Naked intent

Dirty Fan Male: a life in rude letters

Jonny Trunk <em>HarperCollins, 170pp, £12.99</em>

ISBN 00

Prostitutes rate "the girlfriend experience" as the most popular service they offer: a little sex, a little kissing and a lot of cuddling for someone who's feeling misunderstood and lonely. It's still pretty miserable - genuine girlfriends are not paid for - but at least the woman is there in the flesh (even if her mind is elsewhere).

The urgent and randy letter writers of Dirty Fan Male had no such luck. Their missives to page-three girls ended up in the office of the stunna-cum-business dynamo Eve Vorley. In the 1990s, Eve ran a highly profitable conglomerate of fan clubs for glamour models, and employed her brother Jonny Trunk to help out. His tasks included going through the bulging postbag for postal orders, despatching glossy photographs, videos and sex toys, and writing newsletters "from" the girls ("I'm very busy at the moment as I am moving to a new flat and it's taken me days to just get my frilly panties packed!").

Eve had an excellent understanding of what her punters wanted, and never missed a trick. Business flourished. Knowing that she was "selling love", she sent out Valentine cards and cheap red lacy panties, purchased wholesale by her brother. The fans responded in kind. Their yearning, garbled and explicit billets-doux are here reproduced in facsimile alongside Trunk's account of his life in soft porn.

The letters have a passion that puts Trunk's own flaccid, sub-lads'-mag prose to shame, and are more naked than the models ever get. Most contain graphic descriptions of exactly what the writer would like to do to the girls. Others offer dates: "I would like to meet you in Manchester on Sat 1st July (about 10pm) outside L'Arndale centre . . . Please turn up with a short 'top' + denim shorts + black rubber boots. If you can bring Linsey Dawn McKenzie that would be great."

There are regular pen pals. "Felix" makes montages of his own holiday snaps and shots of the glamour models. He offers cash for sex and "a lovely country home with indoor swimming pool sauna and jacousy as well as a 260HP Jacht on the river Ouse which petruds in my garden!". "Geoffrey" sends framed photographs of his "big rising willie" and tells Charmaine that he would like to take her to "the pub and fish & chip and going to the hotel and sex with you".

Some of the correspondents appear to be mentally ill. Mr Mason hints at mystical insights: "Dear Lady Samantha - INRI. You will need to remember this - you are part of something very important. I will be most pleased when you are able to use all of your talents. It is safe to discuss this with Joanne Guest." One writer is sent into a Tourette's-style fever by the catalogue copy, and starts endlessly reiterating that he would like "two Louise blonde rubber dolls the two Louise blonde rubber dolls".

At times the excitement becomes so overwhelming that a writer can no longer distinguish himself from his idol. "Spunky Arthur" reckons he has "38-inch tits"; "London Male" writes: "I have a dream that I am to get my soulmate, Donna Ewin. I look exactly like her."

When the fan clubs are driven out of business by the rise of internet porn and the arrival in Britain of legal hard-core videos, Trunk turns the letters first into a novelty record and then a stage show. At one point he breaks down and wonders if he is wrong to exploit these confessions, but he soon recovers. He did, after all, once haggle with his own sister over the commission he would get for selling her pubic hair, so perhaps we shouldn't expect too much soul-searching from him.

Spare a thought, though, for the "dirty fan males", with their hopes, dreams and delusions. They may have been writing "behind drawn curtains", but I doubt that our own sniggers are any more liberated.

Susanna Forrest, now a freelance journalist, is a former assistant editor of the Erotic Review

This article first appeared in the 05 September 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Ground zilch: how Al-Qaeda defeated New York