Saturday, May 4, 2024

Ogden Fox’s Hamburg After Dark

In the 60s McFadden books put out a whole series of non-fiction sex and sin exposés focusing on the raunchy night-life of various European cities. This was their After Dark series and it included Ogden Fox’s Hamburg After Dark, published in 1968.

Of course with such books there is no way of knowing how much was fiction and how much (if any) was fact. It is however quite true that Hamburg was rather notorious for its sleazy night-life in the 60s. So while there’s undoubtedly a fair amount of gossip and rumour (and completely made-up stuff or wishful thinking) there’s a possibility that quite a bit of it was true, or at least had a basis in fact.

The book purports to be written by an American, fluent in German, who lives in Hamburg and spends his free time sampling the erotic delights the city has to offer. The book is presented as a kind of guided tour of the city’s sexual night-life. What it has to say about Hamburg’s red light district is consistent with other accounts I’ve read so I’m inclined to give the publishers the benefit of the doubt and accept that the author has at least visited the city.

The author gives us some supposedly factual background on various aspects of Hamburg’s night-life interspersed with his reminiscences of his own sexual adventures there. One assumes that these personal reminiscences are largely or possibly entirely fictional. This was of course 1968, with the Sexual Revolution in full swing, and the book deals with a very large sophisticated European city rather than small-town America, so these reminiscences would have sounded quite plausible and there may even be some genuine adventures mixed in with the fantasies.

At this time there was a whole sleaze sub-genre of books masquerading as serious sociological/sexological non-fiction claiming to have been written by eminent psychiatrists. These books were in fact pure fiction churned out by various sleaze novelists. McFadden’s After Dark books would seem to be representative of a closely related sub-genre, with the difference that Hamburg After Dark presents itself as having been written by an amateur aficionado rather than a psychiatrist or sociologist.

Since the author’s sexual interests are confined to the female of the species (both prostitutes and non-prostitutes) he adds some stories told to him by others with differing sexual interests. These provide the material for the accounts of call-boy rings and bars catering to girls who like girls.

Firstly we’re introduced to the Widows’ Club. This is a bit like an internet hook-up site but done entirely with good old-fashioned analog telephones. Gentlemen and ladies who want a sex partner for the night can arrange a meet. If the man and the woman like the looks of each other they spend the night together. No questions are asked, no money changes hands. They never see each other again.

We’re taken to the red light district in the St Pauli district. To the Herbertstrasse, where the prostitutes display themselves in windows (as they apparently still do to this day). And to the Reeperbahn. In the dance cafes professional and amateur prostitutes contact prospective clients by means of telephones connecting the tables.

There’s also the street that within a single city block boasts no less than nineteen strip clubs.

We are also treated to accounts of the wild sex lives of the young women of Hamburg. Some of whom apparently indulge in kinks I had never heard of before (the girl with the kink that involves watching television is a new one on me).

The author finds out what a kinki session entails (it entails whips) and that such sessions are available for ladies as well as gentlemen. He also samples a few blue movies and watches one being filmed. And discovers that lonely ladies in Hamburg in need of male company (either in the bedroom or out of it) need only pick up a telephone to have their requirements fully satisfied.

While the various anecdotes thrown in by the author are doubtless pure fiction much of the essential background is probably fairly accurate. While there might be plenty of fiction mixed into this book it is a fascinating glimpse into the free-and-easy mindset of the heyday of the Sexual Revolution.

And it is definitely entertaining. Highly recommended for those seeking to explore the more intriguing corners of the world of 60s literary sleaze.

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