By conservative estimates, there are currently enough wrongfully convicted people in prison in the United States to fill a football stadium.
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Our reporter, Dusty Miller, writes, “Unless you’re trying to scratch out a living as an artist or have seen the contemporary collection at the state museum of art in Raleigh, or live in a treehouse in the hinterlands like a friend of mine, you’re undoubtedly aware that North Carolina is the state of the arts. Everyone’s heart of Thomas Wolfe, clogging, and handmade dulcimers, but how many people are aware that living a life of quiet anonymity in Raleigh is one of the nation’s literary porn kings, Ronald Kemp? The company he’s been working for recently folded, but that’s life, the life of an artist.”
DUSTY: What are the various pen names you go by?
RONALD: I can’t tell you that. They set contracts up to protect themselves so the writer can’t benefit from the use of a name if he leaves the company.
DUSTY: How many books have you written in all?
RONALD: Fifty-seven books in all since October of ’68.
DUSTY: How many are printed each time?
RONALD: About 7,500 copies of each book, which is pretty small really and of that 7,500 we’ll sell maybe 6,000 to 6,500.
DUSTY: How did you happen to start writing porno?
RONALD: I wrote confession stories when I was in college here at State. It was a sideline and I picked up a few bucks and enjoyed it. It’s the easiest way to break into writing. I wrote for Dauntless Publications which puts out about six different magazines.
DUSTY: Have you had any formal training as a writer?
RONALD: No, I always had a personal beef against people who think the thing to aspire to is to be a “serious” writer, a famous novelist or whatever. The implication is that if you do anything else it’s less than what you should aspire to. I think it’s like commercial art. The distinction between being a commercial artist and being a great artist. Not every commercial artist is going to be a great artist and people recognize that. He does a job and does it well and he’s not necessarily going to be another Rembrandt. I feel that in writing it’s the same way. There are commercial writers and there are people who write because they have something to say, write the great American novel or whatever. I don’t have any inclination in that direction. I don’t consider myself a great novelist. I consider myself a good craftsman. I can write a good readable book, but I’m not Saul Bellow or anything. I don’t consider myself a gifted writer.
DUSTY: Do you think pornography has any social value?
RONALD: I don’t think it has any social value. It’s great for jacking off.
DUSTY: That’s not very social.
RONALD: No, the standard answer you get is it serves a function. If we didn’t have it all the rapists would go out and do something else. That’s nonsense. It’s as absurd as attacking it. Pornography is a dirty book. If you like a dirty book, it’s fine, nothing wrong with it.
DUSTY: What do you think the climate for it in North Carolina is?
RONALD: We sell a helluva lot of it in North Carolina, a tremendous amount.
DUSTY: More so than in other states?
RONALD: No. Well they do run a little higher in states like North Carolina because of the military.
DUSTY: You’re married and . . .
RONALD: No, I’m not homosexual . . .
DUSTY: Do you write homosexual novels?
RONALD: No, but only because we don’t publish them.
DUSTY: You have written bestiality novels?
RONALD: That’s right, but never having screwed a German Shepherd I can only surmise what it’s like. I don’t think it’s necessary to have experienced everything you write about.
DUSTY: How many active pornographers are there in this country?
RONALD: That’s like saying how many active actors are there. There really aren’t that many, but there are many who have dabbled at one time or another. Or have published once or twice. Of writers currently producing and selling there are probably less than 100. When I went to work for Liverpool LibraryPress in ’68 and ’69, we were publishing 55,000 copies of every book. Some of these books went into two or three printings. You can see the difference in what the sales were then and what they are now. Most of the books today are just reprints with new titles on them. A public be damned attitude, I’ll admit.
DUSTY: I would imagine the porno reading public isn’t very critical anyway.
RONALD: They get surprisingly few complaints. Considering the sheer number of books that are brought out every year, if you only buy maybe five or six, the odds of your picking up the same five are pretty slim. If you get complaints you can always send the guy some free books and you’ve got him off your back. Believe it or not there is a hardcore group out there somewhere in America that consistently buys pornographic paperbacks. These are the people the books are written for because they’ve lost their appeal as an item of curiosity. We were selling so many back in the late 60’s because all sorts of people were buying, having never seen it before. Those people don’t buy it anymore. There are only about a half dozen companies producing pornography anymore.
DUSTY: Do you think that’s because so many serious books have fairly hardcore pornography in them?
RONALD: I think that’s part of it. Actually I can’t see why a person, if he wanted to stimulate his libido, would buy a paperback book when he can go buy illustrated things: films, books, or whatever.
DUSTY: Your books that I’ve read didn’t have bondage per se, but there is always an aspect of degradation.
RONALD: Domination. That’s constant. It’s the mainstay of pornography. Domination, degradation. The people who are really big on this stuff are not into equality of the sexes. These people still look at the world this way: there are good girls and there are bad girls.
DUSTY: Your parents . . .
RONALD: Let’s not talk about my parents in Iowa.
DUSTY: Your parents in Iowa are fundamentalist, aren’t they? How do they feel about your being a porno writer?
RONALD: They probably cry a lot. No seriously, I don’t think they care.
DUSTY: Back to pornography. There are artful detective stories and bad detective stories. With the exception of The Story of O is that true of pornography?
RONALD: No, it doesn’t sell. My boss had the idea in ’71 of coming out with a quality line, paying the writers three times what we were getting for our books then. They didn’t sell. Besides, a copy of The Story of O wouldn’t sell enough copies to pay the printing bill.
DUSTY: Do you personally have any desire to write the ultimate pornographic novel, a work of art?
RONALD: No. Not at all. Never.