Ian Young’s new memoir, Encounters with Authors, deals with three deceased gay authors from Toronto: Scott Symons, Robin Hardy and Norman Elder. According to Young, they were “well known in their time but are now in danger of being forgotten.” Young was acquainted with all three, and his book deals not only with their literary accomplishments, but also with their fascinating lives.
Scott Symons came from a wealthy, establishment family, and in 1967, two years before gay sex was decriminalized, he published Place d’Armes, a novel about a man who goes to Montreal and has sex with hustlers. It caused a scandal, but even though “the Toronto Star called him the ‘monster from Toronto,’ it sold fairly well,” Young says.
Robin Hardy wrote for The Body Politic, and Young describes him as “a very handsome man, a sex god and a cutie pie,” meaning “pretty much everybody was attracted to him, including me.” Hardy wrote many things, including a short story called “The Day the Homos Disappeared: A Cautionary Tale” (1980), which, Young says, was “eerily predicting of the AIDS crisis.”
Norman Elder explored the world, travelling to such places as the upper headwaters of the Amazon River, Papua New Guinea, Namibia and Madagascar. His book on the Amazon is called This Thing of Darkness (1979). He brought back all types of animals, including snakes, monkeys and tortoises, which he kept at his mansion on Bedford Road. “All three of these guys were a little kooky. Their stories are worth knowing,” Young says.