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Charles Beaumont’s “Black Country” was selected as the first short story
ever to be featured in Playboy, but it was his “The Crooked Man” that
drew the most attention. The story inverted the era’s rampant homophobia
by chronicling the unjust plight of a straight man trying to escape
detection and persecution in a society where being gay was the standard.
Although the story was originally rejected by Esquire, Playboy agreed
to publish it in 1955′s August issue despite an angry outcry from
readers, to which Hugh Hefner later responded: “If it was wrong to
persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society then the reverse was