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Barr, James (James Fugaté) (1922-1995)  
 
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James Fugaté published the novel Quatrefoil and other works under the pseudonym James Barr, an alias he also used in his work as an activist in the movement of the 1950s.

Fugaté was born on February 13, 1922 in an oilfield boomtown in either Texas or Oklahoma. His mother died of childbed fever; he never knew his father.

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Fugaté's illegitimate birth haunted him as a child, but his adoptive parents, who had money from wheat and oil in Kansas, gave him a good education. His best-known work, the novel Quatrefoil (1950), is based on his experience in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but a central character is patterned after a fraternity brother with whom Fugaté had sex as a university student. (He appears to have been a student either at the University of Kansas or the University of Oklahoma.)

Early in 1942 Fugaté enlisted in the U.S. Navy and sailed from San Francisco for Guadalcanal, but on returning to the United States, he went through Officers Training in Chicago. After the war, he returned to the university in 1946 to study professional writing, but after three semesters he left for New York City, where he earned money by writing advertising copy for television and worked on Quatrefoil, which was published in 1950 by Greenberg, a somewhat marginal publishing house that was attempting to reach a gay readership at a time when homosexuals were feeling especially embattled by Cold War hysteria and McCarthyism.

In 1977, evaluating the novel from a gay liberation perspective, literary critic Roger Austen described Quatrefoil as follows: "James Barr's Quatrefoil is one of the most intelligently written of American gay novels, with the author's lofty intellectualism appearing somewhat of a mixed blessing as the novel is reread today. The two main characters are Phillip Froelich and Tim Danelaw, naval officers who meet in Seattle in 1946, fall in love, and finally become lovers. Both are wealthy, erudite, civilized: they can speak in French or German, discuss art and philosophy with epigrammatical grace, and they value themselves as vastly superior to the average homosexual, who is always sliding 'further toward degeneracy.'"

Despite the novel's disdain for average homosexuals, Austen concludes that "Its two thoughtful, masculine heroes provided a corrective to the many mindless, pathetic or flighty gay characters of the forties. Quatrefoil is one of the earliest novels that could have produced a glow of gay pride."

Indeed, homosexuals--especially those who were members of the emerging homophile movement--welcomed Quatrefoil as a sympathetic portrayal of same-sex love, though the death of one of the lovers in an auto accident limits the development of the relationship.

Gay readers also welcomed--though to a lesser degree--Fugaté's second book, the collection of short stories Derricks (1951), which, Austen noted, "is full of stories about finding down-to-earth men to love in the Midwest."

In 1951 Fugaté went to Los Angeles with the intention of writing for the movies, but early in 1952 he volunteered to return to active duty as a reserve officer in the Navy and was sent to a base in Alaska. While reviewing his Top Secret clearance, the Office of Naval Intelligence learned that he was the author of Quatrefoil. This led to an eight-month interrogation that resulted in a General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions.

That persecution politicized Fugaté. He no longer saw homosexuality as his personal problem, which he had been fighting by trying to be "normal," but as a social condition that merited understanding and acceptance by the society as a whole. Consequently, he became active in the homophile movement.

Fugaté was in contact with One Magazine (Los Angeles) in its first year of publication in 1953 and wrote for it the short story "Death in a Royal Family." It tells how a bitchy "queen" tries to have a young man arrested as a thief by taking an overdose of what he pretends is strychnine and giving him a valuable ring to take as a "dying gift" to a friend. After calling the police to report the "theft" he discovers too late that the pretended strychnine was the real substance. The queen's "friend" had told the plot to the young man, who made the substitution--and delivered the ring to him. Fugaté ends the story wondering whether those two would live happily ever after. The story was elaborated into a play by the Swiss gay group that published the gay magazine Der Kreis and presented by them in Zurich in 1956.

In the winter of 1953-54, Fugaté returned to his family in Kansas and worked as an oilfield roustabout, but he continued his contributions to One Magazine and Der Kreis, which began to publish contributions in English in 1952. He also appeared in the first issue of Mattachine Review in 1955 with an article, "Facing Friends in a Small Town," in which he described his experiences living as a known homosexual in a small Kansas town.

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