Gale Wilhelm. No Letters for the Dead (1936) 212 pp.
She went forward and stood in the light steady wind and when she saw and recognized Alcatraz Island a coldness went through her but that was only an instants knowing and was swiftly gone. San Francisco grew steep and gray out of thin lavender haze. Gradually the water was patched with moving sunlight and gulls hung white and motionless in the air like painted birds. The boat passed under the bridge and its shadow crossed the deck and people stood looking up into the enormous pattern of steel, crowding slowly forward around Paula and looking up. She saw nothing but the haze lifting and the city growing taller and more distinct.
When the boat slipped into its berth she was holding the rail tightly and through her hands she felt the heavy jar and tremble and she trembled and the boat steadied, swaying gently in the water. She was in San Francisco.
Koni Tillada is in San Francisco attempting to convince his wife, Georgia, to grant him a divorce. Even though he has a child with another woman, Georgia refuses to set him free. Koni threatens to go to Mexico for the divorce and Georgia pulls out a revolver and commits suicide by shooting herself in the head. Koni, who takes time to write a letter to his lover, Paula, before calling the police is arrested as an accomplice in her death and sentenced to two years in San Quentin. Meanwhile, Paula, a professional pianist, is in New York caring for her baby, Karel, who is extremely ill. When Karel dies, she decides to move to San Francisco to be closer to Koni (he had requested that she not visit him in prison, not wanting her to
see him there). Out of money and unable to get work playing piano, Paula resorts to prostitution, eventually becoming the mistress of a wealthy man who sets her up in a beautiful apartment with a view of the new Bay Bridge. Meanwhile, Paula and Koni keep up a regular correspondence, making plans for their life together after Koni is free. But, two months before he is scheduled to be released—on the very day that Paula tells her benefactor that she is leaving him—Koni is killed in an attempted prison break and Paula is forced back into her old life. A frank and sympathetic—although decidedly not graphic—portrayal of a woman with limited choices in life. Gale Wilhelm is best known as the author of two
lesbian-themed novels, We Too Are Drifting (1934) and Torchlight to Valhalla (1938), that drew comparisons to Radclyffe Halls The Well of Loneliness. Reprinted in paperback editions under the titles Paula (Lion, 1956) and No Nice Girl (Pyramid, 1959).
Setting: San Francisco
Baird & Greenwood 2621