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July 10, 2011

Book Review: Death of a Transvestite by Ed Wood

The long awaited sequel to Killer in Drag is finally here. The immoral tale of Glen/Glenda is back and better than… other stuff. Death of a Transvestite begins in a prison cell where Glen is about to be lead down to the gallows and put death for his crimes. What, you ask? Didn’t Glen get away scot-free in the last novel? Luckily for us, the warden, priest and guards are in the mood for a story… Glen’s story.

Taking a page from Bram Stoker and Dracula, this novel is written completely in epistolary style. Instead of the usual narrative, Wood uses newspaper articles, Glen’s confession tapes and other pieces of media to move the story along.

The story is told to the Warden (who provides the narration). Curiously, there are only two things that Glen is worried about, and death isn’t one of them. Firstly, Glen is concerned about his testicles. He asks the warden, “Is it true, after I’m strapped in and hooded – the second before you pull the switch – one of your men will smash my testicles?” The warden assures Glen that testicle-smashing isn’t standard operating procedure. Glen’s second request is to be executed dressed as a woman. Transvestism? Unheard of, you say. I beg to differ. The prison staff agrees reluctantly (explaining the novel’s original title,Let Me Die in Drag). It is only then that Glen confesses the whole sordid affair. 

Picking up at the end of Killer, Glen is heading for Los Angeles and Pauline has been given the contract on Glen’s life. On the other side of the country, Rose headed for New York on a bus (and sleeping with anyone she can get her grubby little hands on). As Glen lands in Hollywood , the Syndicate tracks Rose down and kills her in the Hudson River . Pauline, the hawk-nosed drag assassin is still on the hunt for Glenda.
After quite a bit of sex, drinking and the like, Sunset Strip is about to explode in a Beatnik created riot, similar to what happened in the Watts novels. Pauline has tracked Glenda and Cynthia to a bar. Pauline attacks, drunkenly, and Glenda dispatches the drag in the midst of the Beatnik Riot, but not without being wounded. Glenda passes out from loss of blood and Glen ends up in prison.

The warden is so infatuated with Glen’s story, that he researches the holes himself to make the story complete. He does notice one thing, though, “We take exceptional notice of the fact that, on the tape, when Glen talks of Glenda he speaks of her in second person, but when he refers to Glen it is always with the first person I.” A witness to Glen Marker’s execution also notices something a little off about the entire affair. She states, “I though it was a guy they were strapping in…” Those damn drags.

Glen sums up his career as related through 2 novels (and possibly what we have in these books is the fate of the protagonist in Wood’s Glen or Glenda, a possible “Whatever happened to…”). Glen sets it down for the record:
“I finally tried to get out – get away from the Syndicate. That’s why they sent another killer after me. I was a KILLER IN DRAG, so it was only natural that they send another drag to kill me. They figured I knew too much about them to live… I’m a transvestite, so they send another of my kind after me. It’s the only way I could have been tracked down – only another drag could think the way I would… The foremost thought in transvestite’s mind is to die in female attire…”
And that he did… that he did.

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