"The Maestro" was straight as an arrowShort answer: no.

A comment placed on my Tony Dungy item, below, suggests a worthy item for discussion.

For introduction, note that the commenter, named Mike, and I are members of a Yahoo group that discusses Golden Age mysteries. In the past few days some members of the group have been discussing claims that various characters in Golden Age mystery novels (in particular, puzzle mysteries of the 1920s-’40s) were homosexuals, even though the authors gave no indication of them being so. It is a truly abysmal form of literary speculation, in my view, and Mike and I said exactly that.

As a particularly vivid example, I note that an otherwise very good website of information on mystery fiction, Mike Grost’s "Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection," is marred by a pursuit of approval for homosexuality that crops up regularly in Mr. Grost’s analyses of mystery fiction. Grost continually disapproves of characters’ expressions of what he (atrociously but conventionally) calls homophobia, and searches for clues that characters positively displayed in these fictions are in fact homosexuals even though the author has given no direct or even vague intimation whatsoever of such a thing.

The great blot on Mike Grost’s otherwise excellent site is his tendency to find homosexuality all over the place, and in particular his habit of equating male-male or female-female friendship with homosexuality. It is a thorough absurdity.

In addition, Grost suggests, through his criticisms, that a person can be established as homosexual because of his or her taste in hobbies, etc., an entirely unjustifiable claim that is in fact simply the flip side of what some people who hate homosexuality do, seeing it where it is not (and missing it where it is).

Grost’s site is also marred by a prominent, page 1 exhortation to "Stop Global Warming," an utterly irrelevant and scientifically ignorant assertion. This dreary leftism is imposed on the site in numerous places, and Mike Grost’s adumbrations about the wonderfulness of homosexuality are an important symptom of this political bent.

Cover of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine from 1952This habit of ascribing homosexuality to fictional characters who are not so characterized by their authors is simply a subset of the postmodern scholarly game of saying "anything I can conclude about a work of fiction is true." It is abominably stupid.

In Grost’s case this tendency is a particular shame because his site is a highly useful compendium of information on mystery fiction, if one can endure the annoying political clinkers.

Now, it is of course perfectly fine for Mike Grost to think whatever he wishes to on these subjects, and I find him and his site quite likeable for their strong support of the puzzle mystery form, but when a political hobbyhorse causes a critic to make unsupportable and indeed blatantly false claims about the things he is writing about, that is a great problem indeed.

I think that this is an important subject for two main reasons. One is that genre fiction does affect people’s perceptions and attitudes. A steady diet of heroic fiction, for example, will inculcate those values into a person (or, more likely, reinforce attitudes that are already there and cause one to seek out such stories). The second is that critical attitudes and analyses affect what publishers will publish and what writers will write, and thereby affect what people will be allowed to read.

Mike Grost makes on his site the excellent point that U.S. publishers simply stopped accepting puzzle mysteries after World War II from any but the very most well-established authors, thereby basically killing the form for three decades.

My belief, stated elsewhere on this site on various occasions, is that this was a political-social decision (deliberate or otherwise) on the part of editors and publishers, who saw puzzles as basically conservative and viewed hard-boiled, extreme-action, and police procedural narratives as better able to accommodate leftward ideas.

Hence, it is important to know and evaluate what critics think and say. 

If we want good art, popular or otherwise, we have to have good critics.

And when a political agenda causes a critic to make inaccurate statements and erroneous judgments, that’s a big problem.