William Joseph "Billy" Martin (formerly published under the penname Poppy Z. Brite; born May 25, 1967) is an American author.
Early in his career, he wrote two successful horror novels—Lost Souls (1992) and Drawing Blood— known for their violent imagery, their baroque-verging-on-Purple Prose, and their frequently homosexual and bisexual casts of characters, as well as several similarly-themed short story collections, that appealed heavily to 1990s Goth sensibilities. Martin found himself feeling bored and limited by both the horror genre and negative critical reviews claiming that Martin himself was "typecast" as an author of Goth novels. The final straw came when his contracted third novel, Exquisite Corpse (about a pair of gay serial killers in love), was declined by both his American and UK publishers as being "too nihilistic" and "a bloodbath without justification." While the book eventually found a publisher, this experience, along with other behind-the-scenes issues in the publishing world, drove him to seek a break from horror writing.
Martin, a serious foodie familiar with New Orleans restaurant culture, branched out into the LIQUOR series, which revolves around two gay line cooks, Ricky and G-Man, who open a restaurant (the titular LIQUOR) where every dish is themed around a different type of alcohol. While the series developed a modest following and was well-known for its luscious Food Porn (seriously, don't read while hungry), it was not a critical success. Martin has indicated that he felt further demoralized by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, unable to write stories set in his beloved New Orleans after witnessing the destruction. This combination of events caused Martin to retire from publishing, while stressing that writing is still a part of his identity. While still being officially retired, he has on occasion independently published short stories in chapbook and ebook formats. In August 2023, Martin announced that he has resumed writing fiction with the goal of publication.
Long known as a transgender man, he later began his public transition and announced his preference for male pronouns. In mid-2012, he began using his current name, though his previous works are still published under his professional name of Poppy Z. Brite. Martin has no problem with people using the Brite name in reference to work published under that name, so long as his current identity is understood and respected.
Not to be confused with the late baseball player and manager publicly known as Billy Martin, born Alfred Manuel Martin Jr. If you enter just "Billy Martin" on The Other Wiki, you get sent straight to the baseball figure's page.
At the very end of 2023, Martin announced a (tentative) return to fiction writing.
- Lost Souls (1992)
- Wormwood (also published under the title Swamp Foetus) - short story collection
- Drawing Blood
- Exquisite Corpse
- The Crow: The Lazarus Heart
- Are You Loathsome Tonight?
- Plastic Jesus - novella
- Wrong Things - with Caitlín R. Kiernan
- The Value of X - novella; prequel to the LIQUOR series
- The Devil You Know - short story collection
- "Stay Awake" - short story; final appearance of Steve and Ghost from Lost Souls
- Triads - with Christa Faust
- Soul Kitchen
- Antediluvian Tales - short stories written post-Hurricane Katrina
- Dead Shrimp Blues - incomplete draft of final LIQUOR novel, released to Patreon supporters
- Water If God Wills It: Religion and Spirituality in the Works of Stephen King - nonfiction, released to Patreon supporters
This author's work provides examples of:
- Above Good and Evil: The vampires of Lost Souls (1992) and the serial killers of Exquisite Corpse explicitly see themselves as transcending all human ideas of morality.
- Author Appeal: New Orleans, food, alcohol, drugs, cannibalistic serial killers, music, and lots and lots of queer sex.
- The Big Easy: When the books aren't actually set in New Orleans, characters frequently are from New Orleans, go to New Orleans, or like to talk about that one time they were in New Orleans.
- Cast Full of Gay: The lead characters of Drawing Blood are gay men falling in love. Conversely, the baddy vampires of Lost Souls are likewise gay and in a committed threesome that turns into a foursome, then later, back to a threesome. All four main characters in Exquisite Corpse are gay, and there are plenty of gay side-characters and gay/bisexual encounters throughout all the novels and many of the short stories (Plastic Jesus, notably, asks the eternal question "What if The Beatles never broke up, and also John Lennon and Paul McCartney were boyfriends?")
- Chromosome Casting: Martin admitted early on to not finding women interesting enough to write about.
- Crack Pairing: In-Universe: Exquisite Corpse is based on the premise of "what if cannibalistic serial killers Dennis Frisk and Jeffrey Dahmer met and fell in love?"
- Drugs Are Good: Characters are constantly getting high and are never the worse for it - except regarding heroin. Drugs Are Bad comes into play when it's heroin.
- Everyone Is Bi: Practically everyone who doesn't fall under Cast Full of Gay is at least casually bisexual.
- Food Porn: All the Liquor novels.
- Gender-Blender Name: Zillah is a Biblical, female name, used for a male vampire.
- Genre Shift: The LIQUOR series compared to the earlier horror-themed books. They're written in a noticeably less florid style, tend to employ a lot more humor, and are closer to thrillers or mysteries than horror.
- Purple Prose: There's a lot of lovingly described gore. Much ink is expended on descriptions of things like kudzu, trash in gutters, and whatever the characters are wearing, too.
- Real-Person Fic: Plastic Jesus sets up a rock band in The '60s modelled on The Beatles with the John Lennon and Paul McCartney derived characters falling in love, and coming out during the Stonewall protests. Doing so propels the cause of queer people's rights decades forwards.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Exquisite Corpse and the short story "Self-Made Man" are heavily drawn from the Jeffrey Dahmer case.
- Write What You Know: Food. Restaurants. The Goth scene. New Orleans. The strip-club business. Voodoo.