarded his Baronetcy by Charles II after the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, in gratitude for his efforts fighting for Charles I during the English Civil War. Charles II additionally recognised his contribution by awarding him lands in Carolina and making him one of the seven ‘Lords Proprietors’ of the colony. Colleton is credited with introducing the magnolia from South Carolina to Britain, and this is commemorated to this day in the area of his origin, around Exeter, Devon, UK.
It is interesting that Marks waited until his seventh decade before embarking on his alternative career in erotic literature, although it is true that the seventies were characterised by a new air of freedom in this genre. The rapid appearance of his fourteen erotic novels, between 1971 and 1986, suggests (at least) that they could well have spent a long time developing in his mind, and it is even quite possible that they had lain in manuscript form for years, even decades, before he felt able to initiate their publication. It is perhaps unlikely that the truth of this will emerge at this stage, but the speculation that reaching retirement age may have encouraged him to publish seems quite reasonable.
By the time the novels started appearing, Marks had acquired a substantial reputation that covered many quite different, more ‘respectable’ fields (Slade, 2006). This would perhaps explain why he felt the need for a pseudonym in his new venture. Joseph Slade III, in Brulotte and Phillips’ magnificent ‘Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature’ (2006) provides an admirable brief survey of Marks and his works, and suggests an element of Marks’ autobiography in the Colleton novels. Certainly the books have the air of factual accounts of their narrators’ travels and adventures, however poetically and erotically these accounts are presented.
It is known that Marks met many interesting people in the course of his journalism. In his descriptions of the movie industry outside Hollywood he introduces real characters into the narrative, such as Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, along with clearly fictitious characters, perhaps indicating that the latter may be based on his meetings with real people in the industry.
With the single exception of ‘Ring Twice to Enter’ (1980), the novels are all loosely connected, via their cross-referencing and their joint scenarios of movie-making and love-making, and they all flow quite easily with an erotic sense of indolence, concupiscence and material luxury, accompanied by a gentle undercurrent of intellectual humour. They often have the air of loving travelogues, particularly when the action moves to Italy, and their subtle erudition makes a delightful complement to the delicate sexuality of the prose, which captures the implicit interactions and explicit couplings of the protagonists. His erotic scenes take their time, slowly building the reader’s interest before acts of coupling take place (or not, indeed), invariably with the sultry languor that characterises Colleton’s style.
To an important extent, Colleton’s world represents its epoch, a time of burgeoning sexual and political freedom, finally settling down from the impetuous 1960s into the more aware, post-Vietnam 1970s. Sex is an area of human activity that is becoming an uncomplicated, casual part of existence at that time, and at least among the affluent people he describes, sexual equality is well advanced. Colleton’s principal male actor, Bill, probably demonstrates some confluence of Marks’ own experiences with his wish-fulfilling fantasies whose true composition we will never really know. He therefore fits well into the headily erectile atmosphere that was finding new explicitness in the increasingly liberal seventies.
One of the characteristics that distinguishes these novels from the erotica that had begun to emerge from Grove Press at that time, and earlier, from imprints such as Luxor, Canova and Brandon House is the open-hearted sensitivity of the writing, detailing the emotional and intellectual sides of erotic encounters in addition to the expected arousing details. The earlier publications were principally haphazard regurgitations of material from the even move haphazard Victorian/Edwardian era, with its repetitions and doubtful assemblages, cloaked under deliberately confusing anonymity. Only a few writers, such as Henry Miller, seemed to command enough gravitas to be published, and even with Miller, the fact that the racy sections are well concealed in somewhat rambling narrative may have played a role here.
The New English Library imprint was playing its part, but without the boldness that is evidenced here. Apart from the very explicit accounts of his characters’ encounters, Colleton frequently describes the predominantly male concerns of erectile failure and of maintaining self-image in the face of women who enjoy sex and consequently have a high level of expectation. He appears sensitive, too, to the erotic motivation of his female partners, with its subtle interplay of dominance and submission, even though there is little material here equivalent to the open admission of the erotic joys of wilfully painful submission that are in full flood in our twenty-first century literary erotica. Yet another vulnerability in Colleton is his oft-repeated perception that his literary muse is failing; this appears as a metaphor in his fear of sexual inadequacy. There is, however, no support for the suggestion that such strains are particularly autobiographical
The Distinguishing Features of the Novels
Fourteen of Colleton’s fifteen erotic novels centre on a triangle of erotically inter-twined main characters: the picaresque Beauregard (Bill) Benton, a novelist from Georgia, Amy Dellmore, a prominent social figure in Charleston, and the very close friend of both, the art film director Cloris, Lady Cholmondeley, originally from North Carolina before her marriage of convenience. Lord Cholmondeley’s erotic tastes, as described, are not strongly directed towards females. Amy Dellmore’s nephew, John Dellmore, who also is an author, figures prominently in the books, actually beginning the sequence of novels, with an account of an affaire with his aunt which Bill Benton later draws upon. Amy has a predilection for being whipped, a trait carried on by her daughter, Alicia, whom John eventually marries, despite his disinterest in the family quirk. However, this flagellatory frisson seems not to be an over-riding component of either John or Bill’s sexuality.
To the erotic triangle of Bill, Cloris and Amy, Colleton adds an extended range of other erotically inclined females, introduced piecemeal into the novel sequence. Some of these women are procured for Bill by Cloris and some are accidentally acquired by Bill in his concupiscent journey through life. Many of these women remain within the narrative from book to book, even if they are only accorded occasional mentions, temporarily incidental to the main flow of the narrative. Colleton uses these introductions of fresh partners inventively, and they act as a device for avoiding mere repetition in the series of novels, repetition being perhaps the biggest pitfall in erotic literature. It goes without saying, perhaps, that the other characteristic of the erotic genre – that the women who do appear are universally hot-blooded and not difficult to arouse, while being very susceptible to prolonged liaisons with the principal characters, both male and female. One of the novels’ distinguishing features, however, is their ability to access layers of the promiscuously active male’s thoughts and feeling that normally lie hidden in erotic literature. Hints are often given of his underlying sadness; something deeper than post-coital physiology that might tempt the attentions of a psychologist.
The erotic landscape of Colleton’s novels reasonably reflects the male-oriented nature of the seventies paperback market, predominantly heterosexual, but with a clear stance on the equality of the sexes, and with more than a routine acceptance of all female liaisons. This latter characteristic matches well with what is perhaps the predominant male fantasy, in that male involvement in female liaisons is rarely very distant. Male homosexuality is included, but only in the form of Lord Cholmondeley, with his fondness for very youthful males. It has already been remarked that the other highly prominent male fantasy, of female submission to erotic flagellation, is not a major feature of the major male characters, although Amy’s submission to the elusive Miss Wescott is mentioned in several later novels. Amy also eventually persuades Bill to render her the same service. Quite late in the sequence (‘The Seduction of Marianna’), character Marianna, a very rich Greek heiress, is an enthusiastic receiver of the erotic whip, succumbing to both Melissa and Bill. It should perhaps be remarked here that, with Colleton, his written scenes of seductions rarely prove to be what they seem, and often the description of seductive activity as such is intended to mislead.
Much of the action in the novels takes place in South Carolina, particularly Charleston, although the author’s love of travel in Europe provides a constantly changing backdrop that covers much of Italy (including Sicily) and parts of Spain and southern Germany as well as London, England. Colleton’s lyrical style furnishes the imagination, with considerable depth, in the beauty of these places.
As the sequence develops, so does the way the protagonists slowly evolve a distinctive mode of movie making, in some ways akin to the creation of erotic literature, in that it begins with an erotic impulse: a seduction, a confluence of desire, an exploration of the pain/pleasure boundary, even a single caress. From such germinal beginnings a scenario forms that inevitably evolves into a plot, a story, and with it, a philosophy.
The autobiographical feeling of the books is subtly strengthened by the habit of the writer character, Bill Benton, referring frequently to his writing of novels that are essentially the novels we are reading in Colleton’s sequence. This practice contributes a strange atmosphere, somewhat akin to the time-traveller’s paradox in which the time traveller meets a version of himself locked into a differing epoch. This endearing illusion is wholly consistent with the introspective nature of the narrative.
As might perhaps be expected from the inter-weaving of characters between the books, there are considerable advantages to be gained from approaching them in sequence, even though this is by no means essential. Colleton constantly refers, sometimes with little explanation, to things that have happened in earlier books, but not in a way that replaces the actual knowledge of the events that a sequential reader would have derived. Reading the books in sequence does, therefore, greatly enhance the understanding, and therefore the enjoyment.
Reading the books in the sequence, the reader observes a clear pattern, in which each novel complements these main protagonists in the introduction of a number of additional characters, and each such character is presented in considerable depth, with a high degree of sensitivity to the progress of the overall development. The books are also replete with an interweaving of interesting minor characters, many of them touchingly comical. The closeness of the characterisations given in the books seems to add significant reinforcement to the suggestion that they are strongly based on the author’s personal experiences. Occasionally, Colleton expounds his thoughts on the politics of the era, particularly regarding issues of equality between women and men, not least in sexual freedoms.-
The Design of the Published Works
The books are in paperback format, and all but the last one of the sequence (‘Interjecting Valerie’) are distinguished in their design by particularly fine cover images, reproduced on both front and back covers. These images show naked or nearly naked young ladies, tastefully posed and very much representing the indolent, seductive spirit of the novels. One curiosity of this seemingly unique style is the use of the front cover for the unadorned image, and the relegation of the title matter, almost as informative decoration, to the back cover. Given the air of liberation in the publishing of racy fiction that was beginning in this period, this ploy may perhaps be seen as cleverly facilitating the mass marketing of the books, making them appear distinctive in small bookstall displays. The illustrations that are given here (below) are thus mostly from the back covers, to aid the process of identification.
This final novel of the sequence, ‘Interjecting Valerie’, abandons the distinctive practice of using explicitly erotic artwork for the cover. Its cover design falls into line with other publishers of erotic paperbacks such as Grove Press, using an abstract design that implicitly offers an incomplete soft-focus depiction of a bejewelled woman. There had been an earlier, less fundamental change, with ‘The Naked Countess of Liechtenstein’, where the titling was moved, conventionally, to the front cover, but this relatively minor change was a one-off, the original practice being re-established with subsequent books.
The titles of the novels are usually presented along with brief descriptions; for example, that for ‘The Seduction of Marianna’ indicates that it is ‘A delectably spicy novel of nimble nymphs and carnal capers’. A further break with tradition in ‘Interjecting Valerie’ is that it uses, in addition, a more conventional subtitle – ‘Legs Across the Sea’.
One can only speculate on the reasons for these changes. Perhaps such changes occur routinely in this branch of publishing. Perhaps the popularity of Colleton’s style had waned over the fifteen years that spanned the publication of the books, necessitating more eye-catching designs. Perhaps changes in the censorship environment played a part. Perhaps the corporate perception of the books in the context of Signet’s management and marketing strategy are responsible. Robert Marks lived for seven years after the publication of ‘Interjecting Valerie’, the final novel, in the year in which he became 79. By then, the fairly hectic pace of publication (three novels appeared in 1976) had significantly slackened. The possibility that the well had run dry must be considered, even if the issues of age and health played no part.
The Books – An Introduction
The following notes have been arranged in the order of publication, to aid the non-methodical reader as well as to provide a guide to the subject matter contained in each. A related intention is to indicate how Colleton’s principal characters develop their interactions with each other in the over-arching narrative.
- ‘The Trembling of a Leaf’. New York. Pocket Books, 1971
In this first book of the sequence, narrated by Amy’s nephew, and set in Charleston, John discovers, as a student, the erotic nature and potential of his aunt. She requests his presence at a meeting with her friend Miss Isabelle Wescott, during which she is publicly undressed and whipped. Her seduction of John, soon follows, as does a second whipping in which he is allowed greater involvement. He is subsequently enmeshed quickly in his aunt’s intrigues, which involve a painter, Larrine Lamboll and the scarcely chaste nun, Sister Theresa. The book ends with John whipping Alicia with his belt, at her request, as his relationship with her mother cools. He eventually marries Alicia. Perhaps the book doesn’t carry quite the erotic charge of its successors, and this may indicate a certain nervousness regarding the reception expected for the book, but it is certainly a very stimulating start.
- ‘The Enjoyment of Amy’. New York. Pocket Books, 1973
This is the second book of Colleton’s erotic sequence, set in South Carolina, and it continues the tale of John Dellmore, by now married to Amy’s daughter Alicia, who is involved in intrigues with Miss Wescott and Larrine. Following the example of her mother, Alicia is undressed and publicly whipped in Isabelle Wescott’s house. John also takes a belt to his wife, at her request, and also manages to continue his liaison with Amy, at his wife’s request. Whipping becomes a regular feature of the erotic requirements of both Amy and Alicia, and John is eventually persuaded to accommodate Amy in this. This story includes the making of a risqué movie featuring Amy naked, although the project ultimately fails.
- ‘The Pleasures of Cloris’. New York. New American Library, 1974
Here in the third book of the sequence we have Bill Benton’s account of his first meeting with Cloris, in New York, where he is recently arrived from his native Georgia. Their erotic liaison at that meeting includes one of Bill’s female neighbours, Betty, and Cloris’ taste for multiple partner interactions quickly emerges. The Cloris relationship then ends until, after a substantial break, they meet again, in Italy. There they casually seduce a hotel employee, Caterina, and start preparations for a new movie, starring Caterina and her brother in a supposed (if not real) incestuous relationship. Cloris’ husband, Lord Cholmondeley enters the picture, aggrieved at his cuckolding, and the story then becomes a game of hide-and-seek, one in which a relatively minor character comes to a sticky end. In the meantime, we encounter Cloris’ daughter Nancy as another of Bill’s conquests.
- ‘Replenishing Jennifer’. New York. New American Library, 1975
This fourth episode takes up Bill Benton’s liaison with Cloris following the break of two years that was necessitated by her husband’s over-keen interest in their affaire. The pair meet by chance in London, and immediately fall into bed. It transpires that Cloris knows of the affaire Bill had with her daughter, Nancy (now married), in the interim period. Not for the first time, Bill and Cloris encounter a young serving woman, and enmesh her in their intrigues; Jennifer Digby is promised involvement in Cloris’ erotic movies, and is then undressed for love-making. Jennifer proves to have a titled father, and by the time Bill meets her next, at a party given at Lord Cholmondeley’s stately home, she is well established in the movie business. At the party Bill also meets Cloris’ movie-making friend Carnavaron, and some of the friends of ‘Cholly-Boy’, who are delightfully lampooned here. In Spain, where they are making a movie (loosely) based on ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’, complete with the suggestion of birchings, Caterina and Jennifer re-appear for some hectic passion, and all become involved in a hectic game of erotic cat-and-mouse that occasionally dissolves into farce. Bill retires to Amalfi, with Jennifer, to continue writing, and their relationship develops, in the context of the movie-making. [Note: The character here called ‘Carnavaron’ is for some reason eventually – in ‘Interjecting Valerie’ – called ‘Carnarvon’, a name that seems more credible to British eyes.
- ‘Up in Mamie’s Diary’. New York. New Ame-rican Library, 1975
Once again narrated by Bill, this story – the fifth in the connected sequence – is based around the appearance of a new movie actress character, Mamie Smith. Mamie is English, and she has a submissive Italian maid who also proves to be a willingly erotic partner. Bill acquires Mamie’s diary, an intimate account of her erotic life, at a time when he and Cloris are inveigling her into participation in a substantially nude version of ‘Oedipus’, and (as the book’s title indicates) the diary plays a key part in the story. The Countess Borromini (also known as Marianna) is introduced, and there is much intrigue set in the picturesque surroundings of the Italian Lakes. The young Etonian Charles, earlier involved in the ‘Tom Brown’ movie, and rapidly gaining ‘stature’ as a young man, also reappears; for action, and for Mamie’s personal delectation.
- ‘Between Cloris and Amy’. New York. New American Library, 1976
This sixth book returns the scene of the action to Charleston, and (perhaps inevitably, therefore) brings together Amy, who figured prominently in the first book of the sequence, with the characters who subsequently dominated its overall development: Bill Benton and Cloris, Lady Cholmondeley. Cloris effects the introduction, although Bill has acquired prior knowledge of Amy from her nephew John Dellmore, an author who has written of his aunt’s intrigues, and also from the mutual friend Larrine Lamboll. Indeed, the unseen presence of John is recurrent in the book. Amy arranges a nude photo-shoot with Chris, a female acquaintance, and has an interlude that includes the lady’s son Randolph, before initiating a brief separation from Bill. This leads to Bill and Amy leaving precipitately for Italy, where Amy and Cloris get together enthusiastically in the milieu of Cloris’ movie-making circle. Cloris indulges Amy’s taste for the whip in a detailed scene that takes place on Countess Borromini’s estate, and in the subsequent pairing, Bill ends up in bed with the Countess. Cloris, Amy and Bill leave on a lust-filled journey to plan, and eventually to shoot, Cloris’ next movie, ‘Monna Vanna’, in Mantua.
- ‘The Naked Countess of Liechtenstein’. New York. Pocket Books, 1976
This seventh part of the sequence of novels finds Bill Benton apart from Cloris and Amy in Sicily, after becoming sexually exhausted during the making of ‘Monna Vanna’ in Mantua. The mysteries, replete with a feint air of menace, begin immediately, with the appearance of Bianca/Carlotta, who insists on giving herself to him, and Aimée, the eponymous naked Countess, soon appears, with similarly forthright intentions. Her intentions are made flesh on a trip across Sicily to meet her apparently mafia-connected lover, and she proves to be an enthusiastic, even voyeuristic partner with whom Bill feels able to exchange confidences about his other lovers, as well as bodily fluids. A rough-hewn character called Vulpe B, encountered earlier, appears as facilitator in Bill’s quest for Aimée; the mysterious Signora Gervasi, a seer, is also consulted, and we are introduced to a powerful revolutionary lady called La Spagnola. When Bill and Cloris part, the tide of menace Bill finds in Sicily rises with such urgency that he is obliged to depart. Refreshed, he once again takes up with Cloris, whose movie is nearing completion. They consider a role for Aimée in the next movie, a version of ‘Lysistrata’, and the Sicilian connection thereby persists. When Aimée reappears for Bill, it is at a private showing of ‘Monna Vanna’ in her Liechtenstein castle, with Cloris present. The novel concludes with Bill visiting Amy, who has retreated to Charleston, and renewing their affection as a prelude to her involvement with Cloris and Aimée in the new movie. The book includes Colleton’s musings on the parallels developing between the liberation of women and more general changes in the political scene.
- ‘On Or About The First Day In June’. New York. New American Library, 1976
The eighth instalment of the sequence takes up the tale from when Bill returns to Charleston in order to re-establish contact with Amy after ‘Monna Vanna’, the Cloris movie in which she had successfully carried off a nude role. This episode concluded the previous novel. Amy soon absents herself briefly for a mysterious visit, as a result of which (Bill observes) red whip marks appears on her rear. By then, Bill has been introduced to two ingenuously teenage twin sisters, Elza and June Poltergrue, both keen to further their erotic education. June, of course, is part of the enigma that is the book’s title; this title might be considered rather unusual, lacking the reader’s realisation of the duplicity of the word ‘In’. True to the form we saw in the earlier books, Bill needs little encouragement to act as their mentor, and in Amy’s convenient and compliant absence he quickly involves them in a photographic project which involves their posing naked at public sites around Charleston. Such activities, however much they are approved by the girls’ parents, are nevertheless relegated to their short breaks from Bill’s expert tutelage, and the project eventually comes to nought. After some time spent this way, Amy invites Bill to rejoin her, firstly in New York and then in a return to Italy, where they rejoin Cloris. The pace of the book is then transformed to the one Colleton uses for the practice of movie-making, in which an initial impulse towards seduction, in this case involving a particularly well-endowed young male athlete, slowly engenders a plot. Bill’s ‘writer’s block’ on this specific plot is solved by Cloris procuring June for him, and the result is ‘The Seabrook Sextet’. The entourage removes to Charleston for the actual making of the film, and we sense a certain detachment on Bill’s part as the action becomes public. This continues as he watches subtle changes in the lives of his partners, and is only partially resolved at the end of the book.
- ‘Two Nymphs Named Melissa’. New York. New American Library, 1979
For the ninth novel, the scene first moves to New York, where Bill and Cloris experience the famous 1977 blackout at the Waldorf. There is a mystery erotic intervention by Carlotta, last seen in the seventh novel, and we find that Aimée is missing, in Sicily. Cloris is sending Bill to find her, with the material help of her husband Lord Cholmondeley. Cholly-Boy’s plentiful resources, including a private airplane are placed at his disposal, as is (considerately) one of his associates, the nubile and ever-obliging Melissa Panter-Downes. Bill and Melissa fly to Rome, enjoying themselves in the libidinous style of the novels, and while they are making their preparations they find that the enigmatic Signora Gervasi has died. Most of the other characters appear whom Bill met earlier in Sicily – including Vulpe B and La Spagnola – along with a second young lady answering to the name of Melissa, sent to assess Bill’s masculinity for La Spagnola. The novel becomes thoroughly immersed in deadly intrigue, steeped in drugs and Sicilian gang warfare, in which assignations are made and kept in richly appointed surroundings. Bill finds himself in a castle, essentially the captive of an American woman known as Sis. Here he must purchase a woman for amorous purposes, and when the woman turns out to be the sought-for Aimée herself there is a swift concatenation of miracles which results in the release of Aimée and Bill and their safe return to South Carolina.
- ‘The Seduction of Marianna’. New York. New American Library, 1980
This tenth story leads directly on from ‘Two Nymphs Named Melissa’, and describes the plans of Cloris, Cholly-Boy and Melissa Panter-Downes to involve a rich Greek heiress in their plans. This involves a pretence that Melissa and Bill are married, as a device designed to attract Marianna, and Bill has been given the title ‘Agent 69’ in these machinations. An early scene in the book is a mischievous baiting of Amy’s husband Jeff, a cuckold without an inkling of the cinematic frolics of his wife, in which she combines erotic nudity with her roles. Vulpe B re-appears at a party on Marianna’s yacht, as the father of the ‘other’ Melissa, Melissa II, as well as a major manipulator of intrigue, to explain, like Sparafucile to Rigoletto, the similarities and distinctions between his and Bill’s professions. Melissa I is taken away for a night with Marianna, and is rewarded with a very large diamond. We are introduced to the youthful Alexis, Marianna’s niece, who joins in the libidinous throng. In an attempt by terrorists to kidnap Marianna, Bill manages to shoot Melissa’s real husband before they escape. In gratitude Marianna, in a rare gesture heterosexual gesture, allows him access to her, preceded of course by an obligatory chastisement. A movie, ‘Cherie’, grows from this chaos, starring Amy (who also eventually allows Bill some fustigatory freedom with his belt), Marianna, and Alexis.
- ‘The Delights of Anna’. New York. New American Library, 1980
This eleventh instalment begins with Cloris’ suggestion that Bill recruit a well-known Italian film star, Anna Ricci, for their next movie venture, an erotic re-make of ‘Gone With the Wind’. The first explicit link in the novels between Bill’s muse and his need for the fresh stimulus of new partners appears here. The omnipresent Carnavaron and Vulpe turn up in Charleston to add their own inimitable styles of encouragement. Moving then with Vulpe to Madrid, Bill re-unites with Melissa I before moving on to Rome in his difficult recruitment of Anna. Although Anna continues to be elusive, he does manage to renew acquaintance with the revolutionary Spagnola, through whose influence Anna appears in his bed. She commands him to accompany her back to Madrid, persuaded that their night together was just a dream, and they become closer … until interrupted by her husband. Bill returns to Charleston and the advancement of the plot, also renewing his feelings for Amy. Anna’s arrival raises some conflicts, not least within Anna’s confused feelings about fidelity, and it is only with the help of a tranquilliser gun that Bill finally achieves a fully consensual liaison with her, with the aim of her acting naked. However, his relationship with Anna stays at the level of erotic denial, and during shooting of the film she returns to her husband. For this and other reasons, their version of ‘Gone with the Wind’ is abandoned, but not before Melissa I’s identity is revealed.
- ‘The Enticement of Cindy’. New York. New American Library, 1981
This twelfth book returns to the theme of the two novels that began the sequence, ‘The Trembling of a Leaf’ and ‘The Enjoyment of Amy’, and to the narrative of John Dellmore, Amy’s nephew (and son-in-law). For the first time we explore Amy’s feelings for John and John’s feelings about the variety of women who have come his way since he began his relationship with his aunt, including the envy he has for Bill Benton. Amy continues to profess her chaste love for John, while suggesting that he should have an affaire with Cloris, which he does, while working on a script for her latest movie, Rashomon. This movie has an autobiographical slant, and Amy’s part is to be played by Cindy O’Hare, an intellectual lightweight with state senatorial ambitions whom John Dellmore beds.
- ‘Barefoot on Jill’. New York. New American Library, 1983
We return in the thirteenth book of the sequence to the narrative function of Bill Benton, who we briefly left in the previous book to see things for a while from John Dellmore’s viewpoint. Bill has been reconciled with Amy, and is working on a new script about Lady Hamilton, involving Jill Philbrick, the Jill of the title. He manages to explore with Isabelle Wescott the awakening of Amy that John Dellmore witnessed, and when Melissa Panter-Downes turns up with Cloris’ husband to bring him deeper into the shady financial arrangements, he renews her knowledge of her body, too. Amy’s passion for being whipped by Isabelle is incorporated into the latest movie project, which potentially involved several disparate strains and which was richly sponsored in complex ways, including involvement of a Saudi Arabian prince to produce two versions, with or without Jill. The chief sponsor is assassinated during the shooting, and despite the necessary changes the film is still successful. Although the penultimate book in the Bill/Amy/Cloris sequence, it continues to make fun of the art movie industry and the characters and organisations that get bound up in it, often for scarcely credible reasons.
- ‘Interjecting Valerie’. New York. New American Library, 1986
‘Interjecting Valerie’ has a rather different air surrounding it compared with the earlier books, perhaps because Marks/Colleton was aware of the finality it represented. Again, Bill Benton is the narrator. Uniquely, the book makes many back-references to events and characters of the earlier members of the sequence, and it even refers directly to some of these novels, fulfilling a sort of ‘story so far’ function that is otherwise rarely provided in the sequence. Curiously, the book also refers to the only novel that appears under the authorship of Mark Ashley, which seems to have been another pseudonym of Colleton, ‘Ring Twice To Enter’. It is here attributed to the book’s narrator, Bill Benton. In this way, the book manages to tie up a few loose ends, although the plot is thereby made rather more meandering than usual. ‘Valerie’ here follows the general pattern of the series; she is a pulchritudinous actress to whom the screenwriter Bill Benton is directed for the twin purposes of her seduction and inveiglement into one of Cloris’ movies. In this book, the two ends are very closely related, in that the resulting movie is apparently an explicit exposition of events in Benton’s amorous exploits with the several women, including Melissa and the feminist politician Spagnola, who were introduced earlier. The movie is appropriately called ‘Interjecting Valerie’. As Colleton’s Cloris/Amy sequence has evolved, the machinations needed for Bill to achieve these two related ends can be observed to become increasingly protracted. Here, Benton’s prowess in bed is reinforced prosthetically, to the considerable delight and admiration of his partners. The rather hasty ending to the novel is a further indication that, for possibly personal reasons, the sequence of novels was coming to a close. The novel lives up, however, to the high standard of the rest of the sequence, and rounds it off reasonably well, despite the patchy ending.
- ‘Ring Twice To Enter’, by Mark Ashley, Popham Press, 1980
Of Colleton’s fifteen fictional books this one is the exception, in not being part of the sequence of the other erotic books written by Marks, and being under a different pseudonym, that of Mark Ashley. It appeared towards the conclusion of the Cloris/Amy sequence, although its 1980 publication date also saw the publication of two of the books that did form part of the sequence, which continued until 1986..