Andy Offutt made clear in a secret will that only one person should clean out his study upon his death. That one person was his oldest son, Chris.
"On you Chris, I decided, this task and onus must fall — and I'm telling the others this without the reason," Andy wrote.
Shortly after Andy died in 2012, Chris entered his father's study and found a mess of guns, empty beer bottles and a mouse nest in a pile of old T-shirts. He also found something surprising: boxes of pornography his father had written, filled with published books, comic books, books in manuscript form and notes. Over the course of several weeks, Chris moved 1,800 pounds of pornography out of the office.
Chris and his siblings knew their father as a writer who penned science fiction and an occasional erotic novel on the side. But after Andy's death, Chris found out that their father was actually a prolific writer of hundreds of pornographic novels from the late 1960s up until his death — something Andy's wife knew, but his children did not. Offutt takes the material back to his Mississippi home and begins an almost archaeological quest to find out who his father really was.
Andy Offutt was a silent tyrant who rarely left the house. His wife and children dared not disturb him. He wrote in his study for hours a day, day after day. When he did leave his office, it was to pour himself a drink.
Isolated, he could be a different man. The names under which he wrote his pornography — John Cleve and Turk Winter — went beyond mere pseudonyms and became actual personalities that Andy Offutt embodied. He frequently attended sci-fi conventions, where he sold his pornographic books on the side. Fans adored him and he thrived on the attention he did not get at home. He preferred to interact with his fans over with his family.
Offutt includes fascinating details about how his dad worked. To produce one book a month, Andy Offutt had an assembly-line process for writing. He kept carefully organized notebooks of phrases, descriptions and even entire scenes he could draw upon quickly. He wrote manuscripts longhand while his wife typed the final versions.
Offutt, a novelist, short story writer and the author of two other memoirs, imbues this book with a deep layer of meaning and observation. Despite the titillating subject, the pornography stands in for any obsession that can overtake any person. The real story is one of a complex father-son relationship made even more complicated by unsettling revelations that come to light after death.
Rachael Hanel is the author of "We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter." She lives near Mankato.