Book review: The Damned Don’t Cry – They Just Disappear: The Life and Works of Harry Hervey, by Harlan Greene

Greene, Harlan. The Damned Don’t Cry – They Just Disappear: The Life and Works of Harry Hervey. University of South Carolina Press. 2017. $29.99. 184p. HC. 978-1611178111.

From 1922 to 1950, Harry Hervey wrote over a dozen books, even more screenplays, and numerous short stories. He traveled through Asia, was considered an expert in the Far East, and his lectures from his homes in Charleston and Savannah made him a local celebrity. His Hollywood credits include Shanghai Express and the first of the Crosby/Hope “Road to…” pictures. So why has he been mostly forgotten today?

Author Harlan Greene excavates the life and times of Hervey, putting his body of work into the context of the times and places where he lived, and illuminates how Hervey’s homosexuality informed the characters, themes, and plots of his novels. Greene doesn’t give Hervey a pass on some of the more misogynist or orientalist tropes found in his work, but places them in the context of early twentieth century American culture. Hervey’s live is a rollercoaster of success and failure, gain and loss – but he’s never a figure to be pitied, and unlike many LGBTQ figures of the era, he is able to live his life on his terms.

The Damned Don’t Cry – They Just Disappear is recommended for readers interested in forgotten writers from the beginning of the 20th century, especially writers of melodrama and travel narratives. Hervey’s connections and scandals in Charleston and Savannah may appeal to aficionados of those cities, such as fans of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Finally, Greene’s biography gives crucial insight into an author who was living as openly queer as someone could in his time, both in his personal life and in his creative output. As Richard Canning notes in his cover blurb – “who else could have created a character named Dicky Manlove?”

Glen Benedict

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