Michael Leo Denneny, a groundbreaking gay editor and author, died on April 12, 2023 at the age of 80.
Born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Denneny studied at the University of Chicago and moved to New York in 1972. In New York, he worked as a book editor for the next 30 years, most notably at St. Martin’s Press (1977- 2002), before becoming a freelance editor.
As a co-founder and early co-editor of Christopher Street magazine in 1976, a groundbreaking gay literary magazine, and the first openly gay editor at a major publishing house, he was instrumental in promoting and shaping gay literature from the 1970s through the early 2000s, including founding and running the first gay imprint at a major publishing, Stonewall Inn Editions, in 1987, which ultimately included over 100 volumes.
As an author, he wrote three books — “Lovers: The Story of Two Men” (Avon Books, 1979); “Decent Passions” (Alyson Publications, 1984), and “On Christopher Street: Life, Sex, and Death after Stonewall” (University of Chicago Press, 2023) and co-edited the anthologies “The Christopher Street Reader” (Perigee, 1984), and “First Love, Last Love” (Putnam, 1986). Denneny published a broad range of fiction and non-fiction, including significant and defining works by Randy Shilts (“And the Band Played On,” “The Mayor of Castro Street”), Paul Monette (“Love Alone”; “West of Yesterday, East of Summer”), Lev Raphael (“Dancing on Tisha B’av”), Robert Mapplethorpe (“The Black Book”) as well as books by Holly Woodlawn, Edmund White, and Divine, among innumerable others.
Beyond his work with LGBTQ writers he was also known for publishing major works by other authors such as Buckminster Fuller (Critical Path), Ntozake Shange (“For Colored Girls”), and Judith Thurman (Isak Dinesen), along with many other award-winning and best-selling authors.
He is survived by his brother Joseph, nephews, nieces, and cousins, and friends and colleagues around the world.
Click here to read Gay City News’ 2004 interview with Denneny.