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Interview with Tyler Stoddard Smith, author of Whore Stories

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Tell us about Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession

Well, every era of human civilization has had at least three things in common: water, food, and prostitution. There are already so many books on water and food, so I thought I’d take a stab at prostitution. In Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession, I turn a lens on some of history’s most famous and infamous sex-workers. From ancient China to Al Pacino, no era is spared its dirty laundry. Some noted sex-workers include: Calamity Jane, James Lipton (of Behind the Actor’s Studio infamy) Maya Angelou, Bob Dylan, Tiresias of Ancient Greece, the Empress Theodora, and Steve McQueen, just to name a few. So, hopefully there’s something for everyone. We even take a journey to find the whereabouts of Rasputin’s penis, so reading Whore Stories is, I hope, an “active” endeavour. The book is a series of short (usually one-or two-page) biographies, topically rather than chronologically organized, punctuated by what I hope are compelling and factual sidebars that span about three thousand years of human experience.

Hold up one second. Did you just say Maya Angelou was a prostitute?!
She was both a prostitute and a pimp, or madam, as it were. It’s documented in both her memoirs. Here’s an excerpt  her 1974 memoir, Gather Together in My Name, Ms. Angelou reflects:

I sat thinking about the spent day. The faces, bodies and smells of the tricks made an unending paisley pattern in my mind. Except for the Tamiroffish first customer, the others had no individual characteristics. The strong Lysol washing water stung my eyes and a film of vapor coated my adenoids. I had expected the loud screams of total orgasmic release and felt terribly inadequate when the men had finished with grunts and yanked up their pants without thanks.

I found myself so struck by her honesty and the poetry of her remembrances, heartbreaking as they often are. Later in her life, she works as a madam for two lesbian prostitutes. It’s astonishing, the trajectory of a life. Let me also say that I adore Maya Angelou, along with many of my other subjects. Like Steve McQueen. Actually, by all accounts, McQueen was kind of a jerk, but he’s great in Bullitt, so for some reason I forgive.

So he was a prostitute too?
McQueen, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise, was in many accounts a prostitute, but the real kicker was his performances in a Havana stage show that offered depths of depravity heretofore unimagined by this author. I can’t give away all the surprises.

Fair enough. So what genre is this book?
Well, Whore Stories is marketed as history, but it’s more a blend of humour and history. Humstory, I suppose. But then bookstores would have to make new signs, so it’s hovering somewhere in the non-fiction ether, preposterous as some of these tales are.  I tried to take a kind of Eminent Victorians approach to the project; funny and informative little silhouettes of society and its more lurid figures. And by lurid figures, I’m not necessarily referring to the prostitutes. It’s their customers who have been, historically, the really deviant freaks.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?
Hopefully anybody who enjoys a good laugh will enjoy Whore Stories. Trivia and history buffs. Gossipmongers. Also sex fiends, the constipated and bibliophilic; not the faint of heart; kids from 1-92 and, finally, the intelligentsia, only because that’s a fun and ridiculous phrase to write.

Complete this sentence for us: If you like____________, you’ll love Whore Stories
Books, pictures of skeletons, or losing weight.

What are your favourite stories from the book?
I should mention that Whore Stories also includes madams, pimps and other entrepreneurs of the sex trade. But I don’t think I have a favourite.  Steve McQueen blew my mind. However, I will say that I’ve really been getting into The Whore of Babylon lately. Tremendous passion, huge forehead, good staying power and possibly sporting horns waaay before body mods became all the rage. She’s transcendent, and also maybe part dude.

What fact about prostitution would surprise people the most?
The fact that if they are hanging out in a room of four people, one of them has either visited a prostitute, or has actually worked as one at some time. It could be everyone in the room! Unless, of course, one finds oneself in a particularly chaste room. It’s like the prisoners dilemma, with leather and sensual oils.

Why did you have to write this book? And how much research did you have to do?
My agent suggested it. I’ve recreated–to the extent my memory will allow–the conversation I had about a year and a half ago with him. Here’s an excerpt:

TSS: So I’ve invented a car wash where you rent a limo with your manfriend or ladyfriend and it’s in a big limo—plenty of room. and palliative goo. It’ll be cheap. Good tunes, too.
JS: A car-wash whorehouse?
TSS: A drive-thru love station with rain.
JS: Hey, that’s something—you should write something about whores.
And thus, I got to work.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My writing has been featured in: UTNE Reader,  McSweeney’s,  Esquire, The Best American Fantasy, The Science Creative Quarterly and The Morning News, among others. I’m also a contributor at The Nervous Breakdown and an associate editor of the online humor site, The Big Jewel. Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World’s Oldest Profession was published in July 2012 by Adams Media and named to Kirkus Review’s “Best of 2012.”

I enjoy long walks on the beach, which is problematic, because I live in the hills. I have three cats, two outstanding warrants and one signed poster of Clint Eastwood from Pale Rider, before he went crazy and started talking to chairs.

Have you got a blog or website  where readers can keep up with your work? How can we follow you on Facebook and / or Twitter?
Website: www.stoddardsmith.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tylerstoddardsmith
Twitter: @Tyler_Stoddard

Just no Spam please!

Where can we buy Whore Stories?
I’m hoping it’s at everyone’s local bookseller. However, for online convenience, there’s the following links:

Amazon ( US, UK). Barnes and Noble. Book People.

What’s next?
The dreaded novel. And finding an agent.

Just before you go, we’ve got to ask: what’s the story with Rasputin’s penis?
As for Rasputin, his penis has a long, storied history. After his gruesome death, his member turned up in Paris around 1920. In the 1970s, the penis found its way to a California antique dealer, and it popped up again in London during the 90s, where an astute observer noticed that the artifact was not a penis at all, but a dried up cucumber. Then, in 2004,  the Museum of Erotica in St. Petersburg, unveiled “The Mad Monk’s” nearly foot long dong (11.8 inches) in all its original glory!

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  1. Pingback: tyler stoddard smith – Interview at Indie Author Land

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