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Picano, Felice (b. 1944)  
 
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Felice Picano is a highly prolific author in a number of different genres, including novels, stories, memoirs, poems, plays, essays, and reviews. He is perhaps best known for his commercially successful gay thriller The Lure, as well as Like People in History, his award-winning fictional account of gay life in postwar America, and his multi-volume memoirs, Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children; Men Who Loved Me; A House on the Ocean, a House on the Bay; and Art and Sex in Greenwich Village.

Picano is also a pioneer in gay publishing, having founded two publishing companies: the SeaHorse Press in 1977, one of the first gay publishing houses in the United States, and, in 1981, Gay Presses of New York.

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Additionally, Picano was a founding member of the Violet Quill, the now legendary group of gay writers, which included Andrew Holleran and Edmund White, who met informally over the course of a year and a half beginning in 1980, and whose works collectively helped create the post-Stonewall renaissance of American gay male writing.

Biography and Early Career

Felice Picano was born on February 22, 1944, in New York City. He attended Queens College of the City University of New York, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964.

Upon graduating, Picano found employment as a social worker for the New York City Department of Welfare, a job he held until 1966. He then left the United States and moved to Europe for an extended stay. Upon his return to the U.S., Picano worked in various capacities for several New York City bookshops, first as an assistant manager for Doubleday Bookstore, from 1969 to 1970, and then, from 1972 to 1974, as an assistant manager and buyer for Rizzoli's Bookstore.

In 1977, Picano launched SeaHorse Press, New York's first gay publishing house (and, according to Picano, "the second gay publishing company in the world," after Gay Sunshine Press, in San Francisco). As he has explained, "quite clearly . . . there was a great big gay and lesbian community out there and it was not remotely being served by publishers."

Picano then joined forces in 1981 with two other gay publishers, Larry Mitchell and Terry Helbing, to form Gay Presses of New York.

Both publishing houses remained in operation until 1995, when Picano reluctantly closed them, due in part to the deteriorating health from AIDS of both Mitchell and Helbing.

Through his publishing ventures, including as editor of the groundbreaking A True Likeness: Lesbian and Gay Writing Today (1980), one of the first anthologies of its kind, Picano introduced to the public some of the most significant gay poetry, plays, and fiction of the post-Stonewall era, by such respected glbtq writers as Alan Bowne, Jane Chambers, Dennis Cooper, Harvey Fierstein, Robert Glück, Brad Gooch, and Doric Wilson.

Additionally, from 1980 to 1983, Picano was Book Editor for the influential gay newspaper, New York Native.

Novels by Felice Picano

Picano's first three novels--Smart as the Devil (1975), a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, which recognizes distinguished first books of fiction, Eyes (1975), and The Mesmerist (1977)--were popular, best-selling psychological thrillers with no overt gay content.

Although he had earned a wide, mainstream readership, Picano next turned his attention to writing about explicitly gay subjects. This was a particularly precarious endeavor for Picano since his books had been marketed to a general audience and he risked losing the readership he had so carefully cultivated.

In 1979, he published his fourth novel, the gay mystery thriller The Lure. It was both critically commended and commercially successful. The story focuses on Noel Cummings, a young sociology professor, who is recruited by the New York police to join an undercover operation as a "juicy piece of bait" to help identify a serial killer who is targeting gay men.

Picano followed that work with the comic novella An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede (1981) and the novel Late in the Season (1981), about an unexpected relationship that develops between a gay composer in his late thirties and an eighteen-year-old girl. Neither book was as successful as his earlier efforts.

The late 1980s found Picano returning to non-gay fiction with House of Cards (1984), and the thriller genre with To the Seventh Power (1989), another mainstream bestseller.

In 1995, Picano published Like People in History, which he called a "gay American epic." (The book's title was borrowed from an unpublished novel by Edmund White, written years earlier.) Picano's novel traces the story of two gay men, Roger Sansarc and his more flamboyant cousin Alistair Dodge, from their first meeting in 1954 until Alistair's death in 1991.

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