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Stripping with suspense

by Sari Staver

Author Matt Converse. Photo: Courtesy the subject
Author Matt Converse. Photo: Courtesy the subject  

The fictionalized story about the life and loves of a Nob Hill Theatre stripper became an Amazon bestseller last month, the very first day it was released. "Obsexion," by local writer Matt Converse, is based on the author's seven years as a dancer at the iconic San Francisco club, which has been in the news recently after it announced it was closing this month.

Priced at $2.99 on Amazon, the 144-page downloadable novella was the #1 seller in the LGBT horror category when the B.A.R. went to press last week. For Converse, a 46-year-old gay man, the bestseller repeats the popularity of his first three books, "Behind the Velvet Curtain," "Strip Shot" and "Leather Head."

"I'm thrilled," said Converse. "My goal was to bring diversity to the publishing world, and I think I've succeeded." His success came as a "real surprise" after more than 20 publishers said "no, thanks" to his first manuscript.

The new book is a great read, even for a middle-aged lesbian who has never gone to a strip show. It's a fast-paced erotic thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat til the very end. The action ranges from passionate and sexy to hilarious, and ends as a horror story.

Matt is a young gay man in San Francisco who stumbles into a job at the Nob Hill Theatre after an employee at the front desk repeatedly encourages the regular customer to come back from the weekly contest, where the winner lands a job. Matt wins his first time out, and begins his adventure at the club. Life is rosy at first, with Matt's young boyfriend supporting his new career. The tips are generous.

But when a middle-aged customer dressed in all-black takes an interest, then an obsession, with Matt, the dancer finds the attention uncomfortable and scary. When Matt notices the customer following him home one evening, the suspense moves up a notch.

Sorry, no spoilers, the twists and turns are all part of the fun. The story keeps you guessing til the very end. Will the couple's love survive? Will Matt continue his stripping career? What happens to the creepy stalker? I asked Converse how much of the book was fact, and how much was fiction.

"I embellished," he said. "I worked at the Nob Hill, and there was a guy I called 'the creeper' who was a regular customer. And yes, in real life, it was scary."

In real life, Converse moved to San Francisco in the late 1980s with a boyfriend, but the two broke up shortly after they arrived. "I didn't know a single person in San Francisco." He began working at the front desk at a gay hotel, then got a job at a bank. He lived nearby the Nob Hill Theatre, and enjoyed their shows.

When an employee told Converse he'd make a great dancer, "Of course I was flattered" and thought about the possibilities. When the front-desk staffer repeated his encouragement, "I was in." After weeks of practicing at home to carefully choreographed music, Converse went to a tryout, where he came in first and was offered a job on the spot.

"It turned out to be the best job of my life," he said. He kept the job at the bank for a short while until he realized this "dream job" was turning into a reality. After seven years, Converse retired but continued to dance at private parties for several years, until he took an early retirement.

The quiet life agreed with Converse, but the memories of working at the Nob Hill ran through his head. "For the most part, the customers were fantastic." A journalism major in college, Converse decided to try his hand at writing. He wrote a story about a stripper. In 2015, Comet Press said they loved it, and two months later, the e-book was for sale on Amazon, becoming one of the publisher's top-selling books that year.

Despite the first-time success, the publisher declined Converse's next manuscript. But a Michigan publisher, Encompass Ink, said yes, and has published Converse's last three books.

What's next for Converse? "I have a full-length horror novel that's ready to go" to a publisher, he said, "as well as several other works-in-progress."


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