Roger Austen, Pioneer Gay Critic, Dead at 48


Roger Austen, author of Playing the Game : the Homosexual Novel in America, died  in Seattle, Washington, on July 1984. He drowned in nearby Lake Sammamish. His death at  age 48 was a suspected suicide.


A native of Washington—he was born there on Sept. 25,  1935Austen wrote a master’s thesis on Tennessee Williams while studying at Seattle  University. Austen wrote stories and essays, as well as numerous book reviews for several  publications, including The Advocate and The San Francisco Review of Books, of which  he was contributing editor.  During a five-year stay in San Francisco, Austen was also contributing editor of The  Sentinel, a gay San Francisco newspaper, and was host of a local television talk show.


He gave up a job in advertising in 1978 to devote his time to a biography of the writer  Charles Warren Stoddard. Despite considerable interest in the manuscript, he was unable to find a publisher. His subsequent depression was relieved by a new interest, the  Newport Naval Station scandal of 1919, but again Austen was unable to find a publisher  for the resulting manuscript. His depression apparently led to an unsuccessful suicide  attempt in the summer of 1981. With returning optimism he entered a doctoral program at the University of Southern California in the fall of 1982, only to leave the university a  year later.


Austen’s pioneering gay literary survey Playing the Game (1977) has never been  surpassed. He hoped this book would mark the beginning of a career as a “gay author,  but Austen was disappointed by publishers’ lack of interest in his later writings. Eventual publication is hoped, however, for his biography of Stoddard, with which “genteel pagan”—as Austen called him—he strongly identified.* 

Hubert Kennedy


* This was published: Genteel Pagan: The Double Life of Charles Warren

Stoddard, by Roger Austen, edited by John W. Crowley (University of Massachusetts

Press, 1991).



The Advocate (Los Angeles), Issue 412 (January 22, 1985), p. 36